Monday, February 28, 2011

"Making Over The Dirty Rooms"

It is no secret that I despise laundry. I will scrub the floor with a toothbrush, clean windows and fans and swish that toilet brush and even detail it with a toothbrush just to stay away from the laundry room and the mountains of misery that await. It has always been "the room" where everything was hidden away behind closed doors when those who are not of the same blood line arrive. You know those rooms. The ones you never intend for anyone to see. Those private quarters that only we can see and that really are not considered a part of the "house." The laundry room is one of the dirty rooms. It just really doesn't matter, right? That is what I always thought until... recently. My laundry room was my least favorite room in the house until last week. Our washing machine was old and would not hold very many clothes. With 4 boys that is a problem. It also required that you run the spin cycle twice to keep from retrieving sopping wet clothes. Our dryer had its own set of issues. Drying time averaged 70 minutes per load, but had been known to take up to 3 hours to dry towels. Last week when the washer rocked its way into the kitchen to dance with me I knew it was time the dynamic duo left our home. We priced and shopped and prayed and priced and shopped and prayed some more until Matt and I came to find peace and unity about the same washer and dryer. We had to totally clean the room out in order to be done with the old and welcome in the new. While the room was empty I decided the floors needed a really good scrubbing. After that a coat of paint on the walls seemed only appropriate so we picked a color and cut-in, trimmed and rolled. A vision began to take root. I could see it. This dirty room was becoming clean. But it wasn't enough for it just to be clean, oh no, it had to be adorned, decorated and made beautiful. Matt asked me how replacing a washer and dryer turned into a home makeover project. My just made sense. For a whole week I have spent day and night working, planning, painting, creating and cleaning. The result...I now have my dream laundry room and I LOVE doing laundry.
I love going in there and the door stays wide open all of the time. I just can't find enough laundry to do. The room and the chore that once plagued me is now my joy and delight. Why? Because the dirt and clutter have been replaced with beauty, organization and precious memories and pictures including, artwork made from my boy's baby clothes, my great-grandmother's button collection, windows from my granddad's house and lots of pictures of my boys.

The old is gone and the new has come and the new is so much more attractive and magnetic than the old. As I was devoted to this project all week the Lord began to impress upon my heart that we have those dirty rooms in our lives as well. You know the rooms I am referring to...the ones we keep the doors closed to and give no one access to the entrance. Those deep, dark places of doubt, worry, sin and bitterness. Those thoughts that only we are privy to. Those heart attitudes, opinions, complaints and activities that only we know exist. We all have a dirty room or dirty rooms. Maybe not filthy, but non-the-less those rooms that are off limits to the world. What would they think if they could see behind those doors? What would they find? How could we show our faces if we aired all of the dirty laundry behind that door? We are in need of a TOTAL makeover. When we came to know the Lord Jesus as our Savior, He took away the old and offered us forgiveness and everything we need for life and godliness. We possess everything we need to have clean and sparkly rooms. There is no need to keep the doors closed any longer, but just like my laundry was never on the priority list for a makeover so too are those areas in our lives that we just won't let go of. I know what my areas are. What are yours? What room of your heart and life is off limits? What areas of your life need a makeover? Maybe it is the room that harbors fear and worry or that nook that hides your negative and critical spirit. It might be the cranny where you hide your self-pity and anger. It is time for a makeover vision to be cast within our hearts. Picture it. Open doors, cleanliness, sparkling, functional, organized, nothing to hide and COMPLETELY functional for HIS purposes. His Word is our blueprint and at His feet we find revelation and design for life. My laundry room has experienced a makeover, but it will one day pass away. The makeover of our hearts and lives is eternal.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"An Experiment In Kindness"

