Monday, April 25, 2011

Painstaking Excellence

There was this diaper the other epic diaper. The kind that wouldn't be cleaned with a single wet wipe. This was a ten wet wipe job. Whatever my son ate didn't just come out, but it stuck to his skin like cement. Stinky cement. I spent quite some time trying to scrub it off. I actually thought to myself, "I could stop here. No one will know if I got all of this will come off in his bath tonight anyway." Certainly Tait wouldn't care.

I find myself feeling this way a lot. Not wanting to fold the mound of laundry...we can just pull it out of the basket when we need it right? Or, why do I need to clean the high chair? It is snack time in two hours and I'm sure it will get just as nasty again. I really don't have time to call my friend. I have one hour when my kids are napping and I know that this friend will need to process for a while some of the difficult things that are happening in her I really need to call her back?
I think it is interesting that God knew we would feel this way.

Galatians 6:9 "Let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."

God didn't have to tell me not to grow weary going on vacation. Or don't get weary pursuing my own ambitions. Don't get weary going He knew that doing good can be exhausting. It can be monotonous. It takes a long time. That's where the don't give up part comes. Usually doing good gets boring & we want to chase shiny glittery things instead. Like visiting Anthropologie instead of washing smells really good in Anthropologie.

I came across this quote the other day. It's awesome.

"All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence."
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

Isn't that awesome??? I think the word "painstaking" was in there because he had the foresight to understand how dirty my son's highchair gets. But how powerful. Anything that uplifts humanity should be done with importance and excellence. Investing in friends, cleaning your house for the people who live there, caring for an aging parent, staying up late to help a roomate when they are crying...again...

Don't just do good or do the right thing. Do it with excellence. Don't get tired & don't give up. When I think about the fact that wiping my two year old's nose is actually giving dignity to another human, it is much easier to do it. To provide people with clean clothes and clean living spaces is uplifting to humanity. Walking with broken people in your lifegroup as they figure out who they are in Christ ... it is giving dignity to that person. And it should be done with excellence.

It's much more motivating when I think about it that way. And sometimes I need motivation.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Greatest of Fridays

It is indeed Good Friday. It is also Earth Day. I love that these two colide this year. They go hand in hand. The earth and all the people in it...the answer is in the cross. Every issue facing our world today is resolved in Jesus and His sacrifice.

John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that He sent His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not parish, but have eternal life."

As I was getting my son dressed today, I was thinking that it isn't possible for me to love someone enough to willingly put my little boy through pain or much less death. I just wouldn't do it. My brain cannot fathom how deep and rich a love it would take for a parent to let their child suffer...and yet that is the amount of love God had. What an extravagant and intense love He has for me. What an extravagant and intense love He has for you. For all the people of the earth that have ever lived, are living, and will live in generations to come.

Around the earth today people are doing things for Earth Day to try and address the devastation happening around the globe. Also, around the earth today people are celebrating what Jesus did on the cross. One points to the need. One points to the solution. Jesus came to put the world right again.

Lets take today and spread that message of the deep love that God felt for the earth. His motivation for Jesus dying on the cross in the first place. Good Friday is indeed Earth's Day.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I'm Fired

What I am about to say, I say without shame. Cast your judgements if you must, but I can not deny it. I LOVE reality shows. I do, I can't help it. Not the ones about Housewives who have WAY too much time on their hands or the Bachelor. Those are completely stupid. Top Chef, Shark Tank, Chopped, America's Next Great Restaurant, Biggest Loser...I love them. I also like The Apprentice.

Thanks to hulu I can watch them while I fold laundry at night or clean the house during the kid's nap. The other night I was watching The Apprentice and thinking to myself "If they gave me that task, I would completely get fired." Later that night I was having trouble going to sleep. So, I whittled the time away laying in bed and thinking about the jobs I would most likely get fired from. Most of these on my first day.

