Pragmatic Communion

pragmatic living in the presence of God

oil and water. anxiety and faith.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Psalm 139:23-24

I’m anxious. Yet at the same time at peace. Trying to figure out what I have to do. Waiting on answers from other people. At the same time I’m literally OVERwhelmed with a sense of “it is what it is” and a profound belief that God has a reason for allowing this in my life.

I’m not clear on the meaning of the Subpoena Duces Tecum sitting here on my desk, but my accountant tells me I’m being audited by the Florida Department of Revenue. It seems the payroll service hired to file my quarterly taxes . . . didn’t.

It started last Friday when my husband got a call on his cell from a gentleman at the Department of Revenue. The message? Copies of my quarterly tax documents needed to be faxed to him by Monday or a lien would be filed against my company.

Let the phone calls begin. Accountant. Payroll service. DOR Representative. Can’t reach the accountant, payroll service wouldn’t talk with us because technically, the accountant was their client, not us and the DOR representative interrupted my husband explaining this to say, “I don’t care about any of that, I just need the documents by Monday.”

Anybody know me? How do I handle it when a problem that needs fixin can’t be fixed? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it the rest of my flippin life: “I don’t do “nothing” well.”

FirstHusband prescribed a day on the boat Saturday.

Monday. Let the phone calls begin again. Accountant is reachable. Payroll service rep is not. (at the time of this writing – Thursday – I have no idea if a lien has been filed against my company.)

Tuesday. We wait. Payroll service is figuring things out. I’m scouring (for HOURS) the entire house for any tax paperwork I might have missed. Nothing. I’m scouring my accounts to find the tax payment that the payroll service was supposed to automatically withdraw. I have no date of withdrawal and no amount. I finally found it. January 8th. For $0.00. No. That’s not a typo. The automatic withdrawal was for ZERO.

Wednesday. Accountant faxes every tax document that exists for my company to the DOR. The DOR rep, finding my accountant’s phone number on the fax coversheet, calls and asks for the UTC-6 form, which was included in the original fax of 24 pages. That particular document is faxed again, this time alone. The Payroll service finds the error and assures that they will refile and cover any delinquencies.

Thursday. I call the DOR rep to ask him to please clarify that the appearance time on the Subpoena is a typographical error, that the time of appearance should be 2 P.m., not 2 A.m. I also ask him if there are any other documents I need to bring other than copies of the ones already faxed to him.

Now I wait. Did I mention that I don’t do “nothing” well?

Friday. Tomorrow. I hope the DOR rep, currently in possession of all the documents he’s asked for, does not require me to personally deliver additional copies of them tomorrow. I’ve got rides and childcare covered for now, but I’ll need to pick FavoriteSon up by 4pm or his sits on the curb at school and waits after basketball camp.

it is what it is.

I’m looking at it this way. Either God is allowing this situation so I can learn something from it or God is allowing me to be used so He can work in someone else’s life. If the lesson is mine, here’s what I’ve learned:

I can do everything I know to prepare, but in the end, the result is not up to me. I did the right thing. I don’t know diddly or squat about taxes, so I took trusted advice and thankfully outsourced those responsibilities to professionals. One of them made a mistake. I’ve made what I see as a much bigger mistake in my business before. Their mistake was just a clerical error. Like the a.m./p.m. typo on the subpoena. Hopefully the DOR rep will see the parallel.

I need to take action, to do what I can do, but in the end, GOD is all powerful and nothing happens to me that he doesn’t allow. Sometimes he allows stuff I don’t particularly like. Sometimes he affords undeserved blessings that blow me away. I don’t sit around and wait on God to serve me like I’m at Olive Garden. I need to get off my butt and cook my own dinner. And even then? The couscous could turn out lumpy. Cause I don’t control how water seeps into a grain of couscous.

