Lessons from Leon

I heard about Leon and how he could work miracles as it relates to teaching someone how to drive. And we were desperate. The first six hours when someone else was teaching her went well, but the times she was driving the car with Josh in the passenger seat were not going so well. The day they drove into the driveway and only he got out, I knew I needed to intervene.  She sat in the car, frustrated and emotional. He went inside, quiet and aware he wasn’t very good at this.

I called Leon and got Ruby on his calendar. He showed up, Ruby got in the driver’s seat and didn’t come back home for two hours. They did this for three days in a row.

Josh was very interested in how it went. “Well, Ruby, how did it go?”

“It went really well,” she said confidently.

“Really? So you drove good? No problems?” Josh asked curiously, digging for more.

“Yes, I drove well. And there were no problems at all.”

Still unsatisfied with her answers, Josh continues, “What did he say? Did he tell you to STOP or did he remind you to put your blinker on? Did he have to tell you to speed up?”

“No, he just talked to me about other stuff.”

“Really???? He didn’t say anything about the way you go over speed bumps?” Josh asked.

“No, the only thing he ever did was move the steering wheel a little to the left because I was driving close to the shoulder of the road. That’s all.” Ruby said, more assured of herself than ever.

So when Sunday came around and Ruby was going to drive us to church, Josh announced, “Just call me Leon. I am going to be just like Leon. You’re going to drive, and I am going to relax in the passenger seat.”

Josh is a lot of wonderful things—kind, generous, funny, hard working, diligent, smart, handy, and more. But relaxed wouldn’t be on the list. In actuality, he would be rather intense. He has strong opinions, strong beliefs, and he isn’t afraid to stand up for what he believes. He also feels strongly about living, so his intensity ratcheded up a few notches when he sat in the passenger seat with Ruby. He couldn’t help but coach and train and raise his voice. It was not a good combination—innocent 15 year old girl with lots of emotions learning to drive with intense dad who speaks his mind bluntly.

So in a mid-life crisis of sorts, Josh is attempting to change his persona to Leon. He’s attempting to take everything with a grain of salt, letting things go, not coaching at every turn, & enjoying life with all it’s curve balls. He’s channeling his inner Leon in hopes that his intensity level decreases a bit. Of course, we love Josh just the way he is…..but we welcome “Leon” to make an appearance any time a situation calls for a laid back response. 

Fist bump to all the parents out there wishing we had a brake on the passenger side while we put our lives in the hands of our children. Reach down deep for your own inner Leon. I believe in you.

Old Testament 2020

This is the first of what I hope to be weekly posts about what the Lord is saying to me through His Word as I read through the Old Testament this year.

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When Mack was about two years old, the bedtime ritual was predictable. We would all tuck the girls in, and then Mack and I would run to his room and hide from Josh before he got to Mack’s room. We always hid in Mack’s closet. He would giggle. I would put my finger over my mouth, encouraging him to be quiet. We would hear Josh walk in and call our names. We would hear him ask, “Are you in the crib?” then, “Are you behind the curtains?” And on and on he would go searching for us.  Then, inevitably he would snatch the closet door open, and we would be found. And Mack would laugh hysterically and want to do it again. 

Of course, Josh always knew exactly where to find us. He was never truly looking for us in the crib or behind curtains. 

I am reading Genesis again, and I got to Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve sinned and hid among the trees of the garden with their shame and heaviness. God knew exactly where they were and why they were hiding among the trees.

I asked myself if I was hiding among the trees of anything in order to keep me out of God’s view or far enough away from hearing clearly from God? Am I distancing myself from Him knowingly or maybe unknowingly? Self-evaluation is a good thing. 

Or am I hiding in the Cross? Confident of His eyes upon me? Sure that He sees me and loves me? Aware that there’s nowhere else to be than with Him? Comforted that He alone satisfies?

G. Campbell Morgan says, “There is a Tree which will hide us, but that is the Tree where we find God in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself.”

I don’t want to hide behind my past victories or past failures. I don’t want to hide behind my position (or lack thereof) or finances—great or small. I don’t want to hide in a busy schedule. I don’t want to hide in my health. I don’t want to hide behind material possessions. I don’t want to hide behind or among anything or anyone. I want to be hidden in Christ alone. 

