The Necklace.

I fail a little bit every day.  Sometimes a lot.  Sometimes in front of the most important people.

A couple of summers ago, my kids wanted to try archery.  Our gym offered it, but it was a low priority.  So low, that no one there knew how to take money for the class.

A girl named Angel worked the front desk.  She couldn’t sign us up, but she helped.  She searched the computer. She looked up phone numbers.  She smiled.

Every time I called the manager, Deb, she would tell me to come on a certain night, and she would help me herself.  So I would go in.  But no Deb.

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This happened three or four times.  I started to think that my kids weren’t going to be able to take that class.  It stirred my inner Mama Bear.

Not good.

The next time I talked to Deb, she said she would leave instructions at the desk.  Now anyone could sign the kids up for archery.

Ok.  Great.  Good solution.

I used to wear a certain necklace all the time.  A supercool, relevant, Christian necklace,  It was stamped metal.  It said “Pray.”  It had an image of two folded hands.

Artsy.

I had it on that night, which was, by then, the fifth or sixth time I had taken my kids into the gym to sign up for archery.

Angel stood behind the counter. “Hi, Angel.  Your manager said we could sign up for archery tonight?!”

One problem.

Angel looked confused.  She shook her head.  There were no instructions, and still, no one there knew how to take money for archery.

After weeks of going back and forth and coming to the office with this same old thing, I hit that ugly limit.  Yes, I did.

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Oh, Mama Bear.

I said plenty.  How unprofessional they were.  How I would never use that gym for anything again.  How I could not believe such and such and blah blah blah.  I will say, I was not actually yelling, but I was angry.  I was harsh.

I was loud.

I stomped out to the van, kids trailing behind me like ducks.  We all got in and buckled our seat belts.  And in my mind, I saw Angel’s face.

Dangit.

I turned off the van.  “Everybody, out.”

I failed in front of them.

I had to apologize in front of them.

And to them.  “I’m so sorry, guys.  I just acted so bad.  I know it stressed you out.  And that lady is the only nice person in there.  I have to go tell her I’m sorry.”

Those fails come with the worst feelings.  Sadness.  Embarrassment.  Shame.

I walked back to Angel and said, “Um, excuse me.  I’m so sorry.  I am out of patience with this thing, but it’s really not your fault.  I shouldn’t have taken it out on you.  Thanks for being so great every time I come in.”

She smiled.  Like always.  And she said, “Oh, I understand!  It’s ok.  I would feel the same way.”

I left, and my kids said, “It’s ok, Mom!  You said you were sorry. Everyone gets mad sometimes!”

Dear God.  I love kids.

A few months later, I got online to research local ministries.   I saw a  group home for teens aging out of the foster care system.

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I clicked on the link, and on the first page, was a picture of Angel.

Her story was under the picture.  She had grown up in bad places.  She had never known a loving family.  But she said her life changed at that home.  She loved Jesus.  She was thankful for the women there.   They had become like a family to her.

I cried.

The archery thing eventually got resolved, and the kids loved taking the class.

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But, I took that artsy “pray” necklace, and I hid it from myself.  I may have even given it away.  I still don’t know where it is.  I said, “Lord, You know I can’t wear this and run around acting like a jerk.”

A few people have given me Christian jewelry since then, and I wear it sometimes.  But I take it more seriously now.

And, I’m not religious about it anymore, like it’s my duty to wear a cross.

I don’t know what people are dealing with when I meet them.

I do know that I love this saying.  “Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.”

***

Dear God.  Help us to be kind.  Kinder than necessary.  

And when we fail.  Help us say we’re sorry.  

No fear of missing out.  No fear of being wrong.

Just love.  And kindness.  Even more than is necessary.

