May 2010


I feel I need to start with a disclaimer:  I use the title of today’s post with much hesitancy, because while we strive for godliness, we fall short each and every day.  Nevertheless, a true Christian family is distinguishable from the world.

I took my kids to have breakfast at their Nana’s (my mom) restaurant last week.  I  was surprised to learn that one of the waitresses was pregnant, expecting the new arrival very shortly.  She is the girlfriend of my cousin, and a former coworker of my husband, when he helped my mom get her place up and going the first few months.  Clearly out of the loop, I had no idea she was pregnant.

We left breakfast, and my brain was swimming with thoughts.  Firstly, just how out of the loop I am…how was this not mentioned at some point.  But I digress.

I am the only Christian in my family.  My mom’s dad was a faithful Lutheran, although I do not know whether he was a believer. Whatever faith he had, it was not transferred to the next generation.  My cousin grew up in a very ungodly home, with a lot of drama inside that household.  My heart has often gone out for him and his brothers, as well as my uncle.  Many prayers have been raised before the Throne of our King for their salvation.

So when I heard of the expected child, my brain was full of thoughts, asking again and again, ‘what can I do to reach them?’

I decided on a rather unorthodox baby gift, but an absolute necessity for parenting…a Bible.

During the few months my husband worked at the restaurant, my cousin’s girlfriend saw me and my kids often.  She saw the interaction between myself and the girls (Alexander wasn’t born yet), and between the girl.  On more than one occasion she commented on their behavior, how well they shared, etc.  Clearly, she didn’t see the times they threw temper tantrums, or had attitudes, but she saw that something was different.  During one of our visits she may a joking comment about hiring us (my husband and I) to raise her kids when she has them.

The credibility that was established then would now be used by God as an opportunity to share the Gospel.

So here we are today, with her and my cousin expecting their first child any day.  My cousin comes from a broken family;( I do not know about her background).  I could not think of a better gift than to tell her ‘my secret.’  How is it that we have respectful, well-behaved children?  It certainly isn’t any special talent innate to me but rather the grace of God, having changed me on the inside, impacting the way our family operates.

I left the restaurant travailing for them that day, and the next, while getting and delivering the Bible.  My prayer has been that God would open their hearts, that our visible testimony would soften their hearts enough to, 1. read the Word, and 2. receive it with repentance and faith.  That upon them, they would change the legacy that has been passed down to them.  That they would stand on the Rock of Christ, the first in their families, altering the trajectory of their offspring.  That they would break the pattern of broken households, and even turn their family and friends to the Lord through the living testimony that they produce with their expected son.

Would you pray for them as well?

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Every mom knows the experience of being at the end of the rope.  One more thing going wrong, no matter how small, and you’ll snap.  One more annoying noise, and monster mom will appear, like the Hulk transforming before their eyes.

In the car today, the 1-year-old decides to start shrieking.  It was a new noise for him.  He loves to sing, and I love to hear his singing.  He certainly knows how to yell when he isn’t happy.  But this was neither pleasant singing, nor defiant anger, it was…shrieking.  And LOUD.  My girls found it funny, and joined in.

So now I have 3 kids in the back, after a long morning (mom is tired) making all sorts of noises.  Even if I had the energy to go through any kind of correction, they wouldn’t have heard me anyways.

So, what’s a mom to do?

Join in, of course.

I started making noises, in time with his rhythmic sounds.  We had an orchestra of 4 voices making all sorts of noises.  And ya know what?  It was kind of fun.  Not only did it keep me from losing my mind, but it passed the time until we got home.

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

While out enjoying some bagels with my kids, I noticed a pack of older kids that were all together.  An end of the year trip, senior cut day, or maybe 1/2 days for testing.  I don’t know why all these kids were out and about, but it was clear they were high schoolers.  And it struck me, just how many of them were rather large, to be P.C. (which I’m usually not!)

I graduated high school 11 years ago.  I recall 1 ‘fat-kid’ in our class, and a few others that were chunky.  Maybe it was the crowd I was always around, being an athlete, but I don’t think so.  In all my classes, in all the interaction between classes in the halls, there just weren’t a ton of fat folks.  But today, I couldn’t believe how many kids I saw that were obese, I mean really really obese.  And it just made me sad.

