What started out as a fun wrestling match ended in a brawl. Bean clutched his eye crying after the punch found its mark. But insult to injury, rather than remorse and guilt, the offender merely smirked. Bean's feelings hurt much more than his eye. After his little cousin got a lesson in using his words rather than his fists, he came to apologize. If you've just been punched in the face, how forgiving are you feeling? I held my breath, willing my son to be gracious in this moment.
"I'm sorry I punched you in the eye," he said. And Bean immediately replied, "I've been sorry a lot in my life, so I forgive you."
I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry, but one thing was certain - I was proud...and humbled.
Why do we find it so hard to forgive? Is it because we forget that we've "been sorry a lot?" If you are clinging to unforgiveness, try focusing on your own list of wrongs and see if it softens your heart toward those who have wronged you.
How much have you already been forgiven?
We find her at Jesus' feet, weeping and wiping, kissing and anointing. And with a sneak peek into this very vulnerable moment we learn the most valuable of lessons:
"Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” Luke 7:47
I don't know your story. I don't know what you've done. I don't know what others have done to you. But I'm willing to go out on a limb and guess that you have been forgiven much.
I know I have.
So what do we do?
We forgive, and most definitely, we LOVE MUCH.
Let me just start by saying, my boys are delightful.
But that being said, there are days. You know what I mean. Those days. Actually if you don't know what I mean, and have never experienced a day like this with your children, please stop reading as we can no longer be friends.
My amazing husband, as supportive as can be, sometimes abandons me with the children in his heroic quest to keep full-time employment and thereby feed these hooligans. At the end of the day as we sit down to the supper table and share about our days, he can always tell what sort of day we had by my choice of pronouns. If I say "the boys" or "our son," all is clear. But if I say "YOUR son", then he knows to run for cover. For example, "The boys did the cutest thing today..." means pleasant and adorable. But, "Guess what your son did today?" usually means it's been a long day. He used to correct me, "Don't you mean our son?" I would reply with a snarl, "not today!"
Now that you are up to speed, let me share something funny I read in Exodus the other day. Funny? In Exodus? Yep, you read correctly. Well, maybe it wasn't funny. It was actually quite horrendous, but I laughed out loud anyway.
Moses was up on Mt. Sinai for so long that the children of Israel began to act up. As with any unsupervised children, forbidden things began to happen. (golden calf) But then in Exodus 32:7 the Lord tells Moses, "Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt have become corrupt."
That sure isn't what the Lord said back in chapter 3. Moses didn't even want the job, yet God said, "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt."
One golden calf later and suddenly they are Moses' people. Funny, right? Is it just me? Maybe it's just because my children are mine until they pee outside in a public place or cut holes in our trampoline with a butter knife and it's at that moment they become their father's children.
So, since it appeared I was on a parenting roll, (After all, if God does it, it must be right.) I decided to keep reading. God was so upset with His children that He was going to withdraw His Presence from them and in 33:3 He said, "But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way."
Let me just pause right here and explain that there was a time in one of my son's lives when he spent a large portion of his time banished to his room and out of my presence. I always said it wasn't his punishment, but rather his protection. When he had pushed me to the very edge, the safest place for him to be was completely out of my sight.
I now I feel justified. It's right there in the Bible. It's a great day to be a parent!
I'm joking, of course. But parenting is hard enough without taking a timeout every now and then to laugh. Laugh with your kids and more importantly, laugh at yourself -- often. Let's face it, they may use inappropriate potty humor at inopportune times, but these guys are a hoot and a joy. I'm thankful that in both innocence and shenanigans I get to call them mine. And when we were having one of the those days, I am thankful I didn't destroy them along the way.
Disclaimer: We haven't hit the teen years yet. I reserve the right to amend that last statement.
I'm kidding, again...maybe.
He had been in bed for half an hour. I thought he was fast asleep, but instead he was creeping down the hall gathering his nerve. "Mom, we need to talk." The tears of confession and remorse were already streaming down his face.
He hadn't gone to the principal's office this time, but that didn't negate the fact that he was now a repeat offender. Fear of his mother's wrath had not prevented a recurrence. Worry over his teacher's disappointment was ineffective as well. The punishment dispensed by the principal after his first offense had not deterred further occurrences either. His promises to try not to do it again now sounded hollow.
But the tears continued to flow. His heart was broken.
Godly sorrow leads to repentance.
And then his words struck me at my core, "I don't even want to do it, but I just keep doing it."
Sound familiar? (Romans 7:15-24)
Ever been there? I have. If I were being honest, I am there currently.
