Drum Your Best For Him

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Here are some of my favorite things, Drummer Boy style, because I just came in from the crowd and all the “stuff,” and for once, I’d like all of us to go back to that starry night and ask what good gifts we can bring to our King. By this I mean, how do we reflect his character in our giving? A few examples from the Givers in my life:

Miss Baker # 2: My little daughter hand-stitched this monkey for me after I told her the story of how I had lost my beloved Miss Baker on show and tell day when I was in elementary school. What is the root of this gift? LOVE.


My chandelier t-shirt: I found it at Goodwill while stocking my daughter up on books. Whoever donated it knew it was still in good shape, had good taste in unique fashion, and took the time to give it rather than toss it. Sometimes, all a person has to give is what they already own, and I’m not too proud to wear a second-hand shirt. The root of this gift was GENEROSITY.


My SpiderMan bookmark: My son, knowing how much I love to read, made this for me out of what he loved and treasured most—Spiderman gear and his new writing skills. He was learning how to write, and one of the first sentences he wrote without the prompting of a teacher or parent was, “Mome I lu yoo .” LOVE.


My black-pearl engagement ring: A beloved gift from my husband who was wise enough not to run out and buy this artist a gaudy “status ring.” Knowing our tastes were drastically different, he let me show him what I liked. Just something blue and lovely. LOVE and THOUGHTFULNESS.


The family desk: Passed down from a time far, far away, because it was built to last. GOOD CRAFTMANSHIP.


Encouraging words: from a few of my High School teachers who saw what I couldn’t see. I couldn’t touch the words, re-sell them or throw them away, because like the miracles that come from faith, they made a permanent impact.

 

(Here is a wonderful way to give, from the heart of a country that has too much stuff.)

Our best gifts to give come from the character of our King within us.

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Life on the Boat

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As I walked my dog this frigid morning, I saw a woman sweeping her fall leaves into four separate piles in the middle of the street. Although confused at her road-piles, I commented on her ability to be thorough. She gave me a quick smile and said, “Well, you know…” *turned away* mumble mumble mumble…
I figure she’s sweeping away some worries. Perhaps she’s pushing her burdens far enough away to where the wind will carry them because they’re just too heavy to hold, or maybe she just needs to keep moving.


Because, if you’re anyone who has gone through trials, you understand how sometimes you’ve got to keep moving, because, well, you know…
God knew that when Noah was stuck inside the boat while the world was dying all around him, he had to keep moving. The decks of mouths to feed, the piles of things that needed to be shoveled who-knows-where, back-breaking labor to endure—and you know it had to smell like heck, but he had to move because he was escorting humanity toward survival, and if he stayed still to think about the state of things, he would feel the weight of only what God can carry.
Sometimes, it seems like there’s too much to do—too many errands to run and rooms to clean and mouths to feed—it may be the time to put aside the busy work and rest. But there also comes a season where sweating it out is to purge what we can’t hold. Don’t forget–God’s still steering the boat.

How is your week coming along? May your labor lead to the promised land.

Eschew Obfuscation

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I’m trying to do the near-impossible. I’m trying to teach my kids to be free. Really free, so when my son goes to school with wolverine hair, sweatpants and cowboy boots, I don’t make him change for proprieties sake. I tell him he looks cool. It’s true—he looks like him which to me is the coolest, most awesome boy in the world. I don’t warn him what others may say, because even though somewhere down the road some kid is going to come up to him and say, “you look weird,” I don’t want his first thoughts in the morning to be about other kids’ opinions. I don’t even want him to feel the breath of their stinky words on his face—I just want him to be wildly him. Same for my daughter. As long as their clothes fit (enough), are clean and self-respecting, I want them to throw caution to the wind and set the standard for being free. Free from the thousands of articles, blogs and essays from experts around the world who will all have differing yet authoritative opinions on how kids should dress, and make friends and score high on their SATs.
What defines an expert, really?


I love social media—except the constant flood of criticism: There’s the “Open letter” format in order to publicly humiliate someone, the latest book with the latest formula from the expert *who hasn’t had any real-life experience yet,* the celebrity who thinks being famous makes them an expert on everything, and the piles of articles by mental health experts who pontificate on the psychological effects of wearing cowboy boots and sweatpants together, and lastly, the facebook ranter who is angry and defensive and insecure about all things. Every five minutes.
I’m not as worried as their teachers are when my kids do poorly on a paper or a test. I experienced that in bulk, and I survived. In fact, I credit my parents for never comparing me to anyone and telling me that as long as I did my best and nurtured my in-born talent, my grades were cool with them. Really. That made all the difference.


