Teaching Gratitude

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We went to Lake Tahoe for Easter. We stayed with cousins. We went to the sno-park and had a seafood dinner and there was ice cream and swimming and prime rib and an Easter egg hunt.

And then on Sunday afternoon, when I wanted to hit the shops before dinner, one of my lovelies threw a fit: I don’t want to go shopping. That’s not fun for me. Can I stay home?

Sometimes, when we do stuff, I see my kids grow and learn and I think “This was worth it.”

But sometimes I think “We give them too much for nothing.”

I’ve talked about this before—my worry that the life we give them because we are older parents with more working years and discretionary income under our belts comes with a cost.

My kids have travelled a lot. Shea and I like to travel and make it a priority. But there are moments where I see that the children have come to expect certain things.

At 4 am that troubles me.

In the middle of a condo in Lake Tahoe on Sunday, my head exploded.

That’s not fun for me.

I think teaching our kids gratitude may be the hardest of all parenting lessons. It’s so big and goes on for so long. First, say please. Then thank you. Wait your turn. Share. Be a good listener. Let others go first.

Those are the easy ones.

The older kids get, the more conceptual gratitude becomes. It’s not enough to say please and thank you. Some of the rudest pre-teens I know always remember to say please and thank you.

So here’s what I said: “Life is not all about you. It is not about what’s fun for you. It’s not about you at all. It will never be about you, not ever, ever in your whole life. Unless you are the Grinch and live in a cave with your dog. Even then, you will have to think about the dog. But if you want a family, friends, a job and general happiness, then life will never, ever, ever be just about you. EVER.”

It was a moment. Such a moment that I thought maybe I had cut off too big a slice of truth for their ears. I retreated to my spiritual mom guilt cave and thought about it. For like, 20 seconds, because mom guilt is not my thing and the cave is small.

For five of those seconds my mom ego yelled But these kids ARE special and there should be whole years dedicated to their specialness and one day if we just love them and protect them and write their college entrance essays, they are going to RULE THE WORLD!

I shut her up fast because that is the wrong thing. Jesus wrong, kindness wrong, other people matter wrong. Wrong.

Teaching them that they belong to and are responsible for each other? That’s right. It’s not too early either, because the secular world is selling a different message and selling it loudly. We have to start today so by tomorrow they will realize how connected they are to others and that decisions have rippling consequences and those ripples can be positive and turn into waves and help them CHANGE THE WORLD.

Much better.

In the immortal words of my dad, Papa T—parenting is a marathon, not a sprint. Which means start early AND stay the course. We can’t stop at please and thank you and think we’ve done our job.

It’s bigger than that.

 

My Girl Martha

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Two Sundays ago, the Gospel reading was the Lazarus story from John 11. It’s only glancingly about Lazarus. He died. They buried him.

It’s more about Martha, who came running out to meet Jesus and speak some truth right at Him: If you had been here, he would not have died, which is a conversation we’ll be having later. Right now, you can fix this.

She barely waits for an answer before she gets Mary up and sends her out. She readies the folk. This is Martha. She’s a doer. This is her Messiah and she knows he’s going to do something to make them all feel better. She trusts him.

Mostly.

Because the next thing Jesus says is “Open the tomb” and that is one step farther than poor Martha is prepared to trust.

She points out the obvious, in front of a crowd no less: “Lord, by now there will be a stench. He has been dead four days.”

Or in the Douay-Rheims: “Lord, by this time he stinketh.”

Some people may wonder what Martha was thinking, calling out Jesus in public. Not me. I know that Martha was wondering what Jesus was thinking.

Martha is my favorite Bible lady, the worker bee, acts of service, everything’s under control half of the sisters who were so close to Jesus in his ministry. I relate to Martha. Every time we read the other Martha story, in Luke. I always mutter under my breath in stubborn solidarity “Sure, I’ll sit down and listen but don’t complain to me later when you’re hungry and there’s no food.”

I relate to Martha’s flaw as well—her desire that her plan be God’s plan, instead of the other way around. I get it. I do it. I even think it’s reasonable sometimes.

Why can’t my way be His way, if we’re headed to the same place? Why can’t we follow my directions instead of his?

The answer is a hard one to stomach for Type A gals like Martha and me: It’s because the big picture is BIG, too big for us to see. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead that day in preparation for what was to come: his own death and resurrection.

Jesus loved Martha. And he loves me and all my fellow worker bee, acts of service, everything’s under control sisters and brothers. I know this because he gave us Martha, in the Gospels of Luke and John, so we could see for ourselves that it isn’t wrong to question with an open and honest heart. Only to not listen to the answer.

And can I just say that for me, if there was any doubt to the claim that Jesus was the Son of God, it evaporates in the moment Lazarus walks out of the tomb and Jesus doesn’t cut Martha some side eye.

That is SUPERNATURAL self-control right there.