I wrapped him in my arms and told him I struggle with the very same thing. Well, not exactly the same thing. I don't fight on the playground, or throw away my homework and lie about it, but don't even get me started about my tongue and my inability to control it.
I tried to console him with my own confession of doing the very thing I hate. I don't know what Paul struggled with, but even he did what he did not want to do. Since misery loves company, I tried to sooth his conscience by showing him we were all in the same boat.
It wasn't until the next day that I realized my words had fallen short. While sitting in ladies' bible class and studying that very scripture in Romans, I realized I needed to keep reading. I had missed the point. The point is not that sin is inevitable and we are all guilty. Keep reading. When Paul described his struggles in the letter to the Romans, it didn't end with "What a wretched man I am!" (7:24). Keep reading. Romans chapter 8 begins with the word "Therefore." This is Paul's way of saying read what I just wrote, but don't stop there; keep going. He had been describing his struggle against the flesh, and how sin had made him a slave. THEREFORE (aka: for that very reason or because of that)--
Don't you want to know what comes next? Is Paul still a slave or was he freed? Are there any words to comfort an aching, contrite young boy's soul?
Isn't He always the answer?
I opened up his backpack, and my heart dropped. I tentatively pulled out the full-page, hand-written note from his exasperated teacher. It’s kindergarten. How can this many things be going wrong? I’ll give you the Cliff Notes version: He wasn’t doing his work, wasn’t trying, talked constantly, and seemed to have completely given up all effort since the Christmas break. Apparently drawing a robot on the back of his worksheet was not an adequate substitute for penmanship practice. I sighed to relieve the pressure of my building disappointment and called my son to the table. Stapled to the note was a stack of unfinished assignments. Bean was going to have a long evening ahead of him.
Two weeks later we cuddled in the rocking chair, precious one-on-one time, as Bean chattered on, catching me up on kindergarten current events. We discussed the important things first, like who he plays with at recess, his favorite foods in the cafeteria, and what activity they did in PE that day, but once that got the ball rolling, he opened up and shared an abundance of information. I learned that he’s the third tallest in his class. His tallest classmate is a girl, and the second tallest is a “bad boy.” My interest was piqued, so I asked, “Why is he a bad boy?”
Bean replied, “He got a note sent home from the teacher.”
I couldn’t decide whether I should giggle or scold as I reminded him, “Bean, you got a note sent home. Remember?”
“But Mom,” Bean whined, “he got his name written on the board.”
Oh, well that changes everything, so I ventured to ask, “What happens if you get your name written on the board?” Feeling annoyed by my lack of understanding, he rolled his eyes and replied, “You get a note sent home.”
I waited for the light bulb to turn on in his churning brain. Nothing. By now I was beginning to feel like a broken record as I said, “But Bean, you got a note sent home.” Frustration steamed from his ears, and he huffed, “But he did things that made the teacher mad.”
“Well, Bean,” I gently said, “I read the note, and your teacher didn’t seem very happy with you either.” Seeing that we were no closer to resolving the matter, I conceded, “Okay, all I’m saying is maybe we shouldn’t go around calling him a bad boy.”
With a sheepish grin he whispered, “Oh”…awkward pause…”okay.”
Now don’t laugh at poor, oblivious Bean. You, too, look pretty silly when you are criticizing someone while you have a plank in your eye.
Matthew 7:3-5 "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.”
With a hunk of lumber blocking your vision, it’s impossible to see, even when it’s right in front of your face. It took a special rocking chair moment for me to realize this red-letter metaphor.
I stood at work listening to the incessant ring of the telephone. The longer it rang, the madder I got. My co-workers just continued working, seemingly unfazed by the grating noise. Why wasn’t anyone picking it up? I silently screamed at them, “Pick up the phone!” The temper tantrum raged on in my head until I thought it might explode. I would like to say I immediately recognized the plank in my eye, but unfortunately it wasn’t until much later that I realized I hadn’t picked up the phone either.
How blind we are as children. And worse yet, how quick we are to point fingers. We yell, “Not fair!” when our punishment fits the crime (like Bean sitting at the table doing his homework over tear-stained handwriting paper), but demand justice when anyone else commits the same crime.
Do I want my son to be labeled a “bad boy”? Of course not, but…
Matthew 7:2 “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."
Once Bean realized that condemning this child to wear the “bad boy” title would require him to pin the same label on himself, he became much more lenient. When passing judgement on others, we often forget about our own transgressions. Harsh judgement or leniency? It’s your choice. Before you choose, you might want to measure again.
