The wisdom in Raisins

Raisins

I’ve always had a love for older adults.  You know…we call them Senior Citizens.  I get a big smile on my face when I’m around them – kind of like how some people get when they’re around babies. There’s just something sacred about someone who has walked this earth way longer than I have.

In high school I would jump at the chance to drive the hour to Seal Beach to pick up my sweet Grandma, Cora for a family get-together.  It gave me the chance to talk with her in the car, love on her a smidge, and it did my own heart good to have been with her.  I always walked away feeling as if I’d been blessed to sit at the feet of someone who had lived in another century than I had.

My friend, Robyn calls these people “raisins” for reasons that I assume you can figure out.  She has funny names for all sorts of things; body parts, people, abbreviated words, etc.  She is one of my joys and keeps me in smile mode regularly. I wonder what word she would make up for young people?  If we’re staying in the fruit category….maybe peaches?

Raisins have experienced both suffering and joy for more years that I have lived.  They’ve been beat-up and blessed, and I just feel like they deserve respect and grace.  Sometime even E.G.R…..”extra grace required”.  What a shock it was to me when I realized that not all peaches feel the same way I do about raisins.  Is this generation less inclined to find value in the wisdom of their elders?  Are they not able to look outside themselves and appreciate the wisdom gained through wrinkled skin?   I’m a smidge worried about that because I’m gonna be a full-fledged, card-carrying raisin sooner than later.

I think it would simplify the process of seeing wisdom in others for young whippersnappers….oh sorry…I mean peaches if there were a way to take blinders off their eyes and give them the gift to see wisdom in someone’s face.  To be able to look and simply see it in someone’s eyes. To be able to recognize that there is truth-telling going on when a raisin speaks truth into your life.  What young peaches don’t know is that this super-power is oftentimes built in to those with wrinkles on their face in their downhill years.  I’m probably not the first to tell you this, but it’s true; the longer you’ve walked this earth the more you know.  By the way…you’re officially a raisin if you use the term “whippersnappers”.

It works the other way, too.  That same super-power comes to raisins in reverse; to be able to look at peaches and see the potential in them.  To look past their young mistakes and see the possibilities just oozing to get out of young peaches.   Something I’ve learned by being a parent is how God’s love for us is a similar picture of how we view our kids.   Because of grace, we potentially can see them not as a screw-up, but as a caterpillar working towards becoming a butterfly – starting on the inside and working out.  Oh my….I just jumped from fruits to insects.

I drove past the local high school back in May just as the kids were getting out of finals.  Traffic backed up, and as I drove through the droves of kids excited about the end of the school year, I looked into those young faces.  Its interesting when you look at a high schooler and you can project what they might physically look like when they’re older.  That’s one of those abilities that only comes with having been around the block a few times.

I saw the confusion in some of their eyes.  The hope in others.   And as I saw the crazy hair do’s, the acne on their faces, the overweight and the scrawny, and the fashion faux-pau’s…I smiled because I knew 80% of them would be completely different in 20 years.  I know that because that’s what its like when you age.  Most are transformed from what they looked like and were when they walked across the stage to receive their diploma.  Some get better looking, some will bald, some will completely change their hair color, some will change habits, some will become nicer, some will become crankier, some will adopt healthier lifestyles, some will become bitter, some will overcome addictions, some will become passionate about a cause because of a life-changing event in their life, some will suffer undeservedly, and some will die at a young age.  And then some stay right where they are – in high school until they’re 90.

My hope for the peaches of the world is that you would adopt grace for the raisins in your lives, and spend time regularly with someone over 60.  Be intentional about it.  Call your parents on the phone.  Take a vacation with them.  Respond to their texts and phone calls.  Take cookies to an elderly neighbor who is lonely.  And quit honking at them when you’re driving – for gosh sakes!  You’re gonna give them a heart attack.

And my hope for the raisins of the world is that as you age you would keep moving – walk, cycle, run, jump, or roll your wheelchair up and down the street.  In other words…”move it or lose it”.  And try to keep up with technology so when those peaches do email or text you, you know how to respond.  And  my prayer is that at the end of your journey you can look back with no regrets and say that you’re less stupid that when you started because of the good and bad choices you made.  Now that’s being a grown up.  And that’s God’s grace.  What a gift to us all.

Gotta go….I’m having this unexplainable craving for some fruit!  🙂

My Cloud

Cloud heart“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. ~ Hebrews 12:1-2

Our journey, or our race as Hebrews talks about is never one that is walked or run alone. The story we write of our lives has many contributing authors. We have a cloud of “witnesses” that float in and out of our lives that we watch and look to during the course of our lives that impact how we live life and love those around us. Some are good and some are not so good. Many of mine helped me be braver. Some taught me humility and grace. Then there are some that looked a lot like me – and I didn’t like what I saw. We watch people and rub up against them in the hopes that the good in them will rub off on us.  That’s what it means to be a witness.

One cloud that hovered over me for 52 years was my mom. I needed to have someone to look up to – to try to emulate. She was funny and feisty, and always trying to figure out where she fit in this world as a sister, daughter, wife, mother and as a Christian. She was a child of the depression – a woman who was flawed, hurt and disappointed, but who showed love for others by caring for them. She was graceful but struggled to understand grace. I watched her get angry, then mourn when her anger cost her dearly. I have a deep desire to know her stories, her roots, her regrets and her victories. She taught me a lot of good things – like how to care for people. Because we were so different in personality, she once told me I was a “pistol”, which I eventually figured out she didn’t necessarily think that was a good thing.

I ran from the shade of my dad’s cloud because I could never figure him out – but now I wish I had taken the time.  He was old-school in his thinking of what women should and shouldn’t do, and I never seemed to fit into that scenario the way he thought I should.  He did teach me what hard work and discipline looked like, for which I’m grateful, but I always felt as if I disappointed him.  He taught me prejudice…only because that’s what he was taught…but thankfully the dove told me at a young age that was wrong.  But later in life, as I learned the analogy of our Father in Heaven’s love…I grew to trust and honor him for the part he played in growing and caring for me in his own way. He was a good man with some regrets, and we got to have some faith talks later in his life that I hope were a deciding factor in where he is spending eternity.