My boys are good boys. They are well mannered. They are sweet and above all they love Jesus. They bless my heart each and every day. Recently on one of those afternoons when all the doors and windows are open and a crisp breeze is blowing through the house, I was cooking dinner and listening to the sweet sound of children playing outside. As the smell of dinner made its way through the neighborhood streets I heard a terrible argument break out. It was coming from the front and I began to wonder what mom would have to step outside and reprimand these children who were speaking to one another in words and volumes that were less than encouraging. As I walked out my front door, I recognized the voices and 3 young men were quickly called in from their game of "gotcha." I was appalled. They were using tones and discouraging words and speaking in ways that they wouldn't use if they were talking to a stray animal. According to height they lined up on the couch and awaited "the mommy talk." We talked about the fact that they are HIS vessels, that Christ lives in them. We talked about kindness and we shared scripture concerning the tongue and I admitted to them my helpless place of not knowing how to stop this behavior that goes beyond just "brotherly" squabbles. I don't mind the headlocks, the tackling at the feet, the wrestling matches or the punches in the arms. All that is just part of being a brother or so I am told, but the words spoken from their mouth can leave a much greater impact and they are a direct reflection of the heart. They are words spoken in anger with an apparent lack of self-control. As we talked and pondered over what the next step would be Daddy had a wonderful idea. Togetherness! Practice! What better way to practice kindness than to be put in situations regularly that required you to be kind, to learn to be patient and to work together resulting in an occasional compromise. So for the next three days my boys were "together." They played together, ate together, slept together. Everything they did, they did together. We had to remind them to move and live in a pack, but for three days they were together. The stipulation was, for every unkind word or outburst we would add a day to their togetherness. I am happy to report that the days of togetherness only totaled 5. They learned to compromise and they are learning to put others needs before their own. That is what this was all about in the first place. Why get angry and yell? Why say hateful things? Because you have been crossed. Because you haven't gotten your way or things haven't turned out the way you wanted them to. Both sides are being selfish thus resulting in a disagreement. Dying to self is a hard lesson to learn at any age, but a lesson that is required according to the scriptures. If these precious boys can learn to die to self at a much younger age and put the needs of others above their own now, then their future days should be that much sweeter. I am not so naive as to believe that our 5 day "experiment in kindness" as cured the tongues or the angry hearts forever, but it is a start and I am more than willing to initiate this experiment again if needed. Saturday night I heard this conversation and it gave me great hope... Jacob - "I don't like you Joshua." Joshua - "Jacob that is not very nice for you to say that you don't like me." Jacob - "Joshua, please don't tell on my." Joshua - "Jacob, you deserve to be punished, but I will offer you mercy this time and not tell on you. I forgive you." Jacob - "Oh thank you Joshua, you do love me." My children possess the characteristic of kindness. When they accepted Christ as their Savior they were given the Holy Spirit as a deposit guaranteeing what is to come. With that came the fruit. The fruit of the Spirit. They received this one fruit with 9 characteristics. Part of my stewardship and my discipleship as a mom is to encourage and watch those characteristics grow. It takes work. It takes practice. Just as trees bear more and better quality fruit as they are pruned and cared for so too do we show more of the characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit as we nurture them and show great attention to them. That nourishment and discipline comes as we are in the Word of God, as we pray and as we are given opportunities to put what we have learned into practice. My boys are good boys, but this week they are just a little bit kinder. Practice makes perfect.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

"Precious Memories"

Today, for no particular reason I find myself missing my Grandad. Precious memories have flooded my heart today and I am warm. I find myself grinning and yet a momentary sadness overtakes me. I remember his tall, lanky build which in younger years walked in confidence, but always fast. He walked with the same haste and determination but with a touch of clumsiness in his older years, but he walked. I miss his smooth, olive skin which let you know of his heritage and his white flattop always trimmed just so. The smell of dirt, worms and crickets always flood me with sweet memories of the "bait man." Seeing gardens all neat in rows and initials carved in trees take me back to summer visits. Rusty chairs and box fans plugged into extension cords, hanging over trees, running through the yard and up the walk reminds me of hot summer days that beckoned you indoors, but the company kept encouraged you to stay under the shade tree. Chicken and dumplings complete with bones, pringles cans containing anything but pringles and cherry vanilla ice cream were always a treat at Grandad's table. The mountains of papers on the big gold sofa and the one he wanted to show being on the bottom of the stack, but he saved it to share when the roads would lead us home. Two televisions side by side with two different programs playing simultaneously just so we didn't miss a thing. Seven long nails in a row on the bathroom wall so each pair of pants for each day of the week could be hung neatly and systematically. The workshop was chaotic and in disarray to the untrained eye, but to Grandad it made sense and it was a place to fix (rig) that which was broken and he could. The boat, the fishing poles, the buckets, old windows, old boat motors, cricket cages and every tool you could imagine in multiples. The Grandad giggle, the Grandad gate, the nicknames, the jokes, the tricks, the words he said in that Grandad way and the funny questions are all on my mind today. Gertrude was my nickname followed by a giggle and a grin. He could always make us laugh. He was patient. He was kind and I have no memory of a harsh word ever being spoken. He never forgot a birthday. Even though I received "for a special nephew" and "to a dear grandmother" it was the thought that counted and he NEVER forgot. He walked with a tenderness, a gentleness and yet his very presence demanded respect in the most quiet and gentle way. You never left his house empty handed. A pringles can full of cookies, vegetables from the garden or freezer or a stack of dollars from his pocket. The love was always enough. Every picture you sent received a frame and was placed on the shelves above the couch. Oh how I loved the tours. The tours of the house he grew up in and the stories that filled those walls and our hearts. My favorite times were spent rummaging through the room with all the stuff. I'm not sure the room every had a name, but it was filled with books and pictures, trophies and things. Old things. I loved to just sit and look and ask questions about each memory. The visits were always too short. We all knew it and my heart ached as we pulled away watching Grandad waving from his post, standing on the front porch until we were well out of sight. One of our last visits was my favorite. Just me and Matt and 4 month old Matthew. Grandad held him, jingled his car keys and called him "her" all night. He was a doting Grandad and that was a precious night. For 83 years he assured me that when he got to heaven Jesus would let him in. He was a good man. The best. There is nothing he would not do for his family, his friends and even an occasional stranger. 83 years of living a good life. 83 years and then... he recognized his need for Jesus and gave his life to him. 4 months later His Heavenly Father called him home. He was in a fishing boat in the middle of the creek and His Heavenly Father called him by name. He was spared from this life. He was taken into eternal glory. He had aged, but he wasn't old. He had health issues, but he wasn't sick. He was Grandad and all was well all the time. He lived life to the fullest even until that final moment. God has been teaching me what it means to live life to the fullest in the midst of a life filled with trials and hardship. Maybe that is why he is on my heart. That was his legacy. That was his calling. Grandad had seen hard days. He had been through his share of trials, but you would never have known. He had a passion and a love for life that far outweighed the circumstances. His last breathe was taken in a boat with a fishing pole in hand. Living life to the fullest! I can guarantee there were vienna sausages, sardines and saltine crackers in that boat. That was part of living fully and Grandad knew how. Though we mourned our loss, we rejoiced in his gain. To be absent from this world is to be present with the Lord for the heart of one who believes and he did. His legacy lives on and the desire of my heart is to embrace today, live life to the fullest and love Jesus. Grandad did.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

