Monday, April 30, 2012

35 and Counting

Hi! This is your local big, fat, mean, yucky beast just dropping by to say hello. It's just been one of those icky days where I feel big, fat, mean, and...well...yucky, I guess. I don't know what to blame exactly, but I have a sneaking suspicion it could be due in part to the very self-indulgent days I've had lately. Instead of boring you with my detox day (in all of its dead car battery, lost flip-flops, whiny kids glory), I'll just let you in on the fun, self-indulgent part that preceded this, and hope that I'll be back to my hard-working, not so grumpy self tomorrow.

So, I know I promised pictures, and here it is. I realize the quality of this photo is not up to par, but that's because it was taken with a flashless phone in a not-so-well-lit restaurant.


These four couples have had a years-long tradition of going out to dinner and dessert to celebrate all of our birthdays. Three of us fall in April and then three in July, August, and September, so I guess we used to go out two or three times a year. And then we had lots more kids and life got crazier and money got tighter. And our fabulous little tradition got kicked to the curb. Now, however, it has been revived, and we did it with a bang! I can't remember the last time I laughed for hours on end to the point where the tears were flowing and the side was aching. It's a good thing, too, because we needed to burn some extra calories after the 10 pounds of thin, warm, salty tortilla chips we downed. We have so many years of inside jokes and shared experiences, that we can just say, "Taco Supremo" in a very pronounced Southern drawl and everyone dies laughing. Oh, I just love those kind of friends.

Just for a bonus, I'll give you another picture of some of my best girlfriends and me taken on a girls' night out not too long ago at all. You might be mistaking what we're doing here for the Hooters' pose, but it's actually the Very Nice Girls Who Love Jesus pose. Just wanted to be clear about that.



All in all, I went out to eat three times over my birthday weekend and then my parents got pizza for lunch on my actual birthday. (In case you're counting, that's about 2.5 times more than I usually get to eat out in a month.) Since I'm a quality time and acts of service kind of girl, that was my ideal birthday celebration. Spending time with family and friends is at the top of my "things I love to do" list. And it doesn't hurt that Chris finished off the weekend for me by cleaning our bathroom. Hello! Nothing says true love like scrubbing a toilet for somebody.

I'm so thankful for all the fun times that were had and good food that was eaten over the past few days. And I guess that's maybe why the carpool, laundry, cleaning hineys, spanking bottoms, washing dishes while I stare at the mounds of ironing kind of day I had today had me a little out of sorts. But that's okay. It's all part of this blessing called life I've been given for 35 years now. I'll take the good with the bad, the fun with the hard because it's all filtered through the gracious, loving and kind hands of my sweet Father in heaven. And the best part is, this is only a tiny, sin-tainted taste of the life He's given me for all eternity. I'll take it. :)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Let Them Eat Cake!

If you're a long-time, loyal reader of mine, first of all, "Thank you and I can't believe you're still here." Really, it's shocking. For many reasons. Here of late, I've been the worst picture taker and poster. If I were a dedicated blogger, I'd document my whole exciting life in photos and give you lots of interesting things to look at. In reality, I'm a slacker who is either too busy chasing kids or too busy sitting and doing nothing, completely relieved not to be chasing kids, to take pictures.

But as I was saying, if you've been around a while, you might remember the Great Cake Debacle of 2011. I wanted cake and had lots of trouble getting it.

I am overwhelmed with thankfulness as I report on the Great Cake Weekend of 2012. In just two short days, I will be...still younger than my husband, but a tad bit older than I used to be. And how better to kick off a birthday weekend than a day of cake? Some sweet friends and family went with me to one of my favorite girly food places which also happens to be one of the best cake places ever. So, naturally, I had cake.

Then tonight, we had a surprise birthday party for a family member who does happen to be older than me (which isn't that remarkable since most people are older than me) and guess what? Two kinds of cake! Now, I had to wait ever so patiently for my cake tonight as it seemed for a while that the restaurant wasn't in fact a restaurant but a place with a sign that said "Restaurant" but was actually a cleverly disguised torture facility. What's worse than taking a rambunctious toddler out to eat? Taking a rambunctious toddler to eat at a place that never actually brings you food! Really, though, Chris took the brunt of the unhappy toddler and the other three kids were remarkably patient.

