Category Archives: Religious Ramblings

Pay Attention

On Monday I wrote about a recent experience at the playground. Aside from being pushed down by another child, Mikayla had a blast. She LOVES running (not sure where she got that) so that’s mostly what she does at the playground. Here are some pictures of her actually playing:

You probably didn’t notice anything special about those pictures – other than they contain the most beautiful child in the world. As I was taking the pictures, however, I noticed something special. Something HUGE. The only picture I asked Mikayla to pose for was the first one. After that, she just kept looking at me and smiling this huge smile as if she was saying, “Is this worthy of a picture? Are you proud of what I’m doing right now? Do you see what I just accomplished?”

She would climb on something and then turn and look at me. I’d clap or wave or say good job and she’d move on to the next obstacle. And repeat. I had gone to the playground with my kindle thinking I’d let her play for about an hour while I read. After reading the same two sentences about 7 times I put the kindle away and got out the camera. She needed my attention. She needed me to take pictures. She needed to know that I thought she was amazing at sliding down the three-foot slide.

Kids notice. Even three-year olds notice how you spend your time and attention. Pay attention to what matters most.

Be Gracious

Last week I took Mikayla to the indoor playground at our local mall. It’s small and not as fun as an outdoor playground but it had been rainy and I knew everything would be wet and muddy. Plus, there’s a Great American Cookie Co. and we love an M&M cookie after lots of playing.

As soon as I sat down another mom walked up and sat right next to me. She commented on how cute Mikayla is and then immediately pointed out a couple little boys who she said were “bullies” and suggested I keep an eye on Mikayla so that they don’t hurt her. I politely thanked her and went back to my book. Not two minutes later Mikayla came over to me and I could tell by the expression on her face that something had happened that bothered her but she wasn’t crying and I didn’t see anything happen so I just told her to go play. I looked up to see the same mom who had been so quick to warn me about the bullies. She apologized because her precious little girl had pushed Mikayla down.

First of all, the “bullies” were just toddlers – two, maybe young three year olds. Can you really identify a two year old as a bully after observing him for a few minutes on a playground? Maybe in extreme cases. But as much as I could tell the two boys were just running and laughing and playing – like all of the other kids. Secondly, maybe you shouldn’t be so quick to label someone else’s child. Toddlers push. It happens. I don’t think this little girl is a bully – I think she’s a toddler. As moms, maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to think of our own children as incapable of wrong and shouldn’t be so quick to judge children we don’t know based brief observations.

You don’t know the story of other people you encounter – children or adults. You don’t know their struggles, their home life, their medical needs. If a child is different from your own, be gracious and kind. Yes, there are children who are bullies and you should always make sure your children are safe. But, there are also children who are just different (for many possible reasons) and you may learn something from them – or, at the very least, you may teach your child to be gracious and kind to people who are different rather than being judgmental and superior.

I know I’ve been guilty of the same at some point or other – especially before having a child. And, if I’m being honest, I would still be less aware of my own judgmentalness if my child were “typical”. The fact that Mikayla has Williams Syndrome has destroyed a lot of my preconceived ideas for what a parent should or shouldn’t do. And, I’m definitely not without fault even now.

It is a very difficult thing to view people as God does. We are all less than perfect. We are all in desperate need of a Savior. We are all trying to figure out what in the world we’re doing when it comes to raising children. We are all loved immensely – faults and all – by the same Father.

Less judging + more graciousness = a happier planet

…or something like that.

(Im)Perfect Parenting

I have a disease.

It’s called perfectionism.

My fellow first-borns will understand what I mean by this, the rest of you will just have to take my word for it. Perfectionism is this unexplainable, illogical need to achieve “perfection”. Of course, we realize that perfection is unattainable but we will still work ourselves to death chasing this illusion.

Never satisfied. Never content. Always telling yourself, “you could’ve done better”.

