Tag Archives: kindness

Don’t Go Nuts! Three Ways to Crack the Christmas Crazies.

Christmas Crazies, anyone?

If you caught the Christmas Crazies, you are not alone. Crazy is contagious this time of year.

At Christmas, we can spin between extremes of fantasy and regret, the fun of spending and the crush of debt, the disconnect of feeling alone in the middle of all the social pressure.

No matter what the season, or what the neighbors or the stores or the churches are doing, we have to live our days in a healthy way at a healthy pace that works for us. No manic-panic-sinking-Christmas-Titanic allowed at my house. No pushing for perfect and then screaming at the kids when it doesn’t work out. Been there, done that. Sheesh. Seriously. Those are not the Christmas memories that I’m trying to make.

Below are a few ways to keep the Christmas crazies at bay.

Three ways to Kill the Christmas Crazies

 

1) Fuel your spirit by spending time with God. Hello. This season is about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.  Rolling around in glitter is all good, but taking a deep breath and remembering why we are doing it is a key to seasonal peace. Christmas tree fell down? What would Jesus do? Feel sick about spending that much money on that overpriced plastic toy? What would Jesus do? People acting crazy? What would Jesus do?

He came for a reason beyond Christmas. He came to change us, to raise us from the dead in every way. Celebrate Christmas by letting Him change you even in the holiday chaos.

Now, maybe more than any other time of year, I have to focus on who God says I am and what His plans are for me. I’m busier than I’ve ever been–that means I don’t have time to not spend time with God. Spend five minutes every morning in worship, celebrating who God is. Out loud, say every good thing you can think of about God.

 What would Jesus do?

 

Spending time with God can be a challenge. But your thoughts about God and who He is to you are the source of your deep beliefs about what life can be and about yourself. You are made in His image. What you believe about who God is for you is a foundational belief.

The Lord is for me, I will not fear. Ps118:6a

This I know, that God is for me! Ps56:9

I will sing to the LORD because he is good to me. Ps13:6

2) Fuel your soul by thinking healthy thoughts. Thoughts are the source of behaviors, and thoughts come out of the deep core beliefs we hold in our hearts and our minds.  Lifestyle and behaviors are the outward expression of these thoughts and beliefs. To change a life, change the thoughts. To change the thoughts, we have to take them under conscious control and submit them to Jesus. He wants to change the deep wrong beliefs of our minds so that we can live an abundant life.

To change a life, change the thoughts.

 

To take thoughts captive, say “no,” and start speaking a better thought–out loud. I notice myself getting critical and prideful when I get stressed and out of His peace. That is my red flag. When I lose my joy and my ability to give people permission to take the time they need, when I lose my patience and my sense of humor, I need to do a mental inventory–quick–so that I don’t take it out on anyone. I can handle a pretty big to-do list, but even so, it can get heavy at times. I have to know myself well enough to know when to say “no,” when to take a rest, when to stop and refocus my thoughts.

Be prepared by having a verse ready when the crazy tries to come in. Keep a note in your pocket or stuck on your mirror or dashboard with a verse that you can easily see and read out loud.

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. 1Peter5:7

A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance. Jn10:10

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jer29:11

Be prepared.

 

3) Fuel your body by choosing health. A healthy body supports a healthy mind. Comfort-eating and drinking or other self-medicating behaviors feel good in the moment, but we pay later. Poverty always focuses on the moment. Abundance focuses on investments.

Investments don’t always feel good right now–a lot of times, they hurt. Think about exercising or saving money instead of spending it. But in six months, life looks very different for the person living for the whim of now vs. the one investing for tomorrow.

Poverty focuses on the moment. Abundance focuses on investments.

 

So. Take care of your body! It’s your temple; it’s God’s temple. Get good sleep when you can. Drink water. Eat an apple every day, because, you know what they say. Eat well. Go for a walk. At the mall, while you are shopping, sit down and  take a break. Get a salad and water at the food court before you head over to Cinnabon. Hot tea is good, too. Please take care of you. You are part of this human team. We need you.

Christmas is not about working ourselves up to a case of Christmas Crazies. It’s about celebrating the Prince of Peace.