I can pray and ask God for what I want and/or think I need, but in the end, He is all-knowing and all-powerful. I either trust that in EVERY situation or I don’t. No middle ground. He knows what is best for me and He has the power to make ANYthing happen in my life. When I ask Him to allow me to serve Him more, when I ask Him to “SEND ME!!” I have to trust that sometimes He sends me and doesn’t let me in on the reason why. Sometimes, I get exactly what I’ve prayed for – He allows me to serve Him more – and I don’t even realize it. He may allow me to be a part of His story while not allowing me to read that part of the book. Since I don’t know the ending, prayer is the FIRST thing I’m to do, not the last resort after I’ve tried everything else first.

This perspective permeates my life.

My husband and I can work as hard as we want to make a life and a home for our family, but in the end, GOD is in control. Every time my husband arrives home from a business trip, it is because God kept him safe and returned him to us. Every time we leave the house, it is by God’s grace that we aren’t involved in the accidents we see as we rush from one place to another. Every time my son steps out onto the football field or the basketball court or the track, he walks away uninjured because of God’s mercy. Every time my daughter sings I hear God’s gift to her. Every time I arm our alarm and our family curls up in our beds in an air conditioned house I am trusting God for another night of safety and rest. I know how fast a home can be lost, a person can be taken and safety can disappear. It is by God’s grace that we are undeservedly blessed and unconditionally loved.

As I raise my kids, I can make the best choices I know how, actively seeking to learn more as I encounter problems and decisions along the way. I try and equip them spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, physically, relationally . . . but in the end, GOD loves them more than I do. He knows what they need to experience so they will grow into the people He knows they can be. I can pray to be a good steward of these precious gifts in my life, but in the end, they belong to Him and everything that happens to them passes through His hands first.

I have an opportunity to record two songs next month instead of just one. I can rehearse and go to voice lessons and listen to harmonies and work out what I’m going to sing and where . . . but I canNOT control when my voice cracks. or when I become too tired after hours of singing in that little booth. I can select a song I like or I can pray and ask God to lead me to the song He wants me to record. He knows if and when that song will reach out and meet a need I may never know about. He can use the recording of that particular song to speak to the heart of one of the guys working in the sound booth. I can’t control whether I get the harmonies right when it counts, no matter how much I rehearse. The end result is up to GOD. HE gave me my voice. He can do with it what he pleases.

I can market my business as much as I want, but in the end? The phone rings because He allows it. The prospective client emails me because He allows it. The clients cancel because He allows it. An opportunity to sing or speak is offered to me because HE allows it.

But still after writing all that, there is anxiety. It causes my husband to say “stop eating rope.” when I tell him my stomach is in knots.

It takes conscious, continuous effort to trust God sometimes. Like today.

Today, I’m doing nothing. Another word for that? Abiding.

“Like others, I have prayed for healings, for miracles, for guidance, and for assistance.
Frankly, there were times I was sure God would answer me because I had mustered strong feelings of faith. But many of those times nothing happened – or if it did, it was entirely unlike what I had anticipated.”
Ordering Your Private World
by Gordon MacDonald


This was dual published on my Pragmatic Compendium blog.

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June 17, 2010 Posted by | christian living, faith, god's will, grace, patience, prayer, spiritual growth | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

no further uneasiness.

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.”
Romans 8:1 (NIV)

I was introduced to the writings of Henri Nouwen through the writings of Philip Yancey and I’m finding in Mr. Nouwen a trait I gravitate to in writers: The willingness to be open about their weaknesses and the courage to publicly share their questions about God. When I read authors who allow me to see their confusion and doubt and take me with them, through their writing, to explore the possibilities, I am the better for it. They make me think about things outside my relatively tiny little world. And I believe that God, through these writers, sometimes teaches me what my life looks like through his eyes. Henri Nouwen is a case in point.

Nouwen, in seeking to answer the question, “What do we really desire?” believes the word “communion” seems to best summarize the desire of the human heart:

“Communion means ‘union with.’ God has given us a heart that will remain restless until it has found full communion. We look for it in friendship, in marriage, in community. We look for it in sexual intimacy, in moments of ecstasy, in the recognition of our gifts. We look for it through success, admiration, and rewards. But wherever we look, it is communion we seek . . .”

