Makes Me Happy Monday : James

We had a limb fall through our roof back before Comedy left. It’s not an uncommon thing.  We live nestled under a large canopy of trees.  You repair the hole and keep going.

This is how Comedy repaired our hole. Yes. That is a ziploc bag and those are pushpins. He told me more than once that he was going to come back and fix the hole. He has told us a lot of things. He never returned.

Sometime last summer, I decided that I was just going to HAVE to get over my fear of moving around on a slanted surface sixteen stories one story off the ground because the hole HAD to be repaired. I told James, “I’m going up on the roof.” I grabbed the ladder, propped it up against the roof and, with determination in my step, I climbed up those rungs. I carefully slung one foot over the ladder, planted it on those shingles and stepped forward.  Then I brought my center of gravity closer to the steady roof …. realized that I was immobilized and laid on the roof …. clinging on for dear life.

By this time, James had come to check on me.  He nimbly climbed the ladder and JUMPED over me like an acrobat. He began to dance on the roof … to show me how NOT scary it is up there.  He ran and jumped, leapt, twirled. Of course, I had a hard time LIFTING MY HEAD to see him. Partly because I was too afraid to look up. Partly because I didn’t want to watch my man/child TRIP mid-air over his own size 13 shoes and topple off the roof, bouncing on me on his way down thereby possibly knocking me out of my firm deathgrip. And partly because he had me laughing so hard making fun of me … that my belly muscles hurt! I just kept my eyes closed and tried to hold onto the flat, rough shingles.

I amused him enough – quite unintentionally, I might add – that he snapped a photo.  Thanks, James. I’ll forever have my fear encapsulated in a pixelated image.

We finally decided that I was … pretty useless on an incline …. suspended one story off the ground. James stepped back over me, scaled down the ladder like a monkey and coaxed me back down. It took me  …. QUITE a while to make my way back down to solid ground. But, I made it … without injury.

James is pretty handy.  His dad never really included him on projects so the things he’s learned, he’s had to figure by trial and error. It’s not the quickest way to learn, but many people have great knowledge from this style of instruction. He’s a pretty smart fella and will google …. anything! I am amazed what he’s able to do when he sets his mind to a job.

After being given the gift of shingles and some tar paper, James finally made himself get up on the roof last week and take care of that hole for me.

This is one more item that I can add to my Victory List! whoohoo!

So, this marvelous Monday morning
my happy, healthy, un-holey roof makes me happy
and my wonderful son that repaired it.

James Makes Me Happy this Monday morning.
What brings YOU joy this first Monday in March?

It’s not all about Me

Prayer for my children

Only two days after writing about my prayer for my kids (here),
I opened David Jeremiah’s devotional book Sanctuary and began to read.

The FIRST page that I read
only two days after writing about praying for my children
was about praying for my children. (stab to the heart)

Why “stab to the heart”?
After reading David Jeremiah’s words
I so clearly saw my poem
as  “Lord, I got this. Now, would you fill in the gaps?”

I’m SURE that’s not the heart in which it was written.
And it’s not the spirit that I prayed it
but it was the conviction of my heart
as I read David Jeremiah’s words that morning
sun filtering through my bedroom window.

“If I had to reduce it to just one thing,
I would pray for my child’s personal relationship with the Lord Jesus,
because if that’s solid, most of the other stuff will settle in.

I can honestly say that I haven’t prayed THOSE SPECIFIC words
in that way.
I pray that my children would be drawn closer to God and be more like Him.
I pray that He would shine a light on their sins and they would see them
and choose repentance and then obedience.
I pray that Joy would use her drama for good and to bring Him glory.

But, somehow this feels bigger, deeper, denser.
And so, I will pray, pray, pray for “relationship.”
It’s a cliche, catch-word today. But, it’s the heart of the matter.
Yes, Lord, let’s reduce it to ONE thing:
Fellowship, yes, that’s it.
I will remember to pray for fellowship
between my children and my Father … their Heavenly Father.

That HE would truly be
their haven, their refuge,


their Sanctuary.

.