This year, I pray you have a peaceful, wonderful, joyful, beautiful, crazy-free Christmas.

***

For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Cor 1:2

For You Are Powerful, Entrusted with Great Things.

This week, my little girl said some really mean words.

To me, to her brother. Really mean.

Then, my oldest did the same. Just harsh.

The beautiful thing about true love is the way it covers. Today, I can’t even remember what they said, just the way it felt. Hurt my heart. How I give them everything, and they give me these words in return.

But they do it because they know I love them. All the feelings they have, they are safe with me. They can ventilate. I will forgive. I will love, even still.

And I’ve done the same to them, I’m sure. We’ve all done it, said something awful that we kind of meant, but, not really, just because it felt twisted-good for one second to give voice to that thing inside us that would not rest.

And then, you see the other person’s face. And it’s not good anymore.

When my kids do things that hurt me, I don’t try to pretend that I’m invincible because I’m the mom. I tell them. To me, they need to know that they have that kind of power.

They need to know that they have that kind of power.

 

Hurt people hurt people. And so do people who think they are invisible, ignored, weak, victimized, powerless, unheard. They overcompensate with reactionary hugeness because they feel so small.

This is what I tell my kids. “You hurt me. Those words you said, that thing you did. You really hurt me. Like, I need a minute. I might cry. Because I love you so much, but also because you have power. You have the power to hurt me like that, to hurt your brother or your sister with your words. With your choices. You are not powerless. You can’t just say or do anything you want, because you are powerful. What kind of family do you want? You have the power to make this family the kind of family you want. Or to make it the kind of family you don’t. You are not weak just because you are young. You have power.”

You are not powerless.

 

They look at me. Then they usually tear up a little. Their hearts, convicted and softened. But it’s not a weakening, it’s an awakening. It’s the kind of cry that shows the birth of strength. I ask them if they remember someone hurting them, someone who had the same kind of power. Of course they do. They don’t want to do that to someone else. They just don’t always realize that they can.

I’m convinced that most people have no idea of the pain they cause in relationships. People have their own pain, and they act out of that place without thinking about how it hurts the other person involved. A lot of times, they don’t have all the information. They don’t know why someone did what they did, and their own insecurity leads them to feelings of rejection, which leads to accusation and judgement of the other. And then, they let them have it. What they deserve. Revenge.

Sigh.

It’s a mess, but I believe it’s most often born out of ignorance.

I’m not excusing it. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have boundaries or never hold someone accountable. I just think that indulging feelings of weakness or victimhood or self-pity are much more dangerous than we realize.

Because. We are not victims. We are not weak. We are not pitiful.

We have power. We are powerful.

And when we wield our weapons recklessly because of our own pain? We become emotional terrorists, holding friends and family hostage with our words and our demands and our emotions.

We are powerful.

 

We have to deal with our junk. We have to deal with our pain.

We have to give up our feeling that we have a right to be offended.

Forgive quickly. Be slow to anger. Love well.

For we are powerful, and we have been entrusted with great things.

***

Today I’m praying that all of us would be healed of anything that keeps us from knowing our power and wielding it well. For we are warriors, priests, and kings. We must learn the weight and joy of power and true love. We must learn how to wear our crowns. And carry our swords.

The Secret Weapon Against Stage Fright for Any Platform

Performance pressure. It can shut us down in a hot minute.

I have always loved people, but I used to get very nervous at parties or gatherings where I didn’t know all the guests.

I asked God to help me with this. “Lord, help me not feel crazy. Help me not feel terrified. How do I talk to people and really communicate? Help me connect in a healthy way that is not show-offy or guarded. What’s the healthy, Godly place in the middle?”

And He said, “Go in to serve.”

And I saw myself at a wedding I would soon be attending, straightening napkins and dishes at a serving table. I said, “But Lord, they have hired people to do that. Won’t that be weird?”

He said, “There is never enough help at an event like that. Go in to serve, and you will be appreciated by everyone who sees you, from the mother of the bride to the caterer they hired.”

It was an “aha” moment for me.

