crying it out

I’m talking to parents here.

Ever done that thing where you sit in the hall, with the lights out and listen to your child cry?

Most parents are familiar with this as a way to try to get a child to learn to go to sleep on their own.  Learning to put yourself to sleep is a life skill that we all need.  But it doesn’t just happen, you have to learn it.  and learning is, sometimes, a pain-filled process.

I’m facing that with Ginny right now.  We used to have a pretty solid routine and she knew how to go to sleep by herself.  We were very good at the whole “never put her down asleep, always put her in her crib when she is drowsy, but still awake” thing. She learned her lessons very well and we hardly ever had to get up in the night or spend hours begging her to just please go back to sleep.

We thought she had learned that life lesson perfectly.  Chalk one up for the awesome parenting duo of Martin & Deirdre.  Congrats.  Your child has passed this test.  Please move forward.  You won’t ever have to learn this one over again.

WRONG.

Over time we let the routine slip.  Inch by inch we moved so far away from a child that puts herself to bed with no fuss that we are now living in the land of a tyrant who never gets enough sleep herself, and never lets papa get enough sleep. She crawls into bed with us in the middle of the night, she insists on a movie to fall asleep to, and papa must sit down with her to watch it.  Which leaves papa asleep on the sofa and Ginny getting just enough of a nap between 8 and 10 p.m. that when Martin finally wakes up to take her upstairs, she wakes up pretty thoroughly and either makes him read to her half the night or begs for another movie. 

Martin’s poor tired, sleep deprived soul is not strong enough to resist her at that hour, so she pretty much gets whatever she wants.

But the lack of sleep is getting to be a serious problem.  Not just for Martin, but for Ginny’s friends and playmates.  She is a crabby, bossy spoiled, violent little terror these days.

Ginny is unhappy. Martin is unhappy.  I am unhappy.  and Ginny’s friends, school-mates and teachers are definitely unhappy.

Don’t get me wrong, Ginny is also blindingly intelligent, adorable, sweet, loving and kind.  But she can go from one extreme to the other so fast it is really scary and I’m convinced that half of it is a lack of sleep.

So, we are going to try the old, “sorry, I know you don’t want to, but you have to go to bed now” routine again.

Which means her parents are going to find themselves in that hall again…listening to her cry.

Why am I telling you all this?

to make myself look bad? no.
to belittle the parenting skills of myself or my spouse? no. Martin is a hero as far as I’m concerned.
to humiliate my child? no.  she’s just being a kid.

It’s because of a song that got sung in church this week.

Nichole Nordeman’s “Why are they screaming”

We rode into town the other day
Just me and my Daddy
He said I’d finally reached that age
And I could ride next to him on a horse
That of course was not quite as wide

We heard a crowd of people shouting
And so we stopped to find out why
And there was that man
That my dad said he loved
But today there was fear in his eyes

So I said “Daddy, why are they screaming?
Why are the faces of some of them beaming?
Why is He dressed in that bright purple robe?
I’ll bet that crown hurts Him more than He shows
Daddy, please can’t you do something?
He looks as though He’s gonna cry
you said he was stronger than all of those guys
Daddy, please tell me why
Why does everyone want him to die?”

Later that day the sky grew cloudy
And Daddy said I should go inside
Somehow he knew things would get stormy
Boy was he right
But I could not keep from wondering
If there was something he had to hide

So after he left I had to find out
I was not afraid of getting lost
So I followed the crowds
To a hill where I knew men had been killed
And I heard a voice come from the cross

And it said, “Father, why are they screaming?
Why are the faces of some of them beaming?
Why are they casting their lots for My robe?
This crown of thorns hurts Me more than it shows
Father, please can’t You do something?
I know that You must hear My cry
I thought I could handle the cross of this size
Father, remind Me why
Why does everyone want Me to die?
When will I understand why?”

“My precious Son, I hear them screaming
I’m watching the face of the enemy beaming
But soon I will clothe You in robes of My own
Jesus, this hurts Me much more than You know
But this dark hour I must do nothing
Though I’ve heard Your unbearable cry
The power in Your blood destroys all of the lies
Soon You’ll see past their unmerciful eyes
Look there below, see the child
Trembling by her father’s side
Now I can tell You why
She is why You must die”

http://youtu.be/sRKV8Jh5IgQ is the link to the song. 