For the Underdog: Interview with Chikk. {FREE DOWNLOAD}

A life well lived is encouragement and example to the rest of us.  A vision at Lady the Fearless is the feature of different courageous women and true brothers from time to time.  In that vein, I’m happy to give you the FIRST of many interviews and biographies today, with the incredible singer/songwriter, Chikk.
Already a K-Pop songwriting star in South Korea,  Chikk is rising in the LA music scene.  She is a passionate professional.  And a lover of God.  And my dear friend.
I interviewed her with five short questions this week, and I think you’ll relate to her story and be inspired.  She is a powerhouse of energy, and is vulnerable and honest about the challenges of creativity, emotion, work, life, and faith.

And follow this link for a free download of the song as a gift from Chikk.
Be energized, encouraged, and enjoy!!!
***

LADY:  Chikk!  I love this EP! So amazing. Thanks so much for being here today!  Can you start by sharing the inspiration for  the song, War, and the rest of the album?

CHIKK:  There were so many inspirations behind War.  One huge inspiration was actually Rick Joyner’s book, The Final Quest.  It changed my perspective on what type of War we were, and still are, really fighting.  My song, War, is about the fight against darkness, the fight for Truth, and the fight within self.

LADY:  Of course, there is no way you could have known in advance what would happen in Dallas and around the country in terms of shootings and racially charged protests immediately before the scheduled release of War. How do you feel about the song War being born into the current atmosphere?

CHIKK:  That’s a great question!  I could have never predicted that within 3 days of each other, our country would go into such mayhem & the release of War would fall within that same week!  I believe Dallas was only a reaction to other actions.  Baton Rouge’s Alton Sterling and Minnesota’s Philando Castile were the immediate actions that led to the Dallas reaction.  At first I was scared out of my mind! I didn’t know if I should even put it out anymore… But after doing research on the events and the history that preceded these events, I knew it was God.  And I also knew it was bigger than me.

LADY:  What is your prayer or hope for anyone who listens to this album?

CHIKK:  I hope and pray that whoever listens to this song, and the EP when it comes out, hears VICTORY! That they hear a voice that has overcome the darkest of moments, a voice that now stands in the redeeming Light.  I want anyone who hears this to KNOW that they are worth it!  That they are good enough, and if anyone ever tries to tell them different, instead of backing down or giving up, they will rise! They will start a War unlike anyone has ever seen before. That they will fight with their knowledge, with their pain, with their rejection, and with one of the most precious weapons we could ever use, forgiveness. This project, this song, it is “For the Underdog,” which is the title of the EP, set to release this fall.

Can you share a few of your favorite lyrics and where you were when you wrote them, or any other outstanding memories of songwriting for this album?

Some of my favorite lyrics! I love this question.

And all the talk about you’re not good enough. Forget about all of your broken hearts, because I bet…It was good for the both of us

It’s a lyric that reminds me that none of the hurt was in vain. It was all working in my favor, even when I couldn’t see it.

I wrote these songs in my car actually.  I either started them or finished them in the car while working a job to make money & live. During that process, I was ready to give up on my dreams altogether. It just seemed too hard to keep going, but I did. And I’m so glad that I did! This project was birthed from a place of pure confusion, shame, doubt and low self esteem. So I would have to say my favorite moment, was when I no longer felt ashamed. Doubt had left and I loved every single part of myself. I wondered what had happened, to change all of this.  And it was because I had told a part of my story.  I didn’t know it at the time, but I was healing while I was writing.  And now I look back in amazement at it all!

LADY:  What does fearlessness look like for you?  And what do you do to grow in courage and to fight fear in your career, life, and faith?

CHIKK:  Fearlessness for me, is accepting that you will have fears. Strange right? I find that I am more courageous when I have made peace with my fears. Anytime I deny myself of the reality of being human & having real fears, I shut down. Or I run. Looking whatever it is I am afraid of, in the face, is the first step to me being fearless. It takes the fear from my mind, body and soul, and puts it in front of me. Now I have no attachment to it. Now I can strategize how to overcome it. I can not overcome fear, until I let go of it. I can not let go of it, until I admit I am actually holding it.

S’mores, Road Rage, and 911. Summertime Fun with Lady the Fearless.