Serving to please God takes the pressure off of performing. It is your secret weapon against stage fright or performance pressure of any kind.

I did go to that wedding, and I did serve a little bit, but not much because I got too busy having fun. We talked and danced and laughed all night.

But going in with the *attitude of a servant* relieved me of wondering what was going to be expected of me.

Serving to please God takes the pressure off of performing.

 

There is never enough help. There is never too much love or consideration being shown. Serving means we don’t have to engage in arguments. We don’t have to win. We don’t have to be top dog. We don’t have to strive to be noticed, or perfect, or worry if we hit the mark, or say the wrong thing.

If He says ‘say it,” then say it. If He says “do it”,  then do it. Showing up to serve means we don’t have to fear criticism, or judgement, or competition.

No matter what your platform is, from the big screen or the stage, to taking care of toddlers or just living in your community, showing up to serve relieves expectation and pressure.

Servants don’t worry about what others think, they just do what they were called to the platform to do.

Showing up to serve means we don’t have to fear criticism, or judgement, or competition.

 

I knew what God expected of me at that wedding, and that was enough. It freed me. I wasn’t going to have to be brilliant in conversation or an expert on wedding etiquette, I just had to watch for trash on the ground or someone needing help with their plate or napkins that needed straightening.

I could do that.

Since then, any time I feel nervous or inadequate, or even bored or uninspired, I say to myself, “Go in to serve.” Could be parties or events, but also when I’m asked to speak to a group or when I’m writing.

When I approach writing with the pressure of creating a masterpiece, I want to quit before I ever get started.

Other times–I feel completely out of ideas, like I have nothing to say at all.

But when I ask God to show me how to write as a servant, how to let the words reach out in love and minister to the hearts of those who need His touch, the message becomes simplified and so much more clear.

All the questions of performance boil down to one in the heart of a servant: Am I loving well for His sake?

Am I loving well for His sake?

 

It’s a brilliant tactic that Jesus teaches us as our Servant King.

Service done well, with excellence and awareness and humility and care, is so rare in this world, that when someone serves, truly lowers themselves to serve another person and do it with grace, it gets noticed. It gets favor. It gets promoted.

Servants.

Going in to serve.

So much simpler this way.

***

I pray God guides your head, heart, and hands as you serve. I pray He reminds you of the beautiful freedom of being a servant.

Serve one another humbly in love. Gal5:13b 

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. Cor3:13

 

Happy Mother’s Day: The Year of the Women.

I did not want kids.

I did not want a husband.

I wanted a doctorate. I wanted to wear silk suits. I wanted to teach English and write books and hide away in a mysterious house with a cat and read during rainstorms.

By myself.

And then, somehow, I married the sweetest man, and we had the sweetest little girl. And she clung to me like wind to a vine, and I could not leave her.

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My husband and I lived in old houses that we could afford on a young man’s salary. Houses that we made into homes, houses where we saw architecture, and real wood, and potential. Houses where I sewed curtains, and peeled stickers off the walls, and painted cheap paneling a bright and glossy white. Houses where my husband fixed all the broken things, drains and drawers and door locks.

We planted gardens in those places, patches of tall sunflowers that camouflaged the piles of trash in the train yard behind us, onions and tomatoes and peppers that made us feel rich when the harvest came in.

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Houses that we were sometimes mocked for choosing. “You guys are better than this,” we heard.

Those houses are beautiful places in my memory, places where we brought tiny babies home wrapped in soft blankets, where we entertained lifelong friends, where we learned the real stuff of marriage, self-sacrifice and forgiveness. And incidentally, places where we lived below our means instead of beyond. Where we saved money that launched us into home ownership later on, when those same mockers were still renting the same houses on the same dusty streets.

Coffeehouse drinks were a treat. I did not buy kids’ meals when we met at fast food places for playdates. Eating out was a quarterly event. I got my hair cut short and then let it grow for months to skip haircuts. I did not buy designer clothes unless I found them at Goodwill. I pinched my pennies so hard they squealed. And it was challenging. And so rewarding. And I did not feel sorry for myself. I felt like Laura Ingalls Wilder and her Ma, homesteading on the plains, building something for the future.