The whole song is breathtaking and was presented by a teenager in our church in a very moving way.  She didn’t sing it perfectly, she sang it with absolute participation and consequently brought the audience to tears.  The verse that really gets me is the one about God the Father listening to His son’s screaming  and having to wait for the time to be right to respond.

I know that my sitting in the hall listening to Ginny crying doesn’t even come close, but it gives me a tiny glimpse into “that dark hour”

And makes the coming of Easter just a tiny bit more real to me this year.

giving good gifts

We all love to get good gifts, but how many of us are good at giving really good thoughtful gifts.  I’ll admit, I struggle.

And even when I manage to think of something absolutely prefect to give, most of the time it is outside of my budget, or there are time constraints that make it just not possible to accomplish.

But I got a reminder this past Saturday that there are some gifts that are precious, perfect, always appreciated, and free.

I had to go to a funeral on Saturday, (bear with me here.  it will all make sense in a minute, I promise.  just keep reading….) and I needed to take Ginny with me.  Martin had commitments that could not involve a four year old, so she had to come with me. I knew it wasn’t going to be any fun for her, but she can be pretty good about sitting still so I knew it wasn’t going to hurt her to go. 

The funeral was for a Sunday School teacher that I had when I was very young.  She also did substitute teaching at the Christian school I went to and her son was a young man I looked up too alot.  In a “6th graders distant crush on a rugged senior soccer player” kind of way. 

The church where the funeral was held is the same church I grew up in and my mother worked in.  First Alliance Church in Atlanta.  While my mom worked, my brother and I used to play all over the church.  We would do commando crawl races under the pews. We played hide and seek and tag everywhere (and I do mean EVERYWHERE, even the baptismal).  We even got in trouble once for eating up all the communion crackers.  We thought they were just crumbled up saltines.  During services my mom sat close to the front row.  She had a real talent for disciplining us silently and unobtrusively.  I remember that quite clearly, but I can also recall times when I would get sleepy and put my head in her lap.  Mother would do what all mothers do…trace letters or just random patterns on my back and run her fingers through my hair as I drifted.

okay, so you get the picture.  My mother and I were heading into a building that we hadn’t been in since 1987.  To attend the funeral of this dear lady, and to see people we hadn’t seen in forever.  Bringing my child along just made sense. She can be a conversation piece.  A distraction if this whole experience gets too intense or awkward.

Besides, she has this adorable smocked dress.  It’s black with tiny white snowmen up around the collar.  With her fair coloring and those big blue eyes……how could I resist the opportunity to show her off? 

Stay with me…there is a point. 

So we are all in the car.  Me, my mom and Ginny.

And Ginny, naturally asks “Where are we going and why am I all dressed up?”

pause.

me: “okay Ginny, when mama was a little girl she had a sunday school teacher she loved very much.  That sweet lady had a good life.  She had grandkids and was very happy, but now she is gone to heaven to be with Jesus and her family is very sad.  We are going to go give her family hugs”

Ginny “okay”

Then she goes back to playing with her stuffed toy in the back seat and my mom and I embark on a discussion of old times at First Alliance Church.

We get to the church, walk in and wow…..  it is different, and the same all at once.  There were people we know and people we used to know and people we don’t know at all.  The service was beautiful and the music really got Ginny’s attention.  It was a long service though and by the end of it I was whispering to Ginny all about the special treat (high tea with mama and grammy) that she would get if she could just sit still for a little while longer.  Eventually the service was over and we filed quietly out into the vestibule.

At which point,  my child enthusiastically reaches for all these complete strangers and starts handing out hugs. 

Some people she grabbed around the legs, some she pulled on their sleeve till they bent down or picked her up to see what she wanted, and once she reached out from my arms to hug the mother of a friend of mine from middle school.  She literally attack-hugged the whole crowd….and it was like watching the sun come up to see the effect she had on that room.

It was so simple.  She gave comfort.  She gave smiles and hugs because they were needed.  She didn’t know these people.  But she blessed them right where they were.

Yes, my child is adorable, but that’s not the point.

The point for me is that so often when someone preaches on using our gifts they talk about time, money and talents.  The talents they refer to seem to be the specialised sort.  Like being able to sing, or preach, or organize or build things.  To me, those things are nice but what I think gets overlooked are the little gifts.