One night a couple of summers ago, my family decided to make a late night S’mores run to the grocery store.

My husband had made a fire pit out of some kind of giant can, and the kids wanted to roast marshmallows.  We do exotic S’mores at our house, my personal favorite with a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, recipe here.

But I digress.

The point is, we needed supplies.

Our neighborhood is quiet, but to get to the store, we have to pull out on a busy highway with a 50-mile-an-hour speed limit.  It’s a little  bit out in the country, and people seem to think that the speed limit on that road is more of a suggestion.

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When my husband pulled the car out,  we could see a car coming, headlights far in the distance.  Plenty of time.

But then, he sped up, flooring the gas.   “Aw, he had to come up so quick!  I wish he would just pass!”

I looked back and saw headlights really close in the back window.  “Oh, well,” I thought.  It happens a lot on that highway.

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We drove the few blocks down to the grocery store and pulled into the parking lot.  I heard my husband say, “Oh, great. here he comes.”

We parked, and a man in a dark red SUV slammed into the parking space next to us on my side.  He motioned for my husband to roll down the window.

My husband, a logical and peaceful fellow, obliged.

The man was shaved bald.  Mean bald.  He was also brawny and belligerent and very angry with my husband.

He pointed at my husband and shouted over me, “HEY man, YOU CUT ME OFF!!!”

Ben said, calmly and logically, across me in the passenger seat, “Oh.  Well.  I didn’t realize how fast you were going.”

Mad Bald Man did not appreciate the accountability my husband offered.  He raised his eyebrows and  shouted again, “Well, you CUT ME OFF back there!!”

And I sat between these two, with Ben in the driver’s seat to my left and this man in the parking space to my right.

Ben kept repeating that he had not intended to cut the man off, but he did not know how fast he was going.  Mad Bald Man kept yelling and shaking his finger at Ben.  At one point he mentioned the two of them getting out of their cars to discuss it.

I looked back and forth at them as Ben talked and the other guy shouted, like watching a very dark and mildly violent parking lot tennis match.

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Finally, Mad Bald Man pointed at me and said, “And you know what YOU need to do–you need to tell your husband he needs to learn how to DRIVE!”

I had been praying the whole time, “Oh no, God, what do we do?”  Just a quick prayer, an S.O.S.

At one time in my life, I would have been freaking out by now, uncertain and deeply afraid.

But that night, I looked at the mad bald man, his face red, veins bulging, fist shaking.  I looked at my husband, earnestly telling the whole truth.

And I wanted to laugh.

I did know that it was possibly dangerous, but I have just become bored with bullies.

He shook his finger at me and told me what I needed to do.

I looked at him and cocked my head to one side.  I said, “Actually, I  know what I need to do.  I’m calling the police.”

“What for???  For your husband cutting me off?!?”

“No,” I said.  “For harassment.  From you.”

And I picked up my phone and dialed 911.

My husband said, “Oh no.  Don’t call them.  Too much paperwork.”

Paperwork.

The guy wanted to fight, and Ben was worried about paperwork.

At that point, I had already called 911.  But for some reason, it didn’t go through.

I looked at it again.  I dialed it again.  I held it to my ear.

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Nothing.

I looked at it, holding the screen where the guy couldn’t see it.

For some reason, my phone wasn’t dialing.  And everyone was looking at me–Ben, Mad Bald Man, and a car full of kids.  My husband said, “Oh, please don’t call them, we’ll be here all night.”.

Mad Bald Man shouted, “NO, you call them! Go ahead and call ’em!!  CALL THEM!! and I will stay right here, and I will tell them how YOUR husband cut me off!”

And I looked at him and said, “Ok.  I called them.  Just so you know.”

And then proceeded to talk into my phone.  To an imaginary 911 operator.

“Yes, Operator,” I said, into the silence.  “We are being harassed by a white male in his mid-30s.  Bald.”  I gave the location of the store.

And I kept talking.

To the home screen.