Two clouds that I loved were my grandmothers, Violet and Cora. Violet was a strong-willed Danish woman who lost her husband early, was caregiver to her sick Father, and stood up for my rights. She was opinionated about women’s rights, and taught me women could be strong and athletic and should be chosen early when picking teams for backyard baseball. One of my favorite memories of her was Christmas Eve circa 1964 when she thought she was alone in the Living Room looking at the lights of the tree.  I peered around the corner as she sat and sang Silent Night in Danish, and I watched as a tear trickling down her cheek as memories flooded over her.

Cora was a strong Christian woman who loved to tell stories (boy could she talk), loved the Los Angeles Dodgers and always smiled, or had a headache and seemed tired. She taught me about faith, for which I am eternally (literally) grateful. She was a tea-tootler who almost didn’t come to my wedding because we were serving champagne for the toast.  One of my favorite things I loved about her story was how she learned to drive when she was 60 years old.  What a determined trailblazer she was.

I loved them both for the traits that I inherited from them….determination, strength, a sensitive and caring heart, and faith-filled… and you all know how I love a good story! Their personalities are part of the blood that flows through me.

I had several friends growing up, but a special part of my cloud-cover was my high school / college friend, Carol.  Her friendship and care for me was unconditional, which I had never experienced. She was the first friend who treated me like a sister, and I so regretted not having a sister to grow up with. We were both getting our wobbly faith-feet underneath us around the same time, and she taught me how women can be supportive of one another without competition or as being a threat, not as insecure or jealous or weak, but instead as a sister in Christ. That’s a powerful force for good. Eventually the wind blew and this dear cloud blew away as we leaned into marriage and life in different places.

I had two clouds in my early 20’s that came and shaded me with their mentor marks that I will never forget – Nancy C. and Carol H.  I saw in these two women a peace and confidence in their faith that I lacked and I wanted to get me some of that! I wanted my faith to be strong like theirs, and they gave me the tools to help me build that. Their mentoring planted such great faith seeds in my life, and I am so grateful for the watering they did before they drifted off to bless others.

My favorite cloud is my husband, Ken. He blew into my life just when I thought all the good guy clouds in the world were taken or had dissipated, and he redeemed my faith in true love. He can be soft and fluffy, full of love and life and joy. But sometimes when he’s been floating too long without a break or support he can be dark and foreboding, and rain all over my parade. He challenges me, and has taught me to listen, love unconditionally, and keeps me on my toes because he’s almost always right. I hate that about him. What a pistol!  But he is one cloud that isn’t going to drift away any time soon.

I’m passionate about my kid clouds, and my latest struggle is letting go of their consistency in my cloud cover. I know our kids are given to us for only a season, and that our job is to teach them how to fluff and puff out their cloud wings and float out into the world (I couldn’t think of a good cloud analogy for kids coming and going from our lives…so don’t write back and tell me clouds don’t have wings please!) but this ache I feel around a much different relationship with Brady and Bryan brings rain to my skies regularly. I miss the comfort of their shade and comfort. But I trust that I will learn new and exciting things from their examples as they move out into the world and I get to watch how they offer shade to others.

Finally, I am finding great comfort in the shade of many friends that have chosen to bless me with their friendship. Woman (and men) who are passionate and alive in their faith, knowing their purpose is to come alongside others with joy and laughter and vulnerability. I get to watch them be brave as they walk in sickness and hardship. I get to watch them be real in their marriages. I watch them care for the people God has placed around them with kindness and forgiveness, and they help equip me in the knowledge that I can do the same thing. Laurie, Robyn, Cindy (1, 2 and 3), Janis, Mickey, Kathleen, and Lori are just a few who I am honored to float through this life with. Thank you that you make me feel as if I am enough – you are the wind at my back and you make me brave.

So these are just some of the “witnesses” that have clouded my skies and walked my story with me.  Both good and bad.  As I’ve tried to make sense of my life, I’ve had to learn that not all the dark clouds I bumped into were as they seem.  Paul Tripp says it this way; “What looks like the end my be the beginning.  What looks like hopeless may be God’s instrument to give you real and lasting hope.  What looks like disaster might, in fact, be grace. Your Father is committed to taking what seems bad and turning it into something that is very, very good”.

So some of my witnesses have shown me grace, and some have shown me the opposite of grace.  But that’s all a part of the lesson and the growing in grace that I’m so passionate about pursuing.  Grace in the hard places.  Grace in the everyday stuff.  Grace in the clouds.

You knew I HAD to end it with a cloud, right?   Be the cloud for someone today.  Be their shade and be a witness of grace to them.

Humble Pie

 

softball

I’ve been an athlete most of my life. My sport is softball, and I started playing the game later than some – that came as a freshman in high school.  But with two older brothers, I always wanted to be where they were – outdoors and being active.  As a little girl I loved to play Three Flies Up in the neighborhood with the boys, which is where my love for the feel of a baseball mitt began.  Ah, to hear the ball smack into the web of the glove was heavenly.  Hand-eye sports were my specialty…endurance sports, not so much. So in high school I played volleyball, softball and basketball.  I quickly realized that basketball involved quite a bit of running, so after one season of running up and down the court huffing and puffing, I told people that basketball “wasn’t my thing.”

As an adult, I settled in with softball as my best form of therapy, and I’m grateful for the lessons the game has taught me.  I wasn’t half-bad at it, and it was a great way to keep fit, work off the stresses of life, and since I wanted to be the best I could be at it I made the commitment to better myself at my sport.  I also figured out that I couldn’t excel at this sport without the balance of recognizing the one who gave me my talents.  That pride thing can get the best of me, so wisdom told me I needed to always be plugged in to that source to keep my head level. 

That meant that every time I stepped onto the field or up to the plate I whispered a prayer asking God to help me to play to the best of my ability, but more importantly to glorify Him on the field.  Somehow I got better at the game, and although I will always struggle with pride I was able to keep my head level and I formed some amazing relationships with gals who remain my friends to this day.  I’ve been able to talk about my faith and where I get my strength from on and off the field.  So as Chico Escuelo once said….”<softball> has been bery bery good to me!”