In the last three years I have found an anecdote. I wouldn’t call it a “cure” since those perfectionistic urges are still present somewhere in my mind, but this anecdote has definitely taught me that I’m far from perfect. I can’t keep a spotless house. I can’t follow my schedule every day. It’s ok to fix chicken nuggets or pizza for lunch. And, the world will not end.

The name of this miraculous drug…Mikayla.

Maybe all children offer this anecdote. Maybe its just my precious angel. (If you struggle with perfectionism, I’ll gladly loan her to you for a week or so.) Either way, I have had to really let go of some of my idealistic tendencies in order to maintain my sanity.

A few days ago she reminded me once again, ever so subtly, that I am an imperfect parent. While peacefully browsing the isles at Target my lovely child pitched a fit over a toy. She screamed. She slapped me. She threw her shoes. She screamed some more. Other shoppers wished I would just leave…they didn’t say it…they didn’t have to. I’m sure they all thought I’ve never said no to my child a day in her life and that my cute, curly-haired princess is a spoiled brat. They didn’t say that either…their judgmental looks said enough.

What did I do? Well, after (calmly) sitting her back down and picking up her shoes, I continued my shopping. I said (in a surprisingly calm tone), “I’m so sorry. We don’t get what we want when we scream like this.” I ignored her and smiled at the on-lookers with their “what kind of mother are you” glances. And, I repented for all those times I had been a judgmental on-looker while someone else’s kid screamed their head off in public.

Was that the right way to handle the situation? Should I have just left? Should I have offered punishment in some form? I don’t have a flippin’ clue.

But, this isn’t the first time I’ve felt imperfect as a parent. And it won’t be the last. Maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Maybe God gives us these frustrating little bundles of energy called children knowing that they will teach us as much as we will teach them. Maybe we as grown ups think we have life figured out and our children are God’s way of reminding us that we in fact have nothing figured out. Maybe this was just another lesson in “Chrystal isn’t perfect.” I need reminders every once in a while.

By the time we left the store, she had calmed down but was still fake-whining for the toy. I continued ignoring her and by the time we got home she had forgotten all about it. She was her usual easy-going, happy self. We watched the Lion King…seven times.

What was the toy? I took this picture before the melt-down began. You might be thinking, “why’d you let her play with it in the first place?” But if you’ve ever seen my child with Elmo then you know it wouldn’t have mattered. The moment she saw him from 20 feet away it was already too late. My hope was that if she touched it for a few minutes she’d be ok to move on…uh, nope! There’s a good chance we’ll be avoiding the toy section like we avoid the swine flu until Christmas is over and all the giant displays are removed. That or you’ll know it’s us if you hear a screaming kid in Target.

Please tell me I’m not the only one learning this lesson. What’s something your child has done to remind you of your imperfections?

Favorite Posts

This is my 100th post!

In honor of this blogging milestone I wanted to highlight a few of my favorite posts from the last few years. Some you may have already read, some may be new to you – either way I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them.

Do Life!

I fully believe that we were created to “Do Life” with other people. Meaning that we as fallen, broken, beings need one another while we are on this journey of Life. I think this is even more true or more important for Christians. I’m not saying we should all move into a camp together and not let anyone else in. I’m just saying that we need each other in our daily walk – to uplift, to encourage, to help each other, to be an example of God’s love for a lost world. Continue Reading…

Dreams, Story, Magic

If I asked you to mention a place full of dreams, story and magic, what place would come to mind? A tropical beach? Paris? The Apple store? Disney World? … When you read a good book or watch a good movie what is it about the story that attracts you? If you tell a story about something that happened in your life, what makes the story worth telling? You probably aren’t going to call your friends to tell them a story about how you ate some cereal or vacuumed your house. A story worth telling has meaning, excitement, suspense, tragedy – it’s something memorable. It’s a story of dreams and magic!  Continue Reading…

Oh Happy Day!

