When The Big Kids Come To Play

There’s nothing like seeing a group of adults making up crazy skits and playing games.

Fun is that rare commodity that brings space to relax and exercise rigid facial muscles. Life is serious business. It begins with the discipline to make sure children don’t run into the streets without looking. School brings a whole new realm of focus–grades, extra-curricular activities, all to build a reputable resume for college. Or not. And then a job and growing relationships. Careers, maybe families. Begin again.

It’s a wonder more faces don’t crack under the pressure of seldom-used smiles.

We’ve built into our program a fun day that requires no preparation on the part of the participants. A chance to dress down, have a cup of coffee and play. No skill, strength or dexterity required.

Just a bit of imagination.

Groups had to come up with a team name and create a cheer for themselves. Seeing adults channel their inner high school cheerleader was enough to have the sternest of us belly laughing. High kicks, cartwheels and all.

Then come skits created from bags full of odds and ends. Quirky surgeries to Disney hiring–topics were hilarious.

My favorite, however, is the body parts game.

Everyone pairs up, one member in an outer circle and the other in an inner circle, moving in directions opposite each other, like musical chairs.

When the music stops, a pair of body parts is called out, and partners have to find each other and connect the parts. Nose/ankle, foot/back, ear/knee. Finding your partner quickly in a room full of people is a little like watching the demolition derby. A little kinder.

There’s joy in unrestrained laughter. No one is polishing an image or trying to be someone they’re not.

Play often leads to more relaxed, deeper relationships. You see people as they really are; expectations are lowered, disappointment doesn’t come as quickly. We can learn to enjoy each other as we grow in appreciation of one another’s stories.

God views us with delight and enjoyment.

Many will find that hard to believe. With all the pain and misery of this world, how can anyone say God enjoys us? To many, He seems vengeful and angry, distant and unresponsive.

Have you taken the time to get to know Him?

When my kids were younger we’d often have their friends hanging around the house. They felt at home. They’d go to the refrigerator for food or ask homework questions. Like one of our own.

But not.

I wasn’t responsible for them. If something serious happened, I’d have to call parents who could make those decisions for their children.

Often people expect God to act on their behalf and yet they’ve never wanted to talk to Him or spend time with Him. He sent Jesus to pay the penalty for our mistakes so we could become His children. His beloved ones.

True enjoyment isn’t forced or demanded. It comes from a heart that accepts and loves. Being known.

God delights in us in ways we can’t even imagine. He does that for anyone who chooses to know Him.

Not something to laugh at.

 

 

 

 

Ignore Instructions At Your Own Risk

68 steps.

I’m not talking about a couch potato response to exercise.

It was the number of steps to put together an IKEA desk.

It looked so simple.

Who were we kidding?

John had tried to put it together once before, thinking it would be a quick project. I’d needed a desk for some time– I have a little fold-up table by a chair in our bedroom so I’m not sitting in the kitchen while he’s trying to watch sports.

Or being enticed by all things food when I’m overwhelmed by details. A piece of chocolate is only a few stepsĀ from our kitchen table.

If I stay in the bedroom for too long, my comfy bed calls my name. Enticing me to take a break. Catch a nap.

If I fall to that temptation, I’m done.

My daughters helped me pick out this desk at IKEA–the store with so many wonderful, thrifty things that could make my life more enjoyable, more efficient.

Until you have to put the darn things together.

All the pieces came out of the boxes–anything that requires two boxes should have been the warning that this was going to be painful. We laid out the wood in a logical way.

Then came the bags with screws and all manner of multiple tiny objects.

68 steps.

Four hours later, he finished.

This is the first IKEA project that he didn’t have to take apart at some point and start over. A huge encouragement to him.

The thing with IKEA is you have to carefully follow the instructions. Which are not words. They’re all pictures. For all people of various languages worldwide that attempt to put their products together. They’re specific–showing which way to face the pieces, how many screws of which kind for each part.

It’s all in the details.

I could never live life as an IKEA project. Too often something makes sense to me, I ignore the rules and push ahead with my way. Intuitively.

Often requiring taking things apart and starting over. Again.

I’m not a great rule follower. I border on mediocrity.

Our world runs on rules. Laws. The correct way to solve a math problem or the proper speed to drive.