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I did not feel sorry for myself, partly because I was determined not to, but also because of the community of women where I lived.

I raised my young family in a small town in Kansas. I saw women there, educated and socially aware, choosing to stay home with their families.

I say “choosing,” because it was a conscious sacrifice for most of us. I could have gone back to school while my baby was small, but she did not do well away from me. My youngest is not the same; she would have been ok. But my older kids, they needed me in a different way, and I felt it. I surrendered status, cash, respect, and those silk suits for them.

And so did many women I know, for their children.

We cut coupons. We did our own nails. We groomed our own dogs. We cut our kids’ hair, sometimes with greater success than others, but there’s always a hat. We went to yard sales, and we held our own sales every season to earn a little extra cash.

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My kids needed me more than they needed another activity or another plastic toy. And though it hurt my pride, they needed me more than I needed to be known as Dr. Professor. They needed me more than I needed a new car or clothes.

This is not a manifesto of the stay-at-home mom, by the way. It just happens to be my story. I know women who work outside the home and do it well, whose lives are balanced, and their children are great, happy, well-mannered, and well-adjusted.

It is, however, an acknowledgement that both are needed. No woman should be dismissed. All women in all callings are needed.

I’m glad I have women doctors and not just men to choose from for a breast exam. I like going to boutiques and having my hair cut and eating in restaurants where women run it all; I like their style. I’m glad there are women working in the stores where I buy my food and my dishes and furniture; I appreciate their opinions and their conversation.

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The marketplace was just not the life that God had for me.

And I saw how much women are needed in all arenas as I stayed home and watched the world go by.

My house was always the “kid house” because I wanted it to be, and also because I was often the only adult home in the neighborhood. We had after-school snacks for whoever showed up. I thanked God for coupons and for my friend who taught me to clip them like a boss, and I stocked up on crackers and cereal, 20 cents a box.

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One time we lived next door to a little boy, about six or seven, whose situation was not the best. The police were there every other night, and his big brother trained fighting dogs in their yard.

He came over almost every day. I saw that his coat was so dirty from wiping his nose on it that the sleeve had become like a small glacier, hard and flat and stiff. He let me wash it for him while he played with my daughter. When he took it off, I saw little round sores on his wrists. I asked if they were cigarette burns. He said yes. I was scared that his family would know I was the one who called, but I contacted SRS. They sent someone to his house. He got a case worker. Things got better after that, he told me later. The man who had burned him didn’t come around as much.

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Our porch was always full of kids. Sometimes they stole from me or did sexy dances in our yard or walked up and down the street in bikinis. I scolded them like they were my own kids. My house, my food, my kids, my rules. You gonna get it if you eat snacks at Momma’s house.

No matter how I got on to them, they never stopped coming back.

He who disciplines a child loves that child.

And a child somehow knows it.

We had mani-pedi parties for anyone who wanted their nails done for the first day of school. I had video game parties for any teenager home alone in the summer. I helped with homework. I took them for ice cream. I bought kids’ Bibles and told them about Jesus And, in certain circles, I am still famous for my milkshakes. When word hits the street that Mom’s blender is running, my kitchen is full of kids waiting to put in their order.

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These kids have broken my furniture, raided my freezer, and dropped glasses full of ice cream in my kitchen. They have mocked me on the way out the door after sitting in my house for hours, and I call out after them, “HELLO, I CAN HEAR YOU.” And those same kids come back the next day to get a break from their silent houses.

This winter, we had the chance to take a little boy sledding with us. His parents both work and don’t live together. I don’t know their story, and I know they are doing a good job with their son. But after a day of sledding, snowball fights, forts, and hot chocolate, he said, “This was the best day of my life.” I don’t know why, but it still makes me cry.

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I don’t ask all women to do what I’m doing. I just want all women to be appreciated. Every woman in the neighborhood doesn’t have to stay home. Just a couple is enough to keep an eye on things.

Women, we need you, everywhere you are. Moms, you make a difference, everywhere you are.

Thanks for doing what you do. Thank you for all the invisible work that gets done because you sacrifice yourself.