…this beautiful child that kept me up half the night and at the moment has about 75 toys spread across the room is a living, breathing, walking, heart-beating miracle! Six months ago she had two holes in her heart that had not shown any improvement since birth. Today, she has two tiny holes that appear to be closing without intervention. Praise God! Continue Reading…

Unlikely Runners

…I’ve often felt that God has a sense of humor in the way He deals with His children. It seems that He likes putting us in situations that are WAY outside of our box. Maybe we learn more when we aren’t comfortable or in control. Maybe when our helping people causes us to sacrifice we receive greater blessing. Maybe He wants to bring us to a place that causes complete and total reliance on Him so that He receives the honor and glory for what is done. Maybe when He puts us into a situation that we would never have chosen for ourselves, it’s just a gentle reminder that He’s in charge of this thing called life. Continue Reading…

What If…?

I love the “what if” question! I love that when I ask myself “what if” I feel…”what if” is scary and sometimes painful and it stirs something inside that motivates me. What if I got off my rear and actually DID something to help others? What if I took a risk? What if I could teach my daughter about living a better story because I’m actually living a better story? Continue Reading…

Some Days Just Suck…Sometimes Its Longer

I posted a comment the other day that said, “some days just suck.”

Later I said to Mike, “I hope suck isn’t a bad word…” Probably something I should have thought about before posting it.

The fact is that some days just suck (or “stink” if you’re very conservative). Sometimes weeks suck or months or even years.

This week has gone from bad to much, much worse.

On Monday we found out about some changes happening in the lives of people around us – changes that will have a huge and lasting impact on our lives. I’ve felt just about every emotion you can feel – from anger to sadness to abandonment to sympathy – since hearing this news. I know that eventually everything will work out, everything will be ok (one way or another) – it’s getting to that point that I’m unsure of. What will we have to fight or endure before it’s all ok?

Literally, as I was writing this post – about how life sucks sometimes – I found out that friends of ours lost their 10 month old baby girl today. She had Williams Syndrome – which is how we were introduced to them. I don’t know the details but I know she had a heart cath done today and I’m assuming there were complications from the surgery. “Suck” doesn’t even begin to describe how bad this is.

Why? Why does life have to suck sometimes?

I know the Sunday School answer. I know that “His ways are higher than ours” and when you only see one set of footprints in the sand it’s because Jesus is carrying you. I know God is in control – this is His story. We are only small characters – trees in a story about a forrest.

And, while knowing that does offer some sense of peace and maybe even comfort, it doesn’t take away the pain or the anger or the fear.

I’m reading a book right now that has been talking about Joseph (Plan B by Pete Wilson). If you want to talk about days that suck, Joseph could teach us all a thing or two. He was beaten and sold into slavery by his own brothers, falsely accused of rape and then imprisoned for years for something he didn’t even do. In those times that Joseph was in the pit or in prison the bible says that the Lord was with him.

I’m sure Joseph felt angry or sad or abandoned but the Lord was with him. As much as his life sucked, God had a plan. God knew what he was doing even though it may not have always looked that way to Joseph.

But it still sucks. I’m still hurting. My friends whose lives are changing are still hurting. My friends who will have to bury their baby in a few days are still hurting.

Maybe God knows it sucks. Maybe He is hurting too. Maybe He is in the pit with us just like He was with Joseph.

What If…?

I love the “what if” question! I love that when I ask myself “what if” I feel…”what if” is scary and sometimes painful and it stirs something inside that motivates me. A few months ago, I probably would’ve felt differently. That was before…

Before I started asking some what if questions…

What if I got off my rear and actually DID something to help others?

What if I took a risk?

What if I could teach my daughter about living a better story because I’m actually living a better story?

What if instead of sitting and waiting for God to magically reveal His specific plans for my life, I just got up and did something that God has already instructed Christians in general to do?

What if I chose to love people – without condition or judgement?

And where did all this “what if-ing” get me? Right smack in the middle of a scary, risky, sometimes painful story that is all about helping others and definitely doesn’t involve sitting and waiting. And, I LOVE it. Not something I would’ve chosen for myself, not something I think is fun (in the traditional sense), but definitely full of adventure, excitement and the stuff of better stories.

