ARCHIVES: April 2015


04.29.2015

Happy Anniversary!

We’re on the home stretch with Wedding #1, and the advice I hear most often is:  Breathe.  It will be okay.  Things will go wrong, but it’s going to be great.

I’m sure.

I am sure it’s going to be great for two reasons.  First, we serve an awesome God, one who is able to do “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).  Annesley and Geoff’s nuptials might not all go according to my plan, but that’s okay.  As a wedding planner, God has got “immeasurably more” up his sleeve.

photoSecond, I know it’s gonna be great because, well, this isn’t my first rodeo.  Nine years ago today, Robbie and I hosted a wedding reception for my mom, Claire, and her beloved John, a widow and a widower who saw their foxhole friendship blossom into so much more.

Last time these two showed up in this blog, they were making snow angels and sledding down hills on boogie boards. But Mom’s not your garden variety snow bunny. She literally has her doctorate  in Instructional Technology, which means that she is way hipper with digital stuff than I am.  So much so that she made her own wedding invitations on the computer.  That was pretty cool, except that unlike most brides, it meant she could always print more.  (And she did.  If Mom saw you in the grocery store and remembered how much she used to like seeing you at Jazzercise, she’d pull an invitation out of her purse and – bam! – I was calling the caterer again.)

And here’s a little bonus material about John.  Most people know him as the visionary president of Dayspring International, a terrific ministry that’s working to bring education, jobs, and an unprecedented awareness of God’s love to some of the poorest and most culturally rejected people in India.  But John is also a graduate of clown school – the prestigious Bozo University in Florida, to be exact – and it shows.

To make their wedding day extra special, John hired an actor to don a gorilla suit and “kidnap” my mom off the dance floor.  Not your typical champagne toast, sure, but their first date was an accidental screening of King Kong (they’d meant to see Munich, but it was sold out), and it seemed only fitting to carry on with the monkey theme.

I mean, who wouldn’t?

The first hint of trouble came when the actor didn’t show up.  (A better gig?  Hard to fathom.)

Undeterred, John tapped his son, John, who was about the same height as the professional actor, and urged him – during the reception, mind you – to swap his tux for the gorilla suit.  All was back on schedule…except that John Jr. couldn’t see out the eyeholes.  This being a second marriage for both of our parents, he and I didn’t know one another very well, but that didn’t stop him from stumbling into me on the dance floor and hissing through his plastic nostrils: “I can’t find your mother!  Help me!”

I launched him in Mom’s direction, whereupon John Jr. successfully abducted her – in her full length wedding gown – and hauled her down the dock to a waiting boat.  Ever the gallant, Groom John cried out, “I’ll save you!” and hopped aboard a jet ski to give chase.

At that point, most people figured the party was over.  There’d been no alcohol, but everyone was definitely a little loopy.  Knowing that John intended to bring Mom back (he’d already alerted the DJ to break into Pretty Woman when he did), Robbie and I plied the guests with more cheese and crackers and did our best to convince them to stay.

Which is when things got worse.

John had chased down the boat and, out of sight of the party-goers, managed to transfer mom (did I mention the wedding dress?) onto the back of his jet ski.  All that remained was for him to come roaring back in to a hero’s welcome.

Except that he got lost.  When you’re out on the water, I guess every cove sort of looks the same.  Eventually, though, they found us, and Pretty Woman and her groom began to live happily ever after.

Except we forgot the cake plates.  Undeterred again (he’s a dogged fellow), John improvised by putting great wads of wedding cake right into people’s hands.  The kids loved it.  (And if my wedding planner is reading this, all I can say is…I have no excuse.  Consider your job secure.)

Oh.  And we forgot the cameras.  Nobody had iPhones back then, so Mom got a bunch of disposable Kodaks from the grocery store.  (I found them right about the time the tent guys showed up to break ‘er down.)

As the wags keep telling me:  Things will go wrong, but it will be great.  And in Mom and John’s case, it definitely was.  I will admit that I am a little bummed about the lack of photographic evidence, but maybe even that is for the best.  I mean, the stories get “immeasurably more” with time, and it hasn’t even been ten years yet.