If rules aren’t followed, we often get caught. A bad grade or a traffic ticket. Neither of which is life-changing.

In life, however, the internal rules we follow may not be enough to get us where we’d like to go.

Most would like to believe there’s a heaven and fully expect to get there. Especially if they believe their good outweighs their bad.

It exists. The requirements for entering are simple.

Complete perfection.

When was the last time you encountered a perfect person? Or truly believed yourself to be one?

It’s why Jesus came. To pay a price we could never pay. The perfect sacrifice for all the mess we make of our lives and others.

I can’t believe this life is it. Too much sadness and horror for everyone. If I’m being gifted with the opportunity to be assured of my eternity, I’m going to take it.

Will you?

 

 

 

In A Word–Or Two

 

 

There are a few givens that happen when women gather.

There will be appreciation of chocolate and a valuing of words. Women tend to share. Our capacity to go deep quickly in conversations can boggle many male minds.

The women I’m privileged to work with and alongside this year came together for a two-day retreat. A chance to be away from kids, families, and work to have some space to be. To relax with one another, sharing ideas, crafts and dreams.

There was much conversation about words. Words that speak to our hearts, that reflect our deepest needs. Words that communicate more than a feeling but a true soul obligation.

We spent time creating plaques with these words, thanks to women whose talents ran to calligraphy and other printing forms. I was fascinated by what each woman chose as a word to remind her of who she was, what she longed for. Words such as “flourish”, “freedom”, “delighted” and “cherished” sprung out as heart desires we don’t often talk about.

One friend used “truth” as her word, wanting to be able to identify it and not miss it. Another chose “replenish” for a heart that has been bruised by circumstances and people.

I chose “shalom”, the Hebrew word known worldwide as peace. But it’s deeper than that. A complete peace, a wholeness as God intended.

Being at peace with the God of peace.

In a season of sadness, I won’t find true peace in words or good intentions. Complete wholeness can’t be manufactured or fixed. I can’t create peace for myself.

It can only come from knowing God in all His fullness. It’s recognizing my attempts at making life work well for me aren’t sustainable. I can’t control my circumstances or those people around me.

I can’t make peace happen.

As profound as that was, such sharing of words led us to discuss one word in particular–beloved.

When I consider what it means to be someone’s beloved, there’s a special depth of relationship, an acceptance that isn’t dependent on what I’m able to do or how consistently I love in return. Being longed for and worth the work involved to attain such love. Made to feel special, seen, known.

Pretty much every woman’s dream.

It isn’t a love found in a relationship with another human. Those relationships will always disappoint us because we won’t feel consistently loved and we are unable to love that way in return.

Beloved is what God the Father calls His Son, the One in whom He is well pleased. Perfect eternal love.

And those who embrace and receive Jesus’ gift of forgiveness are called His beloved ones. Chosen. Celebrated. Cherished.

Delighted in.

A magnificent love by an all-powerful God who won’t turn His back on us, won’t deny us, won’t become disgusted or disappointed with us, won’t look for a better love option and dump us when one is found. The kind of love my heart needs.

Those are words of encouragement? I’ll choose them.

Especially if chocolate is offered on the side.

 

 

 

Merciless Grief, Glorious Grace

 

Grief is neither a respecter of people, time or expectations. Its rudeness takes us by surprise; its perseverance feels overwhelming.

My dear friend Ellis lost his beloved wife Colleen on October 4. She lost her battle with ALS in the early morning hours, with Ellis sleeping beside her hospice bed. She went quietly–much the way she lived her life–with a determination not to be defined by disease but by where she was going.

Home. To heaven. To be with Jesus and her sweet daughter Heather who arrived at heaven’s gates before her, twenty-five years ago.

I can’t imagine the depth of loss Ellis is experiencing. His only child and his wife. Grief multiplied and ongoing. Pain that deserves time and attention.

We were friends with Ellis and Colleen when they lost their daughter so many years ago. Devastating to them and those around them. They grieved together yet very different.

There’s no formula or right way to grieve. It’s how God leads our hearts so we may deal with loss in a way that suits our souls. There is no end point. A softening of the hard edges of pain. A tenderness derived from beautiful memories. But uninvited, it never truly leaves. It ages with us and reminds us that death is as much a part of life as birth, loss is as powerful as gain.