1. Waitress. I would be a horrible waitress. I'd be the one who stops to chat at the tables and forgets the other people at my other tables. My trays would spill regularly because balance isn't my strong suit. I hate to admit this, but I know that I would zone out when people tell me their orders. I'd probably be thinking about something else, get back to the kitchen and realize I don't remember what they said. So, I would just end up sitting back down at the table of friendly elderly people and avoid my other tables again.

2. Engineer. Any kind of engineer. Not only does my mind refuse to work in this way or at this capacity, whatever I worked on would be a safety hazard. If I designed anything, national security levels would be elevated. My planes would crash, my bridges would collapse and my computers would explode in people's faces. I would in fact, destroy America.

3. Personal Trainer. Ha! I can't even get my mind around this one. Not only do I not work out regularly, I haven't a clue how to use the equipment. I'd get a cute outfit , wear a whistle around my neck and drink lots of water. Thats about it. People would be bench-pressing treadmills if I were in charge. I would be useless at spotting while people did weight training because I am a weakling and can barely pick up the bar. This means smashed faces and ambulance rides. I don't see that working in my favor.

4. Weatherman. Yes, I am a woman, but "weatherwoman" sounds stupid so I am saying "weatherman". It looks like a fun job and I could bob my hair and put on a blazer...that's a good look for anyone. I just have a feeling that I wouldn't figure out how to point to the right place when it's just a green screen behind me. I'd point north instead of south on a accident. Then people in the north would think tornadoes were headed for them & take cover for no reason. People in the south would think they were clear of storms and get swept away when they went out for coffee...It's not a good idea.

5. Archeologist. I wear contacts so this is automatically out. Too much dust floating around. Plus, I don't think I would have the patience. I'd just yank things out of the ground instead of slowly brushing the dirt away. It would just be too slow paced. The one exception is if I did it Indiana Jones style. He was a professor (which I think I would be good at) that went on fun archeological adventures...and I don't think Nazis can get in your contacts...

I did eventually fall asleep...

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Forget Famous

In true California fashion we headed to the beach this past Saturday. While we were driving there we passed a small law firm. You know, the kind you see in a free standing building with a few parking spaces allotted to it. Nothing fancy, just the average law firm. This thought crossed my mind "I wonder if they feel small."

There are so many TV shows about successful lawyers handling glamorous litigations. It seems like every day in the news you come across cases that will shape public policy. It has to make these family lawyers feel that their jobs are silly in comparison. Social security claims, writing wills, traffic injuries...small potatoes. I hoped that the few family lawyers who worked in that firm didn't feel all the things crossing through my mind. Small. No one wants to feel small.

Except that we do. We do feel small. We live in this mentality that if what we are doing doesn't seem mind blowing or book- writing interesting, then it isn't worth much. Our little minds get stuck in smallness. A spirit of smallness is daunting and discouraging. It breathes insignificance.

I give into a small spirit all the time. I get so locked in on a single days activity that I forget what it is building. Baby steps still go somewhere. I get obsessive about petty things. I give my energy and mental capacity to them. So much time wasted wondering why way more people follow Jady on twitter than me. I mean, they know both of us. Or how come someone asked the girl next to me for prayer when I was available too. Or getting hung up on small dramas within interpersonal relationships. I can't get big if I am stuck in small.

I hate that feeling. We all do. It holds us down and makes us feel silly if we try and act big. I feel stupid saying "I'm a writer." I haven't written a book or been published. I blog. No, not the blog that they make a movie out of like Julie & Julia. Just an everyday blog like everyone else my age.

We think that if we aren't the most acknowledged, the most famous or popular at what we do...then it is just a hobby. Junior varsity stuff. Some of the most powerful teachings I have heard aren't from mega church podcasts. They come from men and women who are giving their lives pastoring a small congregation. But they have put the same blood, sweat and tears into their calling. They have the same anointing. And, I would call you a liar to your face if you said they were "small" compared to the "big" guys.