So…Happy 9th Anniversary to one of the most fun and resilient couples I know!  You deserve each other.

(Seriously.)

And to anyone who is feeling the pain of loss or bereavement right now, can I just say this one thing?  Your story isn’t finished.  Go ahead and grieve – I still cry sometimes, and especially lately as these weddings approach and I miss my sweet daddy oh so much – but don’t ever fear that this, today, is all there is.  God has a wonderful plan for your life.

You might not wind up on the back of a jet ski with a clown, but I can promise you this:  It’s gonna be immeasurably more than anything you could ever ask for or imagine.

 

 

 


ARCHIVES: April 2015


04.24.2015

Friday Prayer for Answers

You know how life can be kind of confusing?

Maybe you are wondering whether you should take that new job, get out of an iffy relationship, or (if you watch the ads on Fox News at night, like we sometimes do) talk to your doctor about whatever it is that you think you might have.

Or maybe you’ve just gotten yourself into a slightly awkward position, and you aren’t quite sure what to do about it:

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Anyhow…there’s a prayer for that.

Way back when Jeremiah was in prison (and maybe wondering why he ever got into the whole prophet gig), God made him a promise:  “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”

That pledge wasn’t just for Jeremiah; the accessibility of God’s guidance is a theme that runs throughout Scripture.  When we aren’t sure which way is up (or even what we are looking at, options-wise), God can help.  When we need  wisdom and direction and answers, he promises that, if we earnestly seek him, he will deliver.

Whatever your need or uncertainty is today, call on God.  Seek him.  Make Jeremiah 33:3 your own personal prayer:

Heavenly Father, I am calling on you now.  Please answer me, and tell me great and unsearchable things that I do not know.  (Jeremiah 33:3)


ARCHIVES: April 2015


04.21.2015

Sin and Dust

I once read that you don’t need to worry all that much about dust.  If you simply ignore it for six months, the tipster promised, it doesn’t really get any worse.

Or maybe it was a year.  Or two.  I don’t remember.

But I can tell you this, based on my own actual scientific research:  There is no discernible difference between the way that an un-dusted trophy looks after five years or ten.

photoThere is this really high shelf that marks the perimeter of Robbie’s room.  We started throwing the trophies up there when he was about five years old:  the Black Knights, the Purple Wolves, the Buckeyes, the Shark Attack, and even the Coronado Flower Show (Robbie snagged top honors in the “bean plate” division) are all represented.  Eyeing the collection from time to time, I would occasionally think to myself, “I should probably dust those some day.”

Well, “some day” finally came.  Last week, I pulled the hardware  down and got out my all-time favorite cleaning product.  (And seriously.  If you get nothing else out of this blog, you should at least try The Original Bee’s Wax.  It’s pricey, but it literally works great on everything.  Even as I type this, I am thinking about squirting it on the dogs, just to see.)

Anyhow, the trophies didn’t look as bad as I thought they might, after so many years.

Looking at them jumbled together on the floor, I was reminded of something C.S. Lewis said about time and the effect that it has on sin:

We have a strange illusion that mere time cancels sin.

It doesn’t, of course.  But, as Lewis observed (and if you want the full treatment, check out The Problem of Pain), we have this idea that long-gone offenses – the “cruelties and falsehoods committed in boyhood” – don’t matter anymore, or that they are of no real concern.

“But mere time,” Lewis said, “does nothing either to the fact or to the guilt of a sin.”

The fact or the guilt of a sin.  Like dust on the trophies, I guess, these things might not look any worse, over time.  (They might even be less noticeable, on a day-to-day basis, particularly as we get used to living with them.)  But they certainly don’t go away all by themselves.  The need the spiritual equivalent of The Original Bee’s Wax.

They need The Cross.

Talk about a product that works on everything.  Truly.  It doesn’t matter how long the dust has been gathering, or how thick it is.  The trophies that are our lives can be made new again, more beautiful than we could ever have imagined.  All it takes is repentance and a willingness to accept the forgiveness – the cleansing – God offers.