And when there are two delicious cakes waiting at the end of the ordeal, who can complain? (Well, maybe Sam because he just can't understand the hope of waiting cake.) You read that right. Tonight...two cakes! So, in one blessed day, I've had vanilla buttercream cake (to die for), strawberry cake with quite the reputation around these parts, and yellow cake with homemade, old fashioned chocolate icing. If you don't know that kind of icing, I'm so, so, so sorry. And rest assured I ate your share tonight.

You know what's so fun about this whole thing, though? Tomorrow I'm going to a baby shower and guess what's going to be there? Yep. Cake.

There have been so many other things going on around here besides eating cake (no really, I promise) and I've written about all of them. Unfortunately, I only wrote about them in my head, so I can't share them with you because my hard drive is shot. (Totally the kids' fault.)

But if you'd like a quick rundown:

1. Maddie got bit by a lizard last week. It actually drew blood. Apparently it wasn't carrying any deadly diseases since she's still alive and all her limbs are intact.

2. Today we became the proud owners of two snails and a turtle. I think the turtle will have to find a new home because he doesn't seem to like this one all that much, but the snails can't leave. They've been hired to do a job...eat fish tank algae. Yes, we had lots of applicants and the interview process was grueling, but we really feel like we've got the best slimy creatures for the job.

3. My second try at the dance exercise class was much more successful than the first. I only got lost in the routine about 17 times and no one laughed at me. Okay, technically I don't think anyone laughed at me the first time, but the potential was there.

4. I've got nothing! The last week of my life is like a big black hole in my mind. Let's see, should I blame the less-than-ideal amount of sleep I typically get, the crazy kids who evidently think I want them to drop everything where they're standing the moment they're through using it, or the impending birthday (a.k.a. old age)? I'm too tired to decide so just pick one of those and I'll try to be back soon with more pictures and some sort of functioning memory.

In the meantime, I sure could use some cake.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Danger: Easy Road Ahead

Many times when we hear of parents taking their children out of the typical American life to serve the Lord in another location, we wonder if that’s the best and wisest thing to do for their children. Are they being irresponsible or even selfish? Are they putting themselves before their kids? Aren’t they worried about the effect their choice will have on their children?

Funnily enough, I find myself more concerned over what will happen to my kids if I keep them here in this easy, self-focused lifestyle. While the thought of going to some far-off, hard place isn’t something that makes me feel all giddy inside, it does seem like in some respects there would be so many more opportunities to live a life like Jesus in front of my kids.

I want them to chase after God and not the things of this world. As they grow older, I can see where their weaknesses lie. We all have something. In college, all my partying roommates had a goal to get me drunk, just once. That was never a temptation for me and it never happened. Now, had their goal been to send me on a month-long vacation to some of the finest resorts in the world and get me completely distracted from the Lord, they would probably have had better luck.

In America, we have the opportunity to satisfy all the desires we can come up with. Want to have the perfect body? Diet, exercise, and get plastic surgery. Spend your life chasing physical perfection. Want to have everything that money can buy? Everyone will admire you for going to college and making a successful career for yourself. It’s the land of opportunity, right? Want to drown your sorrows with drugs or alcohol? You can’t get away from it. Want to find the perfect person to gratify your every craving? Just try out as many as you want. Marry someone without a care in the world, because it’s so easy to undo the whole thing. And the list goes on…

My unceasing prayer for my children is that they want nothing more than Jesus. I pray that they will not chase the things of this world but chase the Lord with everything that is in them. I wonder, though, as I struggle daily with the distractions and pleasures of this world, if they’ll be able to do it in this culture. By the grace of the Lord, they can, but it is a sobering thought.

And so I don’t ask those leaving this country how they can do this to their kids. I ask the Lord to protect my kids from the dangers here. Not violence or starvation or wild animals ready to attack or preventable disease. But affluence and ease and pleasure and the lies of the enemy that tell us this life is all about our happiness. I pray that they will love the Lord their God with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strength. No matter our location, that is my desire for my family.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Glory Days Revisited

I have spent the last thirty minutes proving to myself that I know absolutely nothing about blogs, html, computers, or the internet. Sometimes life seems so little that you just get a hankering for something to be grand. But, obviously, this little blog is not going to be grand anytime soon. I suppose since at least once a month I contemplate just ditching the whole silly thing, I shouldn't put too much time or work into it. So, it's generic still.