You are still a teacher no matter if you teach at an elementary school or at Yale. A worship leader is a worship leader regardless if they have an album. Artist are artists even if their paintings are not insured. Famous doesn't make you who you are. Kim Kardashian is famous & I haven't a clue what she does. So, lets just throw famous out the window. And the spirit of smallness along with it. Sure, I may be a little tiny mustard seed, but I have a big God. And together we move mountains. Even if no one sees.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

This is what happens when I sing in the shower...

I have a four year old girl. She loves Sound of Music. It is not an uncommon occurrence for the songs of this classic musical to be heard floating through the house...this is why "A Few Of My Favorite Things" was stuck in my head and ultimately, why I was singing it in the shower tonight.

As I was singing I thought to myself, "Really? These are their favorite things?" I mean, whiskers on kittens, brown packages tied up in strings? I'm all for being thankful, but if these are their favorite things...they need to get out more. So, I wrote my own version. Here it is:

Cute boy with roses, a poem he's written
Growing my hair long - without a split end
Mornings spent with the King of Kings
These are a few of my favorite things!

Last minute outfits without color clashes
Jady in skinny jeans and hipster sunglasses
No stains on white shirts while eating some wings
These are a few of my favorite things!

I'm sure its not grammy worthy, but I think it rivals the original. You guys are more creative than me...I'd love for you to post your own version in the comments. Happy composing!

Don't Take Candy From Strangers

I think we all remember this rule. As kids we heard this countless times from parents & teachers. "Don't take candy from strangers." When people we don't know try and give us something that sounds really yummy, something that we deeply want...don't take it. For children this advice is referring to actual candy. In the life of an adult it is different. Strangers don't tempt adults with jolly ranchers or milk duds. They offer us sweet, flattering words. Something that fills a craving we have. The danger is that we don't know them and they don't know us. It doesn't matter to them what happens in our lives .They have no vested interest in who we are or the journey God has us on. And it might taste good for a moment in our mouths, but it doesn't feed us. It doesn't fulfill what we really desire. When people we walk with give us candy it is fine & a blessing from God. Usually if a stranger offers it there is a harmful outcome.

My husband Jady & I have two wonderful kids. We are also in the middle of adopting two kids from Uganda. A little boy and a little girl. The process has taken a year so far. We were at the tail end of the process & just had to update our paperwork after our move to California last month. I started calling agencies to do the update and got some really rough news. California is different from every other state and they won't accept an updated homestudy in their courts. A homestudy usually takes about 5 months and involves physicals & blood tests, 10 hours of online education, multiple interviews and more forms than you can imagine...all having to be notarized. The thought of all the work and money we had contributed for the first one being tossed out...AAUUGGHH!!!

Then I got a sniff of something sweet and yummy...candy. One agency said something different. They said they could do it and it would be $1500. He told me that there is a loophole in the system and it isn't a problem. They were a licensed agency with a good reputation. And they had a great argument why the other agencies were wrong.

My heart was ecstatic. We even began doing all the paperwork with them. But, it still didn't make sense why everyone else told me you couldn't. Part of me didn't want to investigate the matter further. I just wanted to go with what sounded great. But, I did end up calling a lawyer and talking to an expert who told me that the law in California says you CAN NOT do that. I would have to toss out all the work we did for our old homestudy & start over. I would have to pay the $3,500 for a new home study and wait the 4 or 5 months for it to be complete. After that I could proceed. That wasn't what I wanted to hear. I was offered peas & carrots instead of something sweet.

I'm glad I didn't take the stranger's candy. I would have gone happily to Uganda in a few months to get my kids. Then once I brought them back and tried to adopt them in California courts, they would have told me I didn't have paperwork to support the adoption. Possibly I would have had to take the kids back to Uganda and leave them until the correct paperwork was in place. I can't imagine how messy and painful that would have been.