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The guy sat there really mad for a minute and then totally deflated.  He slumped over his steering wheel like a broken man and stared out the window.  Then he got out and slammed his door and walked into the store.

I got out too, so he could hear me, and I said, “Yes ma’am, he’s still here, I can see him, he’s entering the building.”

After he was gone I walked back to my family in the car.  I still had the phone on my ear and was still talking, even though the guy was gone.  My husband said, “Please tell them not to come.  It’s fine.  Tell them he’s gone.  No biggie.”

I forgot–they didn’t know. The whole imaginary-operator thing.  They had no idea. I put the phone down and looked at my kids, all round eyed in the back seat.

I looked back at my husband, and I said, “It’s not them.  I never called anyone. I faked it. I’m just talking to myself.”

And I fell over laughing.

My kids’ faces. Priceless. Scared expressions went from confused disbelief to relief and laughter.

Ben shook his head.  It’s not the only time in our seventeen years of marriage that he’s looked at me like that.

We waited a minute.  We moved the car, and then we went in the store and got our S’mores ingredients.  When we came out, the red SUV was gone.

Now. By the way.

I do not recommend fake calling 911 as a course of action if you are harassed.  And for the record, technically, I didn’t lie.  I did call 911.  Twice.  It just didn’t go through.  But it worked.  And the guy got mercy.  And we laughed.  And we went home.  And we had S’mores.

And my kids still tell tales of this night.

It will go down in history.

***

I’m asking for new ways to deal with old stuff.  For all of us.  Ways that make us laugh.  And bring breakthrough.  And go down in history.

Our mouths were filled with laughter,
    our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
    “The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us,
    and we are filled with joy.  Ps 126:2-3

Oh, and P.S.  Happy anniversary, Honey.  We make a great team.

Never Shaken: Thoughts on The Media and the Dallas Shooting Tragedy.

For one second last night,  I was afraid to walk through my neighborhood.

My husband wanted to take me to dinner.  There are several restaurants close by, so when we go, we usually walk.

But for one second, I felt glowing white.

Like a ring on a bullseye.  Shoot here.

When I recognized the way my mind was wandering, I was so mad.  Mad at the situation.  Mad at myself.

Bullies make me mad.

There are many bullies in this world, but, today, I think the biggest bully is the media.

I’m not even convinced the young man in Dallas shot those officers.  “I want to kill white people?”  It just seems too convenient.

Whether he did or didn’t, I guess the point is that I don’t believe even half the news I hear.  I don’t know anyone who does.

And yet, it just rolls on and on.   And we keep watching.

And we know we are being manipulated.  And we keep watching.

We absolutely need to deal with issues at the roots.  Especially as the church.  Every voice needs to be heard, and there is no doubt that there is work to be done.

But the endless irresponsible newsreels are not helping.  They are bullying us into a corner.

I was encouraged to hear of a report on NPR that most people interviewed are sick of the sensationalism and ready to turn it off.  They just haven’t turned it off, not quite yet.

The headlines always seem to disintegrate.  From simple facts to screaming emotion.  Anything for ratings.  Anything to keep the audience reaching for one more view.

In the Dallas headlines, today, I see words like “division, fear, and terror.”

It is a tragic thing.  The victims deserve our honor and our grief.

But division?  Fear?  Terror?

That’s not news.  That’s bad prophecy.

Honor and grief and even outrage are part of this process.  But, division, fear, and terror–these are my choice.

Not to diminish the pain in Dallas in any way, but tragedy happens every day all over the world.  Why should the media dictate to me what my emotion is supposed to be today?

I will not let the media tell me that I should be anxious and worried today.  I will not let the media tell me that my world view should be different today, and then change again tomorrow, based on the ever-shifting sand of ratings.

I don’t allow anything to tell me that I should be anxious and worried on any day.  Why give the media special power or authority over my emotion and my state of mind?

Unity and love.  Deep solutions.  Conversations.  Voices heard.  Changes made.  These will not happen in the climate that the unchecked media will create.