When I was in my twenties and playing short-stop on a competitive B level women’s softball team, I remember watching a gal who was 40 playing softball and I said to myself “wow…I hope I can continue playing softball until I’m 40″.  Forty seemed so far away.  I had both of my kids, and bounced back stronger and worked harder, and my team went to Nationals.

Then when I turned 40 there was no way I was ready to give it up, so I restated my goal as “if I’m able, I want to keep playing softball until I’m 50″.  My nickname during those years was Hoover – my C division coach said it was because I sucked every ball up that came near me.  Ha.  Again, 50 seemed so far away.

When I turned 50 and transitioned to third base and started playing coed ball, it seemed so absurd to me that I would give up such a huge part of my life…something that I was still good at – something that, granted…validated me.  Like I said, pride always seems to seep in, and truth be told…softball also made me feel like I could pretend I was still young.  I could dismiss the aches and pains I felt, and fool myself into believing that I was still a contender on the field in our D rec division.  I could keep up with the young gals (for the most part) and surprised myself at how I could still stay in the game.

Life is all about lessons.  And about finding grace in the lesson.  Flash forward to a few years ago and the first time a ball (hit by a dude) whizzed by my head before my body even reacted.  Uh oh.  Reality check.  Maybe its time I move to first base.  Sigh.  Aging can sometimes catch you off guard as you realize you have to say goodbye to things you use to do and it’s all a part of the fun and exciting things I’m learning to process as I age. And it’s a form of grief.

I turn 60 next year and I’m now playing E level softball.  I guess I should be happy I’m still playing ball at all.  So now I manage our coed team and play first, or catcher, or wherever I’m needed (hopefully not outfield because tri-focals don’t see the ball in the air so well) and now when I walk up to the plate or out of the field my prayer sounds more like “Lord…please help me to play to the best of my ability….and pleeease help me get a hit.” I watch the young gals hit and field the ball like I use to…and I smile, because I like to watch new young talent.  But it also makes me a little sad – because it reminds me of what I’ve lost as I age.
 
The coed team I currently play with has been together for 10 years, and is comprised of mostly over 40 year olds.  Our gals are strong, so we dominated the Christian league we played in, so in all fairness we thought we should move back to the city leagues and crush those poor teams there.  We took a year off, and now this is where the humble pie comes in.  We haven’t won a game yet this season.  We’re eating crow.  Again…we’re learning new lessons.  We find ourselves smack-dab in the middle of a new softball experience.  One of losses rather than landslide victories.  Having to focus to work harder on improving our abilities on the field.  Last week we played the team again that beat us 24-2 the first time we faced them.  Granted, 3 of our strongest guys weren’t there the first game, but I’m finding happy take-aways from that game simply because we only lost by 8, rather than 22.  Rejoicing in a game where we were “neck-and-neck” with a dominant team and even went ahead of this Goliath team that spanked us last time.   

I’m choosing to put my softball career into the category of “life lessons”…and to be happy with the lesson.  And God is teaching me new (and not so exciting) lessons about pride, good sportsmanship, being the underdog, and having a good attitude.  And about aging and having to start thinking about possibly giving up a sport I’ve loved for yay 47 years.  Sigh.

Our team name is Heaven Help Us and that describes best where we are having to get our strength from.  We’re having to reach down deep and actually put our faith into action on a silly softball field and rely on a God that loves to teach faith lessons in simple situations.  We are gaining momentum.  We are improving.  We may not be the best – maybe not even a contender – but we are learning great things about ourselves and what it feels like to be a loser…and to lean into God.  We’re choosing to watch for the lesson, to be Christ-like athletes, and to embrace the experience rather than pout about where God has us.  For me, that applies both on the softball field and in the aging timeline.

So I’m grateful for the lessons that softball has taught me….and continues to teach me.  And I’m grateful that grace shows up in the lesson.  Sigh.  This might be harder than I thought.

  Softball poem

 

Putting the fun back in dysFuNctional

It’s always my desire to be as transparent with you as I can be so you know I’m just like you – flawed and fractured…bumbling through life, trying to stay plugged in to the source and trying to glorify the One who created me.  I use to try to come across to those around me as one who had it all together – a woman that loved and blessed her family with grace and joy and kindness.  One who never shared a cross word with her husband or children. Oh brother! I gave up on that  facade a long time ago, and it’s my desire now to live life out of a place that I call real Christianity.

Growing up, I watched my parents make occasional mistakes, but what stood out to me was that they rarely admitted those mistakes, or apologized when they should have.  Sort of the if we ignore the mistake it will just go away policy. So when I became a parent I prayed that I would be a mom who admitted her mistakes to her kids and apologized for them.  My desire was that I not only could model what that looked like so they knew how to do it themselves, but also so they understood that their mom wasn’t perfect…and needed forgiveness as much as they did.  Good concept, but BAD IDEA!

Praying a prayer like that is akin to praying for patience.  If you pray for patience, God’s not going to just zap you and bestow a supernatural ability to be patient upon you.  Not that He couldn’t do that, but that’s not typically how He works.  No…what God usually does is He increases the moments in your life that you get the opportunity to practice that gift you prayed for.  Imagine that!  So unless you really want more opportunities to practice patience…don’t pray for it!

So God has been gracious (way too gracious!) in answering my prayer by allowing me a plethora of opportunities to practice asking forgiveness of my kids.  There have been more moments than I would have liked where I had to apologize for something I did to hurt them, whether knowingly or unknowingly, and most often for words that came out of my mouth.  What was I thinking praying that prayer??

One such moment happened recently.  It involves two of my favorite loves, who also happen to be two of my most difficult relationships to maneuver through, but they are both SO worth it. Before I begin, let me just ask for your forgiveness, mercy and grace in advance, in case you thought I had it all together.

