Monday, May 30

Memorial Day

"Render therefore to all their due. . . tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor" (Romans 13:7, KJV).

For some reason I've always loved that verse. On Memorial Day, it makes sense. On this, of all days, it is good and right to recognize those to whom honor is due.

Memorial Day was first called "Decoration Day." After the Civil War, a special day was set aside for decorating the graves of Union soldiers who had died during the war. And then there were more wars, so Decoration Day was expanded to include decorating the graves of soldiers who died in World War I. Then World War II. Then Korea, VietNam, the Persian Gulf. . . .

So many graves to decorate.

Finally the name was officially changed to "Memorial Day." It's not nearly so common for us to go to cemeteries and put flowers and flags on graves any more. But we can still remember. We can still give honor to whom honor is due.

But sometimes we forget. Memorial Day weekend is a busy time. We're excited to kick off the beginning of summer, and Monday is more a holiday that makes a three-day weekend for us than a day for special remembrance. A day off work, a day for cookouts and pool parties.

It occurred to me, though, that there is one group of Americans who always remember. The servicemen and women who are still living never forget to honor their fallen comrades. I was named for my mother's brother, Richard. He's a veteran, a Purple Heart recipient. He could have been one of those for whom this day is set aside, but he survived. I know he never forgets to honor those who did not survive. And now my oldest son is serving in the U.S. Navy. He and his colleagues will not forget to honor their fallen brothers and sisters.

I want to follow their example.

We are now 100 years removed from the horrors of World War I, yet the words penned by Canadian
physician John McCrae still challenge us to remember and to keep faith.

So let's resolve today to remember. To all those who have fallen in the service of our country, we give honor. Let's pause to think just how much we owe to those brave men and women who have given their all.

Together, let's bow our heads and give thanks for those who have freely given their lives so that we may live free.

Sunday, May 22

Soul Care

Rain, rain, rain.

I don't know what it's like in your part of the world, but around here we've had rain day after day after dreary day.

If you follow me on Instagram, you'll know that I recently prayed, "Lord, it's easy for me to feel blue when the weather is rainy yet again. Help me to be as thankful for the rain as I am for the sunshine. Overcome, dear Lord, the drought in my soul."

That pretty much sums it up for me.

One happy bonus of the rain is that, every now and then, we may have the great privilege of seeing a rainbow. I caught a glimpse of one recently and snapped a quick photo. I added the words to a beautiful old hymn to that picture for you.

How good it is to remember that God always keeps his promises!  May your day be full of realizing that Love divine does indeed come down.

Tuesday, May 17

The spiritual discipline of being a parent

This is a picture of me exactly 25 years ago:

That's me with my two babies: Freckles the Basset hound and the one I hadn't met yet, though I'd carried him for 40 weeks.

Freckles looks disconsolate because I was telling him good-bye before I left for the hospital. And because he's a Basset hound.

That day 25 years ago changed my life. On May 17, 1991, I became a mother.

I'd been a Christian for many years before I had a baby. I was reared in a Christian home, attended a Christian college, married a Christian man. I couldn't imagine a life that didn't revolve around church activities. I loved Jesus and tried very hard to be like Him.

But boy, did I fail.

Oh, I wasn't blatantly sinful. I lived a pretty upright life. I wanted to be more like Jesus. But the Jesus I read about in the Bible was so loving. He welcomed all kinds of people with open arms. Me? I was critical and short-tempered. I wanted to love people freely like that. I tried, I really did--but people drove me crazy! Mercy, Lord, how could I ever learn to put up with, much less love, such irritating people as I encountered every day?

I reckon that when I asked God that question, He said, "Don't worry; I'll show you."

Although I practiced several of them, I'd never heard the term "spiritual discipline" when I became a mom. I remember so well when I first encountered the work of Richard Foster and Dallas Willard. I learned from them that a discipline is an activity within our power--something we can do--which brings us to a point where we can do what at present we cannot do by direct effort.

That made sense to me. I knew people who had disciplined themselves to excellence in a particular pursuit: athletics, music, academics, etc. But I'd never thought about the place of discipline in the spiritual life. One of the biggest aha! moments of my life came when I learned that practices such as study, prayer, and worship are spiritual disciplines. "These disciplines are the main way we offer our bodies up to God as a living sacrifice," Richard writes. "We are doing what we can with our bodies, our minds, our hearts. God then takes this simple offering of ourselves and does with it what we cannot do, producing within us deeply ingrained habits of love and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit."

I'd always wanted to be a different kind of person, the kind of person who loved and appreciated people instead of being irritated by them. I tried. I wanted to change myself, and I was constantly frustrated. No wonder: I was trying to do God's job.

Then I became a parent, and no longer did I have time or energy for trying to change myself. Instead, I submitted to all the little things that a parent does. I fed my baby and changed his diapers and bathed him and read stories and played with toys and picked up toys and cooked meals and washed dishes and taught manners and prayed. Day after day after day.

For 25 years now, I've been doing what I can do, one little thing at a time. Nothing big, just being a parent, depending on God to help me.

But recently I was having a conversation with my kids--not just that one boy born 25 years ago, but now three boys who have become men. We were talking about a difficult person one of them had encountered. I offered a viewpoint to which one of my sons replied, "Your opinion doesn't count, Mom; you love everybody."

