Friday, February 27, 2015

What is She Waiting For?

I had a handsome lunch date on Tuesday. After a visit to check out a preschool, my three-year-old and I sat across from each other at a two-top at Chick-fil-A, swapped one grilled nugget for one fried (because I needed to at least TASTE the fried sweetness that is Chick-fil-A chicken), chatted about ketchup... it was noontime perfection!

Panhandler, by Leroy Skalstad (2009) 

As we pulled out of the parking lot, he noticed a woman standing in the grass holding a sign. The conversation went something like this:
L- "Mama, what's that lady doing?"
Me - "She needs help."
L - His response could fuel a political debate, "Why is she just standing there?"
Me - "Because she is waiting."
L- "What is she waiting for?"
Me - "For someone to give her money."

And before the words came out of his sweet little mouth I knew what he was going to say, "Why don't we give her money?"

My response - "I don't have any cash." Lie. I had $2.

The truth was, I didn't want to give her my last two dollars- I never have cash! I didn't want to reach over to the other side of the car - What if I couldn't reach? That would be awkward. I didn't want to hold up traffic coming out of the parking lot – Wouldn’t want the people behind me to honk!

I am full of it. Excuses that is. And they need to stop.

If I remind myself of the gospel of Matthew where Jesus says, Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me, I would realize that Jesus is saying to me, Abby, you made a lot of excuses for why you didn't help me. A lot.

When we make the excuses, we are ignoring the promptings of the Holy Spirit and telling God those obstacles are bigger than Him.

But I think my son's response is another great example of having faith like a child. He doesn't think of the obstacles. He doesn't make excuses. He sees someone in need and says: They need. We have. Let's do it.

What are we waiting for?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Spirit of Honesty

Graham, the puke-eater.
He's hungry. Again. 
In the spirit of being honest about parenthood, I'll confess that my son ate a thrown-up cat treat today and I didn't even budge to get it out of his mouth.

I shared that on Facebook on Monday and received more comments than any of my posts over the past few months. Why?

It made people smile, but so do funny memes and videos of us making bacon roses.

It was a cute kid thing, but c'mon. Facebook is dripping with cute kid stories.

I think it's because we want honesty. We are craving the comfort that comes from knowing we are not worse parents than the next person or that "worse parents" is even something that is possibly measurable.

I know, I know. This has been blogged about before. Facebook is just a highlight reel. Don't compare your life to the lives that are presented through photos and 180 words or less. Yadda yadda. But here's what I've learned: When all we share on social media is the perfection that is captured in the 24th photo we snapped, the stories of how Michael or Emily got the award for "Most saintly kid!", or (if I'm really being honest here) the rejoicing at how our relationship with God is so perfect (because sometimes, don't you really want to say- "I'm not feeling it today, God!") we miss out on the Spirit moving through us to our friends.

When I shared about my divorce on the morning show, I got so many calls and emails from listeners saying they love me and are praying for me. Several emails came from people who had been through it or are going through it and they felt comforted and connected. One call in particular resonated with me. It came from a woman who had called dozens of times before and we almost always exchanged a laugh, but that day she said, "If you hadn't shared about what you've been going through for the past 8 months, our relationship would've stayed at the surface. But now I feel like I can tell you that I've been through..." and she shared about her own struggle.

The pain we go through carves out a path like a river bed for the Spirit to flow through, but the facades put up a dam. Letting our guard down and sharing the hurt, the confusion and the struggle lets the Holy Spirit move. We are thirsty for this. Don't let your insecurities keep you from being honest. You have no idea how God might use that honesty to move in the heart of another.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Soooo Addictive!

I'm pretty sure the day we talked about a Candy Crush addiction recovery program on The Big Big House Morning Show folks in the cars could hear my eyes rolling. Seriously? There are people who are THAT into a silly game that this type of thing actually exists? "That's REEE-diculous" I said!

And then I downloaded Candy Crush.

Hello. My Name is Abby and I'm a Candy Crush-aholic.

Okay, maybe I wasn't that bad, but I understood the appeal of the game. It was downright fun and strategic and totally addictive!

Have you ever noticed that in the reviews under an app the understood indicator of a good game is the phrase, "Totally addictive!" or "So addicted!" You can even search "addictive games" in the iTunes app store (for those of us who aren't in denial). Or when a new series hits TV if no reviewer says, "I was addicted after one episode!" then as a collective viewing audience we assume it's not that good.