Henri Nouwen
The Only Necessary Thing: Living a Prayerful Life

My favorite coffee mug reads, “That which is good to know is difficult to learn.”

Ain’t it the truth?

Why is this so difficult to learn? Why is it so difficult to remember that these temporary distractions stand in the way of experiencing the communion with God that really satisfies and fills me with the peace of God I crave?

Because I forget God.

And I am not alone. Look at the Israelites. Time and time and time again, they forgot God. And I’m no better. I forget God. And when I do, what do I do? I can stand around paralyzed by guilt and whine about the fact that I forgot Him AGAIN, or I can repent, confess and come back. I choose to hurry up and come back. Time’s a wasting! I don’t want to lose one minute of communion with God because I’m too busy beating myself up for something Jesus died for. This is why God sent His son. He KNEW we would forget. He KNEW we needed Grace.

And I gratefully accept His Grace. So I repent and come back into communion with Him. But I know I’ll forget Him again. And. So. But. Repeat.

C.S. Lewis talked about the fall of man in the book “The Problem of Pain“. He acknowledged that while most of us think of the “fall of man” as an event, something that happened in the Garden of Eden, he also sees the fall of man as something that happens daily. It’s a, sometimes moment by moment, falling away from God’s presence. He wrote:

“at this very moment you and I are either committing it, or about to commit it, or are repenting it.”

Ain’t it the truth?

I can also identify with Jack’s daily determination stay in communion with God:

“We try, when we wake, to lay the new day at God’s feet; before we have finished shaving, it becomes our day and God’s share in it is felt as a tribute which we must pay out of our own pocket, a deduction from the time which ought, we feel to be ‘our own.’

Since I don’t shave every day, I’m wondering how much faster I take my day back than Jack did. Do I claim my day for myself before my feet even hit the floor? I’m thinkin some days – YES.

But by the grace of God, when I remember Him, the immediacy of my repentance and return is prompted by a quote from The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence:

“When he had failed in his duty, he only confessed his fault saying to God, “I shall never do otherwise, if You leave me to myself. It is You who must hinder my failing and mend what is amiss.” Then, after this, he gave himself no further uneasiness about it. (emphasis added)

I’ve forgotten God. I forgot Him yesterday. I forgot Him earlier today. And I will forget Him again. I will fall away from His presence. Again. Even after having experienced the profound peace and contentment from communion with God, I will instead strive after the temporary distractions Henri Nouwen described. But, when I remember HIM again and I recognize my God-given desire for communion with Him, I will come back and by His Grace, I will “give myself no further uneasiness about it.”

What blocks forgiveness is not God’s reticence, -‘But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him
and was filled with compassion for him’ – but ours. God’s arms are always extended; we are the ones who turn away.

Philip Yancey
What’s So Amazing About Grace?

March 31, 2010 Posted by | books, christian living, comfort, faith, grace, gratitude, prayer, spiritual growth | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

don’t react. respond.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Romans 12:18 NIV

When I was in high school, I worked at McDonalds. I started on “fries and shakes” (back when they actually MADE the shakes – with ice cream and syrup and a real shake machine ). Over the years I worked every job, from birthday party hostess to counter to drive thru to grill . . . even manager trainee.

During my senior year of high school, I was assigned to work drive thru with another girl from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. One of us worked the window and the other “filled the orders.” Back then, McDonalds only had ONE drive thru window. Back then, working the window meant taking the orders at the speaker AND taking the money AND handing the orders to the customer. So, one of us stood in the same place for 4 hours every day and the other ran around like crazy, filling the orders. When I worked the window, I would take the order from the customer at the speaker, take the money from the customer at the window, turn around, grab the already filled bag and drinks, hand them out the window and repeat. All the while my friend and co-worker bobbed and weaved through the employees working the counter to grab food and fill the next bag. Some shifts I worked the window and she filled orders, some shifts she worked the window and I filled orders.

WE. WERE. FAST. Our goal was the “30 second drive thru” McDonalds constantly pushed. If the manager kept the food coming from the grill and there was an assigned “fry” person, we were very, very often able to meet that 30 second mark.