I’m a “Creeper”

It is summertime.
I am looking for the cat …
and find her snuggled up with him.
I have to take a photo.
I slink away, so as not to wake either of the slumbering
and then stealthily creep back into the room with my camera.
I snap shot after shot.
I think nothing of it
but am exceedingly quiet so as not to wake them
and ruin the moment.James and Brier

I didn’t show up the photos when he woke up. I don’t often show my photos
because I take a few
to several dozen
per day.

Later, he happened to see them.
And he called me a “creeper.”

Bone of my bone … flesh of my flesh …blood of my blood.
Conceived, nourished and carried within my own frame.
And he called me a “creeper?”

He won’t understand until he has a child of his own.

This is not new for me.
I have even gone into Glory’s room from time to time.
I wrote here about her … though she didn’t call me a “creeper.”

James as an infant. Probably just a week or two old

But, when I look at him … or any of my three,
there is still this emotion of “ownership.”

I have NEVER been a Mama to say,
” I brought you into this world; I can take you out,” with a lip smack and a head bob.
BUT, I have been known to proclaim in exasperation to the elementary school cherub
who is hiding a fresh wound from me with tears cascading down the cheeks,
blood sprinting across the shin,
flesh uncomfortably rearranged on the knee and squalls barreling from the lungs,
“That is MY knee! I made that knee! You have to let me see it!! Be still!”

*whispers* Mamas always tiptoe in, don’t they? … to peek at the sleeping one
to catch a glimpse of the still, the quiet, the peaceful
… to view the one that is always a blurrrrrrr …… of movement
…. m.o.t.i.o.n.l.e.s.s …. *whispers* …. and silent.
James around a year oldI don’t ever remember leaving the room and thinking
“I’ll never go back in there! I have seen enough.”

And so, it’s hard for me NOT to begin a full-fledged rant
when I’m labeled a “creeper”
… by the same mouth which I made, created, nurtured.

Like Jesus spoke in parables, paralleling the spiritual and physical worlds, God convicts and teaches me through similar daily events.

Surely, God must feel the same way.
It’s that spiritual/physical parallel that is ever present.

We think we know best, that we have rights.
We think we can do it on our own.
We think we know more
and have better ideas and have seen enough life that we are wise.
Or we are lazy and want to do things “our” way because it’s easier …
when in the long run, it’s a much more messy, chaotic, labor-filled path.

We think we are our own and should be left alone to do what we want to do.

And so, I’m watching my big kids
– my grown-ups –
make decisions that I made.
These are things that we have talked about
.. things they have said they would not do
.. even things they said they would never do.

But, they know better.
They think they can handle it.
They think it’s okay for “them.”

And it’s hard.
Homeschooling wasn’t enough.
Staying at home with them wasn’t enough.
Being faithful at church wasn’t enough.
Talking to God and about God and His Word wasn’t enough.

There is only one “Enough,”
but it must be personal.
And for me, it is.
I cling to Him
His hope, His strength, His protection.
For He is “Enough.”
And I pray, that one day, He will be the same for them.

Many years ago, I came across this poem beautiful poem/prayer.  I wish so much that I could give credit to whomever it is due .. but I don’t know where I found it. I do remember that I altered it slightly. I made it “my” prayer for “my” children.
This little card remains in my calendar to this day … so I will see it and remember to continue to pray it.  I have been praying it for my children for years.
I know God is faithful. I know these requests are good and right and humble.
I pray and trust that He will honor them.There will always be “ownership.”
But, I know, in my heart that
He who owns the cattle on a thousand hills,
and every animal of the forest,
He who knows every bird in the mountains,
and the insects in the fields (Psalm 50:10 & 11)
also knows and loves my children
far better, deeper and more thoroughly
than I.

So, I continue to pray. I continue to let go.
I try to be supportive in all things.
I do my best to only give advice when it is solicited.

And I pray.

Lord, bring to light what I do not know.
Lord, warn them of what I am not aware.
Lord, whisper to them what I have forgotten.
Lord, teach them of what I have omitted.
Lord, be for them what I cannot be
Lord, love them as only you can
and give them wisdom to understand that
YOU are truly all they ever need.

Makes Me Happy Monday : Dreads

With a head of hair that is full of body AND a head that is larger than average, James has always been a bit self conscious about his head/hair. Even at 20, James could tell that his hairline was slowly moving.  And it seemed to bother him a bit.