And I don’t know about you, but I want that.  I want my life to be something that showcases God’s glory, something that proclaims the victories he has accomplished – in spite of my layers of dust.

I don’t know if God has a trophy case, but if he does, I definitely want to be in it.

 

 

 

 

 


ARCHIVES: April 2015


04.17.2015

Friday Prayer for a Satisfied Soul

Psalm 63-5No, I am not going to turn into a foodie blogger.

And if you clicked on this post in search of a recipe, I’m sorry.  This pic was from a food tasting (which is probably the best part of wedding planning), and when I saw it in my camera today, I couldn’t help but think of Psalm 63.

David wrote that psalm when he was in the desert.  Physically and spiritually, he felt dry and tuckered out – but when he turned his attention to God, everything changed.  He knew God’s love had the power to sustain him.  My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods;” David wrote, “with singing lips my mouth will praise you.”

How’s your soul doing today?

If you or someone you love is feeling overwhelmed, tired, spiritually dry, or just plain hungry for something more, try turning Psalm 63:5 into a prayer.  It might not be a recipe for beef tenderloin, but it sure can help turn an achy soul into one that sings for joy!

“Heavenly Father, satisfy my soul as with the richest of foods; may my mouth sing praise to you.”  (Psalm 63:5)

 


ARCHIVES: April 2015


04.14.2015

“…And then We had Weddings!”

She didn’t know it back then, but more than 20 years ago, I tapped Susan Alexander Yates to be my mentor.  I read her books, attended her speaking engagements, even booked her to come give a parenting talk at our church.  Slowly (and perhaps because she sensed that I wasn’t going away, and she figured she’d rather have a buddy than a stalker), we became friends.  And today, with a heart that is bursting with gratitude for Susan’s writing as well as her friendship, I am thrilled to welcome her to the blog.

First, though (and with a nod to Ricky Ricardo), I’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do.

It’s about this picture:

 

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Not too long ago, Susan and her friend, Barbara Rainey, came out with a book called Barbara and Susan’s Guide to the Empty Nest.  Since I’d read all of Susan’s books (my personal favorite being And then I had Kidswhich details what happens when a woman looks askance at other people’s snotty children running around with no underpants…and then has five kids of her own in seven years), I quickly snapped up this one when it came out.  Robbie was about six months away from his college launch when he saw it lying on our kitchen counter.  Certain that I was already measuring his bedroom for drapes and filing cabinets for my new office, he sent me a snap with this caption:

“I’m not gone yet mom.”

True.  But I was a girl scout for about five months before my mom decided she didn’t want to sell cookies, and I still live by the motto:  Be prepared.

And I must say, Susan and Barbara got me ready!  In the book, they tackle the sorts of questions that every new empty-nester grapples with:  Who am I now?  How will my marriage be affected?  Does anyone need me?  How do I relate to my children?  Is it okay to feel sad?  Or thrilled? 

What’s next? 

These gals write with wisdom and candor, and if you or someone you know is about to jump into this new adventure, their advice will certainly ease the transition.  (Robbie’s snapchat doesn’t do the Empty Nest cover justice; to see a better image, or to order the book, click here.)

Anyhow, Susan is a wealth of good family intel, regardless of the season you find yourself in.  When she heard I was looking at two weddings in four months, she weighed in with some advice, which led to this blog that I will share with you now.

(Finally, I know.)

And just so you know how cute Susan is, here’s her pic:

Susan Yates Prof Photo

Here she is, in her own words:

“And then we had Weddings!”

We had five kids in 7 years, including a set of twins. In those early years I simply staggered through each day, waiting for someone to fall asleep or for my husband’s car to pull in the drive so I could run away or at least hide for a few minutes. Physical exhaustion was my constant companion. I didn’t spend much time thinking about the teen years and the emotional exhaustion that would hit all of us during that season.

And weddings? They were way off my radar screen.