I did something this week that I haven't done since my college days. And no, it's not passing out from being drunk (obviously you didn't know me in college if that's what you thought). I know you'd think that was just a few years ago by looking at me, but it's actually been - eek! - over a decade. Wait, is that right? I'm having one of those moments when I can't remember what year it is or how old I am or when anything important in my past happened. I think my brain just goes haywire trying to process all this unbelievable info. You're how old? You've been married since when? You're planning what reunion? Not possible.

So, okay...married in '98 and now it's 2012, right? Somebody stop me if I'm in the wrong century. Oh, dear. I've been out of college a long time, which means it's been over a decade since I set foot in an exercise class. No wonder I was dreading going to one a couple of days ago! I'm not scared of nearly as many things as I used to be. My list has definitely come down at least a couple hundred from the 19,457 things I was scared of in college. But with so much time having passed since I last exercised where other people could see me, "working out in public, especially when it involves dancing with hip movements" has been put back on the list of things that make my stomach hurt.

My sweet, encouraging friend talked me into this whole thing, and I really thought it would be fun...until I was on my way. Then I was thinking something more like, "What in the world was I thinking? I'm going to be the oldest, most uncoordinated dork there and my old, faded yoga pants are shameful!" But instead of turning my car around to work out in the blissfully lonely basement of my house, I put on my cool as a cucumber face and waltzed in there like I didn't have a fear in the world. Okay, I did admit to the first person I recognized that I was a little nervous about being there, but I'm sure everyone else in the room thought I was a cucumber. Or something like that.

All in all, it was totally fine (as things we're afraid of usually are). I wasn't the oldest or the least coordinated. I mean, not that others there weren't coordinated, but I didn't stick out so much that people began laughing at me so uncontrollably they could no longer do the grapevine. Or maybe everyone was stifling their laugther. But I'm pretty sure they were all just trying to breathe and keep up with the hip shake things we had to do.

When it was done, I wanted to come back. Who wouldn't want to relive their glory days on the high school dance line every week of their life? 'Cause that's kind of what it felt like. I mean, I'm sure everyone there could tell I had been a performer at one point. It's pretty obvious when I start shaking those hips and rollin' down the river. I just hope no one else was so intimidated that they won't be coming back.

Sadly, my soccer mom duties kept me from attending again tonight, so it was back to the basement and the boring workout video for me. But don't you worry. Come next Tuesday, I'll be workin' on my muscles and shakin' my stuff. Funny, though. Seems like there's a lot more to shake these days than back in 1994. I'm sure I'm just imagining things.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Refreshed

I am so supposed to be getting back on board the exercise train right now, but instead I'm sitting in this chair where I waste a little too much of my time and...well, we won't call blogging wasting time, will we?

I was just reading through a few of may favorite blogs, some famous and some not-so-famous, and I saw two friends conversing about their favorite feelings. One feeling that was mentioned was refreshement, and that got me thinking.

As a mom of four, wife of one, and friend to many, I don't get a lot of refreshment. I receive a lot of blessings as the result of serving and being served by the people in my life, but feeling refreshed is not something I can claim very often. Exhausted, yes. Overwhelmed, absolutely. But refreshed? Only in my dreams. (Okay, not even in my dreams, because I think I'm frantic even then.)

However, I just have to say that the Lord poured out refreshment on me this past weekend. There's no doubt I like to come on here and vent about my struggles and seeing the good in the midst of lots of hard, so I wanted to give a few moments to thank God for the plain old good. Our whole weekend was just GOOD! No stress. No worries. Just fun.

It was nothing grand, but after a wheezy, laundry-filled, fussy, fighting, disobedient week, it was absolutely fabulous. I think it's true that we can't appreciate warmth until we've been really cold, or food until we've been really hungry, or water until we've been absolutely parched. Well, after the rough stuff from last week, I was primed and ready to appreciate some low-key fun with family and friends.