Colossians 3:3 “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”

Psalm 32:7 “You are my hiding place. You preserve me from trouble. You surround me with songs of deliverance.”

Psalm 119:114 “You are my hiding place and my shield; I wait for Your Word.”

Psalm 27:5 “In the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; in the secret place of His tent He will hide me.”

Psalm 31:20 “You hide me in the secret place of Your presence from the conspiracies of man.”

Psalm 143:9 “Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies; To You have I hidden.”

I hope you find Christ to be a perfect hiding place today. 

Homecoming 2020

The girls went to Homecoming this past weekend. They had a great time, and I am so glad they are able to do these fun things. It was new to all of us, but I think we did all the things right.

 

Ruby got ready at a friend’s house with a group of girls and then went to dinner with a larger group, which is why I didn’t get many photos of her beforehand.  Molly went with a nice young man we go to church with; they met up with some friends for pictures and then went to the dance. Overall, it was a great night for them!

Please & Thank You.

Well, it’s Monday. It’s the first day back to school after a long break. I planned to get up early, so I set my alarm for 5am, and I prayed the Lord would help me follow through.  And He did! I put my feet on the ground and walked my sleepy head into the kitchen for the coffee. 

Priorities, people.

I turned on the gas logs, sipped my coffee and genuinely felt an excitement to be awake for this day. Ensuring that the caffeine was ready to kick in and help my eyes and brain cooperate, I opened my Bible and read Genesis 10, 11, and 12. 

{side note: I don’t know if you have ever read through the Bible, but I believe it’s one of the most rewarding spiritual acts I have ever done. This year I am reading through the Old Testament and studying Hebrews with some friends each week. You will not believe how— no matter how many times you have read a passage or heard a scripture taught from a pastor—you still get new, personal truths from His Word…it’s a bottomless well of goodness!  I hope you’ll try to read the whole Bible some time! You will not regret it. Except in Leviticus, but just keep going.}

In Genesis 12:7-8, I took a pause.

“The Lord appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your descendants I will give this land.’ So he built an altar there to the Lord who had appeared to him.

Then, he proceeded from there to the mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord.

Clearly, I am no theologian, but I was reading this and saw Abram using Please and Thank You with the Lord. 

Verse 7: God spoke. Abram built an altar. Thank You, Lord, for Your Word to me.

Verse 8: Abram built an altar and then called upon the Lord. Please, Lord, keep speaking to me and leading me.

I pondered the question: What does it look like for me to build an altar to the Lord as a Thank You or as a Please?

When I have heard from the Lord, I might lift up praise, gladly lay down my “rights” or my comforts. I may set aside my agenda for what He has led me to do or where He has led me to go. After hearing from the Lord, I may forgive—laying down my bitterness and pain. Often times, the Lord’s Word to me runs contrary to what this world would want me to do. So hearing from Him gives me clarity on how to live right before Him. It’s purifying to my soul to hear from God. Thank You, Lord, for Your Word to me.

When I want to hear from the Lord, I might sacrifice sleep to get up early and read His Word. I might sacrifice time or energy. I may sacrifice personal gain in the seeking of the Lord. I sacrifice by laying my hurting or expectant or hopeful heart on the altar and committing to trust Him more and lean in to Him more. Please, Lord, keeping speaking to me and leading me.

As if the Lord wasn’t already so personal to me, I played the new Cody Carnes song, “Christ Be Magnified” and just about couldn’t contain myself.  PLEASE TAKE TIME TO LISTEN TO THIS SONG!  And feel free to have a running spell. I’d be shocked if you don’t.

 

You can’t re-create the morning.

At risk of sounding legalistic or heavy on the “law” and light on the “grace,” I am going to make a statement: There is no time like the early morning to spend with Jesus. 

With the kids on break, the days around here have been relaxed and the routine has been nowhere to be found; the rhythm is way off. Mack has slept til at least 10:30 most every day and grown about two inches! I figure he is in need of rest so he can grow. Rest and lots of food, evidently.  My days are markedly different with the kids home all day—one would think I would easily adjust considerding we home schooled for ten years and my kids were alway with me. But on the contrary, I am very aware now that I am missing my quiet time in the house alone. I have become one of the moms I previously judged as I ponder, “When do these kids go back to school????” You don’t know what you don’t know. And I didn’t know how much I loved huge chunks of time alone. But now I do. Please don’t misunderstand me. I do love my kids. I think they are funny, and I enjoy hanging out with them….AND…I like being by myself. That’s all.