It got boring.

So, we looked for ways to make things more interesting. First we tried pranks and jokes. Like writing “HELP! LET ME OUT! on an empty bag and place it where the filled order should go, that kind of thing. That got boring. What to do. What to do . . .

We decided we were going to make people smile within 30 seconds. Getting the friendly people to smile was easy. Getting the distracted and indifferent people to smile – also easy. Each smile was a win. The challenge? Cranky people. We were going to get them to smile too. When a grouchy, mean, impatient, cranky, sarcastic (you get the idea) customer came to our drive thru, we were sickeningly sweet and friendly. We smiled, we were overly-nice, we joked, we smiled more. And when a cranky person drove away after giving a smile – or even just a grin? That wasn’t just a win, it was a bonus!

We used kindness as a weapon, adopting the “kill em’ with kindness” philosophy. It was fun, and we got through our shifts without hating the job or the customers. We were just kids, goofing around, thinking we were manipulating people and feeling impressed with ourselves.

But what I learned from that experience has stayed with me. It doesn’t take much to diffuse a situation. It actually takes very little. Very little pride or arrogance, I mean. It means giving people grace instead of what I think they deserve. When I diffuse a situation, it means no more “right back atcha” or “no you di ent!” It means consciously choosing to respond, instead of react. I’ve mentioned this before, that I want to respond instead of react. I learned it from my sister-in-law. She told me that one year her prayer and goal was to learn how to respond, instead of react. It was a l o n g year. Her next year’s prayer and goal?

To respond appropriately.

I love that. I’m working on that. Not that I’m able to do it all the time, mind you, but I have realized something. When I’m off balance, when I don’t get any solitude, when I’m tired and/or over-extended, when I don’t devote time to prayer or reading my Bible – I’m irritable. When I’m irritable, I take it out on other people. But, when I’M okay, when I have peace, I have the wherewithal to overcome my first reaction and instead, choose to respond. I can give people grace instead of what I think they deserve.

Strangers, acquaintances, friends, family – it doesn’ matter. Because it has nothing to do with THEM. It’s a decision I make about how I will respond to them, no matter the relationship. No matter the offense.

Sounds lofty. Pious. Impossible. Maybe. I can’t do it all the time. But I can try. And if I fail when I fail, I’ll try again.

Words can never adequately convey the incredible impact of our attitude toward life. The longer I live the more convinced I become that life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we respond to it.
Charles R. Swindoll
Christian Reader, v. 33, n. 4.


This devotion was inspired by Amy’s post entitled “When You Give Someone a Cookie” at “God’s Work in Progress.

August 20, 2008 Posted by | grace, spiritual growth, Uncategorized, witnessing | , , , , | 5 Comments

never going to stop trying

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.
Romans 8:1-4 NIV

I love old books.

The dusty old book I picked up this week is entitled “What is a Christian” by A. Leonard Griffith, copyright 1962.

“First and foremost, Christianity is a relationship to a Person. In that sense it differs from great world religions like Judaism and Hinduism and it differs from Communism and other rival secular faiths that compete for men’s allegiance today. All these direct our loyalty to a theological system, a code of ethics, a philosophy or an ideology, but Christianity alone directs our loyalty to a Person. Where Christ is, there is Christianity, and the Christian is a person who tries to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

We say “tries” because no one succeeds perfectly. How very wrong to assume that either you must be a first-class Christian or else you have no right to call yourself a Christian at all. We should never adopt that attitude toward other things. We do not deny ourselves the privilege of education simply because we are not first-class scholars, or the pleasure of singing because we are not of concert calibre, or the enjoyment of knocking a golf ball because we lack professional skill.

The real zest in life lies not in achievement but in effort, not in having arrived, but in striving.”

What a humbling reminder. Being a Christian comes down to ONE thing. A relationship to a Person (with a capital “P”). It is this Person I fail when I sin, not myself. When I become disappointed or frustrated about not meeting my own expectations, I need to remember who it is I am really disappointing. If my goals are in line with God’s will, if my striving is to glorify God, whose “expectations” have I really failed when I sin?