We all knew I would never be a mathematician and we were ALL cool with that.
I credit my grandparents for boosting my self-esteem by always telling me I was pretty, even in the glasses/braces/pimples stage. My Grandma once pushed aside my report card where I actually (mistakingly?) made the honor roll, to point out and compliment a drawing I had done. She got me. She saw me. My identity was not rooted in my performance for a school who called the arts “just hobbies”, thank the Good Lord. That wise move on Grandma’s part had to have been a God thing, for so many reasons.


As a rule, I don’t like “how to” books, but sometimes I’ll pick one up—just in case. My favorite parenting book of ALL time is Boys Will Be Joys by David Meurer. Want to know why? He doesn’t give the readers a formula to copy, or a finger shaking for making mistakes, he just tells us his raw story of raising his kids, goof-ups and all. And it’s hilarious—there’s your key. If your expert can find joy in the big picture, that’s a good sign, and an authentic source.
Once upon a time, I worked at a boarding school for troubled teens. I had yet to have kids of my own, but after learning a bit about the students’ histories, psychological problems, tendencies toward manipulating their way through life (a sure sign of feelings of unworthiness and fear, and/or sometimes mental illness), I learned that no expert can replace the thing a child needs most: their parents love and acceptance. But even when they get that, sometimes a child has an itch to take a prodigal journey. Adults do it too. And it’s okay that we don’t have all the answers. Sometimes rebellion is a good thing as long as it’s not destructive. But those who were planted in a garden of love and acceptance will have that root to follow back home.


As cliché as it sounds, the world will benefit from more love. How easily someone can get destroyed on social media for one bad—or good—moment. That’s someone’s daughter. Someone’s son. Maybe they’re a mess because there are too many experts telling them things, but not enough people supporting them.
How many people really care what shoes Melania Trump wears? She was there—in the Houston flood zone—that’s what matters, but what made the news? The outrage the public had about her choice of footwear.
Should we tear apart Miley Cyrus for going through a difficult season, or send some love her way?
What’s happening with us? Our one nation, one people, with one God has been torn apart by many false gods called, unworthiness, anger, fear, and rejection.
So it’s time to be free. God made us unique—that’s how it is. Have you read those articles that criticize those who try to be unique? Those articles are based in fear, friends. Being different is God ordained. Something to be celebrated, for He is the great giver of joy and wisdom—the expert above all experts, and He didn’t make us to hate one another or to fit into fallible molds. If you’re following the crowd, please stop and question why. Is it healthy? Because you were made to have your own place in God’s divine plan.

Direct Line to Hope

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I found myself waiting over an hour inside the walls of Phoenix Children’s Hospital yesterday. Even though my son no longer has colitis, his Dr. wants to keep him on his meds for now, so while the staff went on a scavenger hunt looking for his RX that had mysteriously gone missing, I looked around. Here is what you’ll see on the inside:
Children hiding bald heads underneath hats of various kinds. Toddlers, unaware of the kind of life that may be awaiting them, laughing and daring their exhausted parents to chase them. Mamas and Daddies using every ounce of energy to put on brave faces for their children. And themselves.


A number of outstanding staff, pulling red wagons around in case kids needed a ride in something other than a wheelchair. They smiled a lot. Their giftings in medicine and with children helped push hopelessness away, allowing for deep breaths in an otherwise heavy atmosphere.


The décor—it was near Disneyland-cheerful the way the colors and cartoons accented the place, although when a family is walking their child to a hospital room, walls are stifling no matter the paint.
What impacted me the most was the desire to pray for every one of them. I know what that walk is like to the testing room. The presence of fear in the waiting room.
But there I was, finally not the one to be escorting my child on a walk of courage, but a person among those who need miracles. I prayed for them, and realized something. God is telling me to pray—that means prayer is going to make a difference in someone’s life today. I may not ever see who or what, but I know from countless personal experiences, Prayer makes a difference.

If the Creator of the Universe nudges you to pray, it’s monumental, friends. It’s never, ever a waste of time. Blessings to you this Tuesday.

Feel welcome to post in the comments if you have a prayer request of your own.

 

*How prayer is beneficial in scientific terms.
*Americans are becoming more critical. (and why we need more prayer)

*Noah’s story

WooOOOOoo

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I almost didn’t blog today…I’ve got a busy day ahead, but since it’s Halloween, I thought I’d share a few of my ghost stories. They’re not really stories, but a few webbed occurrences that I can’t explain.

