Fresh Means Call Your Auntie

I’m linking up for Five Minute Friday hosted by Kate Motaung at Link-up – Five Minute Friday. Today’s prompt is “fresh.”

Given my determination to write more and play gin rummy on my phone less this year, I opened my Five Minute Friday email with anticipation this morning to see what our prompt was this week.  I thought of some of the words that have been prompts over the last years that have inspired me, words like hope and view and listen.  I was eager to see what today would hold.

Fresh.

Fresh?

Well, fresh is a good word.  I guess.  Lots of different meanings.  The first thing that popped into my mind was new year = fresh start.  But somehow 2021 doesn’t have that “fresh start” feel to it.  It feels like 2020 v.2.  Or maybe that’s just me.  So even though I’m usually the family’s resident Pollyanna, I knew I couldn’t write up a “woo hoo fresh start” kind of post.  Not yet anyway; maybe I’ll get my Pollyanna back and can do it soon. 

In the meantime – fresh.  Hmmm.

I sat in my chair, watching the snow fall and drinking coffee.  Rocky wanted out, so I opened the door for him.  “Oh,” I said (because, duh, I talk to my cat), “It’s fresh outside, Mr. Cat.”

That made me laugh.  It’s what my grandpa used to say up in northern Illinois.  We kids would be in the kitchen with Grandma helping (read: getting in her way) her bake something spectacular, and Grandpa would come in the back door, through the mud room and into the kitchen, take off his hat, shake his head so that his cheeks would flop back and forth and say, “Lucille, it’s fresh out there today.”  That was her cue to pour him a cup of coffee and give him a big slice of whatever yummy was sitting around.

That got me thinking about my grandpa.  I loved that man.  Big old man with a bulbous nose and gigantic ears.  That he could wiggle.  I mean, like, they would wiggle. He could do one at a time, wiggle one and then the other and then the other and then… okay, you get it.  Kept us kids entertained for hours.  Or minutes.

His name was Ernest, but everyone called him Soapy.  Even grandma.  As I sat there thinking about sitting on Grandpa’s lap and watching him wiggle his ears, I tried to think back on how he got that nickname.  Maybe I knew at some point but I couldn’t remember, so I texted my sister and asked if she knew.  Nope. So I texted my cousin and asked her.  She didn’t know but thought her mom, my Aunt Sonja, might.

Well, thinking Auntie, at 80-something, is probably not a big texter, I decided I’d call her, even though we hardly ever talk.  She lives a few states away from me so I don’t get to see her much, either. She lives alone, and even though her son and his family are very close and take good care of her, with the pandemic she’s been very secluded, my cousin said, and she’s pretty lonely.  So I called her. 

She didn’t remember how Grandpa came to be called Soapy, but she and I had a lovely chat.

After I hung up it occurred to me that I didn’t know how Grandpa got his nickname because I never asked my mom while she was alive.  It occurred to me that my Aunt Sonja was one of the last connections I had to my mom’s family (not counting my cousins, who are really more connections to me and my family, if you go generationally).  It occurred to me that I’m not going to have Aunt Sonja forever.  It occurred to me that we (I) so often neglect to cherish people we (I) love until they’re gone. We (I) take them for granted.  I’ll call them later; I’ll get up there to see them next year.

But at some point there won’t be a later or a next year.

I have decided I will call her more often.  At least a couple times a month.  And because I know myself and I know I’ll look up next week and six months will have gone by, I set a reminder in my phone. 

So maybe “fresh” means new start, or it’s cold out, or don’t get sassy with me, or be-sure-to-wear-fresh-underwear-in-case-you’re-in-an-accident, but it doesn’t mean any of those things to me today.

Today, to me, “fresh” means call your auntie.

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Be Still

A strange thing happened to me this morning.  I started the morning as usual, with a cup of coffee, a scan of the many social media sites I participate in (okay, Facebook, which is the only one I use and even that I use less and less frequently these days), and then a game or three of gin rummy on my phone.  I like gin rummy on my phone because (a) its free and (b) even though I’m playing against real people, there’s no chat option so there’s no political talk or snarky remarks.  The worst anyone can do is send a growly face emoticon if the game isn’t going their way.  I can deal with growly face emoticons.

But I digress.