Friday night was Girls' Night Out. It's been a long time coming, and it was totally worth the wait. I can tell you with 100% certainty that I am old, but I'm totally okay with that. We wanted to get outside of our middle class, suburbian mommy bubble, so we went to a, uh, happy place. Let's just say everyone else there was pretty happy, but so were we, and we didn't even need any of the stuff they were using to get happy. We were drunk on freedom!!!

We could wait for a table without people climbing on us or whining in our ear. We could eat our food without cutting up anyone else's first. We could sit and talk without getting up 34 times to take someone to the potty. Now, we totally had stay-at-home mom written all over us, and I had any remaining illusion that I was even moderately stylish completely shattered, but that's fine with me. I had a night out with yummy food that I didn't cook or clean up and uninterrupted conversation with other grown-ups. It was fabulous.

We topped it all off with some pretty exciting stuff. We went wild and spent as much on a slice of cheesecake as we had on our meal. The practical side of me knows this is completely ridiculous and something I should probably feel ashamed of since hundreds of thousands of people are starving. The sugar-loving side of me was overcome with happiness. With our boxes of precious dessert in hand, we spent hours in a semi-vacant house (with permission) talking and laughing. Only girls need no other entertainment than cheesecake and talking. As dull as it all sounds, I loved every minute of it...until 1am when I got home.

I was so refreshed that I wasn't even too upset when my little darlings woke us up at 6:30 on Saturday morning. I was plunged back into middle class mom-dom when we spent the morning at the soccer field. Grandma and Grandpa came to watch our superstar atheletes, eat burgers, and play ball in the living room. Then we spent the evening with lots of friends outside watching our kids get soaked in the creek, eating, and talking. Honestly, what could be better? I can't think of a thing.

We topped it off with a relaxing and refreshing Sunday...lunch with our soon-to-be missionary friends at church and dinner with the best neighbors in the world. I was spontaneously hospitable (not normally my best quality, but one the Lord is growing in me) and we all had a great time. And I am completely aware of the fact that every fun thing I've mentioned has involved a meal.

Oh, that all weekends could be so filled with fun, but in such a refreshing (not rushing around, stressed out) way. I really think it's all in our perspective. After having a not-so-fun week, but acknowledging the Lord's hand in it all, I had found a measure of contentment in my circumstances. I knew I didn't need the perfect weekend to satisfy my desires or bring me joy, because Jesus does that for us no matter our circumstances, but that just allowed me to enjoy and appreciate the weekend He gave me.

That sense of refreshment really is available to us so much more often than we take advantage of it. I rarely do. I live overwhelmed, frustrated, and stressed most of the time. But I shouldn't. Doesn't Jesus promise us rest? Our bodies can be busy (as mine was this weekend) but our minds and spirits can be at rest. How different would my face, my words, my life be if I lived in His rest? I want to achieve that kind of life even in the midst of all the craziness. Until it's an everyday thing, I'm quite thankful for little glimpses of it here and there.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

One of Those Days

It's been one of those days...

where I only survived due to the Holy Spirit and the fact that I was wearing maternity yoga pants. Because nothing makes a hard day worse like tight pants. Who will join me in a Stretchy Pants Revolution in which we change the world to a better place where everyone loves and wears nothing but stretchy pants?

It's also been a day when I've been writing many blog posts in my head and now can't for the life of me figure out how to tie it all together. So maybe I just won't. Maybe I'll be wild and crazy and just write a bunch of random things and see how it turns out.

So this has been a week when I'm faced with situations and circumstances that seem to contradict God's Word. The really troubling thing about it isn't necessarily the seeming contradiction but the way "church people" just go with the world's view of it and ditch what the Bible says because, well, it's easier and it seems to make more sense. Except for the fact that you claim to be a believer in God and His Word and you're acting like you get to decide which parts of it are true.

Today was a little hands-on experience with the whole thing. This particular day in the life of moi seemed to contradict this little line in God's Word: "Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him." Hey, just being honest! So I could go with the world, spending the day feeling sorry for myself, envying the garbage truck driver because at least he gets to do his job alone, in silence, without any whining or bickering, and telling myself that I not only need but deserve a break, for heaven's sake!