  • a note (but of course to write an encouraging note you have to have at least some familiarity with the person)
  • a hug (but most people, gregarious four-year-olds aside need to have some acquaintance with a person before hugging them)
  • a smile.  Smiles can be given to anyone, anywhere without knowing a single thing about the other person.

What? you don’t think a smile is a gift?  When was the last time someone just beamed when you walked into a room?  Remember how that made you feel?  Well you can make other people feel just like that.  I call that a gift.

I have a challenge for you.

Next time you walk along  in the mall, or on your way to or from your car in a parking lot, try giving the gift of a smile to literally everyone whose eye you can catch.  That way they don’t think you are just smiling to yourself.  Make sure you catch their eye and then smile right at them.   Make them feel like you smiled because they crossed your path.

Let me know how it goes.  I’m betting you will be addicted to this form of gift giving in just one session.

oh, and one other blessing rained down on my head during that service….Ginny put her head in my lap and I got to play with her hair and trace letters on her back in that same sanctuary where I can clearly recall my mom doing the same to me.

blessings in this photo

This picture makes me so happy.  I keep looking and looking and looking at it.  The blessings in my life are abundant.  There are the obvious ones; Happy, healthy child, happy healthy husband. 

And the not quite so obvious ones. 

 Martin is standing. Upright. After his broken leg in April life was rough for a while. With the help of family and neighbors we got through it. 

 Church name tag.  Not visible, but I know it is there.  He works for God.  That makes me very deeply happy.

 Martin’s Smile.  Yes, he still smiles like that when he sees me.  and I smile right back. Wouldn’t you?

 Martin has lost some weight.  We both need to lose more. But we are way healthier than we were a year ago. Progress.

The picture is taken on our church grounds.  I grew up being very comfortable at our church becasue my mother worked there.  It was like a home to me.  It makes me happy that Ginny is growing up in a similar situation.

 Ginny’s smile.  I love her smile in this picture. It is not a “picture perfect” expression…but it shows how much she adores her papa. 

 The pink rose petal in Ginny’s hand is special to me too.  I don’t like pink.  I’ve tried to steer Ginny towards purples and blues.  She looks stunning in denim blue because of her blue eyes.  But she has a mind of her own, and in color preferences she is starting to choose pink.  I enjoy watching her figure out what she likes for herself, especially when her choices run counter to mine in little things like color preferences.  She is gaining independence.

 I love how tightly Martin is holding her, and how enthusiastic Ginny is about being in her papa’s arms. Security.  Trustworthy.

The grey in Martin’s beard makes me smile, because he didn’t have any when we started dating.  I have watched it happen. That represents years and mileage together.  Longevity. 

 Ginny’s hair blowing in the wind makes me happy.  She chose that haircut and it is great on her.  I was always into long hair on little girls, but she rocks the short hair look and is completely little girlie and feminine while having a hassle-free haircut.  Win-win!

 Martin takes time to play.  We had things to do and places to be, but he got out of the car and came back to play with us as Ginny examined roses and I snapped pictures.  Then he hoisted her up and headed for the car.  I said “wait, I want a picture of that” and instead of being annoyed with me for yet another delay, he turned and beamed at me while Ginny clung to his head. That is one patient, fun, loving, kind, generous man.

Thank you Lord.  You have been so so so very good to me.

staring at cheesecake

What would happen if  I spent all my time focusing on cheesecake.

If I made sure to have cheesecake  in front of me every minute, how successful do you imagine I would be in maintaining a healthy diet? or in working out? or doing anything other than thinking about the cheesecake I was giving up.  The cheesecake I can’t have.  The cheesecake other people get to have.  The cheesecake I want….

It seems pretty simple doesn’t it?

Instead, I need to focus on the things I should desire – yummy fresh vegetables, nice lean tasty meats and fish.  The endorphin rush of a good, long bike ride.  Or the adrenaline surge from a really good day of ice skating.

Focusing on those things will make the cheesecake …fade away into insignificance.  This is not rocket science.  It all seems pretty obvious, right?  Yet when it comes time for stewardship campaigns in churches across America what do we all do?

We focus, intently, on the checkbook.

We go to money management seminars and read materials on how to be more God-centered in our budgeting.  We pray about our budget asking God “What do you want me to give this year?”  We listen to sermons on how to put God first and how to teach children the value of tithing.

Don’t you see?

We are focusing on the cheesecake!