When Jesus talks about judging others, he uses some really great carpenter metaphors (plank, speck of sawdust, measuring), and any great woodworker knows the old proverb, “Measure twice, cut once.” When you’ve measured and found someone lacking, remember to measure again. But the second measurement should always be of yourself. Until you have completed both measurements, all cutting or judgment should be postponed. Once the cut has been made, it can’t be reversed! Chances are, once you realize how your life comes up short, you’ll remember how much you’ve been loved and forgiven. Then you can be like the woman who wiped the feet of Jesus using only her tears and hair (Luke 7:36-50), because those who have been forgiven much, love much.
'Tis the Season - the season where parents are bombarded with long wish lists and never-ending wants. I don't know about your holiday season, but at our house greediness had drowned out our blessings. We were in desperate need of refocusing and reminding. In an attempt to salvage our Christmas spirit, I introduced the Blessings Pitcher. Why a pitcher? Because blessings were meant to be poured out.
It was simple. The boys would draw a blessing out of the hat and then begin counting how many of that thing they had. Bean counted that we currently have ten boxes of cereal. Ten dollars went into the Blessings Pitcher. Boogs had six pairs of shoes, and six more dollars went into the pitcher. A couple of times I was both horrified and embarrassed at our surplus. Did you know we have 39 pillows and 69 light bulbs in our house? We had to switch to quarters for these.
We weren't even half way through when Bean asked, "Why do we even need all this stuff?" I smiled and said, "We don't. We have way more than we need." In my mind I thought "mission accomplished," but we were only just beginning.
Different kinds of fruits and vegetables currently in our house - 15
Presents under our tree - 11
Bibles - 18 EIGHTEEN!
(Remembering each step of the way that some people have none.)
Rooms in the house, electronics, pets, balls (if you have a clever boy like Boogs and a full gumball machine you will have to switch to pennies on this one), Lego sets, games on their I-Pads... as they counted, the pitcher filled.
I cried many times throughout the process. Apparently this reminder wasn't just for the children. We have ten places in our home where at any time we can get clean water. TEN! I talked to the boys about people without a way to get clean water. We talked about people with no indoor plumbing, people who carry buckets to the local well, people who don't have a local well, and people who drink yucky water from sources as dirty as our pond. Boogs asked me why I was crying. I asked him, "Is it fair? You have ten. They have zero. Is it fair?" His eyes watered and he put ten more dollars into the pitcher. We discussed why we get to have ten, when others have none. Bean suggested it was because God loves us. "But doesn't he love them too?" I asked. After answering yes, he looked confused. Why do we have ten?
Maybe that's the wrong question. Instead of asking why, shouldn't we ask what are we going to do about it?
At this point the amount of money surpassed what I had intended to spend on this lesson. Bean ran to get my wallet and the blessing counting continued. I ran out of cash before we ran out of blessings to count. Boogs ran to his room to grab his wallet, overwhelming me with his soft heart .
The pitcher overflowed. It shouldn't have been a surprise. God is notorious for overfilling. (Psalm 23:5)
Boogs read to us about God's provision:
Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it."
I had one final question for the boys. "If we pour out this pitcher of money, using it to bless others, do you think God will refill it?"
The boys think He will. Do you?
I've always been a bit obsessive about our family meal. I insist on everyone sitting down together at the supper table. I insist on no interruptions, no electronics and no exceptions. We survived the years where this included a baby throwing food down from the high chair. That was followed by a year of another baby in the high chair and a toddler spilling food from his booster seat. Regardless, we continued to gather around the table. We graduated to the years of "just eat one more bite" or "no, you haven't eaten enough to get a snack". My steadfastness continued through the years where our talk around the table revolved around boyhood bathroom humor or accusations that I had somehow covertly slipped onions onto their plate.
It wasn't always fun and it was rarely easy, yet I continued to believe that it was worth it. I continued to believe that this would make a difference in mine, as well as my children's lives. I continued to believe that this family time was invaluable. And so we continue to gather, we continue to pray before our meal, we continue to spend quality time around the table enjoying our food and discussing our day -- for better or worse. Most days we hear about how Daddy's work went or what the boys did on the playground. It's precious and it's sweet, but I'm not gonna lie, there are days that I question my unyielding rule. Sometimes I'm tired. Sometimes they're cranky. After all, it would be a lot easier some days to eat in shifts, or park it behind the tv, or swing through the drive-thru and scarf it down in the car. After all my years of effort, does it really matter that much?