I can’t be a “first-class” Christian. What is that anyway?

I’m going to try to follow Christ. And in this “striving” Mr. Griffith talks about, I have been able to see the sin in self-condemnation.

I will sin. Any minute now. I don’t know how, but I will. I’m human. And I don’t want to waste one minute berating myself. It’s as if Jesus is standing there, waiting on me, with scars on his hands and feet, asking me to come and I respond by saying:

“I’ll be there in a minute. I’m not finished punishing myself yet.”

If Jesus was actually physically standing there, I wonder if he would roll his eyes and say:

“You just don’t get it, do you? Come here. RIGHT NOW. Sit down. Let me explain Grace one more time.”

Instead of wasting time and devaluing Grace by berating myself, I need to sincerely repent, ask forgiveness and try again. I need – and want – to start striving again as soon as possible. Self-condemnation prevents me from doing that. Self-condemnation delays my striving.

I can’t be perfect. It’s just not possible. But I’m not going to let that stop me from trying to follow Christ. If I wander off the road, the Holy Spirit is my GPS. I will find the “right” road again. But I refuse to stand there, in the middle of the “wrong” road, whining about the fact that I got lost.

Again.

By no preachment can we really satisfy that earnest inquirer who asked,
“What is a Christian?” But I wonder if we could point him to someone we know,
someone who has responded to the Master’s call and who so tries to follow Jesus
that of him it might be said, “There goes a Christian.”
A. Leonard Griffith


UPDATE: Debbie’s comment caused me to rethink my wording – and prompted me to do a little research. Found an interesting video on youtube. A preacher talks about the idea of “disappointing God” being a lie. See my comment below Debbie’s for my thoughts on this.

May 31, 2008 Posted by | books, grace, pragmatic presence, spiritual growth, witnessing | 5 Comments

freedom to be different

Fathers, do not provoke or irritate or fret your children [do not be hard on them or harass them], lest they become discouraged and sullen and morose and feel inferior and frustrated. [Do not break their spirit.]
Colossians 3:21 The Amplified Bible

My daughter is a free spirit.

She sings. Loud. She sings Disney princess songs and hymns. Praise songs and jingles. She sings her own personal compositions. Sometimes they rhyme, sometimes not. Her own songs are l-o- n-g. She sings about everything. Love. Jesus. Her Heart. Disney. Sometimes she throws in a line about gross bodily functions before cracking herself up because it is SO hysterically funny. (She’s 7.) She sings in the car and doesn’t care who stares. She will climb to the top of a playground structure and sing her songs to an audience in the sky. She doesn’t care if people can hear her. She wants people to hear her.

Please don’t tell her to be quiet.

She dances. She twirls. She vogues. She bounces. She skips. She runs when and where there is open space. She swings. HIGH. She calls out “Watch me!” and wants me to take her picture. This is what happy looks like.

Please don’t tell her to sit still.

She loves to dress up. She can’t watch “Annie” without pausing the DVD player for multiple costume changes. She “invents” outfits and hairstyles. She wears prints with stripes, pink with orange and mismatched socks for “flair.” She loves lipstick and jewelry. She loves pink. Not pastel pink. PEPTO pink! BOLD pink.

Please don’t “correct” her wardrobe selections.

She loves to perform. The fireplace hearth is her stage. She wrote a play when she was in pre-kindergarten. She sat in a chair for hours on a Friday night, writing on one piece of paper after another. When it was all said and done, written on each piece of paper were the lines of each character in her play. When I typed it up for her later, she knew immediately which paper to read from next as she dictated the dialog for me. The spelling was creative, but the play was complete with a hero, a villain, a quest, and lots of songs to sing.

Please don’t tell her to “act like the other kids.”

She finds wonder in so many things. A lizard hiding in the grass. A crushed acorn. The shape of a cloud. She can’t go for a walk around the block without stopping every few feet to pick up a leaf, pet a neighbor’s cat or point out something interesting. She wants to see everything and go everywhere. And she wants to tell you all about it. Because it’s made such an imprint on her, she believes she should share it.