There’s more detail behind this tale than there is room for on this page, but our story starts in the kitchen where Salsa guy and I greet our 29 year old female child-unit (alias “daughter”) and are ready to head out the door to game night at friends.  Said child-unit is no different than most young adults her age who have a relationship with their phone and sometimes can’t get their nose out of it with texting, and tend to forget that there are actual human relationships standing right next to them.  So in a “Mom Moment” I casually suggest that she be mindful of the other adults we would be interacting with that evening, and maybe consider putting aside the phone for a portion of the evening.

What happened next was not pretty on anyone’s part, but the next day, as I shook my head in disbelief, there was also a giggle that slipped out and I thought to myself…”this would have been a perfect comedy sitcom script”.  I also knew that I would have to come clean with you all eventually, as I feel there is a connection with Christ and my transparency of this blog.

Child-unit chose to try to shame my suggestion with a dramatic “OH MY GOD…are you JOKING?”…which launched her male parental-unit into a fury in reaction to her disrespect, and with the swipe of his arm her purse somehow took flight across the room.  Keep in mind child-unit’s OCDness about germs and purses, which launched her into a rage and words flew back and forth around the room like a scene from The Birds and I felt the need to duck…but I quickly regrouped in time to step in the path of husband-unit heading towards child-unit to send her back to the world she came from.  I sent them to their specific corners… which translates into a daughter storming out the door home, and a husband sitting on the bedroom floor in utter frustration.

After delivering husband-unit a tongue lashing for his part in the escapade, I arrogantly returned to the kitchen to fix the situation, because I wasn’t the one who had screwed up.  That arrogant thing gets me in to trouble every time.  I picked up the phone to call child-unit, and of course, there’s no way she’s going to answer, so I begin to try to share some of my free maternal wisdom over the phone with her on her voice mail.

About this time husband-unit returns to the room and is, shall we say, more inspired to encorage me to say specific things to our child-unit.  Try to picture this now – I begin this back and forth conversation with two people – like a verbal tennis volley between me politely asking the hub (NOT) to stop talking and sharing his thoughts in one ear, and between me sharing my wisdom into the phone with my adult child.  As the heat intensifies, and the back and forth gets louder and louder, first to my husband, then in to the phone to my daughter, then back to my husband, I feel myself begin to lose (a) any recognition of who I am actually talking to with each volley, and (b) any control of my emotions, and (c) my mind completely!

At that moment, it felt like I was observing another person from afar, who has lost all control and is yelling at her husband using a phrase that I don’t recognize that sounded like GOD !$@&?# (I didn’t even know I knew that phrase!) and then shouting the same phrase into the phone towards my first-born and I’m thinking “who IS that woman?”  Back and forth, the same profanity, over and over, louder and louder,…at least two specific times toward each of them.

Now press pause.  Can you see this in your mind?  A crazy woman shouting profanities at her husband and then at her daughter into the phone.  I suppose it was my feeble effort to call down condemnation on the situation; a situation filled with stubbornness, a lack of self-control, and selfishness on all our parts, but here comes the big finish.  I make my final dismount with the exclamation to both my cherished loved ones…”YOU’RE BOTH [posterior body part] s!” …and BAM, I slam the phone down.

And then suddenly, the dove’s whisper into my heart penetrates like an arrow…oh my gosh…I am that woman who BLOGS ABOUT GRACE!  Sigh. Doesn’t God just have the funniest sense of humor?

I don’t mean to make light of my sin.  Sin is sin, and I’m the biggest sinner of them all…but that’s exactly why God sent his son – to die for those sins and he’s crazy about me even still.  So I’m guessing he was sitting and watching this scene play out, dropping his head into his hands and shaking his head saying “really Kris?”…and then getting a smile on his face because he knew that from the ugliness of the moment there would spring redemption.

The redemption came three weeks later (because that’s how long it took our daughter to decide to speak to us again) and we called a family meeting.  Apologies were made, conversation was shared, each of us were heard, feelings were talked about, forgiveness was given, and we all came out the other side stronger in relationship, healed and in a better place than when we went in.  I just love it when God can make lemonade out of lemons.  When He can make fun out of dysfunction.  When He uses your mistakes to make something better…now that’s what I call grace.

And God works ALL things together for good to those who believe.  ~ Romans 3:23

So if your family is anything like mine and you don’t hide behind a mask, then take those dysfunctional moments, have conversation, take your walls down, learn from your mistakes, ask for and give forgiveness, take a different path next time, and even giggle at the obsurdity of it all…and then move on.  Better for the conflict.  Better for the fight.  Better for the healing.  This is real life.  This is real Christianity.  This is grace.

A New Spin on Aging

Aging

I’m finding myself doing things these days that I remember my mom doing a long time ago.  Like peering closely at my face in the mirror…. and pulling the sides of my cheeks up to envision what my face looked like without wrinkles.  Yikes.  Am I becoming my mother?

The human body is such a beautifully designed piece of art and wonderful craftsmanship.  Mine is a bit more on the abstract side, but that’s OK with me.  I’m pretty content in my own skin and happy with what God has given me.  Don’t get me wrong – if I had my druthers I’d prefer to redistribute here and there, with maybe a little less hubbla hubbla.  And can I just say I don’t remember these love handles – didn’t that skin use to be up under my arm pits?  Dang that Isaac Newton and his gravity theory – I see the effects of aging weighing this body down more and more each day.

Even the most fit athlete has to eventually accept that their body is broken and weakening.  Geez Kris…I thought this blog was meant to be uplifting!  My point is that in the House of Grace, I’m learning not to be anxious about the weakness of my body as I age, but I’m learning to accept it as a preview and prelude to the most amazing transformation of all time.  When I get out of bed and feel like the Tin Man – creaky and rusty – I’m reminded that we’re loaned these bods for just a season, and if you believe what’s been promised then our new and improved versions are awaiting us in another time and another place.

We humans so often feel like we can’t measure up to a physical standard we created, so we are convinced that it’s how God looks at us too.  But it’s not.  And then we live our lives through a lens of shame and guilt, and the comparing and faking that it produces carries over into almost every area of our lives.  Our marriages, our churches, our friendships, our families.