For more about “what if”, read Donald Miller’s post – The Single Most Powerful Question You Can Ask.

What “What If” questions can you ask today?

Francis Chan on Risks

I saw this video featured on another blog and wanted to share it here. What a great illustration…

 

Dreams, Story, Magic

If I asked you to mention a place full of dreams, story and magic, what place would come to mind? A tropical beach? Paris? The Apple store? Disney World?

I recently read A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller and it got me thinking about Story. The book talks about the elements of Story – what makes a good story. If your life were a movie, would it be a good one? You can read more of my thoughts on this book here (or read Donald Miller’s thoughts here and here). Currently, I’m reading A New Way to Be Human by Charlie Peacock. It also talks about Story. Charlie talks about the God-human story. God communicates to us through His Word and His Work. Our story doesn’t begin at birth. When we are born, we are entering a story already in progress – the story of God and Adam and Eve and Abraham and Noah and David and Jesus. As followers of Jesus, we are part of this God-human story and the way we live our lives either attracts others to this Story or it doesn’t. We should be telling others the God-human story through our word and through our work – not as a PART of our life but as the WHOLE of it.

Think about that word “story”. When you read a good book or watch a good movie what is it about the story that attracts you? If you tell a story about something that happened in your life, what makes the story worth telling? You probably aren’t going to call your friends to tell them a story about how you ate some cereal or vacuumed your house. A story worth telling has meaning, excitement, suspense, tragedy – it’s something memorable. It’s a story of dreams and magic!

Is this the way the world sees the church (or the Christian life in general) – as a place full of dreams, story and magic?

Our family is planning a trip to Disney later this year. We’re pretty excited about it since none of us have ever been to Disney. But, I don’t think we’re nearly as excited as the other family we’re going with. They’ve been to Disney like 15 times and are literally giddy with excitement whenever they talk about it. They loaned us a Disney planning DVD and I watched it this morning. The three words I heard most were “dream”, “story” and “magic”. After watching this DVD, not only am I more educated about Disney, but I’m quickly approaching giddiness as I think about all the wonderful, amazing, memorable things we will experience.

The people at Disney get it. They know that people aren’t going to be attracted to a ho-hum, run of the mill experience. They know that dreams, story and magic are the stuff of life that people crave. And they don’t just throw it into the marketing (the “words” of Disney), they integrate dreams, story and magic into EVERY tiny little aspect of EVERY hotel, park, store, restaurant – anywhere you may set foot on their property was intentionally created to be full of dreams, story and magic (this would be the “work”). Why do you think our friends are more excited about the Disney trip than we are? Probably because they’ve actually experienced first hand the dreams, story and magic that happens there. They know it’s the “most magical place on earth” because they’ve actually been there, they’ve seen and heard with their own eyes and ears. They see themselves as part of the Disney Story.

Why do Christians think that living a ho-hum, run of the mill life with a little church thrown in on Sunday’s is the way we’re meant to do life? I’m not saying we need to fabricate a fun story to con people into coming to church. I’m saying we need to LIVE out there in the world recognizing that we are part of a much bigger story – THE Story. We need to let our word and our work be real and genuine and full of God’s love so that those who do not know the Story can see it clearly when they read our lives. A condensed version of the Story is not the true Story. To say with your words that you are a Christian and you want someone else to be a Christian too isn’t enough. You have to follow Jesus in the way you live as well – words are empty and meaningless if a person’s work is contradictory. Why are Christians not more excited about the God-human Story than we are about any other story?

After all, it may be the Story full of more dreams and magic than any other…

God created time, water, atmosphere, birds, butterflies and man (after His own image). He sees and knows all – from beginning to end. He is just and pure and holy. He loves fiercely – so much so that His own Son was sent to die for our wickedness so that we have an opportunity to know Him and to be in a relationship with Him again. He heals the sick, feeds the hungry and clothes the poor. Yes, sometimes He brings tragedy into our lives – but He is still the same God after the tragedy as He was before it! We are all part of His Story. He created me specifically for this portion of His Story! How awesome is that! I (insignificant and unimportant as I am) am part of God’s Story! That’s pretty magical.