I don't have $3500 and I don't want to do all of the work over again. It hurts, its annoying, very time consuming...I'm just a mom who wants to get her kids home. BUT, God is giving me a chance to eat vegetables instead of candy. Veggies don't meet a craving, but they meet a desire. I crave my kids now. But my desire is to have a healthy family that is strong and the perfect match. Waiting must somehow fill that desire. It gives me opportunity to press into God harder....and there are always sweet things for me there.

I also wrote a few weeks ago about limitations vs boundaries. Maybe this boundary is the best for my family. Perhaps the right kids are not available yet. Or maybe my kids aren't at a place for us to add two more to the mix. It is possible my capacity isn't what I think it is at the moment...Who knows.

I just know that in the long run it is better to fill up on veggies instead of candy. Especially when the candy comes from strangers.

Monday, April 11, 2011

What I learned from MacGyver

A few nights ago I was working on an application for an adoption grant. I can't express to you the amount of hours and paperwork this involves. References, tax forms, home study copies, personal statements of faith...this was going to be a long night. I had my trusty diet coke with me but I needed something more...I needed MacGyver. Thankfully, there are two seasons of MacGyver available to watch instantly on Netflix. I jotted down a few of the valuable lessons this iconic hero taught me. They are listed below in no particular order:

1. The Russians are always bad guys. Never ever ever ever trust a Russian. Especially do not make one your confidant regarding nuclear information...MacGyver did this in the first episode I watched & it didn't work out well for him. If a Russian only goes by one name like "Andre" or " Big Misha" get out of there ASAP.

2. When you are in another country and a child beggar comes to hug you and welcome you to their country...they probably have just stolen something from your pocket. Twice in one episode this happened to him. And the second time it was a watch that the Russians (I refer you to the first point) were looking for. He did get it back, but it was a nail biter.

3. Leather jackets are always in style.

4. Only purchase furniture that is lightweight and can easily be used to barricade a door quickly. My friend Kendall Hopkins obviously had never watched MacGyver before she purchased her huge armoire.

5. The most important lesson : Whatever you need to get the job done is usually right in front of you. Pen caps, ice cubes, fertilizer...think twice my friends. These can be deadly weapons when in the hands of a skilled master. This may sound cheesy and a bit far reaching, but it REALLY DID enter my brain as I watched him dismantle a bomb with a coconut or something... Thats exactly what God does in my life. He takes things that seem random and insignificant to me and does something really heroic with them. The breakthrough that I need for my situation usually comes from letting Jesus take the random bits and pieces and do something creative with them.

I'd rather not say how much of my adoption application I got filled out. BUT, judging from the lessons learned above, I think we can all say it was a good use of my time.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Stewarding Dreams

I was at a party this past week having a great conversation with a new found friend. We were discussing how hard it is when you have little kids, to keep growing in the things you are passionate about. He is a musician. It brings him life and there is a passion in him to teach music at a community college. If you hear him talk about it, you know that he would be incredibly successful. It made me want to take up music...but I know better. It would be a short lived trend.

See, here is the catch...he has to wait. He has a growing family. Instead of buying new music equipment or going back to school for his Masters, he has to buy a car that will fit his family. Work a job that isn't a long term passion, so that he can provide for his family. He is doing the right thing. Our chat ended with a question. How do I steward the things that God has put in my heart, when I can't act on them yet?

As you are reading this there are little ideas or big dreams sitting in your heart waiting to burst out. But, like my friend, you can't do anything about them yet. Or can you? If God put something in your heart, it is your responsibility to steward that. What does that look like?

Here are three key things:

1. Be patient. Time is a great sifter. Waiting helps sort through what is God's dream and what is us being ambitious. Over time the word of God remains and all the bits that we added flake off. If we can't stay on fire over a period of years, then it probably isn't the flame we are meant to carry. If I ran with every dream that came through my mind, I would have been everything from a rancher (ha!) to a military intelligence analyst. (double ha!). While we wait, we pray. We contend in heaven for what we want on earth.