In my latest book crush, The Cure, the authors talk about the beautiful transformation of a butterfly.  Isn’t it amazing that a caterpillar has the exact same DNA before it goes into it’s cocoon as it does after it’s transformed into a beautiful butterfly?  That means it’s essentially the same being on the inside before and after it’s transformation, even though it looks completely different.  If you apply the same concept to humans, that means that although I may be a little beaten up on the outside, I still feel like the person I was in my 20’s.  The cool part of the equation is that we were created to be transformed people in another time and place.  Whether we allow that inner transformation to start here on earth, or have to wait until eternity…some of that might be up to you.

God tells us that there are mansions that await us in Heaven, and I use to think it meant really hoity-toity houses.  Nowadays I think it means wonderful and improved bodies – butterfly bodies….void of the effects of sickness and aging.  Now I’d love a beautiful log cabin by the waters of Lake Tahoe as my mansion…but I’m thinking I would be pretty pleased with a new and improved version of me, both inside and out.  Dang, with my luck, I’ll be skinny once I get there and chubby will be the new rage.

If I get to choose what features I’d like in my new home, here’s just a few things I’d like to order:

  • dimples
  • a beautiful singing voice (even though I think God hears my voice that way now)
  • I’d like to sing back-up for Patti LaBelle
  • I’d like to play drums…or maybe banjo
  • long skinny fingers
  • less athletic calves and knees

I have a theory – Matthew 20:16 says “….the last will be first, and the first last”….and I’m taking this completely out of context, but I jokingly like to extend that and say that in heaven the skinny will be fat, and the fat will be skinny.  And the people who can’t carry a tune will be the rock stars in heaven.  And those who can’t ……well, just fill in the blank and you’ll have transformations going on all over the place.  But for now – for today, I’m content that I can throw a softball like a dude, and I can love people like crazy, and that I’m blond, and that I can organize the biggest and best event you can throw at me, and that I can make a difference in the lives of my family and friends .

Today is my birthday and I’m actually glad to be at this place and space in time that I’m at today on the aging timeline.  Although there’s more time behind me than there is ahead of me, I can look back with wisdom (and sometimes mortification) and be so grateful for how I’ve grown and changed – and hopefully matured – not only in my faith but in grace.  As I age, my body may be deteriorating but inside I’m growing stronger in “aliveness” and grace.

So how do you see yourself as you age?  One step away from a slipped disk?  Defeated and holding on to everything you have?  Or do you see yourself as a caterpillar, being transformed into a beautiful butterfly?  That’s the mystery of grace.

Mom Moments

It’s Mothers Day and I’m thinking about my mom.  She’s been gone seven years now and I think of her every day. Moms play such an important role in our lives, but yet there’s no prerequisite for it – no class you have to take, and no test you have to pass to be a mom.  There’s not even a learner’s permit, for cryin’ out loud! You don’t have to fill out an application; they’ll let any woman with ovaries or cash in their pocket take a baby home.  They don’t give you a job description or a Mom Manual that outlines what to do when your 2 year old is sitting in their car seat, shoving their tiny fist down their throat so they’ll gag and throw up because they’ve figured out that by doing so, they’ll get your attention.  Man those little child-units can be smart little suckers, and yes, that happened to me.  It’s a a thankless job that’s not for the faint-of-heart.

Some moms are naturals at it.  Others are ill equipped to handle the job.  Most of us just bumble our way through motherhood, trying to make a difference in our kids lives that will help them survive in life without too many scars so that they can take care of us when we’re old.   And I would venture to say that all moms try to take what they’ve learned from their own moms – both the good and the bad – and wrap it all up with our own new great parenting ideas and traditions to produce a better and greater version of ourselves.  But if you’re anything like me you’ll realize that there is so much more to raising kids.   My greatest desire is that I helped my kids find the best way they can glorify the one who created them, and in the exchange I’ve found that being a mom is one of the most fulfilling roles I’ve had in life.

I always wanted to be a cool mom, so sometimes when I had to either be the bad guy or impart some profound wisdom on my kids I prefaced it with the words…”this is going to be a mom moment”.  It was my way of giving them advance notice that what they were about to hear was going to change their life…or possibly be a little uncomfortable….depending on whether it was advice on relationships, telling them why they couldn’t get a motorcycle, or the sex talk.  And in terms of equipping my kids, we chose to raise our kids in a faith that would sustain them through life’s ups and downs knowing that they didn’t walk this wacky life alone, and that there is one who walks beside them.

My mom is probably the person who made the biggest impact on my life.  I was such a people-pleaser growing up, and there was no one that I wanted to please more than my mom.   She was graceful and carried herself in such a way that made this clutsy tom-boy envious.  She was the one who introduced me to my faith simply by watching her.  Did she get it right all the time – Heavens no!  But even at a young age I understood that what she chose to pattern her life after was a process – a journey – and that in life you don’t always get it right all the time.  That’s where mercy and grace show up.  But what she thought mattered to me, so even as an adult making new decisions, I would filter those decisions through the colander of  “what would mom think”?

I had no sisters, and so I loved having relationship with her.  She became one of my favorite people to spend time with (except for maybe during her menopausal years) and she was a friend.  Was she perfect?  Not by a long shot, but as with any relationship that’s worth fighting for, it takes hard work and patience.  And lots of E.G.R (extra grace required).

There are a lot of things I would say to her if she were here.  I would ask for her forgiveness for the many things that I was silently critical and judged her for how she handled something…until now that I’ve walked in her shoes.  I would wrap my arms around her and lay my head on her shoulder and sigh…and let her know that I’m sorry I had the audacity to tell her that it was her fault that I was overweight because she fed me Homogenized milk, instead of Low Fat.  I would tell her I know why she was a little cray-cray during my high school years (it was the hormones, mom!) and I wished I had understood that there was E.G.R.  And I would sit at her feet and tell her how sorry I was that when I came home from college on weekends I chose to spend more time seeing old friends than I did just being at home with them.  And I would tell her “I get it now”….now that I’m an empty-nester and miss my kids like crazy.