Or I could go with the Word and remind myself that my children are a blessing and reward. They build my character. They are sweet and obedient sometimes. The Lord has given me the privilege of making little disciples. I have all I need (the Holy Spirit) to be the mom they need. There is nothing I'd rather be doing than raising, shaping, and training them. Okay, there were some things I'd rather have been doing today (or maybe 1,033 things), but in the long run, nothing else.

And, as a bonus, they help me see the good in things. Like nebulizers. Not only do they help wheezy little boys breathe, but they're delightfully noisy and drown out the screams of other children who may or may not be in BIG trouble and you can just pretend for ten minutes that you're at the beach taking a nap (while holding a sick toddler). See? A blessing.

Yeah, so I was talking about things that don't seem to add up with God's Word. And what I was reminded of is that we can't see the whole picture! I see one eensy weensy, itty bitty piece of the puzzle and claim to know exactly what the whole thing looks like. Wouldn't we do better to trust the One who is way bigger than the puzzle and can see the whole thing? Shouldn't we go with His perspective rather than our super extremely limited one? So maybe we should read the Bible and live by what it actually says rather than what we want it to say and see how it all plays out. Just a suggestion.

Wow, things look different from down here...off my soap box. If you can't guess what I've been doing today from what I've already shared, just take a look at the calender. I'll give you a hint...it's the middle of the month...extremely close to a holiday (Easter...remember that one?). Any guesses? Yes! I was taking care of a sick Samster. We have this fun thing we do every month called It's the Middle of the Month and Time for Holiday Fun, So Let's Get Wheezy! You should try it. It's a blast. Really.

No, the poor guy is pitiful. We inhaled albuterol and drank steroids and prayed and I think we may be able to avoid the doctor as well as the ambulance this go round. Yay! Thank you, Lord! Okay, it's not over yet, but I'm trying to be positive. Seriously, though, this little guy is like clockwork! If calendars ever get outlawed or they all get stolen by calender-loving aliens, don't worry. You can tell what time of the month it is as well as keep track of all holidays (even St. Patrick's Day) by Sam's breathing. Don't fret. In the event of a calender shortage, I'll keep you posted.

(By the way, if watches are someday hard to come by, I'll keep you abreast of his pooping habits as well. 'Cause you can plan your day by them. He's nothing if not predictable.)

I think I've fallen off the exercise wagon. I've had a great streak going here but I just don't know if I can keep it alive. After the exhausting day I had, I went with the solid choice of ice cream with a Reese's cup in it over working out.

Can I just ask who in the world thought it was a good idea to create a "snack size Reese's cup" that is packaged exactly the same way yet slightly smaller than an actual Reese's cup? Why on God's green earth would you want one slightly smaller? Okay, bite size I can see, but if you're going for the whole cup, just go for the extra 25 calories and get the real deal. I was tricked, hoodwinked, and bamboozled into buying a 12-pack because it appeared to be a good deal...only they're too small for my scoop of ice cream! It wasn't a good deal. It was robbery!

It's ridiculous to have 7 sizes for one type of candy anyway. Bite size. Snack size. Fun size. Regular size. King size. Super Ginormous size. You Should be Embarrassed You're Buying This size. America has overdone it on the choices. But I've learned my lesson. I will pay very close attention during my next peanut butter cup purchase. They won't pull a fast one on me again!

Okay, with no further ado, I will present to you Easter 2012. These pictures will totally support the fact that children are a blessing since they capture one tiny moment in time and they have no audio. Really, we had a great Easter. The gnats were a little over the top, but that was my only complaint. It was a wonderful day celebrating the most wonderful event of all time (He's Alive!) with my favorite people eating wonderful food.

Here, Sam looks like a man on a mission. I'm telling you, he's got it together. The man loves a schedule and will let no holiday or anything else stand in his way.



Below is the child known most days as My Sweet Luke. He did not go by that title today, but he was wearing it proudly on Easter.


Here is the rare picture of me and Chris with no kids. I post it here to prove to later generations that we do in fact know each other and sometimes spend time in very close proximity to one another.



I absolutely love this pic of Maddie and her great grandfather, Big Daddy. He's my only living grandparent and loves this girl. He bought her a pony, people.