Sad for those kids, who surely have a lifetime of health problems on the horizon, if not already. Sad for our culture, that has 8 year olds who weigh more than healthy adults.  Sad for their parents.  I can’t help but think what was mom and dad doing?  You don’t get to be 400 pounds, or even 100 pounds over night.

In a world were ‘food’ is purchased while driving your car and handed to you through a window, this is the future.

In our beloved country, that has embraced socialized health care, you and I now have the *privilege* of paying for the health care of these folks, who will suffer many conditions over their lifetime due to their poor eating habits.  That’s kind of a twist on Robin Hood, rob from responsible to give to the irresponsible.

Ah, what a great country we live in.

I’ve determined that there is a fine line between appropriate helpfulness and plain old nosiness.  I don’t know where that line is exactly, but I’m pretty sure I experienced both sides today, in the same incident.

We had gotten some bagels for breakfast on this beautiful day.  It was much to nice to continue sitting inside the bagel shop (and Alexander was getting restless, and I was done with my bagel, so I was getting restless), so I decided that the girls could continue eating while we walked a bit.  The girls were psyched, bagels and a walk!

We were trekking down the sidewalk in town, Alexander in the stroller, me pushing, and the girls hopping, skipping and jumping ahead. (did I mention they LOVE going for walks?)  The girls had reached the storefront of  a CVS, as they were a bit ahead, running with glee.  They were about 25 yards from the street corned, and I about 20 yards behind them.

The reactions:

Take 1:  (The front of the building is on an angle, so vision down the street is a bit blocked in one direction.)  I saw two women from the store (on their break I suppose) come jetting out from the side of the building towards the girls.  A split second later, they saw me following, stopped, then turned around.  Appropriate helpfulness.

I suspect they saw these 2 little kids, running down the sidewalk, towards an intersection, all alone.  Proper concern would cause someone to offer help. But once they saw me, MOM, they backed off.  I appreciated their initial reaction.  If my children were all along (for some bizarre reason), I would absolutely want someone to care for them until they found me.

Take 2:  At the same time I first noticed  these women, I saw to my right a convertible, top down, with two women.  These women also noticed my girls ahead, and were concerned.  Unlike the ‘appropriate responders’, the passenger failed here, in my book.

Let me interject, my girls are well trained.  I suspect the fear of the women (who I’ll get to in a minute) was that they would walk out into the intersection.  That would be a legitimate cause for concern, except that I know my girls, I know how the have been taught, I know how they act, and I knew that was not going to happen.  They know to wait.  They stop well before the curb, turnaround, and wait.  If ever they seem to not be paying attention, and I think they might keep going (the younger more than the older), I’ll call out their name, and problem solved.  But even still, we have never had an issue with them, and don’t ever expect one.

That said, this woman looks at the girls, looks at me, looks back at the girls, turns to the driver of the vehicle, says something, then looks back at me again and shouts (not in a concerned way, but more in a judgmental, ARE YOU CRAZY tone, ‘DO YOU HAVE THAT BABY?’  At first, I was taken aback.  Of course I had the baby, he was right here, in the stroller.  Then I realize she must have meant my 2 1/2 year old.  I guess she’s still a baby, maybe?  I don’t consider her a baby anymore, but okay, I’ll go with it.

So it took me a second or two to process who she was referring to.  I responded, ‘yeah’ with my own, ‘are you an idiot?’ tone, and just kept on walking.

Is it just me?  Am I the strange one?  Do kids really do what she thought mine would do?  If so, would a parent of such a child really walk calmly, 25 yards behind, knowing that their child would likely walk right into traffic?

Shouldn’t my calmness have told her, everything is under control?  And that she ought mind her own business?  I mean what mother in her right mind would allow such a walking distance with a child so out of control or too young to understand the realities of traffic?

I’m at a loss for words (except, of course, all the words previously typed, and these words here.)