However Allison, our eldest, ushered in this new season for us when she and Will decided to get married one week after college graduation.

It was uncharted territory for me and I desperately wanted to “do it” right.

“Allison, you are our first and Dad and I don’t know what we are doing,” I said.  “We want this wedding planning to go well but we are most likely to blow it so if I get too bossy or say the wrong thing please tell me.”

And I did – and she told me. It was a time of learning together, of my letting go, and of granting grace to one another for the mistakes we made.

A few years later we had 4 weddings in three summers. Our twins got married the same summer – just six weeks apart. Since these were to be our 4th and 5th weddings, I hoped I’d learned a few things. But the sheer complexity of two large weddings so close together was mind-boggling.  I felt like I should have been a pro by then, but it seemed that every time I turned around there was another decision to be made, another contract to sign, another detail to cover.

One morning as I was praying over plans these words came to me:

Susan, remember you are not merely planning an event. You are building a family and relationships are more important than details.

I wrote this message out and taped it to my refrigerator. As things got crazy, these words helped me to remember what really mattered.

When our kids get married, our priorities radically change. No longer is my relationship with my child the priority. Instead, the relationship my child has with his or her spouse becomes the priority. And that means I have a new role. Now I have to take a step back. Now my job is to encourage their marriage to flourish and to pray for them. And now, when a child calls and asks for advice, I need to remember that I am no longer the “first responder.”  Now, my first question should be, “What does your spouse think?”

Change is awkward. It takes time to negotiate new relationships. As you work to establish what your relationship with your married child “now” looks like, here’s a little encouragement to see you through:   Lower your expectations, assume the best of each other, choose laughter over irritation, and always be willing to ask for forgiveness.

The best is yet to come!

 

(Jodie’s note:  Can you see why I find Susan so encouraging?  Even if you’re not in a wedding season, you can tap into Susan’s wisdom for families via her blog, or check out her “One Word” tweets – nifty posts that detail an attribute or character trait of God – which you can find @susanayates.)

(And in the interest of social media fairness, if the links don’t work and the Twitter address turns out to be bogus, don’t shoot me.  Remember, I am a techno-moron.  Just post a comment on this blog and I will find a way to hook you up with Susan.  You can’t steal her as your mentor, but you can still benefit from her wonderful insights for living!)


ARCHIVES: April 2015


04.10.2015

Friday Prayer for the Path to Peace

Luke 1-79

The Bible says that, as far as it depends on us, we are to live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18).  Sometimes, that can be a tall order – especially when we aren’t sure how to get there, or what we can do to promote peace or “make things right” with people.

Happily, we don’t have to figure it out on our own.  Luke says that Jesus came to shine on those living in darkness, and to guide our feet into the path of peace.

If you find yourself at odds with someone today, or even just craving peace to quiet your own anxious heart, why not ask Christ to help you?  After all, that’s what he came for, right?

Here’s a simple prayer you can pray today for yourself, for a troubled relationship, or for someone you love:

Heavenly Father, I feel like I am living in darkness.  Shine your light on me, and guide my feet – my thoughts, my words, and every step I take – into the path of peace.  (Luke 1:79)


ARCHIVES: April 2015


04.07.2015

Getting Egged: An Easter Surprise

Twelve years ago, when we began renovating our home, the bathroom guys cut a giant oval out of a piece of plywood to make a hole for the bathtub.  The kids were young, underfoot, and more than a little interested in the whole construction process.  In an an effort to keep them from firing nail guns at each other or sawing off someone’s foot, I sent them outside with the egg-shaped wood scrap and a bunch of paint and said, “Easter is coming.  Make something.”

And “The Egg” was born.

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The contractors attached a wooden easel and sharpened the stakes so that the kids’ masterpiece could be displayed in the front yard.  Holy Week was just a few days away, and we hatched what we thought was a brilliant plan:  In the same way that Jesus’s resurrection came as an awesome surprise to his followers, we thought we would “surprise!” our neighbors by thrusting the sign into their yards, all under the cover of darkness.  We taped instructions and a Sharpie marker to the back of The Egg, encouraging each lucky recipient to sign the back and then, the next night, move the whole contraption to a new location as a way to share the love of Easter all week long.