Here, again, is that usually oh-so-lovable Luke.




Below is what I strive for in our house...brotherly love. We obviously acheived at least Brotherly Toleration for a moment on Easter, but the whole love thing is going to take more work. I'm sure they love each other. We're just going to work on showing it in ways other than fighting and yelling.

And here they are in all their Easter-attired glory. The Blessings. And they are.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Firsts

We've just had a little spurt of "firsts" around here lately. You know, those little events you commemorate in your child's life, or those moments that usher in a new phase of life, or the times that you hope the first time will also be the last. Yep, we've pretty much covered the gamut in the last few weeks.

Let's start with the bad because we'd rather end with the good, right? Last week marked the first time anyone in our little family had to use crutches to get around. When Chris does something, he likes to give it all he's got. Apparently, that includes his tendons and other important parts of his foot when leading game time with the preschoolers at church. It's no wonder they all love Mr. Chris so. Sadly, Mr. Chris will be absent from game time activities henceforth and hopefully from the orthopedist's office as well.

There were a few dark days in our house of mommy driving, hauling, and maintaining everything and everybody. Thankfully, in God's great mercy, He has brought quick healing and hopefully that nasty word that I heard the doctor say last week that begins with "s" and ends with "urgery" is absolutely off the table at this point. This would be the "first" that we hope is also the "last."

Maddie is about to hit double digits. I don't know if that is worse or the fact that I'm nearly halfway to 70. It all seems like I'm looking in on someone else's life, because I'm pretty sure I'm still in my late 20's and my one and only baby girl is just that...a baby. Ironically, it was when I was holding her like a baby tonight (just to see if I could still pick her up) and telling her how I used to watch her sleep when she was a baby, that I got a whif of something I could not believe. I even accused Chris of it being him.

Then the awful reality of what my nose was telling me sank in...she had b.o. No! A child that I have given birth to could not possibly be to the point of having body odor. I mean, little kids stink...that outside, dirt, and maybe even a little sweat stink...but body odor? I quickly sat her down, told her good night, and left the room contemplating the possibility that I might need to go on antidepressants. It was a first that hit me like a ton of bricks! Stinky bricks! Life will definitely never be the same.

Here's a fun first: Jack showed up to his soccer game last Saturday and did something that left us all floored. He played soccer! I mean, he's been "playing soccer" for three years now, but this time he actually went for the ball and repeatedly kicked it in the direction of the goal, even when an opponent was trying to steal it from him. Not only that...he scored FOUR goals! We'd jokingly told him before the game that we'd take him to Milo's for lunch if he scored five goals. Judging from years past, we saw this as a pretty safe bet. He called our bluff! Okay, he didn't score five, technically, but he might as well have scored a hundred! Oddly enough, it's more fun to watch a 40-minute soccer game when your kid is actually trying. Way to go, Jack!

Okay, it looks like I'm doing a roll call of family firsts here, but I can't think of any firsts Lukey has achieved here lately. Well, unless you count the first time his tummy has ever had a headache. Poor guy. Oh, I've got one! It's not too exciting for you, probably, but he is finally buckling his car seat all by himself! That is very exciting for a mama who has another little one to wrestle, uh, I mean buckle, in! Now, it takes about four times longer than it should, but we can pick up the speed later.

Last, but certainly not least, is our sweet Sam. He is growing too fast. He's throwing out new little words like outside, go, and book. "Puppy" is an all-time favorite and that little chirpy "Mommy" is always going when we're in the car. I love, love, love it. His adorable little voice and smile totally make the constant battle of "don't stand up in that chair" worth it.

But the big first for Sam lately was saying goodbye to the beloved and much-envied rat tail. I have fought for months the fact that his little baby hair was a little out of control. I fondly remember Maddie's little mullet that she sported around this age. Babies can totally pull of rat tails, mullets, fat legs and big round bellies like a grown-up never could. But, since he was about to be 18 months old (gasp!), I gave in. I'm not sure if I regret it or not.


Baby Makeover: Before




During


(our tactic to get him to cooperate can be summed up in one word: cookie)







After






Either way, he's pretty much the sweetest thing around.