Please don’t make absentminded comments when she’s talking to you. She’s smart. She knows.

Don’t get me wrong. She’s not wild and undisciplined. She understands that she should whisper in a library, sit quietly attentive and respectfully listen to her teachers in class, and wear her uniform to school. She understands that sometimes she needs to follow directions instead of direct her own elaborate scripts. She knows to share and to take something she finds to lost and found. She knows that if we forget to pay for the case of soda under the grocery cart, that we are going back inside the store to make it right. She knows proper manners for the using the phone, how to handle a laptop computer and how to carry scissors. She understands that she can’t break out of line at school to chase a lizard or twirl. She knows not to run in a parking lot and to look both ways before she crosses the street. She knows to wear shorts under her skirts so no one can see “London” and that she can’t wear makeup to school and church. She even knows the only time her belly button should show in public is when she is wearing a bathing suit.

What she doesn’t know yet is that someday she may be too embarrassed to express herself “out loud” like she does now. She hasn’t spent time with “that” person. You know, the person who will try to convince her that her free and confident self-expression is inappropriate or wrong. The person who will introduce doubt and self-consciousness.

I pray that when faced with that person – that criticism – she is confident enough to stand strong and be herself. I refuse to silence her just because of what other people might think. I refuse to force her to wear what I think she should or tell her that she should only wear two braids, instead of six. I refuse to make her sit down when there’s no reason she can’t run. I refuse to squelch her spirit – just because it’s different than mine.

Sometimes it looks like she is dancing without music. She’s not. The music is in her heart. We can hear it if we just listen.

Not allowing your children to do innocent but different things is the logical outgrowth of a belief system that emphasizes the symbols of faith rather than it’s substance. This shallow religion measures success more by the image than by genuine authenticity.
Dr. Tim Kimmel
Grace Based Parenting

February 19, 2008 Posted by | books, grace, moms, music, parenting | 6 Comments

taking every opportunity

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Proverbs 15:1

We watch Hannah Montana on the Disney Channel. By “we,” I mean our entire family. Our house is laid out so that the kitchen and the family room are pretty much one big room. So when Hannah Montana is on the TV, it’s difficult to miss. Truth is, I like it. We all like it. We like it so much that we have the DVR set to record all showings. ALL showings. So we’ve watched the same episodes more than a few times. I’m right there with Lysa when she says she turns Hannah Montana UP, and not off, when her daughter gets out of the car!

There’s one episode where Hannah is on a talk show with another teen pop star, named Mikala. Mikala is singing her new hit song and Hannah is clearly enjoying it. Hannah seems genuinely happy for Mikala’s success. Mikala finishes the song, Hannah gives her a big girly hug and then the talk show cuts to a commercial break. That’s when Mikala lets Hannah know she’s not a Hannah fan. Then we watch Hannah change. We watch Hannah do the “right back atcha!” The two girls are bitter rivals instantly. “Harsh words” abound! Take a look at the video clip.

Now, our family has watched this particular episode a number of times, but this time, I say:

“pause” (don’t you LOVE DVRs?)

“what?”

“Did you see what happened there?”

“what?”

“Did you see how Hannah changed?”

“how?”

“When Mikala was singing, what was Hannah doing? Was she happy for Mikala?”

“yeh.”

“And what did Hannah do after Mikala was finished with her song?”

“hugged her.”

“But then Mikala was really mean to Hannah.”

“yeh”

“So what did Hannah do after Mikala was so mean?”

“she was mean back.”

“What do you think would have happened if Hannah had still been nice to Mikala, even when Mikala was being mean?”

“I dunno.”

“I wonder if maybe Mikala and Hannah would have ended up friends.”

“Mom. It’s just a tv show.”

“Oh no it isn’t babe. Its an OBJECT LESSON.”

(loud groaning in stereo)

FirstHusband and I were talking to FavoriteSon about object lessons later that day and he said, “Mom, it’s just that you do it SO much!”