I’m sure I hurt her with my thoughtless words and actions time and time again, and yet, that’s what mothers do sometimes.  We take it, and we choose to file those thoughtless moments in a file somewhere where, if we’re smart, we choose not to pull them out and use later. There’s a great mystery of grace there.  A true mom moment!  I suspect that my mom recognized in those moments that I was young and foolish, and gave me grace because she understood that one day I would walk this same path – and that when I did,  I would get it.  I would understand the pain of being blamed for someone’s own selfish choices.  Or the hurt of being second best…of being misunderstood.  That I would feel the sting of what it feels like to not be  needed anymore.

I’m at that place – that crossroad where I can glance backwards and recognize the grace that was offered me, and in looking forward I have grace opportunities where I can make the choice to be quiet, knowing that there are those with more time ahead of them who will have light bulb moments when they’ll whisper “Oh….I get it now.  I see what you did there Mom – you chose grace over condemnation.”  If I did my job well, maybe that moment will come for them sooner than it did for me.

So on this Mother’s Day I’m thinking about and honor my sweet mom, Ruth.  She taught me so much and who I am today was molded and shaped by her touch on my life.  She was a keeper.  I miss you, Mom, and it was my joy and honor to be your daughter.  Thanks for the grace you offered me while you walked this earth.  I am so grateful..and so I offer you grace back.  What a great mom moment, indeed!

Auntie Olive

I adored my Aunt Olive.  She was the first person that I encountered as a child that when I was near her, I felt like I was at home.  There was something in her spirit that was familiar to me, and I was drawn to her.  We were alike, and the things that I valued, she valued.  It felt so comfortable and safe to be with her.  As a young girl I would suggest reasons to my parents why we should get together so that we could travel the 40 minutes to her home so that I could just be there and feel the warmth of her.  Although I loved my older cousins and looked up to them, because I was the baby of the clan and they were busy finding their own way in the world, it was Auntie Olive who I longed to spend time with.  She validated who I was. 

Growing up, my wiring was so different than anyone else’s under our roof that I knew at a young age that I carried a different gene.  Auntie Olive had that same gene.  We had the same temperaments – although as a young girl I knew nothing about personality traits or God-given gifts.  Auntie Olive’s gift was making people feel loved and welcome.  Where I was told that the fun inside me was wrong and needed to be tamed, she nourished it and made me feel like I was blessed to love life.  I like to say that love is in the details…and she knew how to go the extra mile in the little details of life to show her family that they were loved.  From the extra time she took to hand-crumble the tuna for her tuna sandwiches, to the little notes she wrote, to her willingness to take me go-karting and to sleep under the stars of our outdoor fort, to the big smile and open outstretched arms when she greeted you at the door, to the smiley face that was part of her signature – she was the queen of showing love in the little details.

One of my favorite things about going to Auntie Olive’s house (besides the Nestle’s Quik that we never had in our house) was when you stayed the night there you would always find a “pillow present” under your pillow.  Just a little token to say you’re welcome here and valued.  It’s something that I’ve adopted now for guests that stay at my house.  It’s just a thread of the fun gene that still shows up that reminds me of Auntie Olive.

 And Christmas at her house was magical.  People with that fun gene tend to decorate their homes to the max for holidays, and Auntie Olive was no exception.  That’s probably why there are now ten Christmas boxes up in the rafters of my garage.   From the music playing from the stereo, to the candles brightly lit, to the delicious appetizers (this is also where I got my love for onion dip and potato chips)….these are the memories that I cherish and miss the most about Christmas. Our home was bigger and considered nicer than hers, but I would have much prefered Christmas Eve at her house over mine because of how inviting it was.  Don’t get me wrong – I loved my home and my family…but Auntie Olive wasn’t there to make me feel like being who I was created to be was OK.

And camping trips were turned into a party, where we would perform plays for our parents on huge boulders, and sing songs for their entertainment.  And she made the best guacamole!  Half the fun of a camping trip was waiting around for “happy hour” where the appetizers were brought out with our special lemonade and we would husk corn and recount the moments of the day by the water.  Fourth of July meant hand-cranked homemade ice cream, and Thanksgiving meant the smell of delicious food she was preparing in the kitchen. I can still see her now with her frilly apron on and her beautiful smile.  These were all favorite moments that are forever etched into my memory.  Love was in the details. 

And boy howdy did she have a sense of humor and a great giggle!  During one of my over-night visits Aunt Olive and Uncle Rex served me pancakes at their little kitchen table the next morning.  Since my uncle was from the Ozarks, sorghum was a staple in their home and so Auntie Olive slipped some sorghum into the syrup pitcher and laughed so hard when I tasted it for the first time.  It was something akin to biting into a lemon for me.  Ugh!

There is another profound way that Auntie Olive and I are alike.  She was flawed and broken…just as I am.   People with our gene, if not plugged in to the Holy Spirit think their wisdom needs to be shared with everyone around them.  They tend to let words flow out of their mouths without the Holy Spirit’s filter.  You get the picture?  We can be annoying.  But in the best way she knew how she pursued God.  She pursued him by loving his people.  She didn’t always get it right.  She made mistakes.  She was prejudiced and judgemental.  She could be bossy and overbearing.  Sounds a bit like me when I’m not plugged in to the source of grace.  But the saving grace and good news is that there’s redemption to her story. 

Because I watched and learned from both the good and the bad of her story, I made adjustments in my gene where I knew they needed to be made, and I capitalized on the stuff that blessed others – all because of her example to me. Often we learn more from our mentors and loved ones from their mistakes than we do from their successes.  But that doesn’t make them any less valued or loved – it only makes them human.  But because God offers me his unconditional love and grace, I offer and hold on to the same for her.  

After I married and moved away from the area, I would send Auntie Olive cards to remind her how special she was to me  That was the kind of thing she did for others.  I’m glad I learned that from her.  The last card I sent her was an Easter card in 2008 thanking her for the part she played in my life.  Shortly after, my husband and I went away to celebrate our anniversary in Mendocino.  I got the call from my brother on April 19th, our 27th Anniversary – Auntie Olive had died.  She died while we rode horses on the beach and as I loped my horse across the sand and the bitter cold wind blew in my face, I let the tears come.  I cried for what I had lost.  One of the few people who made me most feel at home on this earth was gone.  I missed her warmth and I wish I could have been there to say goodbye.  To remind her what she meant to me, and to assure her that because she had put her trust in the one who put the fun gene within her, she was going to join the biggest and best party E.V.E.R.  But I suspect she knew.  And I suspect she knows I still have a mad crush on her.