My morning was going as usual, but I was fidgety.  Which isn’t normal.  I’m usually quite happy sitting in my chair being lazy and wasting half my day.  But today I was fidgety.

So I got up out of said chair and got going.  Pretty soon I had started the laundry, loaded the wood rack, put away the chicken stock I canned yesterday, cleaned up and organized things in the root cellar, taken inventory of the food supplies in the motorhome, and fixed a hole in hubby’s jeans (well, I ironed on a patch; that counts, right?).  I was a whirlwind of activity.  Busy busy busy. 

Still fidgety inside.

As I was putting the patch material away, my eye landed on a little sign I have on the end table, given to me one Christmas by a dear friend.

Be still and know.

And all of a sudden – I mean, like, immediately – I understood.

I understood my fidgetiness (is that a word?).  I understood my need to be busy.  I understood why chores were getting done and it wasn’t even noon yet.

I didn’t want to be still.

Hubby and I are in a holding pattern right now; we have been for a few of weeks.  We have an appointment to talk to his doctor tomorrow afternoon about some test results, and then we will know which way things are going to go.  I am confident that everything is fine.  I am confident that it’ll be a short discussion, and we’ll both laugh about our unspoken anxiety.  I am confident that we will head off to Florida in a couple weeks as planned.

But … there is a possibility that I might be wrong.  And that possibility is prodding me into fidgetiness.  Which results in a lot of things getting done, so it’s not all bad, but that little sign on the end table reminded me that God doesn’t want my spirit to fidget.  God doesn’t want me to lack confidence in Him even if the possibility turns into reality.

Be still and know.

I’ve always thought of “being still” as stopping, sitting quietly, reading and contemplating the Word, praying.  But today I recognize it as more than that. 

I think it also means consider my circumstances.  Recognize all the possibilities for what the future holds. And know that God holds that future.  Know that God is God, and I am not.  Know that God knows exactly what the doctor will say tomorrow, that He has known it from the beginning of time, and that it is in accordance with His perfect plan for my life and my husband’s life.  So whatever that may be, whatever words we hear, whatever path our feet may be planted on after that discussion, it is the path that God wants us to walk.  God knows the plans He has for us. 

It means, lose that fidgetiness in my spirit.  Trust God.  No matter what.

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I’m linking up for Five Minute Friday hosted by Kate Motaung at Link-up – Five Minute Friday. Today’s prompt isTime.”

I heard my grandma say it to my mom, I heard my mom say it to me, and I hear myself saying it to my sons and sweet daughters-in-law: I sure don’t envy you trying to raise children in these crazy times.

A new grandchild, a precious baby boy, was born to us last July, right in the midst of a global pandemic, right in the midst of a nation torn by racial tensions and strife, protests-turned-riots.  Our little piece of ecstasy in the midst of all that agony.  I was filled with joy. 

And a little trepidation.  A little fear gripped my soul.  How would our sweet Westley, how would any of our sweet little grandbabies, ever manage to navigate this world into adulthood, ever manage to hold onto the faith of their fathers and live by the principles God has given us in His Word in a world that more and more turns its back on that Word?  They – we – are bombarded on all sides by the “correct,” the “acceptable” world view.  Anything else is intolerant, bigoted, hateful. 

How are my little grandbabies ever going to make it?

I was bemoaning these things to my sister – as I always do – and she said something that brought me up short, both convicting me and comforting me at the same time (as she so often does). 

She said, “God made those children for such a time as this.”

And there it is.  God doesn’t scatter people helter skelter throughout the generations and hope for the best.  He places each person into their place in time for a purpose – for His purpose.  As I was again reminded by a Facebook post yesterday, not only does He place each of us where He wants us, but He also will provide each of us – each of those little children I love so much – with the courage, strength, knowledge, wisdom, and fortitude to live through the times in which He placed them, to act according to His will, and to accomplish His purpose.

His Word is true for all generations:  “I know the plans I have for you, saith the Lord.”