Why do I care what other people think?  Why do I care what strangers think?  What is the rationale behind allowing my pride (displayed in my misplaced concern over the opinions of others) to influence my actions and even the way I treat my children?

These are some of the thoughts that have flooded my mind today.

In the morning, I treated the kids to some bagels.  Annabella was pushing Alexander in the stroller, a job she LOVES to do.  We were entering the bagel store, and she got stuck on the little bump in the doorway.  She didn’t want my help (Ms. Independent) and it took her all of 5 seconds to clear the doorway.  It’s amazing the thoughts and emotions I had in those 5 seconds.

Someone was coming in behind us.  They experienced 2.5 seconds of the delay due to Annabella’s navigation skills…the slightest holdup.  Nevertheless, I became embarrassed, which led to impatience, which ended with me being a bit snippy to her as she struggled to get in.  WHAT IN THE WORLD IS WRONG WITH ME?

My concern over the opinions of this stranger led to me speaking to my child in an unkind manner.  How does one even get from here to there??

This isn’t the first time that I reacted this way to some MINOR inconvenience by one of the kids.  I act as if I need to apologize for my children being children.

I’m not talking about them acting like obnoxious little brats, rudeness or other unacceptable behaviors here.  It’s merely childishness, and childishness in its most minuscule form.

To top it off, I have yet to encounter a person that was nearly as annoyed as me in any of these scenarios.  So my embarrassment isn’t even justified from that side of the argument.  Most of the time the folks seem amused at my kids.

And when I see other kids do the things I’m talking about here, I usually smile and admire the wonderfulness of children.  So why do I assume others would do any different?

In our fast paced, high tech world, I often feel like I need to be ‘doing something productive.’  Based on the way folks drive their cars today, I suspect I’m not alone.  How fast we all drive, like there’s always a mad rush to get to where we’re going.  Even down residential streets, it seems very few folks actually abide by the speed limits.  Does that saved 3-seconds really make that much of a difference?  I am just as guilty.

My soccer coach used to say to me all the time, ‘it’s not the destination, but the journey.’  I was a type-A person on the soccer field.  I wanted more training, better skills, longer sessions, and I wanted improvement RIGHT NOW. More than once, she had to reign me in a bit and remind me to enjoy the process on the way to the ultimate goal.

While driving today with my kids, heading to the store so that they could buy presents for their Papi’s upcoming birthday, I had a thought.  Not a novel one, not really all that insightful, but for me, in that moment, it was meaningful.  We were just exiting our apartment complex.  I looked in the rear view mirror as my 4-year-old was telling me some story, and it hit me.  My type-A personality is thinking, ‘okay, we gotta go, get in, pick the gift, get out, get going,’ meanwhile my girls were simply enjoying the ride.

That’s an accurate summary of the recurring difference in their approach to life, and mine.  They just go with the flow, and enjoy all aspects of the ride, while I try to hurry through the ‘mundane’ to get to the ‘important.’

Kids don’t have the pressures of life that adults do, and that is a convenient excuse for my hurriedness, but I don’t know that it is a valid one.

I wrote the other day about my least favorite time of the day being ‘teeth time,’ and how I just want to get it done, yet my girls don’t share my urgency.

So maybe I don’t need to rush through my day.  Maybe I don’t need to always hurry up with the mundane things, to get to the important things.  Maybe the mundane can be important.

Take, for instance, washing up for bed.  Ugh.  I’m tired, it’s a necessary evil, gotta do it.  Or, a few minutes to myself, caring for myself.  A time to reflect on the gift of this body, that functions fairly well most of the time. Appreciation for these teeth, as I brush them, that chew all the delicious food I enjoy.   A time to transition from the hectic day to a time of rest.

Or, back to the car.  I always ‘just want to get there already.’  Instead, this is time with my children, to engage them in conversation.  It’s an opportunity to reflect on the beauty of the creation, looking at they sky, and all its glory.

So maybe, just maybe, the important things are the mundane, and the mundane are important.  The making of the meal, not just the eating.  The getting everyone ready in the morning as part of the day, not the preface that I want to skip through.   Focusing more on the people in my life, rather than the tasks of life.