What if, instead of focusing on our money (which really isn’t ours to begin with, since everything on earth belongs to our creator) we chose to

GET EXCITED ABOUT WHAT GOD IS DOING
and

GET INVOLVED

If giving to the General Fund of your church doesn’t excite you, try reading up on what the “General Fund” covers.  The programs in your church it feeds into.  If your church is anything like mine you will find a list of endless community outreach, mission trips and special items all hiding under that umbrella of “General Fund” 

Still not excited?  Don’t feel like you have found the project that God wants you to invest in?  Call the church office or visit the church website. Look around you.  What project or outreach needs an infusion of cash or volunteers?

We all need to stop focusing on the money we are “giving up”   and instead focus on the adrenaline rush of being a conduit of blessing from God to those around us.

wanting the microphone

I’ve been wishing for a chance to speak publicly about some recent events in my life, and at the same time I’ve been ashamed of that desire.  Part of my southern upbringing is to suppress all hankering for publicity.  So every time I caught myself wanting to speak up about some recent blessings I would firmly squash the desire by telling myself that it was rude to brag.  But what I was failing to comprehend was that the publicity I wanted was not for myself.  I don’t want to brag on my own accomplishments. 

I earnestly yearn to brag on my God. 

The God who brought my family through the struggles of infertility. The God who abundantly blessed us during both my husband’s layoff and my recent job loss.  The God who has showered me in loving mercies during a time that most would see as a severe trial.  Sure, I do have a public forum.  I write a blog, but most of the folks in my church don’t read blogs and I find myself wanting  my congregation, my home church to hear about my God and the wonderful things He has done for me.

Even the psalmist had this same longing.  Look at Psalm 116:17 – 19

To You I shall offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving
and call upon the name of the LORD
I shall pay my vows to the LORD
Oh may it be in the presence of all His people
In the courts of the LORD’s house
In the midst of you, O Jerusalem
Praise the LORD!

So, in an effort to break out of my overly-southern, rigidly-polite heritage and offer public praise to my Lord, I now submit a sacrifice of praise in the form of a psalm.   I’m not a poet, so forgive me if this is a little rough.  It is from the heart and that is all I was trying to accomplish.

When I cast myself down and wept
Lain down on a bed of sorrow
You comforted my heart
Your peace, O LORD flooded my mind

When I wandered in darkness,
angry and filled with bitterness
You sent words of comfort
you gave a song to my throat
and fierce joy to my limbs

My God will fight my battles
You allowed earthly powers to triumph over me for a day
but granted me the grace to look
mine enemy in the face and
bless Your name

My oppressor has acknowledged
You O my God.
The power of Your hand has been visible
even unto him who has struck me down
You caused him to weep
in bitterness and to bless your name
You have allowed my oppressor to see
Your favor for me.
He has witnessed the outpouring of
Your blessings on my house and my lands

O LORD my God
May Your name be praised
May my speech and the labor of my hands
Be nothing more than a window to You
Protect me LORD from everything
except Your Glory.

May I never cease to sing Your Praise.

Try writing your own psalm to God during this Lent season and see what happens.

my new mission

my new mission is simple

smile more.

 

what? you ask.  Well I just had a very humbling experience.

I think of myself as a fairly cheerful person.  Fun to be around, etc.  And photos of me pretty much bear that out.

See? lots of smiles.

But….that is only what happens when I look at a camera and deliberately smile.  Apparently my normal, neutral face doesn’t smile very much at all.

How do I know this?

Well I just got home from a solid hour of video taping.  My dear, darling wonderful husband got the joy of hearing, over and over and over again a short (3 minute long) piece that I had written at the request of our pastor regarding my job layoff and some of the things that came out of that.

The piece is full of joy and hope and purpose.  Or at least the TEXT is full of joy and hope and purpose.  But if you turned off the sound and just watched my face you would think I was announcing the death of thousands or something.  Seriously, I looked bleak. And I had THOUGHT my expression was pleasant.

So we did it again.  This time I will try to smile, really.

and again.

and again drat it.

I finally got it right after 5 takes.

It gave me a whole new appreciation of just how much attention I need to pay to my physical expression and the impact it can have on my message.

But wait, I’m not a pastor.  I’m not a paid speaker.  Why do I have to worry about this stuff?

Well the folks at my work and in my family and friends know I am a Christian. They know that I profess to have God in me.  So shouldn’t that show?  Shouldn’t I look different?  If I say I have the Joy of Christ Jesus in me, doesn’t it follow that my face would show it?  At the very least it should show when I am actually talking about the joy of Christ.