Wait--what? Is that true? Me?

I've just been here, plodding along, doing what needs to be done, doing what I can do.

And God's been doing what only God can do: changing my heart. Changing me into someone who is more like Jesus today than she used to be.

That first little baby of mine is now an officer in the U.S. Navy. Just as I'll never forget the day he was born, I'll always remember the day he was commissioned. My heart caught in my throat when I saw an enlisted man salute my son and call him "sir."

My boy has changed an awful lot in 25 years.

And by the grace of God, so has his mom.

Joining these lovely parties: 

Sunday, May 15

Sunday soul care: celebrating wellness

Last Sunday was Mother's Day, and my heart longed to wish all of you moms a wonderful day.

Ah, the spirit was willing, but the flesh was terribly weak. Last weekend I got sicker than I've been in 20 years. I won't go into all the details, but I will tell you that I lost 5 1/2 pounds in 24 hours. After that I got better and only had fever, headache, and extreme weakness. Mercy! At one point I really began to believe that I would never feel better. Thankfully I did get better, because three days later my youngest son came down with it.

Anyway, I hope all you mothers had a wonderful Mother's Day and that all of you were able to celebrate your own mothers. My mom's been gone for many years now, so Mother's Day can be bittersweet, I know.

Today I want to share with you one of my favorite passages of scripture, one that I cling to when things seem awfully dark.

These are the words of John the apostle, who spent years with Jesus in the flesh and then many years walking with Jesus after Jesus had ascended to heaven:

"This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.  If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, cleanses us from all sin" (I John 1:5-7).

This is the truth, friends; I can attest to it!  May the knowledge of God's goodness fill your heart today.

Wednesday, May 11

The evolving door

I know that sometimes we all feel that our front doors are revolving doors, but today's story is about my evolving door.

Recently I wrote about the fact that we were finally getting around to giving our door some much-needed attention. Having been weather-beaten for 11 years, it was really needing some love, as you can see in this photo from last Christmas:

Honestly, I'm a big fan of painted doors. But this door is solid mahogany, and it seemed a shame to paint over that beautiful wood, so we opted to call in the pros and have it refinished.  After two days of careful sanding and the application of a rich mahogany stain, we were left with this:

Not what I was hoping for, to say the least. Honestly, it looked as if it had been salvaged from a fire.

About this point in the process, I was a basket case. I would cringe every time I looked at the door. "I hate that stupid door," I would mutter to myself.  Sometimes I would look at it and hope it could be saved; other times I would dream of simply replacing it with another door. "A different door would really be so much better," I would think to myself.

My husband, thank God, was much more realistic and cheerful about the situation. "I'm sure that something can be done to make it look better," he said. He had to leave on a business trip before the door folks came back, so he left me with a caution not to stress myself out. "The only outcome that would make me unhappy is if I had to buy a new door," he told me.

Yes, well. I guess that was a silly idea.

Anyway, the pros sent their best stain master to figure out how to handle my door. He was stumped as to what had happened to the door during the sanding and staining process, so he turned his attention to coming up with a solution. Wary of doing more sanding, he stripped a portion of the door and tried product after product, looking for a stain that would cover all the flaws and produce a fairly uniform finish.

To be honest, I just tried to stay out of his way during this process, afraid that nothing was going to work. "Don't you worry," he said. "We'll figure something out."

Finally, he did. Almost as a last resort, he tried the most highly pigmented stain he had in his kit.

And it worked.

It's not what I originally envisioned. Although I wanted the door to be darker than it was, I wouldn't have chosen for it to be quite this dark. Since parts of the door looked almost as if they'd been burned, he had to use a darker stain than we'd hoped. C'est la vie, right?

You know what? It's okay. It's really okay. Look:

No, it's not exactly what I had envisioned, but it's fine.  And it's our door--the same door that has opened for us day after day for 11 years. The door that has closed tight to keep out the blistering heat of summer and the bone-chilling cold of winter. The door that has held the wreaths of 12 Christmases. The door that opened wide to accommodate the gurney paramedics used to wheel my husband out to an ambulance. The door that opened to welcome us home after open-heart surgeries and a stroke. The door that has opened for innumerable friends and family to enter our home.

No wonder it was beat up and scarred, considering all that it's done over the years.

It was time for the door to be refinished, yes. But that door has taught me some lessons about myself.

I tend to concentrate on my flaws, fretting about the way I look--or the way I think I look. I fret and worry myself to distraction sometimes, wishing that I looked just a certain way. In my worst moments, I want to give up on myself. And yet it's this very body of mine that has given birth to three beautiful children. These hands have been rubbed raw from washing dishes and wiping brows. These knees have become rough from crawling with babies and hunting for Lego pieces and praying for teenagers. This brow is furrowed from days and nights of working and studying and planning. These laugh lines have formed from the delight of living with zany boys. My scars tell my story, and it's beautiful.

Just like the door, I don't need to be replaced. I may need a little extra loving attention from time to time, but I shouldn't give up on myself.

How about you? Do you ever feel weathered by the years? Maybe you could use a little special attention, too--but don't give up on yourself. Your scars tell your story, and you're beautiful.


A door evolves through difficulties and setbacks