Thank you to the doctors and lawyers who study and work late into the night, because you care about humanity, and then get up early with your own kids. Thank you to the women who clean other women’s houses and check me out at the grocery store with smiles on your faces, even though I know your backs are tired and your feet hurt. And thank you to the brilliant women who decide to stay in houses and guard the home front.

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None of your work is wasted. There is need of your touch in every area.

A year or so ago, I heard this phrase in prayer, “The Year of the Women.”

At first I thought it was limited to 2016 in some way, but a few days ago, I was praying over it again. “Lord. I thought when you said, ‘The Year of the Women,’ it was that one year, but You keep bringing it up.”

And I heard this in reply, “When I say something, I do not undo it. I build on it.”

I was reminded of the many references to time in the Bible, the seeming relativity of days and years in certain scriptures.

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In 2016, I sensed a season of women being heightened, not some emergence that would be highlighted and then fall away. Looking back, it makes sense. Women would not surge forth and then do nothing with their growth and new sense of purpose and confidence. Women continue to be set free.

At the time, I wrote several posts about it, and the first couple were simple and empowering. Things like “God is raising you up! He is strengthening you, women! You have a voice–use it!”

I kept getting more and more insight.

And then I saw the most beautiful part. This movement of women looks different within the church than the movement of women in the world. I kept hearing this phrase, “Going up together.” I kept hearing, “You women will go up, but you will go up together. And because of this your families will be covered. No one falls through the cracks in my kingdom.”

I saw many women standing in circles, linking arms like fishnets. And I saw all the many responsibilities that women have and are so often dismissed.

But these responsibilities make up the fabric of our society.

Things like caring for children, for homes, for older relatives, looking out for neighbors, creating safe places in communities and neighborhoods, just by being present. Often volunteer organizations are run by women, as well as Bible study groups, after school clubs, playgroups for toddlers, and support groups for a million other things.

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As these women stood in these circles, with arms locked, they were catching each other’s responsibilities. I saw children and elderly people in wheelchairs, floating down, and the women caught them, together. I saw these women making meals for each other, I saw them cleaning house for each other. And in this way, they were able to go up, together, with no child staying home alone, no family going without meals, no woman having to miss an appointment or meeting because she had to sit with granddad.

The women covered each other.

They carried each other.

We don’t always bend easily to the solutions God shows us. They nick at the flesh. Community has a way of doing that. You have to deal with actual flawed messy people to have it.

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But God just loves it. He loves throwing us all together and seeing how we overcome and grow and irritate and infuriate and learn to appreciate each other.

That is my prayer this Mother’s Day. That you know how valuable you are. Your very own calling. And you can look at your sister and know how valuable she is without feeling diminished in any way. That you can celebrate each other’s gifts, because her gifts help you accomplish your dream, and your gifts help her accomplish her dream.

Because.

You sisters, you need each other.

And you go up, together.

***

Happy Mother’s Day.

Thank you for all you do.

Calling All Daddy’s Girls! Conference in Review.

When you have a vision and talk about it, it has the potential to come alive.

Lisa Palieri Perna of Touched by Prayer saw that happen last week.

Lisa had envisioned a gathering of a group of women, many of them encountering God in an intimate way for the first time.  She prayed over it.  She spoke to other women about it.  She asked for God’s help and for a team to support the vision.

And it happened, on March 17, 2017, just like that.

It was an honor to be there, to watch the women experiencing God’s love and receiving inner healing, finding freedom.

So many women, coming together, just to love.  Maturity, wisdom, generosity, kindness.  And with none of the games that often go along with gatherings of women.

No competition.  No cattiness.  No cliques.

Just love.

When you encounter love like that, Holy Spirit love carried to a certain depth, there is an indescribable peace that fills the room, the interactions, the atmosphere.  A peace that says, “You are accepted.  You are safe here.  You are free here.”

It makes sense.  Perfect love casts out fear.  It brings peace.

The relief that comes along with that kind of peace, it’s also indescribable, I think because we encounter it so rarely in most group settings.  It’s something I pray we will see more and more in our lives.   It’s a kind of permission to be ourselves. It’s something we are all longing for.

