Under Construction

 

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As she dropped off her daughter at high school in the movie ‘Freaky Friday’, Actress Jamie Lee Curtis delivers the famous mom-line “Make good choices!” That screenwriter’s pearl of parental wisdom always makes me giggle.

freaky friday movie poster 2Why do we parent’s make such “cliché stay-strong” statements to our kids when temporarily departed from the nest? Well, I’d say first and most importantly… because we love them. Next, because they are still young and, as science has proven, the under-developed choices department of the brain is “under major construction” at this point in life. And thirdly, because we were once there ourselves. We say it even though we know they are hearing the teacher’s voice from ‘Charlie Brown,’ saying Wah,Wah, Wahhhh.

Silver WrenchesMeanwhile, as we share our wisdom we need to remember that we are never too old or too smart to NOT be “under construction”. My years have shown me that the more I learn the more I realize how little I know (Socrates) and when I think I’ve seen it all, … I am again amazed. Just because someone may look like they have it all together, doesn’t mean they do. We are always learning and growing as life and changing times challenge us. So we adults must be diligent to take our own advice and carefully, mae good choices ourselves. Especially because these little and not so little birds are still watching and learning from our example. (Also, those neighbor birds, co-worker birds, grocery store birds and people stuck in traffic birds.)

As we are wrapping up week one of construction, I’m reminded of the importance of a qualified, honest contractor who knows what it takes to make sure their work on our nest is solid and lasting. What would it look like if we had “pretend” construction workers who only looked the part? (I would say, “messy nest” at the very least!) You need experts to do it right. Our spiritual foundation must be solid as well. If your “subflooring” is squeaky or unstable, anything you put on top of it may look good for a while, but it too will become squeaky and unstable. Without a sturdy base, we are in danger. Not tending to it, only puts off damage down the road.

Architecture and ColorIf something is squeaky or unstable in your life, a good choice would be to stop putting off addressing it. Jesus, the Jewish carpenter from Nazareth made and fixed things in his early years. When he went on to ministry, he continued by “fixing” and healing people. Ask him to be your personal contractor. He will dust you off, pull up the old wood, and rebuild you wherever necessary. He will make you better and stronger than before! This week, make good choices and choose to be fixed, healed and strengthened.

Here is a prayer for healing:

“Lord Jesus, heal me. Heal in me whatever you see needs healing. Heal me of whatever might separate me from you. Heal my memory, heal my heart, heal my emotions, heal my spirit, heal my body, heal my soul. Lay your hands gently upon me and heal me through your love for me. Amen.” Anon

 

“God can restore what is broken and change it into something amazing. All you need is faith.” Joel 2:25

 

“O Lord my God, I called you for help and you healed me.” Psalm 30:2.

 

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” Matthew 7:24-27

 

“Kid’s don’t remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are.” Jim Henson

 

“If you believe in nothing, you fall for anything.” Anon.

The Nest to the Test

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Nest: A number of animals of the same species and their young occupying a common habitat. (in this case human species)

Nesting: The act of bringing order to your home; making it a safe shelter for rest, nourishment, and inspiration; finding every possible way to make it warm and cozy*.

Chaos: Disorder, disarray, confusion, bedlam. Behavior so unpredictable as to appear random, owning to great sensitivity to small changes in environment.

Lovely: Exquisitely beautiful. Attractive in a graceful way. Very pleasing and charming.

Peaceful: Undisturbed by strife, turmoil, or disagreement; tranquil.

Nest with Gold EggMany of us love to nest! To work to bring order and peace to our surroundings and circumstance is a
natural human desire and is as elusive to me as a squirrel trying to climb a Vaselined pole of a birdfeeder. (That’s another story) 

Show me someone who loves utter chaos and I’ll show you a crazy person. Show me a person living in chaos and I’ll show you me, but whatever you do, don’t call me crazy. I prefer “challenged”.