2. Build in Your Heart. No one starts a business and then builds a business plan. That would be stupid. We don't just sit on our couch waiting for the "magic moment" when we get the go ahead from God to run with these things...or wait around till our kids are grown and we have more time. No, we build. We learn, read and prepare for what He has for us. The season of waiting is key for getting our lives in order. Get real with your fears, insecurities or any other issues that would hender you when its time to run with your God given dreams.

3. Bloom where you are planted. If you can't thrive where you are, you won't thrive in the next place either. Its easy for me to think that my daily activities aren't that important & I will be a hard worker when the important things come along. Not true. If I can't keep my house clean, I can't shepherd a movement of women. Thrive in your heart & in your place of planting... wherever that is for now. In Matthew 25, Jesus tells us that when we are faithful with the little things we have been given, He will makes us ruler over much. This means don't blow off your marriage waiting for more important things to come. Don't mismanage your finances because you are waiting for the next big thing in investing to pay off. We don't look over the people in our lives to see which people are coming next. Engage and flourish.

I would like to encourage us all to take a minute and evaluate how we are treating the things God has placed in our hearts. Are we stewarding them? Or are we killing time waiting for our "big moment" to arrive? These are the things that have been rolling around in my heart this past week...hope they are helpful!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Hell, no.

I'm not cursing. I'm literally telling hell 'no'. I was reading facts this morning about the world's poor and oppressed. Yes, I do that in my spare time...and so should you.

Over the past four days 1,000 people were killed in the Ivory Coast , Libya is in shambles, Japan has nuclear meltdowns, 70% of the world's poor are women and children. In the whole earth, women hold only 1% of the property. Looking over the numbers of people starving, orphaned, dying by violence, trafficked into slavery...I felt my blood boiling at the injustice. It isn't right. Not on my watch or in my generation. I found myself wanting talk to hell itself and tell it 'no'. I would look it in the eyes and say:

Hell, no more will you control people. Cloak men with shame so that they take their own lives leaving behind families. You will not rob another child of their parent due to the violence of hatred. Too many father's have died defending their children from angry armies. You will not take the innocence of another young girl sold into prostitution. Hell, you will not destroy marriages with selfish perversion. You will not take another child from the arms of a desperate mother helpess to provide them enough food. Hell, you do not have permission to whisper in people's ears that they are forgotten and unwanted. You will not terrorize the widow and the orphan. You can not destroy the soul of a nation with lies and despair.

Watch out because the church is about to show its teeth. We will not trade our birthright as overcomers for a bowl of comfort. The tide is turning and you will be the one having nightmares about us. We won't let you act like you have dominion over this earth. The earth is the Lords. And everything in it. Everyone.

I'm not hopeless when I read about the devastation because the Gospel is enough. It is enough for every orphan, addict, slave and slaveholder. God is not idle. He is moving in these broken places on our earth. Breathing life into dry bones and telling them to live. He has life and dreams for them yet.

Broken nations are dreaming. I say 'Let your Kingdom come. On earth as it is in heaven.'

Friday, April 1, 2011

A Haiku or Two

Remember back in college when it was your job to read great works in literature. You HAD to sit, read, think and discuss what you thought about a specific work...Those were the days. I miss them. Inspired my my amazing friend Sarah Oliver, I am trying to make time to read poems, classics, and other things that wouldn't naturally make their way into my day.

Its amazing how powerful a little poem can be. They aren't filling me in on current events, giving tips on how to manage my time or advertising anything. They speak to basic human conditions. Love, war, death, nature, fear, joy, hope, family, courage...its nice to stop and think about the basics sometimes. So, I thought I'd share one of my favorites with you guys:

Fire And Ice by Robert Frost

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if I had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

I'm sure you are each thinking this means a variety of different things. To me, this poem makes me think about the destructive nature of uncontrolled passion & hatred both. I just like it for some reason.

Any great poems we should all read? Add them in the comments! Or if you get bored this weekend you could always speak in iambic pentameter...