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It’s a Challenge …

Remember when adopting a “word of the year” was a thing? (Is it still a thing?)  I never really got into it; too much like New Year’s resolutions.  New Year’s resolutions and I never really got along.  I’d make them on January 1 and – on a good year – not break them until January 4 or 5.  And then feel a little bit like a failure for the rest of the year every time I {pick one} cussed, overate, averted my gaze as I strolled past the treadmill with a cinnamon roll in my hand …

So by the time I was, say 30 (okay maybe 25.  Or 20), I quit making resolutions.  Then along came Words of the Year and it started all over again.  All my friends chose these profound words – or the words chose them, as they said – like kindness, joy, peace, courage, reach, etc. etc. etc.  I tried letting words choose me a couple of times and had to keep swatting away the ones that seemed to be attracted to me – sit, eat, bake, nap.  (Although I’m pretty sure I could have lived up to those all year long.)  So WOTY went the same way as NYR with me.  Buh-bye.

But then 2020 happened.  ‘Nuff said, right?  And in the first days of 2021 a word kept coming to me, over and over and over again (no, the word isn’t “over,” although yes, I’m very happy 2020 is over).  It’s a word I sometimes think I have no trouble with at all but other times realize I walk right past wearing the same blinders I wear whenever I am near the treadmill.

Accept.

As in accept that there are some things I can’t control.  Accept that my will and God’s will don’t always line up – and then accept that God’s will is always, always, ALWAYS better for me.  Accept that people don’t always act, or react, the way I think they should.  And that I can’t change that.  Accept people for who they are instead of trying to force them into the box of who I want them to be.  Accept that I’m not always who someone else wants me to be and that I can’t control their expectations.  Accept that I’m not always right.  Accept that sometimes it’s not a matter of right and not right, just different.  Accept that my cat is the coolest cat in the world (just thought I’d throw that in there). 

Accept that I can love people without necessarily liking everything about them – and that people can love me without liking everything about me.  Accept rejection.  And accept love.  Accept help when I need it.  Accept support when I need it.  Accept that our world might never be what I think “normal” should be again.  Accept that the Lord might return in my lifetime – or that He might not. 

Accept that my job is to love.  It’s so clear in the Word of God – we are to love our fellow believers (“love your brothers”), love the people we come into contact with (“love your neighbors”), and love the people we find very unlovable (“love your enemies”).  That pretty much covers everyone.  (Also I think it must say somewhere to love my cat because he’s the coolest cat in the world but I can’t put my finger on that verse right now.) 

Bottom line:  They will know we are Christians by our love.  Not by our politics, or our church affiliation, or our career, or our favorite football team.  By our love.

So I’m breaking with my decades-old rule of not making New Year’s anythings.  I’m taking on a Word of the Year this year, and it’s “accept.”  I accept the fact that I may, yet again, regret this, but I’m doing it anyway.

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Love Them Anyway

This is the last day of what can only generously be described as a tumultuous year.  Not just for me – for everyone.  Not just in my family, but in my hometown, my state, my country, the whole world.  I don’t know one person who isn’t looking forward to tomorrow, to the beginning of a new year.  Hoping beyond hope that when the clock strikes midnight tonight there will be some kind of magic that makes 2020 recede and a better, brighter 2021 descend.

Of course we all know that the difference between 11:59 p.m. one day and 12:00 a.m. the next is nothing more than a minute.  We know that what was true at 11:59 will still be true at 12:00.  There will still be a pandemic.  There will still be political strife and controversy.  There will be racial unrest.  Justice will still be fallible because humans are fallible, and too often – much too often – we refuse to see it, acknowledge it, and strive to change it. 

And yet we are all holding our collective breath for that one-minute change tonight, so we can bid goodbye to 2020 and jump into the new year with hope and optimism.  I think it’s the Pollyanna in us.  At least it’s the Pollyanna in me.

My lot this past year hasn’t been anywhere close to as dire as that of so, so many others.  I’m on retirement income so it hasn’t been affected by the pandemic.  I live out in the country and venture into town only for necessities, so the lockdown didn’t affect me too much, other than church being closed.  Our state, and my church, reopened in May, and other than taking the best precautions we can – social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands – life has been pretty normal. 

But I have learned a lot this year, about myself and about other people in my life.  Some of it was good, great even; some of it wasn’t.  But one thing I took away from this year that I hope I never forget is to love them anyway.

I hurt someone I love very much this year.  Not intentionally, but pain is pain and isn’t always lessened by intent.  She chose to forgive me and love me anyway.  She became my role model for dealing with this less-than-stellar year, and hopefully for the rest of my life. She taught me to make this my prayer:

When someone hurts me, please, God, may I love them anyway.