Living in a tri-generational household certainly adds drama and complexity to the nest. With my parents, high school and college-aged kids all home for the summer, organizational systems are mandatory. For example, to stay on schedule I have my trusty cell phone alarm for which I have developed a love/hate relationship. Every time I sit down to work or accomplish anything personal, that alarm seems to go off. Time to… bring breakfast to mom and dad; take dad to lunch at this club; make mom lunch; take dad to the doctor; take mom for her hair appointment; pick up Jack at the Metro; bring mom her glass of wine; tell mom she can’t have another glass of wine (Thus earning the title of “Bossy”. Mom says… “I have two daughters, one who is bossy, one who is not.); bring dinner to my mom and dad… Phew! (Sideways glancing, sweating emoji*)

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As we embark intoweek one of home renovations, I know life will become even more chaotic and I will need some serious ammunition to find order and peace in our nest. I need to remind myself that in order to find the truly lovely and peaceful, one must be able to maneuver through the chaos and all that comes with it. It gets messy before it becomes lovely.

 

So, yeah, things are nutty here most of the time. The obstacles I face while working to keep our home thoroughly nested could steal my perspective. So being aware of this little nugget, I am profoundly grateful to be grounded in the biblical knowledge that I am never alone. With God on my side, who could be against me?

The enemy, that’s who. There is an enemy in the spiritual realm that loves chaos and wants us to be continually distracted by his disorder and keep our focus from what is really important in life. The enemy says, “Oh, it’s only family, they will love you no matter what. Go on and be constantly distracted from them. You have so much to do! All this chaos is perfectly ok.” But really, it’s not ok!

We need to take care of and tend to our spiritual well-being so we can be strong against the enemy and be there for others.

Proverbs 4:23 says “Above all guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

Red Hearts Hanging from ThreadOur relationship with God needs nurturing and nesting but often gets put on the back burner. Move it to the front!
Be prepared my fellow nesters. Chaos is an unending race to nowhere and will gobble you up. Defend your nest! Start with yourself and extend to three generations! God will show you “the lovely” in His word and in your life. Isn’t that what we are all truly long for? Order, love, peace, and the lovely. Don’t be caught off-guard. Start your day in prayer. Before your feet hit the ground, ask for God’s direction, not yours.

“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” Ephesians 6:14-18

“God gives every bird his worm, but He does not throw it into the nest.” P.D. James

*(1) Definition of nesting, courtesy of CMM. (2) Sideways glancing, sweating emoji…my creation

Above the Cocktail Party

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They say that if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog. I wish I could say this wasn’t the truth but sometimes it feels like it. Have you ever been standing there talking to a person and they are looking right past you to the semi-celebrity that just entered the room? I want to say “Hey, I’m right here!” pointing to my eyeballs. But alas, that would be rude. Ironic.

Cherry Blossoms -DCThey say not to talk politics or religion at a social event, but in DC, these two subjects are the two main entrées on the menu. I learned why this was taboo as a young girl when my sister’s “hippie-esk” boyfriend exclaimed “Wrong!” in response to my father’s attempt to educate him about something political. I can’t remember the content of dad’s response, but is was colorful and loud. These days I do a much better job of skirting around the topic of politics than I do with religion.

At a recent cocktail party, an acquaintance shared with me that all people who sit in the church pew are just pretending. His comment made me deeply sad for him; he could see it on my face immediately. Outwardly this is the guy whom everyone wants to be. Beautiful family, great business and extremely well connected. But now, up close, I could see that this was a man who poured all of his energy and effort into his outer world. He could tell I was on to him.

My conversation partner prided himself on being an open-minded intellectual, so I brought up C.S. Lewis and his journey from atheist to his very public conversion to belief in the living Christ. He patted me on the back and assured me that my crutch was not for him. The next day, I dropped the book “Mere Christianity” in his mailbox. Would you believe that open-minded fella was not open-minded enough to even consider opening that book? He dropped it off in my mailbox the next day saying thanks but no thanks. Walking through the world thinking you know everything must be a heavy burden to bear, I thought to myself.