We cracked up! (It’s working! They’re paying attention! Wooo Hooo!)

I said, “You better get used to it buddy, because you are going to be getting them your entire life. You’re going to be 38 years old and I’m still going to be saying, ‘If you think about it this way . . . ‘ “

FirstHusband said, “No, no, no, no, no. You’re going to be 38, talking to YOUR kid, saying, ‘If you think about it this way'”

Yeah, he rolls his eyes NOW. But he uses object lessons with his 7 year old sister already. He can’t help it. He never stood a chance. heh, heh, heh.

With a new attitude everything can change,
make it how you want it to be.
Stayin’ mad, why do that?
Give yourself a break.

Laugh about it and you’ll see.

Life’s what you make it, so let’s make it rock!
Life’s what you make it,
so come on come on, everybody now!
Hannah Montana (Life’s What You Make It)

February 11, 2008 Posted by | grace, moms, music | 3 Comments

i am not alone

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, 12

I’m the book lady. Every year, my church has a HUGE rummage sale. Two full weeks, weekends included, are spent unloading storage units, picking up and accepting donations, sorting, pricing and basically setting up an entire gymnasium for the annual “Whale of a Sale” held the first weekend of October.

I’m the book lady.

I take two weeks off from clients and work the Whale, every day. In that two week span, I literally touch thousands of books. They are categorized by topic and fiction is alphabetized by author’s last name. They sit on three rows of 6 or 7 folding tables (the big ones), in boxes, spine up, facing the shopper. Each box has a sign sticking up from it with my handwriting on it, indicating the contents of the box: Cookbooks, Physical Health, Emotional Health, Parenting, Travel, Military History, American History, World History, Gardening, etc. In each box, you can see the name of nearly every book without having to touch a single one. If you are looking for a particular book, just ask me. I”ll tell you if we have it and, if so, exactly where it is. The comments from people who see it range from, “Wow. This is amazing.” to “Who did all this?” (in a “that person is insane” tone of voice.) In the first few years, I did much of it myself, but now there are actually a handful of people who “get” me and can help sort without messing up the system.

The added benefit is that I get first pickings. At a $1.00 per hardback and $.50 for paperbacks and children’s books, I bring home a bookcase worth every year. My I.O.U grows ominously for two weeks as I sneak boxes of books into my house. Some women buy clothes, secretly hang them in the closet and when their husband comments the first time the clothing is worn, the women say, “This? I’ve had this for years.” Not me. I bring home books, quickly pull off the price tag and shelve them. I don’t say a word. I read so many books at one time, I never get asked, “Is that a new book?” My husband can’t keep up. This year was more difficult. I ran out of shelving space and had to reorganize the playroom. A six foot shelf that used to house toys, games and puzzles now houses fitness, diet and health books. (The shelf is right next to the treadmill after all.)

So, I’m the book lady.

I was asked to give my testimony at United Methodist Women Sunday last week and that’s how I started. It went something like this (and thankfully, with laughter in all the right places):

“My name is Julie Mills, but if you were at the Whale of a Sale, you probably know me as the book lady. I’m not a librarian. I just have freakish organizational skills. If I’m invited to your house and you have books, I may organize them while we chat. One of the books that came in this year was “Eat Pray Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert. I’ve been on the waiting list at the library for this book for more than 6 months, so when it came in, it was MINE! Liz Gilbert is a journalist who spend a year of her life traveling in Italy (to eat), Indonesia (to pray) and India (to love). She wrote about her experience, and although she’s not a professed Christian, I’ve gained so much insight as I run her words through my own perspective as a Christian. I’d like to read an excerpt I found particularly meaningful. In speaking about the differences between her sister, Catherine and herself, Liz wrote:

“A family in my sister’s neighborhood was recently stricken with a double tragedy, when both the young mother and her three-year old son were diagnosed with cancer. When Catherine told me about this, I could only say, shocked, “Dear God, that family needs grace.” She replied firmly, “That family needs casseroles,” and then proceeded to organize the entire neighborhood into bringing that family dinner, in shifts, every single night, for an entire year. I do not know if my sister fully recognizes that this is grace.”

