Sunshine In My Night

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I have never had a green thumb. In fact, I almost killed my Marigolds this year. But somehow, they persevered and rallied. Not only did they return from their near fatal demise, they are thriving in a spectacular way.

They have given me great joy during times of uncertainty, worry and plight. If you look closely, you can see all of God’s glory and beauty in a single bloom. Mesmerizing. They have caught my eyes many times and have given me a reason to pause and rest and sometimes cry.

They give me hope. They give me joy. They make me smile when I think I cannot. They are a warm reminder that He is always with me and that He is grande.

The Marigolds blooming in my courtyard, they are God’s sunshine in my night.

Enjoy the photo from my courtyard. 🙂

True Love Endures

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I was an in-house attorney for a hospital for about 8 years. I used to love walking by the valet where so many families and patients entered the hospital. I would silently pray for those entering the doors and observe whether anyone needed help. On one particular day, I observed an exchange between a couple that was ordinary, yet filled with God’s grace, love and beauty. It was sacred. It went like this…

The pick-up truck crusted from West Texas dirt pulled up curbside in the valet area. The driver opened his door and surveyed his surroundings. After a brief exchange with the valet, he rounded the front of his truck. He was tall and strong, but the hands of time had weathered his exterior. And based on his gait, his joints may have been a little creaky. He stepped up on the curb and opened the passenger door to reveal a petite lady, nicely coiffed with a pleasant smile; very pretty. My guess is that she was the Queen of the rodeo back in her day.

He extended his hand to her, like a coachman might do for Cinderella. She grasped it and used the hold as leverage to slowly turn towards him. And then I see she is quite frail and slow moving. She situates herself so that they are squarely facing each other. She took a long contemplative pause and observed the sidewalk below. I wondered how she was going to make the step down from her seat to the curb. Her husband leaned in. She put her arms around his neck and placed her cheek against his, holding on with what little strength she could muster. He embraced her and eased her down with a perfect combination of strength and gentleness. Once her feet were firmly planted on the ground, he slowly eased away and steadied her. She looked a little uncertain, maybe sad or anxious. There was concern in her eyes. He gave her a reassuring grin and hug.

Once satisfied that his wife could steady herself by holding onto the door, he walked to the back of the truck and retrieved a small personal duffle bag and a walker. He placed the walker in front of her. Slowly and with great effort, she grasped with one hand and then another, careful to shift her weight from the door to the walker. She was older, yet far too young to be so meek. Together, they slowly made their way to the entry of the hospital. He was leading the way just a half a step ahead, while she concentrated intently on each step before her.

Unexpectedly, she released one hand from the walker long enough to grab his elbow. A bit startled, he stopped and turned to see what was wrong. She leaned towards him and he leaned towards her, I thought perhaps they might exchange a whisper. Lovingly, she planted a kiss on his cheek. It wasn’t a quick peck, but it lingered long enough to be meaningful. He closed his eyes as if savoring the moment. And then they turned and continued their coupled walk into the hospital.

Getting out of a truck is a simple act that often goes unnoticed. It is something most of us take for granted. However, on this particular day, getting out of a truck exposed human frailty, vulnerability and dependence. The marvelous presence of God’s grace, love and beauty transformed the moment into something sacred. And that is why I loved walking by the valet area.

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Family In A Blender?

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Does your blended family feel like it’s in a blender?

I am pro-marriage and I believe divorce and having children out of marriage can leave deep wounds and scars for all involved; especially for children. Many of those wounds can last a lifetime and manifest in so many unhealthy ways. While we should always try to keep the marriage covenant, we all know that it doesn’t always hold together for a million different reasons. The truth is, the traditional nuclear family has faded from our society over the years and blended families are all around us. More than 50% of the US population is a member of a blended family in some form or fashion. “Father Knows Best” and “Leave it to Beaver” have long given way to “The Brady Bunch”.

My husband and I married in 2000 and today we have five children that we deeply love with our whole hearts. I have had two pregnancies and gave birth to three of our five children in 2003 and 2004. Their ages are 23,
21, 11, 11, and 10. Got it? Or does all of this sound like a complicated math problem? Most of you recognize it – blended family math.

BLENDED? NOT QUITE.
Some people believe that when they marry and move two separate families into one household, that they are automatically a blended family. That is not the case. In the beginning, you are running two families in the same house at the same time, on somewhat parallel tracks, but running them separate in a lot of ways. Also, there’s the ex that tends to influence the family dynamics even though they are not typically in your household.

“Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, ‘every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.” –Matthew 12:25

JUMP IN THE BLENDER
It takes a Blender to Blend! That sounds scary and painful!?! In actuality, the blended family comes sometime after lots of hard work blending. So be prepared to jump in the blender.