When someone disappoints me, may I love them anyway.

When someone rejects me, may I love them anyway.

When someone angers me, may I love them anyway.

When someone disagrees with me, may I love them anyway.

When I think someone is just plain wrong, may I love them anyway.

As I turn my attention to 2021, as I get my Pollyanna back and think optimistically that this new year we are about to embrace will be better, I want to ask – I want to implore – all of us (especially myself) to choose well this coming year.  Choose tolerance for the opposing viewpoint.  Choose openness to different ideas.  Choose forgiveness.  Choose kindness.  Choose mercy. 

Choose to love them anyway. Because, as Mother Teresa so rightly said, in the end it’s not between us and them. It’s between us and God.

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God’s not waiting with open arms

We’ve been lied to.  I know that sounds harsh, and I don’t think it was ever intentional, but here it is.  All these years I’ve believed a lie.

Just a brief history: When I was fifteen I became a Christian.  That is, I entered into a real, personal relationship with Jesus.  I fell head over heels in love with the Lord.  And in the few years since – okay, so it’s been almost half a century, but time flies, right? – I’ve continued to love Him.  But I’ve had ups and downs like most people – times when I’ve been so close to God I felt like I could reach out and touch Him, and times when I’ve been so distantly separated that I thought I would never find my way back.

And that’s where the lie came in.

So many times when I was struggling, good, sincere, loving Christian friends – even pastors – counseled me to just turn to God, because He was there  waiting for me to come back to Him.  He was waiting with open arms!  He hadn’t turned away from me; I had turned away from Him.  All I had to do was run back into His arms, and I’d be safe and warm again.

But it turns out that’s a lie.

Oh, not the part about who turned away from whom.  That’s true.  Always.  Every time.  God never turns away from one of His children.  It’s that other part, about running back into his arms.  That’s the falsehood.

Now let me digress just a minute before I explain.

If you’re at all familiar with the Bible you know something about the Psalms.  The Psalms and I have always had a little bit of a loose relationship.  I love the Psalms – or at least some of them.  The praisey, worshippy, lift-me-up-and-make-me-smile Psalms.  I can sing of your love forever … Unto Thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul … The everlasting love of the Lord never fails …  But those Psalms of David where he’s running from his enemies and hiding in caves and dodging all the arrows and all that?  Meh.

But recently my Bible study group started a study called Redeemed by Angela Thomas REDEEMED2Pharr. As part of the study, we are reading through the Psalms, roughly three Psalms a day, which necessitates my reading all the cave hiding, arrow dodging ones along with the happy happy happy ones.

And it was in reading one of those Psalms that I discovered I had believed a lie lo these many years.  (Some might say many many many many years but I think that is borderline rude.)

Here is the first thing I learned:  I may not have enemies like David had enemies, dudes with fire-tipped arrows hunting me through the wilderness, but I have enemies.  My enemies are Satan and his minions, and their arrows are temptation that leads to sin, confusion, busyness, stress, worry, anxiety, uncertainty, envy, frustration, discontent – any of the gazillion things that separate me from God.  Any of the things that keep me from an intimate communion with the Lord.  And here’s the other thing I learned.

Are you ready for the biggie?

When I’m stuck in the cave, bogged down by these arrows being slung at me, trying to fend off my enemies, separated from God by whatever it might be at that moment, I do not need to turn and run back into His arms.

Listen to this.  Read it carefully.  Read it out loud.  It’s a little long, but my friend, I promise it is worth it.

“The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice, my cry came before him, into his ears.

{Get ready; this is where it gets really really really good.}

“The earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook; they trembled because he was angry. {Not angry at you; angry at your enemies!}                Smoke rose from his nostrils; consuming fire came from his mouth, burning coals blazed out of it.  He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet.  He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind.  He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him – the dark rain of the sky.  Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced, with hailstones and bolts of lightning.

“The Lord thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded.  He shot his arrows and scattered the enemies, great bolts of lightning and routed them.  The valleys of the sea were exposed and the foundations of the earth laid bare at your rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of breath from your nostrils.