"Wrestling With My Pillow"

Wrestling has never been my sport. To be honest "sports" have never been my sport. Worry...there is an area I can compete in. The problem with worry is there is no hope of winning. You've already lost before you even begin. Who wants to play a sport like that? You walk into the game tagged as a loser. For the last few months I have been having a wrestling match with my pillow. Sleep is not the problem once I find my way there. Getting to sleep is the problem. I toss and turn and some nights try to find a dry spot not laced with tears to lay my head. Faith, hope, trust, blessings...all the things I KNOW and teach and speak of and live somehow seem to find a hiding place when my head hits the pillow. The emotions, the hurts, the fears and the doubt all seem to surface and the wrestling match begins. The pillow is merely the tangible. My true wrestling opponent cannot be packed into such a neat and fluffy casing. A battle ensues each night as the minutes in red flash by so quickly. It is a battle of flesh versus spirit and yet I know in my heart that the battle is not mine. HE has warned me of the battle, but promised it is HIS and HE has won. Why do I insist on a fight that doesn't even belong to me? I sing and I pray and I quote scriptures the same as I did when I was five and monsters were lurking in the hall and living under my bed. I sing praises and the praise rises up and conquers the fear and then I am silent and allow my opponent a lofty lead. WHY? The obvious answer we know...I am a sinful man. Yet that answer does not suffice "for we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us and gave His life for us." I want to win this battle and yet I play as one who wants to lose. Laziness. There is a possible answer. It is easier to be lazy and accept defeat than to fight the battle and live a life that is disciplined, trained and fit. Lazy is not a word that I want associated with my name. If I am tagged as lazy then why work so hard at the stacks of folded laundry, the swishing of the toilet brush, the print free glass and meals that desire praise. This new found laziness I can only mask for a time. It begins to show in the dark circles under my eyes and in the weariness of my step and yet once again I know the REAL issue. I lack obedience. I possess everything I need for life and godliness and I choose to be lazy in this match against flesh and blood. Obedience is a choice. Daily the words, "Choose to obey" come out of my mouth as instruction to the four young men I am privileged to call sons. Choose. You have a choice and you know the results. Choose selfishness and reap the consequences or choose obedience and reap the rewards. We can sew to the flesh or we can sew to the spirit. We are instructed "not to become weary in doing good." We are not to become weary in this battle and yet "weary" seems to be such a pale word to describe my heart and the way in which I fight today. What is beyond weary? Defeat? A choice! Defeat does not come as a result of obedience for our specific instructions were NOT to become weary. Do not give up. Fight! Persevere! A harvest is waiting to be reaped but you cannot give up. Do farmers plant crops, weed, water, fertilize and then give up? No, they patiently wait and weather the rain, the wind, the hail and the cold and they reap the harvest that was never in their control, all the while trusting it to the hands of their Father and willing to accept what He yields as good. Giving up would make all the work to this point seem futile. Giving up means allowing someone else to reap the rewards and I know who that someone is and I know his plans for the harvest and I do not trust him at all. He seeks to destroy and reek havoc on our crops. Do not give up! I hear those words over and over again. Do not give up! My heart begins to argue...but Lord I have had enough sickness, sorrow, heartache, fear and worry and He says..."ENOUGH. It is finished. The complaining, the murmuring, the pity party, the doubt of My perfect plan and My perfect will. Enough!" He is God and He is good. Enough? It becomes a question. Is it enough to know that? It is! I know in my heart it is and the fight is worth it. It is all I have ever fought for. It is the only fight I know and it is worth it. For I know that my battle is NOT against flesh and blood, but it is a spiritual battle. It is a daily battle. The pearl was produced from irritation, the diamond a result of laborious mining and a bouquet of roses found in the midst of thorns seeking blood. Joy can be birthed from sorrow. Sorrow lasts for a night, but joy comes in the morning. The sorrow of watching The Savior nailed to a tree and brutally sacrificed birthed joy unspeakable. The wrestling match will continue, but the cause of the fight will change. No longer will I choose to fight for my flesh, for my rights or even for my comfort. My fight is for obedience. Doubt, fear, worry and weariness will be the victim of a head lock or maybe even a full nelson. Whatever that is? I will not give up and I will not accept defeat. How about you? Can you relate? Do you understand? Obedience. I choose to obey. Joy is found in obedience.