I work part time at a retirement resort. Ghost stories go with the territory, but most of them are explainable. I’ve been there a long time and know that when the air kicks on it can sound like a family of ghouls walking through the dining room. I know that the loud crashes coming from the kitchen are usually the ice machine, or dishes falling/rattling from the equipment vibrations. And sometimes the weird reflections you can see in the mantle over the lobby fireplace are just headlights from the care center that sits on the hill above us.

The spookiest stuff happened a good decade ago. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve dropped down to part time and don’t experience as many incidents as I used to, or the “situation” has left the building. So here we go. People with Alzheimer’s and Dementia—when they hallucinate, is it only hallucinations, or can they see into the other realm? At one time I would laugh at this theory, but not anymore. Here is one reason why: We had a few Dementia sufferers who would see a little girl or boy around the same time period. A little child bouncing a ball. Playing. Sometimes, you could hear old time music play, although that could have been a TV in someone’s room, but the sound was a little off, like weird carousal/clown-vintage-muffled music. One of our beloved residents known for hallucinating all kinds of things often came to the lobby looking for “the little boy. Have you seen that little boy with the ball?,” she would ask.

Maybe it was coincidence. A few of the staff surely blew the idea out of proportion, but when multiple people hallucinate the same thing, it makes you wonder.

My ghost story: While downstairs in our social room, I saw in a glass office door, a reflection of an old man wearing a red flannel shirt pulling an oxygen tank. He looked very much like a resident who had passed away some months earlier, but logic kicked in and I assumed it was someone behind me out for a late night stroll. When I turned to speak to him, no one was there.

Knowing how the mind can play tricks, I looked around for large planter, an odd shaped piece of furniture, or something that would make me think I had seen a ghost. Nothing but large open space.

No chills, no voices, no cold breeze. I looked back at the glass door, but the reflection had gone.

What was it? One of my friends assured me it was a demon. I have forgotten the explanation, but it was a stretch, in my opinion. Do ghosts exist? Possibly. There are a few hints in the Bible, but nothing (that I’ve discovered) that fully confirm or deny, except we know the people of the day believed in them.

When the disciples saw Jesus walking on the water, and accused him of being a ghost, he didn’t correct them by saying ghosts don’t exist, he just said, “Be still. It is I. You have nothing to fear.” Matthew 14:27.

I guess that’s all we need to know. There is a supernatural realm of some sorts, yes, but all we need to know is that there is Jesus, and he says we have nothing to fear.

Happy Halloween friends. Stay safe and have fun.

Back Porch Sitting

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I’ve got a compression bandage taped to my face, and I’m trusting this old plastic chair to hold me up because the Dr. said to be careful of the stitches in my back—“I only put in two,” she said.
I’ve been ordered to go home and sit still for a day after a slightly complicated morning of skin biopsies. “Watch the stupid TV,” she says with a smile. I love stupid TV. I also love sitting on the patio with my dog, which is what I’m doing now, wondering if this is why dogs are so happy—they relax. A lot.


It’s a bit unsettling for me to be still for a whole day, though, because I’m (as usual) behind on about 10 million projects, which makes it hard to find peace in the sitting, but as I stare at my happy dog and look at her beloved, dirty tennis ball laying a few yards ahead to where she points her nose, I realize that contentedness is in the hopes of what lies ahead, and in the ability to wait for it.

Just a Moment to Relax…Please?

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I met Chris Morris when I took a tax class from him at the 2016 Realm Makers Conference. Although I don’t speak Math, I found his class to be surprisingly interesting. Entertaining even. What I didn’t know at that time was the life-altering thing we did have in common–a child with chronic illness. Chris also struggles with a chronic illness of his own, and has written a wonderful book to help those affected by it, and who may even ask, “Where do I find God in all of this?”

Read on as Chris gives us a picture of navigating through life with his daughter’s challenges.

 

Dad…
Tap-tap-tap on the shoulder.
Daaa-aaad…
Here I was, trying to focus on God as we worshipped during small group, and my twelve-year-old son couldn’t even leave me alone here. I just wanted a single, solitary moment free of the kids. Sighing meaningfully, I opened my eyes and prepared to remind him that this was time to learn.
Then I saw the look in his eyes. A mixture of anger, embarrassment and helplessness. Instantly I knew what the problem was. Or rather, who the problem was. Familiar thoughts and worries flew into my mind.
I found myself paralyzed with fear, not wanting to deal with it again. A flush of tears stirred under my eyes. I felt lost. Before I could move past this and put my Father Hat on, my wife followed my son out of the room.
Twenty minutes later, she returned to the room. I caught her eye, and she mouthed to me that Cindy hit another child. Apparently our daughter didn’t get to play the Wii game she wanted to play, so she lost emotional control.