Maybe when I am able to approach my days with this mentality, I will begin to see a beauty and a wonder in the journey of this life that had previously been hidden from me.

We live in a townhouse community that is well-maintained.  We like it here, enjoy the amenities and appreciate how well-kept it is.  One of the rules in the community is that there is no street parking.  Everyone has their own garage and driveway, and there are a number of guest parking spots throughout, but you cannot park beside the sidewalk.

When we just had the 1 car, this was never an issue. But with 2 cars, we don’t quite fit.  Our garage is half filled with storage (that in itself is a funny trend these days, maybe worthy of its own post), so both cars need to go in the driveway.  They kinda fit, but Pablo’s car hangs into the street a little.  So he usually parks down a few houses, in the guest parking section.

Well, last weekend he came home from work around 10pm, and all the guest spots were taken.  He leaves in the morning at 5am, so for those 7 hours when most of the world is asleep anyway, he left the car beside the sidewalk.  I’m sure you can guess what happened.

In the morning, no car…it was towed.

When he came back in to tell me, and to let me know that he would be taking the other car, I immediately began defending and justifying his actions, chalking it up to ‘being unfair.’

You see, our neighbors are CONSTANTLY parking in the street.  It drives me nuts!  On both sides.  I go out for a walk with the kids, and I’m surrounded by cars and trucks.  And this, even when their driveways have room, and multiple guest spots are available.  I don’t know exactly what I find so frustrating about it, but in part it’s that they were breaking the rules and getting away with it. (or so I thought)

So when Pablo’s car got towed, late a night (who really noticed!?) when there were no extra spots, it was unfair, right?

I tried to keep my thoughts to myself, as we did break the rules (even though it was unfair) because I didn’t want to create in Abigail a disregard or disrespect for rules.

We got in touch with the tow company, and spoke to him about recovering our car.  I asked him about how often he tows in our community.  I have never seen a tow truck come through in the 5+ months we’ve lived here.  And my neighbors had never been towed, and they really deserved it. This man was kind enough (I’d be kind too if I was about to get $185) and told me that they do come through at random times, and also respond to calls about parking.  He had received a number of calls that night and towed a number of vehicles.  He also informed me that my neighbors had been towed recently, two different neighbors.  This made me feel better.

But as I reflected on this I realized how I had been trying to justify myself based upon being ‘not as bad’ as my neighbors.  They were ‘more deserving’ of being towed than we were.  I spend half the morning fuming over the injustice, but realize there was no injustice.  We broke the rule, and we were caught.  Just because my neighbors got away with it more often, doesn’t take away my offense.

What a parallel to the way the world looks at sin, the way I used to look at sin.  When confronted with my violations of God’s Holy Law.  I turned and looked at my neighbor, and trying to justify myself, said, ‘but I’m not as bad as her.’  And, ‘she really deserves to be punished, she does this and that, I only do these ‘little’ things.’

What I was reminded of over the weekend was that I will stand before God, alone.  There is no sliding scale.  He does not grade on a curve.  He will hold out his standards, and it is strictly a pass/fail scenario – and one wrong answer, one ‘little’ sin results in a failing grade.  God will not care if I was better than that other sinner, because He hates any and all sin.  He will not look upon what I find to be a smaller sin with joy, because it’s not a severe as that BIG sin over there.  No, I will be judged for what I have done and have not done.

The difference here is that in God’s economy, there is forgiveness.

You see, I’m sure there are some folks in our little community here that have followed this rule, and have refrained from parking in the street.  But all of us have broken God’s laws.  We parked in the street, and left $185 poorer.  There would be no forgiveness of that debt, unless someone paid that debt for us.

I have broken God’s laws, have you?  Have you lied?  Stolen anything, regardless of its value?  Lusted after someone?  Harbored hate in your heart? (God equates that with murder).

And while I should rightfully receive His ‘fine’, His punishment, someone has paid that debt for me.

You can know who that was, and how to receive that forgiveness too.  I would love to hear about it if you do!!

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