“He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters.  He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me.  They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.”  (Psalm 18:4-19)

If you don’t have chills  you need to read that again.

I could go on and on about this, and actually I already have to anyone who would listen, but just know this:

You never have to make your way back to God.  Whenever you find yourself separated from Him, no matter the reason, if you want to be back in His arms, the only thing you have to do is cry out to Him.  That’s it.

This should be the thing we learn right after we learn John 3:16 – For I, God, so loved the world that I gave My only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  And whenever any of you whosoevers is in trouble and cries out to Me – you don’t have to turn to Me, you don’t have to look for Me, you don’t have to run to Me, you just have to cry out to Me – I’m going to part the heavens and come after you breathing fire, making the mountains tremble, scattering your enemies – those oh-so-powerful enemies that can’t hold a candle to Me – and I’m going to reach down from on high and take hold of you, and bring you into a spacious place, into My presence.

And I’m going to do it because I delight in you.

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Lessons from a Two Year Old

{Disclaimer: I stumbled across this post in my drafts folder the other day and realized I’d never published it.  These three grandchildren are now ten, three, and one-and-a-half. But the lessons learned on this occasion are important enough to still share.}

I babysat my younger son’s three children last night, Da privilege and a challenge all rolled into one big bundle of woohoo!  His elder daughter, nine, is really self-sufficient and in fact a huge help with the littles, a two year old boy and a seven month old girl.  But she has her own interests, and I don’t think it’s her job, at nine, to be a mini-mom to the others, so I try to impose on her as seldom as possible.  (However, when baby Emily is screeching and Jay has to pee NOW, there’s no help for it – Calie to the rescue.)

Last night, Calie was engrossed in math prodigy on the computer and I was hanging out with Emmy and Jay.  I thought I’d take the opportunity to work on teaching Jay some things.  Turned out it was the other way around.

We started with his favorite book, Eight Silly Monkeys.  I’ve read this book to

monkeys

him a zillion times, ever since he was a tiny baby, and we have a whole routine that goes with it (including the mandatory voices and tickling).  We (meaning I) always count the monkeys on each page.  He’s getting to where he counts – or attempts to count – along with me.  This night, he wanted to do it himself.

“Okay,” I said.  “Let’s hear you count.”

“Six three one seven two.”  Then he giggled and jumped up, ready to run when I got to the tickling part.

“No, come on, let’s count right.  One, two, three …”

“Eight five six two nine!” Off he ran.

Sigh.  “Jay, come on over here.  Let’s count the monkeys.”

“Gwamma, we counted da monkeys.”  He patted his head.  “Hit his head,” he said, in a perfect imitation of the sing-song I always use for that part.  Then he stood there wiggling back and forth with a grin, waiting for mama to call the doctor and the doctor to say, “No more monkeys jumping on the bed!” at which point I would grab him and tickle him.

“No, let’s count them right.”

Jay stopped wiggling and looked at me, the corners of his mouth drooping.  “I counted dem.”

“Well,” I said.  “One did fall off the bed, and hit his head.”

Jay screeched and started wiggling again, his face alight. And I realized then that there’s more than one way to count monkeys.

A little later, in order to calm a very tired and cranky Emily down, I took her out onto the front deck (she loves being outside).  Jay followed right behind.  “Let’s go look at the Norm lights!” he said.  These are not lights named Norm.  These are little twinkly gnome lights out in my little gnome garden, but to Jay they are Norm lights, and I do not correct this because we have a good friend named Norm and I think it’s too cute.  (I also think it’s cute that he calls a certain sports drink “gwatowade.”)

So I started walking down the deck toward the Norm lights.  About three-quarters of the way down I heard Jay call, “Gwamma!”  I turned and he was stopped.

“What, Jay?  Come on.”

“Slow down.”  He didn’t move.

“Okay, I’ll wait for you.”

He still didn’t move.

“Come on, Jay.  Don’t you want to see the lights?”

“Come here, Gwamma.”

Sigh.  I went back to where he was.  “What, baby?”

Jay pointed back toward the stairs.  “Look at those Norm lights!”

We have half a dozen barrel planters around the yard, and they have solar lights in them that make a pretty pattern at night.  I’m so used to them that I don’t really notice them anymore.  One is by the stairs, and that’s what Jay was pointing to.