Every parent has been here, in this place. Your child is just not acting like you want them to. Like they should act. It seems they are not capable of behaving in public, so you remain on edge. Wondering when and where you will next have to “learn to manage” your child.
We have another level of challenge, one some of you may relate to. Our daughter is autistic and epileptic, so there are certain aspects of Cindy’s behavior that are beyond her ability (and ours) to “manage”.
So many myths about chronic illness can disrupt Cindy’s life and hold her hostage. Moments like her episode in small group remind my wife and I how vital it is to teach our daughter and her brothers the truth and empower them to live unhindered by these terrible lies.
We are all learning each day to push down the worries and focus on how to ensure our whole family knows the important things in life:
We are loved as we are by God.
We are accepted despite how we may act.
Cindy is not less-than because of her illnesses, and she is not defined by her chronic conditions.
She is more than her epilepsy, greater than her autism.

The last two statements above are very difficult to remember day-in and day-out. Surrounding us are people who do not understand. Who think my wife and I are just bad parents when Cindy is overwhelmed by too many stimuli, too much change. Worse yet, we regularly come across those who tell us we must lack faith since God has not healed our daughter yet.
And my daughter is not ignorant of these accusations. So we talk a lot about how her self-image should not and cannot be informed by others’ opinions.
But it’s hard, and we grow weary. So often we have felt as if we were entirely alone in our struggles. No friends to support us who really understood. Sure, they loved us, but they didn’t understand, couldn’t comprehend, what our daily life was like. This was our daily experience for a long time.
But no longer.
We have finally found a group of people who love our family, no strings attached, no judgment, just acceptance. We have stumbled into a group of people who place no judgment on our daughter, her seizures, her autism, or our parenting. Nothing brings peace to the troubled soul like an accepting community. A safe place.
Beyond community, practical resources are vital too. We spent many hours looking for books or seminars or focus groups to guide us on our journey, and to provide us a way to navigate through the minefield of myths.
We found nothing. So I created one. My book Perfectly Abnormal: Uncovering the Image of God in Chronic Illness walks through myths all sufferers of chronic illness will face. These lies can paralyze us, if we believe them. My book dissects eight of these myths, counteracts them with truth, and offers pointed questions to get us moving again. If you have a chronic illness, or love someone who has a chronic illness, please consider picking this book up. You can find Perfectly Abnormal on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or iBooks.

Bio:
Chris Morris writes about redefining normal and building hope in the face of chronic illnesses and special needs. His writing is founded on the belief that circumstances don’t prevent thriving, but create opportunities for God to demonstrate his goodness. By day, he is the founder and managing partner of the creatively named accounting firm Chris Morris CPA, so Chris brings a unique analytic perspective to deeply emotional topics. He writes at his blog, and you can also find him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

A Small Reflection of a Grown-Up Battle

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A few nights ago, as my 10-yr-old daughter and I were discussing the ways of the world, she said she’d be okay if the Second Coming happened right now as long as she could finish her last cross country meet.

I will admit, I felt proud at her dedication to the sport considering the rough season she’s had. During try-outs, C sprained her ankle. The Dr. gave her the okay to finish the season, but warned her that if she kept running, her ankle could take the whole season to heal. She’s recovered greatly, but after about one mile, she starts to feel pain. It slows her down, but she perseveres.

She’s had sweltering hot practices where she’s forgotten her water bottle, insect bites rubbing against her ankle brace into red, seemingly mountainous mounds.

At her last meet, she tripped over some loose countryside and got trampled. By THREE other runners. The first one had a momentum issue and apologized, but the second two just wanted to get ahead. One of them even turned to her and said, “Get out of my way.” After she had stepped on C’s back to get past her.

But she looks forward to the next meet, a hunger for the run in her eyes and legs.

It’s focus, really. She’s focused on her passion instead of the hardships, and despite a lower placement than she would prefer. The experience has been a good taste of the real world where character gets formed into either beauty, or an ugly mass of ambition.

Perseverance is not a race many conquer with integrity. So far so good.