Ok, moving on. 

So it has been made clear to me again that if you miss out on the morning quiet time—that time when it is still dark outside, when a faint lamp here and there are the only lights shining in your house, making it difficult to notice any messes or sticky countertops. A time when starting laundry would wake others up. When even the dog doesn’t stir. And most of the people in your time zone aren’t at work.THAT time is precious. That time of the day cannot be re-created. I know because I have tried over the last couple of weeks. 

I sleep in and shuffle into the kitchen to pour my coffee, but I am interrupted by the dog needing to go out, needing food, needing attention. Or I wake up early and prepare to take Molly to get her wisdom teeth removed, sure I will have some down time later in the day to read God’s Word and listen for His love and direction only to, instead, be the medicine giver, the mac-n-cheese maker, the blanket getter, the popsicle getter, and all of the other nurse-like things that I am not super at doing. Or maybe it’s a morning like this first day of 2020. We stayed up late to ring in the New Year—-I am not a fan. I would rather go to bed at a nice, decent time and wake up refreshed to start the New Year, and I suppose I could if I wanted to leave my family in the living room ringing in the New Year without me, but I didn’t want to do that. Yet I know how I spend my evening determines a lot about my morning. I woke up with about fifteen minutes to have my coffee, enjoy time in the Word, have something to eat AND get dressed and leave for my workout. Of course, most of that—the most important parts of that list—didn’t happen. When I got home, I turned the coffee back on, but the family was starting to get hungry, so I needed to get our New Year meal going. Of course, before I could get the meal going, I would need to clean up from last night. I would eye my coffee pot and then glance at the clock trying to figure out if I could find thirty minutes or so to be alone. But I couldn’t, and despite re-heating my coffee two more times, I never sat down to sip that coffee and read my Bible. I just had to keep going with the demands of the day.

I know God can speak at the kitchen sink. He often has. I know He can use long drives or certain songs to speak to my heart. And He has. He even can speak to me through the laundry, and He definitely has done that with me. So I am all for praying without ceasing and finding God in the mundane. For sure! Amen. I believe He is everywhere and inhibited by nothing.

AND I believe my heart is especially sensitive to Him first thing in the morning before life’s demands begin bombarding. You can’t re-create the morning. It comes once a day and then it is gone. Time keeps ticking and there are things to be done. 

I want to double my efforts and energy to getting up earlier to enjoy that early morning time that I always treasure once I actually get my butt out of the bed and sip that coffee. I will never waste one second that I choose to spend with The Lord and in His Word. I know He will speak to me any time of the day, but it’s been my experience that I am listening a little better early in the morning. 

Happy New Year!! Cheers to early mornings and quiet houses!

gel toothpaste. it don’t work.

“That’s gel toothpaste. It don’t work,” she said matter of factly.  I looked at the tube of toothpaste I was holding, a brand I didn’t recognize, and I told her I would go look for another type in the closet full of toiletries that can be shared with the homeless women who make their way to the church every Sunday evening for a meal, a shower, and a place to sleep.

I returned with Kid’s Crest, of which she took gladly because that “gel toothpaste is awful.” I told her she should take the kid toothbrush also because the toothbrush I found was less than desireable. I held it out to assure her I wasn’t holding out on her, and she again said, “Eww, that’s a gel toothbrush, too. It don’t work either.”

I looked at her with sincerety and curiousity—-“ I didn’t know this was a gel toothbrush or that was gel toothpaste. I’ve never used it.”

She looked at me like I was not so smart and smirked as she exclaimed, “Well, you hadn’t been there, so how would you know?!?!”

In the next three seconds it all hit me; any confusion I had was cleared right up as I realized she wasn’t saying “gel toothpaste” or “gel toothbrush.” She was saying JAIL toothpaste and JAIL toothbrush!

Aahhhhhh. Indeed, she was correct. I have, thankfully, never been in jail and never had to use their toothpaste or toothbrush. 