“Oh, yes, that’s pretty, isn’t it, Jay?  Look, there are others too,” I said, pointing to the other planters.  Jay was fascinated. As we headed down the deck he said, “Don’t go so fast in case there’s more Norm lights.”

Schooled by a two year old to stop and smell the roses.  Or see the lights.  I think I should put that on a sign in my yard – Don’t go so fast that you miss the Norm lights.

Back inside, as I was cradling Emmy in my arms, and Calie was curled up on the couch watching TV, Jay came over and sat next to me.  He had a sippy cup of juice in one hand and was rubbing a soft blanket with the other; he was a tired little boy.  After a minute he pushed the blanket away and started rubbing my arm instead.  Then he pushed himself up so he was half on my lap; awkward, since I had a lap full of Emmy.

It wasn’t long before he was maneuvering to get completely onto my lap.  I shifted the baby over and pulled him up, and he put his head on my shoulder, never taking the sippy cup out of his mouth.  He taught me that there’s always room on gwamma’s lap for her babies (hey! I heard those smart aleck thoughts).

Calie got off the couch and spread the blanket out on the floor and lay on it, her foot rubbing back and forth on my leg.  This was a perfect moment in grandmahood.  Perfect.

For two seconds, until Emily started screeching and Jay had to pee NOW.

 

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The Power of Prayer … or Not?

prayer1

I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed with my morning coffee today – welcome to the 21st century, where scrolling through Facebook with your coffee is much, much more prevalent than reading the morning paper (you know it’s true) – and I came across a link to a page dedicated to prayers for and updates about a sick baby.  You’ve probably seen similar ones on your newsfeed: parents of a sick child create a Facebook page to keep friends and family updated about the child’s progress, and it gets shared and reshared until it ends up going viral, or at least semi-viral.

This one gave daily updates written from the baby’s point of view.  Today was, I think, day 149 or something like that.  I checked out the link, curious about what actually ailed the child, but I never did quite figure it out.  I think maybe she had been born prematurely; she seemed to have had a number of problems.  In any event, I said a prayer for her and moved on.

But she haunted me a little.  She made me think back to when my first son was born, 11 weeks early and weighing two and a half pounds.  Nowadays that’s almost big compared to some of the premies they can save, but back in 1980 … well, it wasn’t.

Gosh, I thought, wouldn’t it have been something to have had Facebook back then, and to have garnered the prayers of people all over the world?  What a marvelous tool, what a great way to use social media.

And yet, I wondered, what would have been different in the outcome if I’d have had thousands of people praying for my son as opposed to the hundreds that were praying for him, the people from my church and the churches of friends and family?  The people from my work who prayed, and the people on the many prayer chains he was added to?

Because we had a really great outcome.  We had a miracle, in fact, or at least that’s what the doctors told us.  And my son was able to come home after three months in the NICU, and after two years of being watched and checked and followed carefully by the experts, it was determined he was just fine and released from further follow up.

So what would have been different if more people had been praying?

That led me to thinking about prayer in general.  Again.  I confess I go through this on a somewhat regular basis – every few years anyway.

Does prayer ever change the mind of God?

We are admonished, in the Bible, to pray.  Pray continually, pray diligently, pray about everything.  Make our requests known to God.  Give thanks.  Pray for the oppressed, pray for the ill, pray for the heartbroken.

But I so often wonder why.  Are my sorry prayers going to have any effect on God’s will?  Are they going to change the course of someone’s illness, or marital woes, or open a closed womb?  If I didn’t pray for that little baby on Facebook, would God not heal her?  We often pray for comfort for someone who has gone through a loss; if we didn’t pray, would God refuse to comfort the heartbroken?

I confess I can’t give any good answers to these questions.  I do not believe my praying or not praying is going to change the course of God’s will on this earth.  I’m sorry if that offends someone who believes otherwise, but I just don’t think God depends on me that much.  I think He comforts the brokenhearted, and heals the sick, and gives clear minds to test-takers, and heals marriages despite my not praying when I should.  I also think sometimes babies die and sometimes marriages are shattered even when many, many people are praying for a different outcome.

So does that mean I don’t believe in prayer?  No, and I’ll tell you why.