See, they’re not so different after all. Compare me to another 40 something woman, with two children and a minivan. Although we look similar, we would probably say we are very different. But when you look more closely, those differences fade. What I discover is that I’m not alone. Especially in UMW. When you are a member of a UMW Circle, you have microwave friends. Instant friends. Women who support each other. Pray for each other. Bring food in times of trouble. Women who understand, because even if they aren’t going through what you are at the moment, some of them have already gone through it. Others may face the same issues in their future. We can learn from each other. Trust each other. Encourage each other. Accept each other. I feel like I’m ready to invite any one of my circle friends to my house . . . and not vacuum. Okay, I’ll probably leave the vacuum cleaner out in the middle of the room and say I was gonna.

The point is, we’re not alone. In UMW, you are never alone.”

After my testimony, I sang “Orphans of God” by Avalon:

Who here among us has not been broken
Who here among us is without guilt or pain
So oft’ abandoned by our transgressions
If such a thing as grace exists
Then grace was made for lives like this

There are no strangers
There are no outcasts
There are no orphans of God
So many fallen, but hallelujah
There are no orphans of God

Come ye unwanted and find affection
Come all ye weary, come and lay down your head
Come ye unworthy, you are my (sister) brother
If such a thing as grace exists
Then grace was made for lives like this

O blessed Father, look down upon us
We are Your children, we need Your love
We run before Your throne of mercy
And seek Your face to rise above

November 1, 2007 Posted by | books, grace, service, witnessing, women | 2 Comments

adolescence and menopause in the same house


A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel.
Proverbs 15:18 NIV

Adolescence and menopause in the same house? I PRAY that doesn’t happen. I can’t imagine how things would be if I had a reduced capacity for patience, understanding and giving grace when faced with an unreasonable, prolonged outburst from a cranky person who has decided to use me as a scape goat for . . . everything. Seriously. EVERYTHING. Here’s a sampling from this week:

If someone is hungry, it’s my fault.
(why didn’t I bring them a snack?).
If someone gets a haircut when they don’t feel like it, my fault.
(when exactly WOULD be a good time?)
If someone has tangles in their hair, my fault.
(why didn’t I braid it for sleeping?)
If American Idol gets erased from the DVR, my fault.
(why do I have so many shows set for “keep” anyway?)
If someone didn’t finish a drawing in after school care, my fault.
(why did I come to pick up so early?)
If someone doesn’t finish homework, my fault.
(I made them go to church on Wednesday night!)
If someone even HAS homework, it’s my fault.
(not sure why, but I still get the grief)
If something is confiscated, my fault again.
(when you throw something, you lose it. The length of time lost is directly proportional to the force with which it was heaved and how heavy it is. Targets are irrelevent: people, cats, floor or air – it’s all throwing.)

It seems like no matter what it is, I’m doin’ it wrong. Oddly, I’m okay with that most of the time. Only by God’s grace. There’s no other answer for it. I’m certainly not able to do this on my own. Yesterday, I was tired. When I’m tired, I go straight for, “Nobody talk. Look out your (car) windows.” Then it’s either mumbling (the 11 year old big brother) or “but . . . ” (the 6 year old little sister). “AAhhh! NOBODY talk.”

I just have to make sure I’m never tired and I should be able to tap into that patience and understanding God is trying to equip me with. If I lose sight of my conscious objective of trying to model acceptable behavior and teach them to give each other grace, my attitude deteriorates. When that happens, bickering triumphs and my stated goals for raising my family are derailed. With so little time to implant and cement these fundamental concepts in my children’s subconcious, I need excercise patience when they are behaving . . . like children. Today? So far, so good. But it is only 8:23 a.m. And it’s Wednesday.

Adolescence and menopause in the house at the same time? As Oprah so frequently says: “I’m asceard.”

January 24, 2007 Posted by | grace, moms, patience | Leave a comment