What could possibly go wrong?

Well, for one thing, tub decks are made of sturdy stuff.   The Egg weighs about 70 pounds and, at nearly 6-feet tall, it’s not like it fits comfortably in the passenger seat.  Or even the trunk.

Not only that but, as it turns out, not everyone wants an Easter surprise.

One garden club guru (whose yard is truly spectacular) caught wind of our scheme and assured us that, while she certainly did believe and endorse the “Risen” message, The Egg would be “happier elsewhere.”

A prominent local businessman got up in the middle of the night, spotted the moonlit orb from his bathroom window, woke his wife (“What the heck is that thing??!”), and then literally ran outside in his boxers to remove it, lest any of our Jewish neighbors (who were also his clients) see it on their way to work.

As word spread, husbands everywhere began to regard The Egg with distrust, knowing that it had the power to puncture a pipe and destroy an entire sprinkler system.

And so, to save both relationships and hydrangeas, we made a new plan.

Now we no longer surprise anyone.  Instead, very late on Easter Eve, long after it gets dark, Robbie taps an able-bodied child (this year, it was a fiancé, which is all part of the on-going hazing plan to be sure the guys know what they’re in for with this family) to help him lug the thing out of the garage.  Together, they wrestle it out to the street and set it up on our corner, where – we hope – it will bless the neighbors.  (If they don’t find themselves cheered by the “He is Risen” message, I figure that they can at least be happy that The Egg didn’t wind up in their yard.)

And I like to think it is blessing people.  For years, we’d come home from church and make our kids (and any weekend guests) stand out on the street, posing with The Egg for the Annual Easter Pic.

DSC_0052

Recently, our neighbors began doing the same thing; this year, The Egg showed up in at least three different Instagram posts.

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Maybe the neighbors know that time is short.  The wood is splintering, the pointy stakes wobble, and the 12-year-old paint job (which never looked all that good, even to the untrained eye) is starting to look what might actually be considered “bad.”  I doubt that The Egg will see many more Easters.

But, happily for all of us, its message will:  He is risen.  He is risen this Easter, he is risen next Easter, he is risen forever.

Indeed!

I’m filing this blog under “Try this.”  For those of you who want to make yourselves an Egg, be my guest.  But for those who don’t (which I would guess might be all of you), the “try this” factor is simply this:  Know that the resurrection doesn’t just pave the way for our eternal salvation.  It also comes with power for daily living, as in right now.  It comes with hope.

Which is certainly worth trying, with or without your own piece of plywood.

 


ARCHIVES: April 2015


04.03.2015

Good Friday Prayer

Untitled design (4)Good Friday.  It’s the day when Jesus hung on the cross, suffering and alone, and cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)

I can’t imagine.

You know that song, How Deep the Father’s Love for Us?  There’s a line in there that always undoes me, one that kicks off the second verse:

How great the pain of searing loss, The Father turns his face away…

The Father turns his face away.  As I said, I can’t imagine.

Incredibly, though, it is the very agony of abandonment that Christ faced that throws wide the door for us to draw near to God.  There is no pain or betrayal that he does not understand or hasn’t experienced.  And our sin, no matter how ugly or frightening, is never bigger than his obedience.

Hebrews 4:15-16 reminds us of all of these things, and more.  Let’s make it our Good Friday prayer, knowing that God will never again turn his face away.

Lord Jesus, thank you that you understand our weaknesses and that you faced all the same testings we do, yet you did not sin.  Remind us, particularly when we feel rejected or forsaken, or when we struggle under the weight of our own inadequacy and failure, that we can come boldly to the throne of our gracious God, where we will receive mercy and find grace to help us when we need it most. (Hebrews 4:15-16, NLT)  

 

(Click here to for the Phillips, Craig, and Dean version of How Deep the Father’s Love for Us, written by Stuart Townend.)

 

 




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