But in the past six months or more, he’s grown past that. I am so thankful.  He’s come to the realization that there are some things that you can’t change (like your hair texture or head size …. or hair line) and it really doesn’t matter what people think. So, he has decided to let his hair grow out.

This photo was taken back on July 4th.  His hair has grown a LOT in three and a half months. I have loved it. Although, I’ve been thinking – and suggesting – that he needed to trim his bangs just a bit, because they started to get into his eyes lately. But, “NO!”  That was out of the question.

As it has grown longer, he has started  wearing it in a funky bandana from time to time.  This, of course, exposes his hairline fully.  And he’s SO okay with this. Man, does this make me happy. Self-contentment and self-acceptance. They’re good things. 

James has always been a unique individual. He’s not afraid to be alone or stand out in the crowd. He will stand for what is right and ask tough questions. It seemed only fitting when he began to toy with the idea of dreads.

After getting an okay from his boss at work,  he took the leap. Last Friday,  a friend came over and spent the day backcombing and weaving his hair into individual dreads. All day, she was here.  Nine-thirty a.m. until sometime well after one o’clock in the morning. She stood; he sat in a stool. She sat on the couch; he sat on the floor. He sat in the chair; she stood behind him. She worked and worked and worked. I told Katie she was a trooper and a half.  She was so patient and diligent. And she did a really good job on his hair.

It will take a while for his scalp to feel comfortable again and the dreads to lay down (they’re still sticking straight up … kinda like Buckwheat..lol) and “lock up” (knot and tighten) the way they should.  But, I think James is really pleased.

And I’m pleased, as well.  I’m pleased that my kids feel a comfort in trying something out of the ordinary. I’m happy that they don’t feel pressure to be like “everybody else.” I’m thankful that, at a very young age, all three of my kids seem to be more comfortable living in their own skin, that I was even two years ago.

James & Katy, dreading

Today, dreads make me happy.  Dreads make me happy because they are a symbol of my son choosing to be an individual and risking being different. They represent a comfort with himself that is a good thing.

What makes YOU happy this marvelous Monday morning?

Roaches in cereal

We live in the deep south. We live in an established neighborhood full of trees.  “Palmetto Bugs” live in trees. Call them what you want; “Palmetto Bug” is just another name for the American Cockroach.

I don’t like them, but I don’t scream and jump up on a chair when I see one. My Drama Child? She screams. It’s a blood-curdling scream, usually accompanied by a huge leap backward with arms thrown up to the face. If she locates an escape route, she barrels out of the room, down the hall and into her room with a *SLAM* of the door (because we know that palmetto bugs chase people, right?).  The man/child? Well, he used to act like a girl when he saw one, but now he and Glory both find a way to kill it and move on.

James loathes spiders, but he’s a ninja when it comes to roaches. I’ve seen him don a mask and black clothing while he goes on a hunt, stalking quietly until the enemy is at close range. At times, James knows that swatting it with a flyswatter would create too much noise and the buggy would just get away, so he has found more creative ways to get rid of these pests.  He has been known to trap them in a cup (taking lessons from the Master Spider trapper/hater, Zack Scott who has mad skillz…you really need to watch this video) or under a dish and then move it outside in the middle of the driveway …. where it will be an easy kill as it runs across the ground.   He will then quickly
UN.COVERS.IT and
*BAM*
…. bug is dead.
He’s my hero: creative and quick. Yay, James!!! (I wonder if Zack is a roach killer or saver? I dunno…)

Don’t get me wrong, we don’t have them inside our home by the dozen. We see them more often when there is rain outside or a strong change of weather. But, on the average, we see one every few weeks.  We have an exterminator come and that has helped. But, unless he climbs all the trees that are close to the house and canopy over it, we simply won’t completely eliminate “palmetto bugs” from our home.

So, I figure, if we’re going to have roaches, let’s make this fun, right?

All the kids in the house have been hoarders at one time or another. With three kids in the house, any delectable, trashy treat that comes in the house is going to be devoured quickly.  James has been known to hide boxes of microwave popcorn in his room. Joy has a stash-spot that she hides her Easter or Fall candy.  And Glory has been known to have a bottle of Dew on her chest of drawers. Don’t get me wrong – these food items are sealed, closed and in clean containers.  We rarely, rarely see a bug anywhere other than the main living/kitchen area.