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I could write a novel about the challenges we experienced going from separate to blending to blended. If I am going to be totally honest, more than half of the book would be about the mistakes we made along the way and what we wish we had done differently. But we made it. We finally created harmony. We are far from perfect, but I think that even “Father Knows Best” and “Leave it to Beaver” had some imperfections off camera!

Bottom line, if you are in a blended family for 1 day or 10 years and you are “just winging it” and praying that one day your family members will wake up and suddenly become harmonious, then you’re in denial my friend. Blending a family is impossible without commitment, a plan and a whole lotta humility. The superior prideful ego has got to be replaced with an unshakable commitment to do the right thing and say the right thing no matter who around you may be wrong. It doesn’t always feel good, but you have to remember that you’re doing it because you love your family and you ultimately want harmony; this is especially important when others just want to keep stirring up drama. Our moms said it best, “If you can’t say anything nice, do not say anything at all.”

“Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45
”The tongue has the power of life and death.´ Proverbs 18:21

STEPS FOR SUCCESSFUL BLENDING
There are lots of practical steps for blending a family. But if I had to name the top three for our family, they are Jesus, Prayer and Love.

#1 – Jesus. Whether you are a nuclear family, a blended family or something in between, Jesus must be the foundation of your family. If you haven’t already done it, come together as a family and ask Jesus to come into your home and help each one of you do your part in blending the family. There is great power in your words and you must verbally make the invitation. My husband and I tried our hand at blending our family for four years without Jesus in it. Those were some difficult and sometimes hopeless years. We were the enemy’s play ground. Asking Jesus into our family is how we finally made some progress in the right direction. When you invite Jesus into your family, Jesus will show up in an amazing way.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:18-19

#2 – Daily Prayer. After you ask Jesus to come into the family, you have to keep Him involved and actively seek His word every day. You accomplish this through daily prayer. And not just individual prayer, but praying as a family was important too. There were many days that I prayed for myself just to help me stick to the commitment. But I also prayed for each of our family members. And this sometimes included praying for exes and new step-parents as well. This was not easy for me. But I realized that even though they are in another house and I rarely had to spend a lot of time with them, they are a big part of my children’s lives and they needed prayer too. Praying helped to get my heart right even when I wanted to be upset, offended or judgmental. Pray to drive the enemy out. And always pray appreciation that the Lord is not only willing, but He is able to bring harmony to your family.

“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask. …”. James 4:1-3

#3 – Love. And I’m not talking about human love either. I am talking about a decision to love like Christ. Love in a blended family is patient and kind, but it is also 100% selfless, unconditional, humble and sacrificial. Some days I just had to rationalize that if Jesus was willing to die on a cross for me, then I can step up and love even when everyone around me does not deserve it and have not earned it. There will be mistakes. In fact, there will be lots of mistakes! Don’t use it as an opportunity to tear each other down or belittle or berate. Instead, encourage each other and show that committment to loving each other.

And let’s just get down to it. Our children are impacted in a most profound way when we set out to blend families. Our children are worth our efforts. We must love them enough to step-up as parents and lead our families into a place of harmony and love. God expects parents to love their children with all their hearts all of the time. Just the nature of their membership in the family has to be sufficient to receive your love.

“Children are a heritage from the Lord. Offspring are a reward from Him.” Psalm 127:3.

THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT
I would venture to say that if you’re blending a family and you are experiencing frustration, then you are not alone. It’s complicated! There’s no exact science to the process of blending a family. Blending requires a specific plan and it takes action; no more waiting for everyone to just wake-up one day and be happy. There are a lot of resources to help you; family counselors, other families that successfully blended after many years of efforts, Church resources, books, etc. But the number one resouce is Jesus. If you invite Jesus into your family, he will bless your family with harmony.

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Galatians 5:22

The Little Things – What’s Yours?

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The highlight of my day today was not the contract that I reviewed nor the complex legal memorandum I authored.  Today, the greatness was looking at my youngest son and saying, “Why yes, I would love to cut the crust off of your sandwich when I pack your lunch.”  It was hugging my oldest son with all my might, relieved to see his smile returning after struggling with a difficult issue.  It was playing my daughter’s choir CD in the car over and over again as she practiced singing for the upcoming program.  It was helping her twin with his math homework because we both struggle with long division.  It was sharing a cup of tea with a special friend.  It was preparing my husband’s favorite meal for dinner.  It was making ooey-gooey chocolate chip cookies for my family to enjoy as an evening treat.  

My law degree did not contribute to these little things.  Some may not see these little things as grand or even worth mentioning, but these little things are the big things.  They are simple expressions of deep love for the people that I love. They may seem trivial, but the reality is that the giving of these little things return as a gift to the giver in the form of joy. Today, I have great joy in getting to do these things.  These little things are not my chore. These little things are my privilege and my joy.

What little things in life are your big thImageings?