We Will Rise

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On Sunday at Mass, our visiting priest from Tanzania told this story:

A farmer was given an egg. He didn’t know what kind of an egg it was so he put it with his chickens and waited to see what might happen.

The egg hatched. It was an eagle. But the eagle didn’t know he was an eagle, so he grew up as a chicken.

One day a wild eagle landed nearby and said “Friend, what are you doing among the chickens?” And the eagle said “I AM a chicken.” The wild eagle shook his head. “No, my friend. You are not a chicken. You are an eagle. You can fly. You can hunt. The world is yours.” But the eagle said “I have always been here, in this coop, eating corn and termites. I know nothing about those other things. I am a chicken.”

The wild eagle flew away. But the next day he came back. “You know what life is like as a chicken, cooped and corn and termites. Come with me for one week and see what life is like as an eagle.”

The eagle agreed to one week, and the two eagles flew away. For a week, the eagle flew as high as the heavens and saw all the world below him: mountains, oceans, prairies, lakes. He hunted fiercely and visited nests built in the tops of the tallest trees and clinging to the steepest cliffs. He saw all the vagaries of life and death, beauty and pain, courage and fear.

But at the end of the week, he went back to the chickens.

The wild eagle flew after him. “What are you doing?” he asked. “You’ve lived the life of an eagle! Why would you go back to the chickens in their coop, eating corn and termites and never having the chance to fly???”

And the eagle said “I like the chickens. I belong with the chickens. I am a chicken.”

The world calls us to be chickens, content in our cages, heads down, eating what we are fed.

But we are not chickens.

We are fearfully and wonderfully made. We are beloved children of God.

We are eagles.

They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength,
    they will soar on eagles’ wings;
They will run and not grow weary,
    walk and not grow faint.
Isaiah 40:31

Every Day is Valentine’s Day

If you and I are friends on Facebook or if you follow me on Instagram, you are more than familiar with my #everydayisvalentinesday hashtag.  You see, one day, when I least expected it, love happened.

Tory and I first met in 1987, when I started junior high.  A few years later, we became closer friends during my freshman year, his junior year.  We were BFFs the next year, and in the time before email, My Space, and Facebook, we were pen pals when he went to college.  My senior year, I broke up with my boyfriend two days before prom, and Tory came back and took me.

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Then I went to college in Virginia, he started working full time and going to school, and after the summer of 1994, we kind of lost touch.

Fast forward 21 years to 2015, we reconnected.  We had both split from our spouses, and we both had children.  We met for lunch one day, only expecting to catch up with an old friend, but we soon realized that there was much more to our unfinished story.

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Having a relationship that is based in this deep friendship, caring, and genuine love for each other (you should read what I wrote in his yearbook senior year.  #humiliating.) is amazing.  We love each other’s family, and we love each other’s children as our own.  When we started posting pictures on social media, all of our friends from back in high school were so happy for us.  And soon, #everydayisvalentinesday was born.  Pictures graced our feeds from restaurants, Christmas parties, the beach, volleyball games, Angel games, Disneyland.  Jen told me once that it’s like we’re living in our twenties again.  And you know what, it is.  Christmas Eve is even Valentine’s Day.

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But before I continue to gush, let me be clear.  We are not perfect.  Life is also tough.  We both have major things in our past that affect our everyday lives.  We cry.  And bleed.  And our hearts break.  Through custody battles, court dates, money issues, going back to work, we have made a pact:  we will get through it…. together.

Now, in my 40s, I don’t want what Valentine’s Day means for most people:  big gestures professing one’s love, on one day of the year.  The #everydayisvalentinesday that is in my life now is the feeling that is supposed to lie beneath all those flowers and chocolates and fancy necklaces.  I don’t want the prince in the shining castle.  No, give me the farmer who smells like the earth, works his fingers to the bone, and has the scars to prove it.  Tory is Ride or Die.  And I will Ride or Die for him.  He is devoted to me in a way that I have never experienced before.  Our Valentine’s Days are filled with electrical work on the house, with sewing curtains for our kitchen. Valentine’s Days are when we’re sick and lie on the couch.  They are days when we meet our parents for breakfast then shop at Costco.

One #everydayisvalentinesday we even got married.

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Our Valentine’s Days celebrate our accomplishments, but they are also when we lose our battles.  Because when you let go of ego, when you are honest not only with your partner, but with yourself, when you bear your soul, and when your partner does the same, #lovewins and #everydayisvalentinesday.

The Church needs to BE CHURCH

 

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A few weeks ago, Glennon of Momastery announced that she is in a relationship with international soccer super star Abby Wambach.

Since Glennon writes from a (fairly fluid) Christian perspective, this caused somewhat of a ruckus. Glennon’s announcement follows on the heels-ish of Jen Hatmaker’s statement in support of gay marriage last Spring. The Christian right is a wee bit peeved at the Christian everyone else. Articles about false prophets and cafeteria theology abound.