But, Glory …. well, she left herself wide open for a prank.  Before moving out, she bought herself a box of Cap’n Crunch,  took it to her room and kept it there. One morning, after she finished her bowl of sugar-laden, sugar-filled, sugar-coated breakfast, she left the box open. I saw this as an opportune time to slip a bug into her box, since we know that roaches will find food that’s available. Right?  The little guy looked incredibly convincing.

Later she admitted that she saw him before she poured herself another bowl of cereal and began to pour KNOWING that he was an impostor
. . . . .  then the thought occurred to her,
“Uhm…..
I wonder if he’s a REAL roach?”
So, she didn’t drop the box and run out of the room screaming, but I did “get” her.
She had second thoughts when she saw him.

We have a handful of these fake little guys.  They all look very real.  Back when I was still enjoying chocolate, I can vividly remember finding one in the Nesquik container and being scared silly….scream and all!!   They have been dropped into dark tinted drinks like soda. They have been left in bathrooms, drawers and on plates on the kitchen counter. At times, I have kept one in my purse … you know …. just in case the perfect time arose to trick someone.

So, if you take me up on the offer to stop by sometime, don’t be surprised if you spy a bug in my house.

Chances are – he’s a fake.

Own it

We have a big festival here every year that celebrates the arts.  James went downtown with a friend on Friday night.  Later, I decided I would go downtown and search for some creative inspiration.  Having already arrived at home, James offered me the pass that he had purchased and used earlier in the evening.

I just couldn’t bring myself to use it. It isn’t a numbered pass … just a little pin that you wear on your shirt. No one would know we were “sharing” it. But,  it seemed to me to be dishonest.  Using it might be the same as his sharing a movie ticket with me …. for a movie that he had already seen. Right?  He paid to get in – but now, I must also.

I’m not sure why this authenticity/honesty thing is so important to me  … but, it is. Maybe it’s because I’ve watched people be dishonest and hurt people they love. Maybe it’s because I’m always evaluating my own actions and reactions.  Maybe it’s because I’m seeing my oldest children stretching their wings …. strengthening their muscles …. stepping into their adult personas and I want to above reproach.

With this adult freedom, choices have been made that …. well, that a moma’s ♥ might not choose.  Both my kids have picked up cigarettes. I don’t like cigarettes. They know that. Glory has since stopped … and James … well, he’s not sure if he really wants to or not. But, I’m not going to disown them because they spend their hard-earned money on Marlboro’s any more than if they spend it on bubble gum.

Ya know what’s been harder for me?  The fact that they have hidden their cigarettes …. not from me, so much …. but from certain others.

A perfect example:  the two of them went to the grocery store together some weeks ago.  They were sitting in the car smoking cigarettes just before they went into the store, when a mother of a friend pulled into the parking space beside them. They slouched down in their seats and hid themselves AND their cigarettes. 

So, in their heart of hearts, they knew that what they were doing was not … good. Because, if they had been holding a coke and knew that this mom didn’t like coke, but preferred pepsi, they still wouldn’t have hidden their drink.  But, this was more than that. I think they know that cigarettes are a bigger decision than the “coke or pepsi” debate.

Turning the spotlight on myself, I’m also struggling with an internal brawl.  My iPod looks like it belongs to a schizophrenic.  I have music from Veggie Tales, Pit Bull and James Taylor, Josh Groban, The Black Eyed Peas and  Crosby, Still & Nash on my playlist.  You can find Ella Fitzgerald, Lyle Lovett,  DJ Khaled and Toby Mac in my band list. I have classical, country, folk and alternative choices galore.  There are a few songs – very, very few …. but still some – that I don’t want Joy singing. There are several songs that I couldn’t…. well, wouldn’t want to sing …. in front of … a Bible study group.

So, there I am ducking down in the car hiding my ….. cigarettes …… I mean my ipod ….. and hoping that the mom driving into the parking space next to me in the Kroger parking lot won’t see/hear my contraband.

I’m just being honest here.