I believe prayer is a mystery.  I believe it is powerful, and purposeful, and required of us by God.  I believe when I fail to pray, I miss out.  I miss out on communion with God; I miss out on a blessing from God.  I miss out on the opportunity to hold a brother or sister in Christ, or a stranger, or even an enemy up to the Lord and petition Him for His magnificent benevolence.  I miss the opportunity to enter into the suffering of my brother or sister in Christ, or that stranger, or even that enemy, and come to the Lord with that suffering.

Maybe, like Frank Peretti proposed in his book, This Present Darkness, our prayers empower the angels of the Lord in their fight against the forces of evil in this world.  Like clapping for Tinkerbell – remember Tinkerbell?  We clapped like mad dogs every time we watched Peter Pan, and cheered and cheered when her little light grew stronger.  Maybe when we pray, the angels’ lights grow stronger.

Whatever it is, this I do know.  God tells us to pray.  There is a reason for it, because God is not a God of chaos.  He doesn’t give instructions just for the heck of it, just to watch us scurry around and do meaningless activities.  There is a real purpose behind prayer.  I don’t have to be able to define it; I don’t have to be able to explain it.  All I have to do is do it, and let God be God.

What’s the point of this whole post?  Just this: Don’t ever be afraid to say “I don’t know.”  Don’t be afraid to tell someone it’s a mystery to you.  People may say, what good are your thoughts and prayers? To those people, just give them love and say, they’re good because God makes them good.  God does things with my prayers that I can’t even begin to imagine.

I pray because God wants me to pray.  In John 14:23, Jesus says, “If anyone loves me, He will obey me.”

I pray because I love Jesus.

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A Post about Pot (fillers)

I read an interesting article yesterday written by an Irishman who traveled extensively and had spent a year living in the United States.  I think he was a travel blogger; I would provide his name and a link to the article but it was one of those things from Facebook that I clicked on, read, and now couldn’t possibly find if I tried.  (ETA: Okay, I tried, and it turns out a quick Google search with some key words and there it was:  https://www.fluentin3months.com/usa-clashes/  by Benny Lewis.)

The article (or blog post, I guess) was about the things that annoyed him most about Americans.  I know that sounds supremely offensive, but in fact it wasn’t, at least to me, for a few reasons.

First, I don’t offend easily.  I think letting ourselves be offended by other people’s opinions, or words, or clothes, or hairstyles, or body art, or choice of music, or choice of toothpaste has tied this country up in so many knots that we spend all our time knot getting anything done (haha see what I did there?).

Second, I had the great privilege of going to Europe (Italy, to be specific) a few years ago, and that exposed me to a culture other than my own.  While European culture isn’t as vastly different as, say, Asian or Sentinelese, it’s different enough to have made me appreciate some of what this blogger was saying.

Because, lastly, he actually nailed it in many respects.  I didn’t agree with everything he said (I’m a big fan of smiling; I don’t think you can smile too much), but some of it was pretty dead on.

And the one thing that really stuck out to me, personally, was #7 – Wasteful Consumerism.

Yes.  Yesyesyesyesyes.  Again I say, yes.

And I am saying that to me, not to you.  I am so guilty of this.  It struck me yesterday full force, while I was in the kitchen (my happy place), filling my stockpot by the kitchen Pot-filler-faucet-ideassink.  I thought, gosh, how nice would it be to have a pot-filler by my cooktop so I wouldn’t have to carry this big, heavy pot all the way from the sink to the stove?

Carry it all of three (3 – T.H.R.E.E.) steps from the sink to the stove.

Yes, let’s replumb the kitchen, tear out the (perfectly good) tile backsplash, install a pot-filler, and repair the backsplash (OH!!! or better yet, put in a whole NEW backsplash.  And maybe new countertops, too!), so that I can spare myself three steps in order to put water in a pot.

There’s a great use for all that extra cash we (don’t) have hanging out in the bank account.

And what about that sink?  I have a stainless double sink that’s been in the kitchen since the kitchen was built.  For the past maybe three years or so, every time we’ve gone to Costco, we’ve paused and looked at this beautiful stainless sink they have there.  It’s a little deeper than mine, with a little bit different configuration, and it’s a little heavier duty.  It’s a nice sink.  We keep toying with the idea of replacing my sink with that one.  I’m kind of surprised we haven’t done it already because, you know, consumerism.