Love is in the details.  But don’t forget that grace also shows up with it.  They go hand-in-hand.  So party-on, Auntie Olive.  But save some guacamole for me!

House Crasher

House Crasher

Most days when I get out of bed I have to move a little slower. You know the feeling – getting the kinks out and stretching the stiffness out of my back and legs.  Oh, and then there’s my hips. Sigh.  But once I get moving I’m pretty good-to-go.

My massage therapist says I have a lot of scar tissue in my back and hips from battering and abusing my body over the years in various sports.  Truth be told, I’m secretly pretty proud of that.  Kind of a trophy of my glory days. Oh brother…I’m so full of myself.   Old glories hold no hope for me anymore.

Hope begins where your resources stop.  In other words…when my body starts breaking down (my resources) then I start putting hope in things that hold more value.  If you started hoping before your resources started tapering off…then I’m proud of you.  But for those who need poverty to realize their wealth, I think that’s why God allows us to age. There are outward changes going on in my body – but inwardly I feel like I’m as young as I was when I was 18.  And a lot wiser.  I may be deteriorating on the outside but my innards’ are growing and changing and getting stronger and better with each day.

So this concept of our bodies getting achy and breaking is captured in scripture:

“For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.  For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.”  ~ II Cor. 5:1-4

The cool news is that like the TV show House Crashers, God sneaks up on us and out of nowhere (and not usually at Home Depot) He promises to come home with us and crash our bodies.  And he’s a master craftsman and is gonna finish the job well and our curb appeal – what others see in us – will be the best version of what we could ever be here on earth.  I’ve chosen to believe the promise that this ol’ bod will someday be “crashed” and changed into the reality of something also promised:

“Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will give us later. For all creation is waiting patiently and hopefully for that future day when God will resurrect his children.  For on that day thorns and thistles, sin, death, and decay (and cancer, and scar tissue, and hate, and hurt, and broken relationships…Kris’ additions) – the things that overcame the world against its will will all disappear, and the world around us will share in the glorious freedom from sin which God’s children enjoy.  For we know that even the things of nature, like animals and plants, suffer in sickness and death as they await this great event.  And even we Christians, although we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, also groan to be released from pain and suffering. We, too, wait anxiously for that day when God will give us our full rights as his children, including the new bodies he has promised us—bodies that will never be sick again and will never die.  We are saved by trusting. And trusting means looking forward to getting something we don’t yet have—for a man who already has something doesn’t need to hope and trust that he will get it.”  ~  Romans 8:18-24

So where grace shows up is in the newness of something getting old.  A new creation.  A new opportunity to be a better version of the old.  Personally, I can’t wait to be “crashed”!  I’m just hoping its not at Home Depot, cuz that could be awkward.

Selling The Farm

I recently traveled to Orlando for a conference where I spent a week with some of the loveliest people.  On my way, I stopped at the airport store and bought a novel to read on the plane.  I was supposed to be reading a spiritual book on being a good listener, but now and then a girl needs a good Nicolas Sparks book to pass the time on a long plane ride.  LOL.

The book was about a cowboy who almost dies bull riding, and because of his injuries (and the metal plate that holds his head together) he is told he should never ride again or he will surely die.  Then he meets “the girl”, but is still faced with the conundrum (can I just say that I love big words like “conundrum”?) of choosing between going against doctors orders and riding again so that he can pay off the huge medical bills and thus save the farm that had been mortgaged to pay those medical bills.  But if he does that then the girl of his dreams will leave him because she can’t watch him kill himself.  The alternative is to give it all up and sell the farm to be with the one he loves? OMG!….what’s a cowboy to do?

So this thread of having to sell the farm in order to get what you need the most came back to me today.  This morning I was reading (again!) portions of one of my favorite books, The Inner Voice of Love by Henri Nouwen; the chapter entitled For Now, Hide Your Treasure, and it reminded me of that story line.

Here are some excerpts from that chapter:

“You have found a treasure; the treasure of God’s love.  You know now where it is, but you are not yet ready to own it fully.  So many attachments keep pulling you away.  If you would fully own your treasure, you must hide it in the field where you found it, go off happily to sell everything you own, and then come back and buy the field.”

“Only when you have let go of everything else can the treasure be completely yours.  Having found the treasure puts you on a new quest for it.  The spiritual life is a long and often arduous search for what you already found.”

“Because finding the treasure is only the beginning of the search, you have to be careful.  If you expose the treasure to others without fully owning it, you might harm yourself and even lose the treasure. That is why you must hide the treasure and spend your energy in selling your property so that you can buy the field where you have hidden it.”

“This is often a painful enterprise, because your sense of who you are is so intimately connected to all the things you own: success, friends, prestige, money, degrees, and so on.  But you know that nothing but the treasure itself can truly satisfy you.  Finding the treasure without being ready yet to fully own it will make you restless.  This is the restlessness of the search for God.  It is the way to holiness.  It is the road to the kingdom.  It is the journey to the place where you can rest.”

What do you suppose all that means?  And what represents the farm in your life? What represents the field?  I’d love to hear your input.  For me, the “letting go” and “selling everything I own” is this process I’m in of giving up my rights; my right to be prideful, my right to be No. 1, my right to a full bank account, my right to being treated fairly, my right to have granite counter tops, my right to see my kids more often, my right to have lots of friends, my right to a nice lawn, my right to a secure retirement, the right to blah, blah, blah.  Fill in the blanks.  But the treasure I’m finding in the exchange is worth far more than any of those things.

For you it might be the right to a happy marriage, the right to drive a nice car, the right to not have cancer, the right to have a husband or wife, the right to have children, the right not be lonely, the right to die in your sleep, the right to a good job, the right to have just one more day with the one you love.  Those are all treasures that we seek in this life, and I don’t blame you for wanting them.  But the truth of the matter is…we’re not promised any of that – just a God that will walk alongside us and hold us when we weep.  Dang!  I wanted the promise of an unscathed life.