If I were to choose a verse of scripture to have Jesus personally explain to me, I would ask Him to tell me HOW I can do what Paul instructs and be “all things to all people.” (1 Corinthians 9:22) Because, to come alongside a Mennonite, I must wear a modest dress and head-covering. But, in doing so, a student sitting next to me in class at school would not be able to find any way to relate to me. How can I be “all things to all people?”  I’m not sure. This verse has been perplexing to me … for decades … for.EVER.

But, what I do know, is that I must be comfortable with who I am today. I must let the Spirit of God lead me and remain open and teachable … wherever I am.  In the past, I have worn only dresses, home-schooled my kids and ground my own wheat to make our bread.  At other times, I have done well to find clean shorts for everyone and get Kraft macaroni and cheese on the table. Right now, I’m a single mom in school with two young adults stretching their wings and a pre-teen with an irreverent mouth who is spending her days in the halls of a public school (cringe).

And right now, as never before, it means more to me for my kids and I to do our best to be authentic. If we’re going to smoke, let’s do it in the open. If we’re going to have a margarita, let’s not hide it. If we’re going to listen to Uncle Kracker, let’s be comfortable with it.

Or let’s not do it at all.

Own it. Be yourself. Be real. Be authentic. Be honest.

So, may I ask you a question? Where are you struggling right now? What are you hiding from others … but enjoy in private?  And more importantly, do you hide it because the Spirit of God is convicting you that it’s not okay?  Or do you hide it because of fear of man?

Brevity of life

He prayed for wisdom.
I stood by his bed, elevated four feet from the floor by sturdy solid wooden beams,
and listened to him petition God for wisdom.
As I would navigate my way across the room after the light was turned out, my feet felt the familiar jab of sharp corners from tiny plastic blocks of red, white and gray that covered his floor…..  Legos strewn in a six foot circle in the middle of his floor. There was no way out without  somehow being pierced. The circle was wide and there were always strays.

The earliest I remember him praying this prayer,
he was around eight.

I still remember his prayer.  We had been talking about Solomon.  He asked God for wisdom. I wondered how he knew to ask for it. Had he heard me ask for wisdom in front of those impressionable ears? Probably not. But, he knew it was desirable.

And that has been his constant prayer as long as I can remember.

And God is faithful.

This man is wise beyond his years.  He is slow to anger. He thinks things through.  He considers his options.  He is aware of outcome.  He weighs his actions.  He puts others first.  He chooses his words very carefully.  He is a man of his word.  I know that I can trust him.  If he says it, it is the truth.  No need to probe further …. dig deeper.  There is no need to ask, “Do you promise?” If he speaks it, it is true.

But, of all of his character qualities, the one that moves me most is that he cares for the eternal soul.

There was a time when I once fretted over how often we had moved.  Through the years, we moved time and again.  I often felt like I was dragging the children by the hair from one home to another.  It always took me two months to pack and two or three months to unpack and feel settled.  It was difficult and often felt …. unnecessary.  But, I remember when I realized that five different young men had come to know Christ through my son’s witnessing to them – each in a different home along the way.  That realization was a reminder that God uses our messes for His good.

This past week, one of James’ co-workers had a wreck and was killed. Keith had been working there for about three weeks. When James came home from his first day at work after the wreck, I asked him about his day.  How was it? Was it hard? How are people dealing with the loss?

James, with peace, began to tell me how he knew that Keith was saved.

I stood there beside this man

and was humbled.

Keith started working only three weeks before James.  They had known each other no more than two months, but my son had already made it a point to probe the state of his soul. He had already asked if God was part of his life. He had already wondered out loud if Keith was assured of heaven.

This event …. this death ….. has made an impact on James’ life.  He said that he is even more aware of the brevity of life and how we cannot count on tomorrow. We only have today …. and not even today – truly only the moment.

Oh, that I might live my life with this imminence in mind.

Oh, that I might not need to personally experience the death of a loved one to feel a piercing jab that would move me to reach out more often to those around me….
to love with abandon ….
to give selflessly …..
to ask deep questions that make people think …..
to be interested and take the time
to make a difference.

Oh, that the death of a co-worker
and the courage of my son
would move me to look for chances
to ask others about eternity
and today.

Cheezit Fun!