Right.  So instead of my current stainless double sink, I will spend close to $300 on a new stainless double sink.  It’ll be a little shinier, at least for a while.  My biggest pot will fit in it just a tad better.  The one I use twice a year, so that’s really important.  If it actually washed my dishes for me, maybe it would be worth it.  Oh, no, wait.  I have a dishwasher for that.

I don’t need more stuff.  I don’t need different stuff.  I don’t need better stuff.  I actually need less stuff.

I’m one of those people who claims not to be a fan of New Year’s resolutions but who always follows that statement by saying, “but this year I’m {going to} {not going to} do such and such.”

So, I don’t really like New Year’s resolutions, but this year I’m going to try to quit being a wasteful consumer.  I’m going to try to pay off debt instead of incur more. I’m going to try to give more and take less.

I’m going to try to recognize the incredible abundance I have and not let the 24-hour informercial that is HGTV convince me that three steps is too far to carry a pot of water.

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I’m okay with gender roles

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This may be an unpopular position these days, but I’m really okay with gender roles in a marriage.  I’m at an age where I don’t have to adopt the prevailing position anymore.  I can say unpopular things and people just look at me and nod in that “well, she’s olhousehusbandd” kind of way.

I read a thing on Facebook today (amazing how many conversations start with those words these days, isn’t it?) about a guy who did the dishes and then patiently explained to his friend why that is not “helping his wife.”  Why doing laundry, and cooking, and cleaning the house is not “helping his wife.”  Because he lives there too. He eats too, and dirties dishes, and dirties clothes.  So doing all those things is just a natural part of living in the household.  It’s called “being a partner.”

Yes!  I thought, as I read it.  Yes.  Absolutely.  That’s right.  Why is taking care of your kids “babysitting” instead of fathering? (This has been a pet peeve of mine for years.)  When a mom takes care of her kids it is never babysitting.  Why do dads call it babysitting when they “have” to take care of the kids?  Same with household chores.  It’s their house too, right?  Wifey isn’t the only one who drops crumbs from the tortilla chips on the carpet, dude.  For sure.

But in the back of my mind a thought kept floating around, just out of reach, so I sat down and shushed all the little crazies that were jumping up and down and doing fist pumps because someone – some guy – had finally recognized that he shouldn’t necessarily expect high praise from wifey every time he vacuumed the living room.  And that little floaty thought came into focus.

Whenever I weed whack the yard, or mow, or trim, I kinda wait expectantly for a little of that high praise to come my way.

Whenever I wash my car (my own car, not his truck, because I never wash his truck), I kinda hope he’ll notice and thank me for sparing him that chore (the chore of washing my car).

I never pay attention to when my car might need servicing.  He takes care of that.

I never trim the trees that constitute the jungle growing up the driveway so that they don’t scratch – again – my car as I drive up and down every day.

I never take the tractor out and work for hours in the heat and humidity leveling the quarter mile road that is our driveway to fill in the gullies the latest thunderstorm made.

And I never – or at least very rarely – heap lavish praise on him for doing All. Those. Things.  And all the other things he does to keep our home up and running.

So you know what?  I’m okay with our gender roles.  I’m okay with doing most of the housework (although he does pitch in sometimes, and I do appreciate it when he does).  I’m okay doing the cooking.  I’m okay doing most of the grocery shopping and laundry and etc. etc. etc.  (I’m especially okay taking care of the kids, since, you know, they’re both in their 30’s, married, and out of the house.  Can you say low maintenance?  At least for me.  I can’t speak for their wives.)

To the guy who wrote the FB post about not “helping” his wife but being her partner:  I think you’re awesome.  I do.  I love what you wrote.  But in my particular marriage, being a partner means I (mostly) do a certain set of chores, and he (mostly) does a different set of chores, because those chores are the ones we are best equipped to do well.  I’m a better cook than he is (except he does make a mean frozen piztoolsza).  He’s a waaaaaay better mechanic than I am (case in point: he asked me to bring him wire snippers yesterday, and I came back with three different things because, really, what????).  I have my gifts, he has his.  Together we make an awesome team.  And everything gets done.  Most of the time.

But it’s still not babysitting when dad watches the kids.

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