Many thanks to Lisa an to all the women who came to serve.  I’m so blessed and encouraged and inspired.

A vision realized is a beautiful thing.

***

The planning for the next Daddy’s Girl conference is already in the works.  Follow Lisa at Touched by Prayer on Facebook to get the deets as soon as they are available!

If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.  Matt 21:22

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L-R.  Lisa Perna (Touched by Prayer), Margie Moorman (speaker), Mitzi Hanna (writer).  Photo used with permission.

Thanksgiving, How Sweet the Sound.

My grandmother’s love language was food.

Biscuits and gravy.  Bacon and eggs.

Pancakes, stacked high with butter and syrup, sausage on the side, mixed and crispy-hot in the pan just before daylight.

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Home fried chicken.  Ham and beans.  Cornbread in an iron skillet.  Mashed potatoes, perfectly white, whipped to an inch of their little lives.  Homemade cinnamon rolls, homemade ice cream.  Chocolate chip cookies.  Banana splits.

My grandma made iced tea so sweet it crunched, and then she sent me out to the garden to pick little sprigs of fresh mint. She laid the green leaves gently on top, and the smell of that sweet mint tea was as fresh as the sun.  We are Southern after all.  There’s really no other way to drink it.

In the winter she made hot chocolate, and cappuccino from a tin.

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She made grilled cheese.  Macaroni and cheese.  Sandwiches with three slices of American cheese.  Cheeseball.  Pimento cheese.  Fruit and cheese.

Oh, and pepper jelly on a Triscuit.  With cream cheese.

Fresh.  Everything so fresh.  And almost all from scratch.  Pie crusts rolled out early in the morning.  Fruit picked from her own trees and sugared by her own hands.

Berry pie.  Cherry pie with whipped cream.  And apple pie with melted cheddar cheese.  The first time she handed me that delicacy, I thought someone had gotten confused.

But it was good.  Like all of it.  So good.

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And Thanksgiving?

Move the chairs out and bring in some tables.  Turn yourself sideways to make your way through the bounty, stack up your plate, and don’t be shy, honey, come back for more.

On Thanksgiving, my grandmother cooked for days around her teaching job.   Deviled eggs could be done early. The pies too, they could be done ahead.  Salads, chopped the day before and tossed in the morning.

She still made jello molds, maybe the only thing she made I didn’t love, but they were pretty and somewhat gravity defying, and what kid isn’t entertained by carrots jiggling in gelatin?

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My grandmother was a schoolteacher and a children’s librarian.   Besides cooking, she dressed in costumes on the holidays.

On Christmas, she was Mrs. Claus, Santa hat, red sweater, matching skirt, and a huge black belt with a shiny gold buckle.

And on Thanksgiving, she alternated years, one year a Cherokee maiden with construction paper feathers in her hair.

And, other years, a pilgrim in black and white, complete with a little collar and funny hat, flaps around her ears.

And she did it all while caring for my grandfather, wheelchair-bound from polio.  My grandmother sold everything she had after he came home from the hospital, and she went to school to become a teacher.

She was loyal to him until he died in his fifties, and she never remarried.  She still wears her wedding band, even though I’m not sure she remembers why.

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She doesn’t know us anymore, and she gets upset if she forgets where she is.

But her love language is still food.  She got afraid at my house the other day, and I said, “Grandma, do you want a cookie?”  She nodded.

I gave her two cookies.  “One for each hand,” I said, like I do for my kids.

She smiled and took a big crumbly bite.

It wasn’t until I had my own kids and tried cooking for a family, day in and day out, that I realized what a gift she gave us.

After I had stayed home for ten years, I realized that I had prepared over 10,000 meals, many of them spit out and proclaimed “disgusting” by children who had just been eating dog food.

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I know they did.  Dirt, too.  I saw it with my own eyes.

Even so, I baked and meal-planned and hunted recipes to delight them.

One time as a young mom, I tried to make beans.

I didn’t know you weren’t supposed to make the whole bag at once.  When the water boiled, I happily watched the beans soften and swell.