Golden Retriever PuppySo…not your typical success story but maybe some seeds were planted in his life? Personally, I realized how blessed I was to have faith and to know what it is like to be loved by a God who is personal. How can I keep that to myself? The point is…get a dog.

Ha! No, but do listen for those who are searching for meaning beyond the cocktail parties. You are not called to convert people but to plant seeds and pray that they grow. Does this little story remind you of someone? If so, pray specifically for them this week. Or, maybe you are the one pretending in the pews? May the God of love make himself known to you.

“Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.” C.S. Lewis

 

“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” 2 Peter 1:3

 

“Epignosis is a Greek word for knowledge. This type of knowledge implies a larger more thorough and intimate knowledge. Not simply knowing intellectually but understanding and believing what you know in a personal way.” Sharon Jaynes; Author of “Take Hold of the Faith you long for.”

Busted!

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It’s not what you want to see as you are peacefully situated on your airplane seat headed out for a vacation. A mother walking down the aisle holding a vomit bag to the mouth of her 6-year-old child. As if you weren’t worried enough about those nasty airplane germs! Why would this mother even bring her kid on a plane when he was that sick? I’ll tell you why…because we were going on this trip that had been planned for months if it killed us! Yes, I was that mother.shutterstock_208484800

The night before our trip to Disney World my son Jack started to look pale. Maybe it was just the Irish side of him coming out through all of the excitement of this highly anticipated trip to “the happiest place on earth”. His older brother and sister had built this trip up so much in his mind that they probably just overwhelmed him. He’ll be alright.

Around midnight ‘it’ began and continued throughout the night. At 6:30 am we rationalized he had gotten this all out of his system and he would “heal” on the plane. I look up at God, “Really?” whileJack demonstrated a renewed batch of “sickness” while our family sheepishly lurked down the airplane aisle. I really wasn’t sure who I felt sorrier for…my poor sick child or the rest of the passengers. For sure an officer of social services would emerge and put me in handcuffs. Would someone please just put a bag over my head?!

shutterstock_382827400When we arrived poor Jack was weak and feverish but we had our tickets to Sea World in hand. Upon arrival at the entrance gates, I finally realized this was so stupid! “I’m going to take him to the infirmary while you all go have fun. You’ll know where to find us.” Then it happened…we saw the wheelchairs. A lightbulb went off. Why don’t we rent one of these and he can at least see everything and I’ll keep him hydrated with snow-cones? We had a winning game plan. Or did we?

As we entered our first show we were personally escorted by an usher to the “special” seats in the front row where you could sit with your wheelchaired family member. At first, we thought, “Oh nice!” Then the next show, the same thing and so on. We began to notice that people were giving us looks of pity and thought our Jack was somehow gravely ill. I started noticing all the truly needy kids and adults bound to wheelchairs. Bless their hearts! It must be so hard on them and their families on a day to day basis. We were taking advantage of the system. (But maybe no one would notice.)

Getting through day one, we patted ourselves on the backs. The kids had fun and Jack was recovering but still very weak. We arrive at the Animal Kingdom the second day where Jack informed us that he needed the wheelchair again. Fearing we would end up having to carry him around, we caved. So there we were, in the front row of “The World’s Funniest Animals” show. (Truth be told, enjoying our VIP treatment. Shameful, I know.) After a few wild and crazy animal acts the extroverted MC asks for a volunteer from the audience. Jack bounds out of the confines of his wheelchair seat, flailing arms, and a very visible renewed sense of energy… “Oh, pick me!” We were busted. Both internally and externally in the very center for all to see. Ok social services, get the cuffs!

While this story is a rather humorous illustration of bending the truth, it shows us that if we are not being authentic and truthful we will be exposed at some point. Our relationship with the truth we know from God can be a daily struggle for most of us. Why? Because we are sinners. The good news? Forgiveness!