We sat at the table eating supper, just a regular night like countless others. Out of the blue, Bean suggested that he thought it would be really cool if we could call up people in Heaven and ask them what it's like. What an amazing conversation starter! I won't give you all the details, but it lead to Bean later saying, "So, are the people in the Bible real?" My jaw dropped. Stunned doesn't begin to describe it. When I found my tongue again I exclaimed, "Absolutely!" How had he missed this important point? How had I failed to teach it? He knows God, Jesus and the Spirit are real, but somewhere along the way his Old Testament people just became characters in a really cool story. I confirmed that, yes, Samson walked this earth, Noah survived the flood, Adam and Eve were the first people and Moses really lived. "On this world?" he asked. "Yes, Honey, on this world," I replied. While Bean's mind continued to reprocess, Boogs said, "I don't think Adam and Eve will be in Heaven." Sending up a quick prayer for guidance and the right words, I asked him why he thought that. He reminded me that they did a bad thing, so bad in fact that they got kicked out of the garden. As we discussed that everyone does bad things, as we were given another opportunity to explain why Jesus died, and as Boogs admitted that he would have probably eaten the fruit too, I thanked God for His perfect timing and these invaluable moments where we get to talk about what matters -- around the supper table.
This conversation never would have occurred while we sat in different rooms looking at different screens. The commitment to sit around the table and share a meal takes determination, but never again will I wonder if it's worth it.
Summer will be over before you know it. Soak it in while you can.
Plant a vegetable garden
Homemade Slip N Slide
X marks the spot. Draw a map and send them searching for clues leading to buried treasure.
Climb a tree
Check out what's happening at the local fair.
If you cut it, they will come.
Trampoline High Jump
Need I say more?
What are your summer traditions? What is on your summer bucket list? I'm always in the market for some new ideas.
Looking for more summer fun? You're in the right place.
I hope by now that you realize it's not really about what you do, but has everything to do with who you are with.
Water gun fight
When it comes to summer fun, you can't go wrong if water is involved.
Plant sunflowers and harvest the seeds
Build a sandcastle
No beach? No problem. Any ole sandbox will do.
Check back in soon for the final installment of Boredom Busters/Summer Fun.
It's time to get out there and make the most of your summer, and more importantly, make some memories. Don't let a busy schedule or another load of laundry keep you from the great outdoors. Go explore it with your children today!
Here are just a few more suggestions to get your creative juices flowing:
Go to the Park
Sometimes the best ideas are the most obvious, simple ones.
Just a reminder, your child doesn't want you watching from your tanning chair. Jump in! Slide in! Dive in! Do a
cannonball off the high dive while holding your nose! It doesn't matter, just get in there.
(We don't have any sidewalks out here on The Compound.)
Feed the ducks at a local pond
Take a Hike
Ride a Bike
To be continued....
Boredom never stood a chance.
The ideas for summer fun are endless, but I'll try to narrow it down to some of our favorites.
Fly a Kite
Water balloon Pinata
Receive caterpillars in the mail and watch them transform into butterflies.
Train with the whole family for a local 5K
We have just begun to explore summer fun. Choose an activity. Get out there! Have fun with your family.
Winter will be here before you know it, so don't waste a single sun-filled day.
More Boredom Busters Coming Soon...
See also: School's Out for Summer
First of all, let me say that my unwavering solution to "I'm bored" is this,
and sometimes this:
But that being said, I love summer fun!
We work hard, but we play even harder. Over the next few days I'll be sharing a few ideas to help keep your kids entertained.
Around here we take our Star Wars very seriously. Very Seriously! Whatever you are picturing - double it.
Call us geeks or nerds or whatever you like, but we are die-hard fans. Therefore, May 4th is our favorite national holiday. It is a national holiday, right? Well, if not, don't tell my boys, or they'll slice you with their lightsabers.
Today is the perfect time to bust out all of your favorite Star Wars recipes. It's party time!
Wait, what's that? You don't have any Star Wars recipes? No problem, just go through all of your Star Wars cookbooks,
(yes, they do exist) and choose a few to give a try. What? You don't have any of those either? No worries; you can borrow mine. But really, all you have to do is
take regular, everyday food and give it a clever movie-themed name. Okay, it's time for all you Star Wars sous chefs to get the creative juices flowing.
I adore the comics in the Sunday morning paper. In fact, it is the only portion of the newspaper I find deserving of my time. The Family Circus gets me every time. It is always adorable and shockingly accurate. The little blonde boy so closely resembles my boys’ mannerisms and speech that I feel like my life has been bugged and reproduced for everyone’s enjoyment. Occasionally there will be one that shows the path that sweet little boy takes to get from point A to point B. As you can no doubt imagine, it is a meandering, highly erratic path that travels three times further than the direct route. Everyone with a “smell the roses” kind of child will recognize this same approach to everything in their child’s life.