So that is my new mission – to spread the joy of my Lord by smiling more.

God said it…..

… I just wish I had listened better…

One of the things we bought for Ginny for Christmas was a full DVD set of the Cedarmont Kids albums.  For any of you who are unfamiliar with this group, give yourself a treat, go get them.  Even if you don’t have kids.  Just suspend your adult-ness for a day or two.

These DVDs are packed with loads of songs that Ginny loves to dance to and “sing” along with.  She is getting active play and being indoctrinated at the same time.  All the videos are subtitled with the lyrics so she will eventually be getting reading skills too.    And it’s not just classic stuff that I remember from my childhood.  You know the ones..

“I am a C.   I am a CH.  I am a CHRISTIAN”  and “This little light of mine” and “Climb, climb up sunshine mountain” and “Do Lord, oh Do Lord, Do remember me”  and “Jesus loves me”

Those are all in there, but included are some songs that I had never heard before.  Songs that might have made a difference in my life if I had ever heard them AND managed to believe them.  Like this one, called “Every promise in the book is mine”

Every promise in the Book is mine!
Every chapter, every verse, every line.
I am standing on His Word divine,
Every promise in the Book is mine!

Pretty straightforward, eh?

I love this song.  I mean I sang about being a “son of Abraham” but I never really grasped that that meant that through Christ’s sacrifice and the fulfillment of that covenant, I personally partake of EVERY promise in the Bible.

And it is such a wonderful tune that I find myself singing it all day long.  Which is very good for me.  The soundtrack that runs in your head all day needs to be an affirming one.

Yes, the soundtrack in your head.

Don’t even try to tell me that you don’t have one.  It is there.  You may only consciously hear it when all else is quiet, but you do have one.  Mine tends to be very repetitive.  I get stuck in a groove all day.  Sort of like how you feel after coming out the “small world” ride at Disney.  That stupid song stays stuck in your head for HOURS.  If conversation around you lags or you have a moment of quiet…it floats back up to the forefront of your brain and you find yourself humming along…..it’s a small world after all….its a small world after all…AARRRGGH !   That’s what I mean when I say the soundtrack in your head.  So it behooves me to fill my mind and heart with good songs.  Songs that point me to God.  Otherwise I can spend all day (inadvertently) contemplating utter drivel. And who wants that?

Or this one …

Wide, wide as the ocean, high as the Heaven above;
Deep, deep as the deepest sea is my Savior’s love.
I, though so unworthy, still am a child of His care;
For His Word teaches me that His love reaches me everywhere.

I sang “Deep and Wide” enthusiastically as a child, but here again this song (which has a haunting melody by the way) addresses some of my deepest concerns.  My feelings of insecurity and shakey self worth are directly addressed by these lyrics.

And then there is this one.  This is priceless.  And what it is doing in my heart as an adult is absolutely staggering.

God said it, I believe it
That’s all that faith demands
Though heav’n and earth shall pass away
His word will stand.

I have to wonder, did it take hearing these lyrics as an adult for them to sink in?  Would I have never really understood the lyrics if had known them as a child?  It occurs to me that one of my favorite Sunday school songs as a kid has some pretty good depth to it…….

Like a tree
Like a tree
I’m like a green olive tree
in the house
in the house
of the LORD, hallelujah
I will trust
in the mercy of God
forever I will trust
in the mercy of God

This song is engraved in my mind.  And yet, I didn’t trust in God’s mercy. It never reached my heart, my blood stream.  It never became part of me.

I’ve sung this song around many a campfire and yet I’ve spent decades of my life either trying to personally make up for my sins (which isn’t possible) or feeling completely unforgivable and therefore licensed to sink into depravity.   Also a bad choice, by the way.

It is only in the last few years that I am starting to come to grips with the truth that God really does love me.  Personally.  And that I really am forgiven.  Really.  Yes, even for that.  and yup, that one too.  And oh yes, THAT one. (no, I’m not going to enumerate my sins for the world to view.  They are between me and Christ.  He washed them away and no longer remembers them)

Maybe that’s why these songs are having deep meanings for me now.

Now, they are real.

I, though so unworthy, still I’m a child of his care, for His word teaches me that His love reaches me EVERYWHERE.

Blessed reality.