This week, let’s look closely at the cross. Through heartfelt prayer, ask God in his infinite mercy to show us where we fall short and ask for his forgiveness and guidance. Whether you find yourself in “the happiest place on earth”, in a board meeting, or making major life decisions, make sure that you ask the question. “Is this right in the eyes of eternity?”

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8

 

“Being an authentic Christian means that God and his Word define what is “real”. For Christians, our true self is found in Christ and we are on a pilgrimage to become more like him. As 1 John 3:2 says, ‘We are now children of God, and what we will be has not yet appeared. A greater reality awaits.’” Megan Hill ~ Author of blog: Sunday Women

 

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17

Thirsty?

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“These flowers are not from the hot house.” said Miss Marianne of Willoughby’s gift of wildflowers.

“Ahh, I see that my offering is not as grand as the one you already have. I’m afraid I obtained these from an obliging field.”

“Beaming with delight, Marianne replies, “I have always preferred wild flowers.”
Sense and Sensibility

Ever think you were meant for a different century? Being a Jane Austen fan, I say… “Yes, yes, a thousand times YES!” Minus all that spinster talk and women not being able to have a profession or inherit the family fortune, I would love to jump into an Austen novel. She knows how to bring us in with her dynamic and quirky characters, the poetic English language, and breathtaking landscapes. She sweeps us up and into a world of Saturday afternoon picnics on your front lawn, reed gathering for basket weaving, spying on siblings from tree houses, chasing the sunshine and, my personal favorite, picking wildflowers.

shutterstock_439136608What intrigues us about all of this? Why do I have a thirst for a time without a laptop computer and a smart phone? Could it be the raw beauty and simplicity of the picture Austen is painting? Even though most of her characters and their predicaments are anything but simple, something about it all makes me want to move to the English country side, start buying up sheep and write a thesis on why wildflowers are indeed, the superior choice in floral arrangements.
Snapping back into reality; it’s spring here in the Nation’s Capital. Native wildflowers are dotting our non-English landscape with their little hopeful spring-forward faces. My Mom and I are indulging ourselves with fresh bouquets of spring beauties, violets, and buttercup related species. We like to put them in little bud vases to cheer up our homes after winters chill. Recently, I was in a hurry and popped my two little bouquets into their vases and went on with my day. When I came back, one vase was completely wilted while the other one was perfectly beautiful. “Oh, no! I didn’t put water in that vase.” While I have had worse problems in life, I felt guilty. Sort of like Charlie Brown when he brought back the Christmas tree and, it too, wilted. “I killed it!” shutterstock_403780948After administering water and CPR, I waited. Sure enough, their thirst was quenched by the one thing necessary for their survival…water.

We all know that water is crucial for our survival as well; making up anywhere from 55% to 65% of our bodies. Without it, we will die. If we follow health guidelines, we are supposed to be drinking (8) eight-ounce glasses per day. If you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Sometimes when you feel hungry, the truth is you are really just thirsty. Paying attention to our physical thirst is very much like paying attention to our spiritual thirst. Our spiritual well can run dry when too often distracted by, as Austen would say, diversions.

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There is not a day that goes by when I am not thirsty for God’s wisdom on any given subject in my life. Somedays insights flow like waterfalls; while others, radical dehydration. (Note: The parched days tend to be when I am not centered in prayer or scripture.) Are you thirsty to know God?  Good news…He is all around you!

 

In one of Jane Austen’s surviving prayers, she writes. “Thou art everywhere present, from thee no secret can be hidden. May the knowledge of this, teach us to fix our thoughts on thee, with reverence and devotion that we pray not in vain.”

 

Jesus says in Matthew 6, “Consider the lilies of the field. See how they grow. They do not labor or spin. How much more will God take care of you?”

Hold onto that this week as you tend to your spiritual well. Now go pick some wildflowers.

“And the Lord will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.” Isaiah 58:11

 

“Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” John 6:35

 

“The key to Christian living is a thirst and hunger for God. And one of the main reasons people do not understand or experience the sovereignty of grace and the way it works through the awakening of joy is that their hunger and thirst for God is so small.” John Piper