We find it so easy to tell a story of dreams and magic to influence others in what kind of computer to buy or which football team to cheer for or what movie is good or which restaurant has the best service. Yet, we often dilute the most important Story to one of boring rituals and traditions or a list of do’s and don’ts. We have forgotten (or were never taught ourselves) the dreams, story and magic of being a follower of Jesus. As a result, the story we tell with our lives looks cold and uninviting to the people reading it.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if followers of Jesus lived in such a way that caused other people to want to follow Jesus in His Story? What if we told God’s Story through our word and our work so that those reading it would see the dreams and magic of His Story? We have experienced first hand – seen and heard with our own eyes and ears – we should be giddy with excitement at being a part of God’s Story!

Awareness

Christmas is here! All the parties, events, performances, shopping, wrapping, cooking will soon come to an end. If this was all there was to Christmas we would be left feeling empty and somehow unsatisfied on December 26th. Thankfully, this is not all. Thankfully, many years ago we were given the greatest Gift when God gave us His Son to provide salvation and a means to restore a lost and broken people to Himself. Because of this Gift, we have love, we have hope, we have peace in a world full of uncertainty.

We received a Christmas letter in the mail today from a family member. The closing paragraph of the letter included this sentence: “We come into this holiday season aware and grateful for the life we have been given.” When I first read this I thought, “aware” what a strange word to use. But, if you think about it, how often are we UNaware of the life we have been given? My answer to that question is most of the time. In this season, the time in which we celebrate the birth of our Savior, we should strive to be very aware of this Gift. How would our celebration of Christmas be different if we were truly aware of the life we have been given?
My heart is heavy this week as I think about friends who are living through tragic events that have happened over this past year. We have several friends who are spending this Christmas in a hospital with sick or dying family members, friends who are facing uncertainty over the next few weeks because of a recent cancer diagnosis, friends facing financial difficulties. I pray that they are aware of God’s Gift and that they are aware of the peace and hope for the future that we have in Christ.
I pray that I will be aware and grateful for the life I have been given as I celebrate Christmas this year.

Waiting’s for Babies

Isn’t that what parents say to their kids when they want them to stop something? “You’re a big boy now and only babies pitch a fit in the store.” I guess that’s also what kids say to their parents when they don’t want to do something…”Napping is for babies” or “Taking a bath is for babies” or “Vegetables are for babies” Mike and I joke often that Mikayla already feels that “sleeping is for babies”, even though she’s only 18 months old. Of course, she can’t say those exact words but she gets her point across.

Well, I say, waiting is for babies!! I hate waiting…in any aspect of life. I’m so spoiled by a life of instant everything. I’m not sure I could’ve survived before internet, remote controls, microwaves and Minute Rice. It seems as though we’ve come so far in a year, regarding Mikayla’s medical/physical situation. About this time last year, we went through our fair share of waiting. Waiting for blood tests, waiting for urine tests, waiting for ultrasounds, x-rays and EKGs, waiting for Mikayla to gain weight, waiting for medicine to work, waiting to see if she’d have to have a feeding tube, waiting to see if she’d EVER SLEEP. The answer to the last one is no, by the way, we aren’t waiting anymore, we’ve just accepted the fact.
Those days are barely a memory – thank God! But I still remember what it feels like to just wait. In just the last few hours I’ve read two CaringBridge journal updates from two dear friends who are just waiting and my heart breaks for them. I know they feel helpless, powerless, afraid, maybe even a bit angry and frustrated as they just wait for the doctors or the latest tests or treatments or results. Will you join me in lifting them up in prayer? Prayer for the doctors, nurses, other medical staff. Prayer for their family members who are the patients…I can’t imagine how hard waiting must be for them. Prayer for peace as they wait.
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