Sunday, April 1, 2012

F

Poor old letter F. Don’t you just feel bad for someone or something that has ended up with a terrible reputation through no fault of their own? F is a perfectly fine letter, but for at least two reasons now has a negative connotation. Obviously, there’s the word. The BIG word that, for some reason, is just one of the worst words ever to enter the English language. I’ll apologize now for getting that word in your head, because once it’s in, it can be tough to remove. It’s the word makes me flinch when I hear it since, thankfully, it’s not that often. Some people, however, seem quite fond of it. Some people are also fond of snakes. I will put all above people in their own category. :)

But Letter F’s troubles don’t end there. He’s the worst of the worst when it comes to grades, too. Even students who regularly get C’s and D’s on their report cards can say, “At least it’s not an F!” He’s the letter no one wants, poor guy. It’s not his fault he landed right after A, B, C, and D. I guess they were so close to the letter that starts the word “Fail” they just decided to skip the E and go straight for poor old F.

Though my heart goes out to Letter F, I’ll admit I’ve never wanted much to do with him. My choice curse word, in moments of sudden pain or fright, happens to begin with S (not that I’d ever let it actually come out of my mouth). And the grade I preferred on my report card came a little higher in the alphabet chain. Okay, he’s at the top. If I ever were to get an F on anything, it would probably be handy to have a defibrillator around. The horror!

That’s always been me. Not only do I prefer to steer clear of failure, I fear it. (Oh, man. Another bad F word.) I set up my whole life to avoid it at all costs. If there’s anything risky or uncertain, you can just count me out. I want to take no chance that failure can occur. It’s kind of amazing I decided to get married and have kids, because those are two of the hardest things ever. I was under the assumption that I’d do a better job than I am, I think. Really, though, the whole reason I have an Elementary Education degree is because I thought I couldn’t mess it up too bad and I was too afraid of messing up Secondary Math, or heaven forbid, something crazy like Interior Design or Photography. Oh, no. Much too risky.

Ironically, I thought I’d be a terrible elementary teacher when all was said and done, so I never used my degree anyway. I didn’t even think I could convince a principal I’d do a good enough job to get hired. Can you imagine the horror of getting fired because you stink at something?

So when I got a big, fat F in front of what seemed to be lots of people a few days ago, I was horrified. I mean, what’s worse than failing? That would be failing in public. I’m so hard on myself that I just couldn’t get over it. I hate to fail. The reason? Must be my old pal PRIDE.

Failure hurts our pride. To think that everyone knows we messed something up in a royal way is too much for our ego to handle. It’s humiliating. Funnily enough, I’ve been praying for more humility. I knew in that moment that God could use this, if I’d let Him. He didn’t want me to sin, but He could use it to teach me something. And He has.

I will fail. It’s inevitable. If I’m walking with the Lord, I’ll be doing it less and less as life goes on, but it will still happen. I’m living in a fleshly body in a fleshly world. Sin will happen. Failure will happen. And people will see.

But the beautiful thing about our failures, our mess-ups, our cracks…it’s just an opportunity for the light to shine through. What a wonderful chance to point to something many of us will be pondering this week…

THE CROSS.

My humiliation. My failures. My sins. My shame. My curse. My bad reputation. My punishment. My destiny.

Taken and nailed. By the One who loves me despite all that. By the One who gently, faithfully picks up the shattered mess I have made, am making, and will make of my life and turns it into beauty…if I’ll let Him. If I’ll humble myself and accept the gift I will never deserve.

He takes my failing report card and stamps His A across it forever. Failure erased. Perfect record attained.

His love. His freedom. His reputation. His holiness. His righteousness. His grace. His mercy. His destiny.

I don’t want to trample on that grace. I don’t want to disappoint Him. I don’t want to ruin His reputation or steal His glory. I don’t want to fail Him.

But sometimes I will.

Yet His forgiveness, love, grace, and mercy will be waiting for me. His arms will be open to accept me again. He will rejoice at my repentance. And He will use it all to change me. Mold me. Make me more like Him.

Sometimes it takes seeing our sin all over again to appreciate the cross like we should.

I am not worthy, nor will I ever be, of grace so great.

Thanks and praise be to God our Father and our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.

Romans 8:1-4