I did walk to dinner with my husband last night.  “If  I die, I die,” I thought and put on my lipstick and marched out the door.

And strolled through crowds of beautiful people.  Every possible expression of Divine Creativity.  Every imaginable shade of skin, every impossible color of hair.  And we smiled at each other and said hello.  And we ate together.  We broke bread together.

I could have stayed home.  I could have changed my plans.  I could have missed a great night enjoying the people around me.

As a friend of mine says, there really is only one race.  The Human Race.  Breaking bread together.

***

I pray we can get the facts we need and filter them through the eyes of love.  I pray we know when to turn off the news and ask The One Who Made Us what He has to say about it all.

I pray we do not let ourselves be bullied, by media or any other thing.

I pray we are filled with the courage that passion can bring, passion for something bigger than our own personal safety or desires.  And do what it takes to see real change.  I pray for miracles.  We are catalysts for miracles.  I pray we focus on love and are willing to look inside ourselves and do the hard work that has to be done. 

Surely the righteous will never be shaken;
    they will be remembered forever.
They will have no fear of bad news;
    their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.  Psalm 112:6-7

Calling Forth Pancakes

“I want  pancakes like my mom makes, please.”

I looked down and into my five-year-old nephew’s huge brown eyes.  Those long eyelashes.  Be still my heart.

Blink.  Blink.

He had stayed the night, and I was trying to get in some mega cool auntie points.  I told him I would make anything he wanted for breakfast.

So.  Ok, then.  “How does your mom make pancakes?”  I asked him. 

He said, “a whole bunch, stacked up, with real maple syrup, and whipped cream, and a strawberry on top.”

My sister does everything to perfection.  I was not surprised.  I put on my apron and got to work.  

I made stacks and stacks of buttery, photogenic, cream-covered, strawberry-topped pancakes, and he was so happy.  All smiles.  

My sister called to see how everything was going. I said, “It’s going great!  I made your special pancakes, and he is so happy!”

She said, “My special pancakes? What’s that?”

“Oh, he told me all about it!  You know how you stack them up with real maple syrup and whipped cream and a strawberry on top?”

She said, “Umm, is that what he told you?  I have never made pancakes like that in my life!”

I looked over at my nephew eating a giant stack of pancakes, whipped cream on his nose.  Smiling at his strawberry.  I had cut it to look like a heart.  Pancakes say “love” at our house.

He looked at me.  “Want some more?”  I asked him.  He gave me an emhatic “yes!”

These pancakes are now known as “Henry’s Special Pancakes.”  He has forgotten the story, but my sister and I most certainly have not.  We still laugh at his boldness, and he still loves these pancakes.  And I still make them for him, years later.  I made them today, and he ate two giant stacks.  Nine pancakes.  No kidding.

He was really little when he first asked me for them.  Big enough to know what a lie is, but  young enough that a fantasy seemed real.    Or at least like it could be.

I write a lot about kids because I see so much of what we were created to be, still so fresh in them.

I love that my nephew called those pancakes forth as though they were a real thing in his life.

 My sister and I assumed he had seen them on a pancake house sign or a commercial and dreamed that he had a mom who made them like that every day.

I should call them something else, like “Deep Thought Pancakes,”  or “Amy’s Devo Pancakes,” because every time I make them now, they make me all introspective.

How many times do I sigh and complain and wish and feel sorry for myself because no one ever makes me special pancakes.  Or whatever.

How often am I afraid to ask or want or wish for something because I am afraid it will be denied, that a person I love will say “no” to the desires of my heart?

Why don’t I remember more often to got to the One Who Made Me, and just ask?  Why don’t I call things forth, as though they are?

I learn so much from the children in my life.

Today, I’m calling forth pancakes.  I’m calling forth so many things.

With whipped cream.

And a strawberry on top.

What have you been longing to see in your life so much, that you were afraid to ask for it?

Where could you be more like a child who expects love and is not limited by “facts,” and just call a thing forth???

Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.  Ps 37:4