After leaving school yesterday afternoon, I ducked into Walmart to pick up a few grocery items.  There in the center aisle, for all unsuspecting Scrabble lovers and typography nuts to trip over, was a pallet display of Scrabble Junior Cheezits!  Oh My!!  I just had to buy a box!Naturally, my first inclination was to begin to pick out letters and spell something!  In any other situation, this might equate to playing with ones food, but somehow, it seemed only right and reasonable with this box of edible letters!

As I dug my hand down into the box for the sixth time, looking for an “f” to spell “fun,” I realized that I had fallen into the Cheezit marketing scheme’s trap!  With half the box of crackers spread across the table, my mind raced with fun things to spell as I tossed the less than perfect crackers into my mouth and continued to dig in the food poured across my clean tablecloth. And I thought, “Oh! I’ve gotta buy another box of these!”  James walked out of his bedroom to find me knuckle deep in orange squares and was excited, as well.  We spelled, snacked and snapped shots throughout dinner.

Glory was at work.  I’m sure she enjoyed some when she arrived home. Sweet Joy was away, so she missed our meal of tomato soup fellowship and Cheezits phrases.  She missed out on the spelling fun and playing with our food.  Guess I’ll be buying another box before long!

Let’s see… what is the tag line on the back of their box?

“Get your own box.”
Yes, please.

First Swim Meet

Tuesday night was the first swim meet for our summer, neighborhood swim league.  I LOVE swim team.  It’s such a family sport.  All the kids are in or gathered round one central location.  You don’t have to worry about one parent watching kids at one field and another parent over at another field.  With swimming, you’re all together!  Yay!

I have to say, though, that for some reason, when kids become teens, they typically don’t care for swimming any more.  I don’t get it.  I don’t understand it.  And I don’t give in.  If you’re under 19, you’re swimming.

Glory gets quite disappointed because she’s not very fast.  She LOOKS beautiful in the water.  She has wonderful form and smooth, beautiful strokes… but she rarely wins a race.  In years past, she really tried to hard to get stronger and do better.  She’s given that up.  She only swims now because it’s a “Mom-requirement.” She had to quit rowing because she had some joint problems.  Swimming is easy on the joints.  She says that she is sad that she gave up ballet.  She says that she doesn’t know how to do anything really well.  I disagree.  She may not be the fastest swimmer in the bunch, but she has over ten years experience and she swims really well… maybe not exceptionally FAST, but well.  I hope one day, she will be thankful that she was required to stick it out to the end and realize that her swimming abilities will be a lifelong blessing.

Coach Glory and Head Coach, Amy

Left is Glory, heat sheet (schedule) in hand, waiting for another race to start.  This is her second year coaching.  She’s amazing with the little folk.

Right is Coach Amy, our fearless leader.  Her encouragement and ever positive outlook trickle down to the smallest water bug.  She’s a great coach and we love her.

On the left, is one of my favorite people, a close friend, who happens to be quite goofy at times. Lorin makes me smile.  She has four kids on the team.

And even James is still on deck.  This year, he’s aged out and can’t swim, but has been recruited as a timer.  Here we are (on the right) between races. Lorin/James & I

I laugh at God. I’ve ALWAYS stood on the poolside and seen kids do things that are illegal.  I’ve thought and even sometimes commented, “Hey!  That’s a DQ!”

Just over a week ago I had to take the class to be certified as a Stroke & Turn Judge.  HA! It’s SOOOO much more difficult than it looks.

I used to think that it was so sweet how the judges take it easy during those first one or two meets in the summer.  gads!  That’s not what they were doing.  They are LOST.  They’re petrified!  They’re wondering what they’re seeing and if they can/should call it!!  Wow.

So, here I am, a S&T judge watching for scissors kicks during butterfly or breast, flutter kicks during breast, pulling too many times under the water on breast and butter, premature starts on relays and non-simultaneous touches on the wall.  And did you know that freestyle is any stroke except butter, back or breast when one is part of a relay?  Dog paddling is even acceptable. Yep. Who knew!

So, that’s my Checkmate story from God of late.  Be careful what you wish for – He might just give it to you.  THEN you realize how completely incapable you are to do that thing that you thought you could do so much better than “him” or “her.” <grins>

The summer swim schedule is a fast one.  The season will be over before we know it.  Chilly morning water, doughnut-after-meet parties and the mad dash for the Mako’s t-shirts before we head to a meet will be a thing of the past.

What’s on your summer schedule?