Within less than a year after their daughter’s death, Colleen and I were part of a mom’s group headed overseas to minister to moms on the mission field. Colleen’s wounds were raw, and as she shared her loss, how it colored the rest of life, she ministered to women who’d lost loved ones without recognition. Who’d grieved without anyone’s understanding.

Colleen loved others in her grief.

Ellis has done so as well. Where his wife pulled back somewhat from the larger picture of our organization, he embraced the opportunity to be with those he worked with. Spending time with Colleen in their shared pain; sharing life with others, and enjoying the children and grandchildren of others.

A gift not given him. Yet never has there been resentment; only rejoicing.

Both have had an incredible impact on others with their journeys. In a culture that doesn’t easily deal with grief, they’ve been a reminder that we each need permission to deal with our pain as it comes. It can’t be approached with a strategic mindset. It can only be embraced with a heart of remembered and ongoing love.

Ellis now lives in that space where his life hasn’t gone as planned. Where his loss appears greater than what he has left. This was nothing he expected; nothing he asked for.

He walks through this with the God who gave His only Son for humanity who didn’t acknowledge the gift. The God who understands grief and loss, who loves without question those who seek Him and lay their hurts and losses in His lap.

People may see God as a crutch. Someone believers lean on because they’re weak and can’t cope.

Absolutely true.

Life is heavy, hard, messy. Apart from the promise of heaven, found only in a relationship with Jesus, I don’t know how people deal with such pain and disappointment.

Ellis has the assurance of one day being reunited with his wife and daughter. The quiet joy amidst the turbulence of sadness.

What assurance do you have for what’s next?

 

 

 

I’d Rather Be Blue, Thinking Of–What?

Health enthusiasts constantly encourage us to eat a wide variety of colorful foods. Dark, leafy greens, bright red peppers, strawberries and the like.

Let’s not forget blueberries.

Blueberries are my favorite food to love and hate. Love those high amounts of antioxidants and all those vitamins A and E. Bring on those little blue balls!

And they stain like crazy.

Brooklyn is almost three and is quite passionate about her blueberries. She might choose to live almost entirely on macaroni and cheese and cheese sticks, but blueberries are her favorites.

And she has to touch each of them.

Here in Florida, we’re no longer in blueberry season. There are actual places here in the spring where we go to pick the little blue buggers. What are in the stores now are imported from goodness knows where, so the best way to get tasty blueberries is in the frozen food section.

I was asking Brooklyn what she wanted for breakfast the other morning. She can’t be bothered with eating first thing in the morning, so I ran through what we had on hand.

Waffles (frozen, of course), Cheerios, oatmeal (that brought a frown), eggs (a bigger frown), and blueberries with plain yogurt.

“Blueberries!”

“With yogurt?”

“NO. Just blueberries.”

I thought they might be more enjoyable being heated a bit. But without the yogurt, the frozen became a blue puddle in the bowl. She picked up each blueberry, ate it carefully, then played with the puddle.

Blue teeth, blue fingers, blue face later, I tried wiping the color away. Short of power washing her face and hands, they wouldn’t lose their blue tint.

Apart from the blueberry thing, I don’t see many people being “blue” around me. Freely sharing sadness or hard times. Honestly addressing grief, pain or loss.

Everybody is “just fine”. Including me.

I’m in a season right now where I am being confronted by a lot of personal sadness. A dear friend is dying. Stories from people I work with are filled with the stark reality of living in a broken world. I get so involved in the busyness of life that I feel lonely at times–even though I work with people all day.

All sad.

I’ll admit it’s easier for me to smack a smile on my face and operate from a positive perspective, squashing my sadness or hurt to where it can’t pop out unexpectedly.

That only lasts so long. After a while, the denied feelings demand attention. If I’m not careful, they can bubble up into something quite objectionable–a bad attitude, unnecessary anger toward an innocent friend, words said that I can’t take back.

Jesus encourages me to share my burdens with Him. The sad that I don’t really want anyone else to know about. The pain that isn’t comfortable to share. The loneliness that can happen even in a crowded room.

Sharing hurt with the One who was hurt without cause. Sharing loss with the One who gave it all up so that we might live. Sharing burdens with the One who had to carry His own cross.

Such compassion can wipe away the blue stain.

What are you bearing alone?