In other words, if I am not rendered powerless by this thing I'm engaging in then it's not worth my time. Sure, it's really just our way of hyperbolically saying  - this show/game/app is really good, but why do we see addiction as something to be desired?

Is it for the same reason that we sit in front of the TV with a pint of ice cream and mindlessly eat, paying no attention to the fact that we are one spoonful away from consuming over 1000 calories in a single sitting? (hypothetically speaking, of course) Or we head to the mall and engage in some retail therapy taking a breath of fresh air with every cute shirt or pair of shoes we try on?

There is so much vying for our attention that we find solace in the ability to tune the rest out and just zone- could be with a game, a ice cream binge or a shopping trip. We want to avoid reality, the problems, the chores, the bills so we allow ourselves to get pulled in. We lose control. We let the things that turn off our brain become the things we crave - that we are "addicted" to. The addiction comes from the need to not think, not worry.

But is turning off and tuning out the way that God wants us to spend so much of our time? And yep, I'm going to say it- What if we took some of that time that we would normally scroll through our Facebook/Instagram/Twitter feed and sit & listen to Him. Sit in silence. Read the Bible. Meditate on one verse.

Lent starts in less than 48 hours. What if, over the next 40 days, we attempted to be more mindful of those moments when we feel ourselves slipping into zombie-land and cut it off before it take us over, before the addiction grabs us and zaps the time that we can give to God.

And on a side-note, I would love, just once to see in the reviews under a Bible app, "So addictive!" Truth.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Do I Still Get Dessert?

My guys love food. Shocker, I know. The other night, Liam ate 3 fish sticks, then asked for two more. So I slaved over the hot microwave and gave him two more. Yeah, not only do I serve them fish sticks, I microwave them instead of bake them in the oven. Don't hate! He said he was still hungry, so I gave him one more. His dinner consisted of 6 fish stick in all + haricot verts (he doesn't eat green beans but if we call them haricot verts he gobbles them up) + tomatoes + polenta, which in the same vain as the green beans, we called "rice" to get him to eat. His little brother ate almost as much, but only managed to put away 4 sticks.

After all this food, Liam asked if he was getting dessert. How could I say no? He did such a great job with dinner.  But there was a back story on this dessert - for their afternoon snack, the boys had pudding. I told them they could have that instead of fruit or pretzels (the normal snack) but that meant nothing crazy-sweet after dinner. We settled on pudding at 3:30 and planned for mango after dinner.

After dinner & bath my boys got bit by the energy bug and would NOT STOP MOVING! That's normal but man, they were amped up on something this night. I kept trying to get Liam's attention to get on with the post-bath process- "Liam, go grab a pull up." "Put your foot in your jammies." "Come here." "Stop running" "Settle down" "Don't clothes-line your brother". I said each of these phrases a number of times and each time - no exaggeration - he asked me, "DO I STILL GET DESSERT?"

Annoyed, I grabbed his face (I'm getting better but I'm still working on patience) and told him, "I don't lie. I told you you're getting dessert but you need to stop asking me that." And because there was something about the way he was looking at me each time he asked "Do I still get dessert"  that led me to believe he was testing me, I then said to him, "Why does it feel like you are trying to do as much misbehaving as you can up to the point where you get dessert taken away?" Maybe I didn't say it in those exact words, but that was the gist. And I know it went over his head, but I had to say it anyway.

The "event" ended there. The boys sat and watched Curious George and ate their diced up mango in silence. Side note -  I might name my next child George as an homage to that monkey because I am so grateful to him and the Man in the Yellow Hat.

The next morning I was thinking about the evening's happenings and realized I do the same thing with God that Liam was doing with me. In my heart, when I choose to sin, I am saying, "If I do this, do I still get dessert?" Can I still get to heaven? Is this sin really that bad? Can I get away with this and still be okay?  For those parents of teens and young adults they might be saying: How far can I go physically in this relationship and still be "in good standing". It's this silly gamble that we take. I know it's not necessarily theologically sound, but you get my drift.

What I wanted my three-year-old to understand is that I had a wonderful treat ready for him, not because he earned it by eating 87 fish sticks and half the produce aisle, but because I wanted it for him. I wanted him to obey and be "a good boy" not so he could maintain his dessert status, but because he loves me and wants to honor me as his mother.

I guess tonight I should treat him to dessert for teaching me another lesson...