For the Invisibles

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I’m at work after all the experts have gone home and the sun is making its final burn west when we Invisibles take the reins. We answer phones when nightly needs approach, we direct when the directors have retired for the day, we fix what we can when the fixers have clocked out, or make notes for their next shift.

Those of us who look young enough for college are assumed to be students, those of us who have more than a few laugh lines are assumed to be retired and working for something to do, and those, like me, who are somewhere in the middle, well….I get all kinds of reactions, but that’s beside the point. Only a few know I’m a struggling Author, but it doesn’t really matter here. I’m me to those who are interested, to others, I’m one of the Invisibles.

I leave my desk and accidentally fix a resident’s TV. I’m not sure how I did it, but I’m grateful God directed my hand because her TV is her only companion now. Her friend to eat dinner with and a distraction from the empty chair beside her. It’s a priority of the heart.

I make sure exterior doors are locked and that no one has fallen in the park.

I get called to a handicapped woman’s apartment—she was left with only two reliable words after she suffered a stroke: Me here.
“Me here,” she says as she leads me to the room that contains her problem. “Me here,” as she points to her computer.
“Me here,” as she directs me to her CPU that holds her disc captive. I pull it out and place it in its case that’s waiting on her desk. Photos of her family decorate the top, and she smiles huge when I hand it to her. She nods her head, holding it close to her body.

I wheel her back out of the tight storage room where she keeps her computer in and lean down, my hand on her arm, my eyes level with hers so she knows I see her.

“Me here,” she says as she places her palm on the side of my face.

“You’re welcome,” I say, my heart filling up.

As I turn to go, her mouth unleashes a few rare words. “Thank you.”
I smile again, one Invisible to another, and walk back to my desk feeling more successful than anything the Visible world has to offer.

 

I ponder her words, and wonder how many of us have lifted our heads to the sky and whispered, “I’m here. See me.”

 

“Beloved, there is no such thing as obscurity to Christ Jesus. The eyes of El Roi (‘the God who sees me Gen. 16:13-19) gaze approvingly upon every effort you make and every ounce of faith you exercise in Jesus’ name. You have not been forgotten! You have no idea what may lie ahead! No doubt remains in my mind that God spent this time testing and proving John’s character so that he could be trusted with the greatest revelation (Sherry’s note: the author is talking about the time period when John, the one Jesus loved, had little mention in the Bible while Paul and Peter took stage after Christ’s crucifixion). The answers God is willing to give us in our tomorrows flow from our faithfulness when we have none today.” Beth Moore in The Beloved Disciple

Little champions

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So I’ve became a runner again. Sort of. I’m the part-time turtle, actually, following behind my daughter’s cross country team in case one of them should fall, get sick, or get lost. I waited a week to give all the other parents ample opportunity to offer their services, but it turns out they go into hiding when the word run is offered to them. And when I say hide, I mean they find faraway places where only God can find them. I kind of wish I had joined them.

My feet—these 41-yr-old feet—have faced a lot of abuse in my youth. Hand-me-down tennis shoes from my brother, growing up in a countryside only the tough and gangly inhabit, a school bus stop light years from our house, pregnancy, but most of all—ballet. Yes, those pretty-pink satin slippers are not for the weak. Squishing my feet into them year after year produced a lot of good things, but one big fat ugly one—one ghost of the stage that won’t leave me alone: aches and pains. They can take quite a bit of activity as long as I don’t run or tread upward too much.

I thought about bowing out, I mean, who can chase after youth-sugar-hyper-fueled athletes, with damaged feet? But then C sprained her ankle, the coach is without an assistant this year, and thoughts of her limping behind her team MILES away from any adult to protect her kept me tossing and turning until I finally gave in and did that volunteer thing.

Like I have time.

So once or twice a week, I throw on my Sketchers and run down pain alley.

And then, my day job picked up. My usual one to two days a week turned into five because one of my coworkers got stuck in Florida, I’m behind authorly deadlines and now I’m running on fumes.

Can you hear me panting?

And now my feet say they need a break, so I’m thinking about pulling out my bicycle. Hmm. What does a mother do?

She does what all those facing a hurricane do. She says, “Lord, it’s all you now. Just you.”
And then I remember there’s no better place for my daughter to be, or thoughts of family and stranded co-workers facing a mighty storm, and for these feet that just won’t run any farther: In God’s hands.

His care and creativity surpass anything a volunteer can fix. He can calm a hurricane to a tropical storm, and he can run alongside all those little ones, miles from their nests.

Maybe he lets the storms strand us for a while so we can remember His capable hands again.