It was a funny moment, but also a bit sobering. By the grace of God, I haven’t spent any time in jail. By the grace of God, I won’t spend any time in jail in my future. Sometimes someone who has walked a rocky road sheds light on my smooth road. May I always take note—-not that I am better than them or have worked harder than them or am smarter than them, but that the grace of God has marked my life in ways that drastically made my path smooth. Not easy, but smooth. And I am grateful.

Moral of the story? Stay out of jail. Their toothpaste is terrible.

Adorning the Dark by Peterson, a review

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Adorning The Dark by Andrew Peterson

Currently, I am sitting in the living room with Molly eating lo mein noodles while Rolo watches every move she makes.  Mack is taunting the dog and begging Molly for a taste of her food. Ruby is in and out of the kitchen while they wait for some appetizers to be finished. The tv blares with the LSU football game. I sit here with my laptop open, my stomach hurting (I have GOT to take my lactose intolerance more seriously), and I can’t eat anything they are about to devour—nor do I enjoy football or anything that comes on tv for that matter. Yet, I don’t want to disappear into my little upstairs sanctuary. I want to be with everyone—I think. Lots of talking, lots of smells, lots of loud commercials. 

But I am typing in order to encourage someone to read more this coming year. I absolutely love to read. I currently have about four books going at the same time, a habit I have doubted, but not broken over the last few years. I think one book at a time is a great goal, but I am sometimes stuck in the carpool lot and only have one certain book in my purse, so I read. Then, at night before bed, I look over to my nightstand and see a different book, so I read. Sometimes I am upstairs in my office and pick up yet a different book on my desk, so I read. Hence, three books going at once. Can’t seem to help it. 

Adorning the Dark by Andrew Peterson is a book about using one’s creativity for God, in particular the creative work of words. Writing. He shares his journey, his struggles, his victories and God’s grace all along the way. I particularly took away this simple truth:  Writing is work. Hard, hard work. Early on in the book, he says, “At the risk of repeating myself, this is how it works. It’s not magic. It’s work. You think, you walk, you think some more, you look for moments to hammer it out on the piano, then you think again.”

His analogies between creative work and nature were insightful. “Sometimes you’ve done all the planting you need to do, and it’s time to start weeding the garden.” (page 43)

He mentions songs as 100-meter dashes and books as marathons. “They both take work. Different kinds of work, but it’s all work.” (page 77)

He recommends Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, which I am about to order after I finish writing this post. And he shares the importance of boiling down your writing to what is most excellent, most needed, most essential. Much of the work I probably need to work on in my writing is what to leave out. He shares a quote by Lamott—“The best thing you can do to write your book is to stop not doing it. Just stop it.”  So simple. So true.

He recommends Bandersnatch by Diana Pavlac Glyer and encourages artists to find “resonators.” “They need someone who gets what you’re trying to do, who is moved by your work and will encourage you to keep fighting when the battle is long.” (page 145) I’ve done a few things this past year to put myself around “resonators,” and I have taken note of those ladies in my life who usually reach out with a word of encouragment to me after a blog is posted. These sweet faces make up my audience. They are all most definitely worth any work I do with words. 

As a writer (still unsure I should call myself that?), I am often discouraged in the process. I am bombarded with my lack and many voices saying, ‘What’s the use? Who really cares?’ Peterson lays out encouragement in the last chapter and shares his own vulnerabilities, challenging anyone who has a story, to share that story.  “One day, perhaps, when I’m dead and gone, and my songs and stories lie in the ruins of some old forest and no one remembers my name, whatever good and beautiful and human thing that he King of Creation called forth from me will fall to the earth and grow brambly and wild, and some homesick and hungry soul will leave the well-worn path and say, ‘Look! Someone lived here. Praise God, there are berries everywhere.’”

It’s hard here on this broken earth to believe in the good that God has given to each one of His children, to actually put to use the talents that belong to God and are to be stewarded in you and in me. As Andrew Peterson puts it, “Love the Lord your God and love your neighbor, too, by making worlds and works of beauty that blanket the earth like flowers. Let your homesickness keep you always from spiritual slumber. Remember that it is in the fellowship of saints, of friends and family, that your gift will grow best, and will find its best expression.”

So, I highly recomment Adorning the Dark by Andrew Peterson.  You will be challenged, encouraged, and enlightened on your journey to use creative outlets for God’s glory. And maybe I will share more book reviews over the coming months—as soon as I finish the four books I have going at the moment. Happy Reading!