Since we live pretty far out of town, there are multiple ways for us to drive back and forth each time. After a few years of trying to single-handedly support a local tire business, we learned the hard way that our tires, and therefore pocket books, prefer we travel down the highway that is mostly paved and straightforward. My boys, however, like to travel down the bumpy, unpaved back roads. They long for adventure. They enjoy and plead for the road less traveled. My husband and I usually refuse and continue down the direct, sensible route that will help us reach our destination in the most reasonable amount of time. But occasionally we will give in to the persistent begging and take a detour. This way will take us longer and we will have to drive slower, but this way is not without its benefits. The route rarely taken boasts of carefree fun: radio turned up with everyone singing at the top of our lungs, windows rolled down, wind blowing across smiling faces and through our hair, giving us a sense of being alive.
Unfortunately, each time we reach this fork in the road, logic usually wins out. Most days we just can’t spare the time. Most days the reality of impending flat tires wins out over potentially memorable family moments.
Recently God graciously poured out the blessing of rain on our drought-starved land. Evidence of the bounty flowed along the road and pooled in the low spots. As we made our way into town the next day the boys insisted on driving through the puddles, even if it meant going out of our way to reach them. They were completely unconcerned when I tried to explain to them that we might get stuck in the mud and would need to be pulled out. In their opinion it would be totally worth it. They failed to see the need for roadside assistance as a problem. It’s all a matter of perspective.
Just as every day we approach the fork in the road and I know the begging and pleading will begin, I have also reached a fork in the road regarding my parenting. Which way will win out - good common sense or impracticality? The real question is: Common sense according to whom? Am I raising good, safe, moral citizens or all-in-for-Jesus, Spirit-led warriors for the kingdom? My approach to parenting will be drastically different depending on my answer. One path opposes the nudging I feel from the Spirit, whereas the other path goes against sound logical judgment and reasoning.
I’m at the same fork, oddly enough, in my own spiritual walk. One way looks prim, proper and accepted even among fellow believers while the other has onlookers questioning my mental capacity and decision making skills.
As a parent and nurturer of my boys’ faith I realize that I love my children too much to raise them in a safe, comfortable bubble. Encounters with Jesus occur on the fringe where the hurt lives and where safety is not always the top priority. Do I shelter my kids from this now in the name of good parenting? Do I wait until they are older? When is the appropriate age? I recently learned that the ideal age never comes. My mom wants to keep me safe at age 33 the same way she did when I was five. It’s actually scarier for her now because she feels less in control. So when is the magic age to take my children down the road less traveled, the road Jesus frequents, the road where He receives the most glory? Do I really want to stay on the road with no potholes, no wrecks, and no pain?
Which road? One path has promised pain and must only be attempted with an ever-present Savior. The other road is safer by worldly standards, comfortable and requires no co-dependency. Aren't moms supposed to pray for their children to grow into self-sufficient, successful adults? Do I dare pray for my children to grow up to be forever-dependent-on-their-Savior servants?
I must choose which path. If I don’t choose, then the easier path of least resistance will be the automatic default. Down to the last fiber of my being I long for my sons to be safe and protected, but where can anyone find a place safer than the arms of Jesus? I must teach, show and lead by example. If I take the safest path according to the world, then I might never feel the need to be in His protective embrace. But if I travel down the narrower, harder road I know I will feel the need to cling to His side and never leave.
You don’t end up on the Jesus path by accident. It must be intentional. Without setting my course for Him I will inevitably be pushed down the wider path where mobs of people naturally flow, and I will probably get stuck in the crowds. This path makes sense to the world. Is that a good enough reason to send my kids in that direction? It would certainly be easier in the here and now and definitely less painful. But what is my ultimate goal for my children? What is God’s ultimate goal for His children? Suddenly this is no longer a decision solely about my children but about me as well. I will not nudge my children down a path I have not traveled, or at the very least am willing to travel with them.
Jesus has been down this path.
God will travel down this path with His children.
I almost didn’t write this chapter because it leaves me shaking in my boots, but I long to feel the wind in my hair.
John 3:8 “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
I hope one day someone will look at my life and think it looks as ridiculous as that Family Circus comic. "Why didn’t she just take the straight path? Why did she waste so much time smelling every flower, climbing every fence and stomping in every puddle? That doesn't make any sense. Why would she go over there when it was obviously unsafe and uncertain? What a waste of time, energy and money."
I hope one day God looks at that same convoluted path and sees the beautiful masterpiece He had planned from the beginning.
Every detour, a chance to make Him known.
Every delay, an opportunity to share Him with others.
Every seemingly illogical decision, an arrow pointing to the One actually in control.
Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Take the road less traveled. God will meet you there.
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