So, I won’t tell you the ending of the Nicolas Sparks book.  It’s coming out as a movie later this year, but it’s one of those stories where there are two scenarios and story lines going on at one time, and for the life of you, you can’t figure out how they are inter-connected.  But they are.  Just like how we’re all inter-connected, bouncing off one another, touching other people’s lives, weaving back around and learning how to sell the farm for the promise of a better treasure that awaits.

I think learning the truth about grace just might be part of the treasure.

Burning Grace

iron burnIf you didn’t know me well and you glanced down at my left inner forearm, you might suspect that I was a cutter, or at some point in my early life I had tried to “end it all”. You see, I have two or three nasty looking scars on my inner forearm near my wrist that stand out and shout to the average onlooker “this chick has issues!”

That’s actually true – except my issues aren’t with people – they’re with heating elements. Like curling irons and clothing irons. Such things are tools of the devil and if I weren’t so vain I’d have heaved them into the trash long ago. I have a love / hate relationship with my curling iron. You see, I’m one of those gals blessed with curly (a.k.a. frizzy) hair that has a mind of its own and fancies kinks over gentle, pretty curls. So you can imagine my joy (“Praise Jesus“) when they invented the flat iron.

I so wanted straight hair when I was growing up – like all the cool “pretty” girls. In fact, before my freshman high school picture I sat under the ironing board, laid my hair up on the board and reached up and tried to iron all the kinks out of my hair. Can you just picture it? I bet there were a few of you out there that did the same.

Growing up, I bought all the latest anti-frizz products and cursed God secretly for this gift of frizz, so when I learned I could burn the frizz into submission I was ecstatic. The problem is that somehow, other body parts usually have a way of coming into contact with said heating element.

For instance, on the way out the door to my 25th high school reunion where I couldn’t wait to show off my stylin’ smooth hair, I noticed that a corner of the lace yoke on my dress (does that scream 90’s, or what?) was wrinkled…and why not just use my curling iron to help it lay flat?  I went to my 25th reunion stylin’ a curling iron burn mark smack-dab in the middle of my chest.

It’s the same with my regular iron.  I’m constantly hitting my arm on the top of the dad-blame iron.  My mother always told me I should have a “day” that I do all my ironing…along with a day to grocery shop, a day to clean the house, and a day to do the laundry.  Ain’t happenin’ Mom!  I do all the above when I have a moment to spare, so when it comes to ironing my clothes I do that in the morning when I’ve decided what to wear, on the small tabletop ironing board that I hide behind the bedside table.  I cleverly hide the iron behind my 8″x10″ picture on my husband’s nightstand on his side of the bed, so no one can see it when they walk in. Get the picture?

The first few times I tried this I turned the iron off when I was finished and placed it back behind my picture and then folded up the ironing board, slid it back behind the bedside table and my picture where the still-hot iron was lurking, letting my arm come down onto the edge of it and Yowza!  Derned if I didn’t burn my inside wrist like a son-of-a-gun.  Ouch!

Most people would learn after the first time and take steps to change the scenerio the next time. Maybe put the ironing board back before the iron?  Ya think?  Learning from my mistakes isn’t something I excelled at when I was younger.  Or now that I’m older.  If you know anything about me you’ll know that this is the sort of thing that God deals with me on a regular basis.  “Ummm…excuse me Kris…it’s probably not a good idea for you to hold all that judgment inside towards that person you’re jealous of“.  What?  Me….jealous?  Humph!  And then that jealousy comes back around to bite me in the postier time and time again.  So you would think I would say to myself…. “self…. maybe you should fold up the ironing board first and THEN place the iron behind your smiling face so you don’t burn yourself again.” No.  That would be too simple.  Here is what it took to finally get my attention to make change: Scar Ugly scars, huh?  There’s shame involved in that.  Doing the same thing….over and over again…leaving scars that you end up blaming on someone else rather than owning them and chancing changing your behavior so it doesn’t happen again?  What if I get hurt?  What if I fail?  Sometimes it takes getting burned enough times with scars to show for it before finally making change.  Why is that?

It’s the same with my walk with God.  Why did it take me so long to come to a place where I wanted to change and grow in Christ?  Probably because I didn’t need Him earlier.  I took center stage, so why would I invite someone to share that stage with me?  Why take the chance of letting someone else upstage me? I’m learning that God’s grace is bigger than scars.

It starts with owning my “stuff”.  Recognizing the need I have to be a different person.  A different ironer.  But also recognizing that nothing I can do on my own is going to facilitate a change within me.  The change has already been made – I just need to learn to trust the one bigger and wiser than me who already did the work.  But there is a way home and it starts with listening better to who God says I am and then trusting One bigger than me to do the work.

My latest book crush is a book called The Cure  (John Lynch, Bruce McNicol, and Bill Thrall) that asks the question “What if God isn’t who you think He is and neither are you?”  God’s cure for changing course (or doing your ironing differently) rarely comes in the form we expect. The authors of this book contend that ” If we see God through a veil of shame, we’ll think the goal is to “fix” the behavior.  Shame wants us constantly trying to prove we’re not as bad as we imagine.  In the Room of Grace, however we’re learning to believe we are no longer identified by shame.  Our God doesn’t see us that way, and he doesn’t need us to see ourselves that way.  We’re free to trust His delight and love even in the midst of our erratic, maturing behaviors.  He wants us to learn dependence on Him instead of performance.  We’re learning to trust His power in us.  The beauty is, we actually fail less in doing so.”

So here we are….daring to want to do things differently….daring to change your course, but realizing that the goal never was about changing me.  It’s to grow up and get better at doing things differently….because I’m already changed!  Christ changed me way back when He hung on a tree and I chose to accept that gift. Trusting that what was already done on my behalf allows me to trust the One who did it without the messy condemnation or shame.  And so I start to make better choices about how I store my iron.  Now that’s grace at it’s best.

These are the lessons I’ve learned from ironing, and burns and scars.  Burning grace.