Jen Hatmaker and Glennon Melton are not preachers.

They have built faith support communities online and in packed hall after packed hall, but they have never claimed to be building church.

Do some people go to church on their social media? Yes, yes they do. I agree with folks that this is a problem.

But whose problem?

We just elected a man who flies publicly and proudly in the face of Gospel values. And 90% of our church leadership either stayed silent or supported him. By “our church leadership” I mean all the churches, not just mine.

It was incredibly short-sighted. I don’t go to church at Momastery, but I regularly read the comments and so I know, there is a bloc of Christian mamas out there and we are AWAKE.

We raised $1 million dollars in 31 hours, at $25 per person—that’s 40,000 individual donations, in 31 hours—to help Syrian refugees in Europe. We didn’t care what the candidates or our preachers were saying about Muslim refugees. We saw starving children and we moved.

These same sister mamas filled arena after arena last year for Women of Faith. We brought our children to Christian concert tours, like Toby Mac’s Hits Deep tour, and sponsored other mamas’ children through charities like World Vision and Food for the Hungry.

Accuse us of cafeteria theology all you want, but we’re not overly concerned with theology. We want Gospel. We want boots-on-the-ground faith that walks the talk. We hunger for Jesus, and we bring our time, talent and treasure to the table.

Theology is important. But we’re on the move and bursting with a desire to shine a light in the dark. So if you really want us to listen to your sermon on the Ten Commandments you have to show us you know that Jesus linked them inextricably to the Beatitudes at the Sermon on the Mount, and you better be able to walk and talk.

But if you want us to sit and git your latest rant on abortion, immigration, gay marriage, liberals, etc, we’re not coming. Our babies are going to be grown-ups any second now and the world is not ready for them yet. There’s work to do.

We’ll come to church, but you have to BE CHURCH. Otherwise, the world is bleeding and we’re in charge of bandages.

Election Day

 

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Here we are.

I voted and you voted and lots and lots of people have voted. Democracy has run its course.

But I kind of feel like the teenager who crashed the car and then tried to cover up the big dent in the fender. It’s an exercise in futility. We can’t hide the damage.

And we did it. We let it get to this place even though we know better, and are called to better. We’re complicit.

What do we really wake up to tomorrow? Wounds. Mistrust. Faithlessness. They are the elephants, and donkeys, in the room and they are hungry.

What are we going to feed them?

Two weeks ago, I went to Walgreens. I had just said to my brother “When I know that people are going to vote for that candidate, I feel like it tells me something about them. Something flawed. Something false. Something damaging.”

And then I parked next to a car with bumper stickers for that candidate all over it. I had seen it before, in the parking lot at church. Great, I thought. Hope I don’t know them.

But as I was standing in front of the cold remedies, a sweet voice said “Jen?” I turned and it was a woman I know well, a woman I have prayed with, a woman who hugged me hello. It hit me that it was her car.

Sh*t.

That is what I thought, I swear to goodness.

Then I was ashamed. What am I doing?

This election has not been our best moment. We have damaged ourselves as Americans, as people of faith, as a light shining in the darkness. The false prophets and kingdom builders have been exposed as the charlatans they are.

And we can either carry on as we have, self-serving and self-righteous, feeding what we want to hear and be.

Or we can decide that this was our wake-up call, and feed what we need to hear and be.

I’ll see you tomorrow.

 

Believe

This is Alejandro.alejandro

 

He’s ten.

We met him last year when he and Gabe played together during basketball season.

He’ll be mad at me for saying this, but he’s adorable. And a baller. Plays mean defense with his good buddy Alex.

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Oh boy. I’m going to be in trouble for this. She was tall. He took her on anyway.

But he was gone a lot from practice, and he missed some games. When I finally saw his mom Kyndra again I asked her “Is he ok?” And that was the first time she told me.

Alejandro was born with Stage 4 kidney disease. From Day 1, the doctors knew he would need a transplant.

Since then, they have lived their lives as normally as possible. Kyndra is a single mom and Alejandro has a little brother and sister.  He’s been sick a lot, but they make it work.

Last May, they found out his kidney function was nearing the 20% threshold for the kidney transplant list and doctors told Kyndra to prepare. Family members are being tested in the hope of finding a living donor. Insurance will pick up the estimated $500,000 cost of surgery, but there will be significant other costs.

They have to go to Portland for surgery and then stay there for 5 weeks. Then they’ll head up one weekend a month for treatments. Kyndra will need to stay home full time for four months to care for him. Estimated costs: $50,000.

You know why I’m telling you this. Alejandro needs us. He needs our prayers and our good thoughts and yes, even our money.

They are selling t-shirts for $15 and every one of those dollars goes into the fund. If you buy one, I’ll pay your shipping.

You can also visit his fund-raising page at the Children’s Organ Transplant Associatioor visit the Facebook page to offer support.

There’s no such thing as other people’s children  ~ Hillary Clinton

#teamalejandro