Until I realized they were swelling right out of the pot.

I called my grandmother.

“What do I do?”  I asked her.

She laughed so hard.  Couldn’t even talk.

“Grandma, stop laughing,” I said, “they are seriously coming out the top!  What do I do?”

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“Just get another pot, honey,” she gasped.  “Start spooning them in to something else on another burner, add more water.”

“Ok, Grandma,” I said.  Her laughing made me laugh.  I spooned some in another pot.

The beans kept swelling over the top.

I called her back.  “Grandma, I think I should just throw it away.  There’s too much, it’s still overflowing.  I give up.”

She thought this was hysterical.

“No, honey,” she said.  “Don’t you have four burners?   Just keep adding pots, keep spooning it out.  You can fix this.”

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It was a vote of confidence from a woman who knew her food.  I did fix it, on the phone with her, laughing and spooning and babysitting beans.

She kept asking, “What does it look like now?”  and laughing.

I wish I’d had a cell phone back then.  I would have texted her a picture of the four bean volcanos erupting on my stovetop.

I think she got the idea.

It’s a little memory.

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But I’m so thankful for it.

The food is a small thing too in a way, but in another, it’s the soundtrack of my childhood as much as any music.

A soundtrack of flavor and love poured out and laid before me by a servant of God and family who lived to bring us comfort.

My grandmother worked hard in her gardens and at school to provide the food for a big family she fed all the time.

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And then, unless you’ve planned meals like she did, and gotten up at all hours of the day and night to make sure it came out right, and tended to every little bite like it mattered, it’s hard to explain the time and the effort, the cuts and the burns and the sweat and the tired arms over a hot steamy stove.

I remember conversations at these meals.

Conversations that often ended up with someone raising their voice and walking away mad, and the awkward silence that followed.

And I remember my grandmother leaving the angry adults and swooping us all up in her arms.  She had holiday books that she read in the most soothing, sweet voice, a voice and a cadence made to order for children’s stories.

I’m sure the conversations mattered to her, but her babies mattered more.

She had worked hard to make a beautiful meal and space for gathering.  She was not about to let them ruin it for her or for us.

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She was a woman who never stopped smiling.

I’m amazed by her restraint, and inspired by the way she always chose love.

I want to give that same gift to my kids and my family.

I’m planning what I’m cooking this year.

My kids have never seen a jello mold.  This may be the year that changes.  That jiggly delight just might find itself a place on my table.  Some old things are worth resurrecting.

And I’m planning what I’ll say.

“Hey kids, want to read a story?”

And.  My sister has this hilarious game.  Telephone pictionary.  Great for a crowd.  Directions here.  Might play that, too.

There’s a time and a place for everything, it’s true.

But Thanksgiving is about making a joyful noise, not an angry or fearful one.  And about making memories that will still be sweet for a long, long time.

***

I’m praying for love, words of love, sweeter than honey, and more savory than turkey, and sweeter than music, to grace your lips, your ears and all your gatherings.

Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.  Prov16:24

For Lupé, the Beautiful Dancer.

Last week I locked my keys in my car in Echo Park.

Echo Park is lovely now, but it was known for gang activity in the not too distant past.

Rush hour was easing, and the sun was setting.

My friend, Gloria, and I stood on the sidewalk and waited on the locksmith.

Gloria is a great person to be locked out of a car with in the middle of a city.  She just stood there laughing.

No stress.  No anxiety.  No worry.  No fear.

We were trying to visit the Aimee Semple McPherson Parsonage and Angelus Temple.  Everything was closed, so we couldn’t go in.  But we walked around and took a few pictures.  Fifteen minutes passed.  Then thirty.  Then an hour.

I looked at Gloria standing by my mini van in high heels on dirty concrete.  It was hot.  We were thirsty and tired.  And the crowd around us was changing as the sun went down.

I started singing.  “I have decided to follow Jesus.”  It seemed appropriate standing outside that temple.  It seemed a declaration of a choice.  Also.  I once saw Jen Hatmaker sing it in a moment of exasperation, and it really made me laugh.

Gloria started singing with me, and we stood there on the sidewalk with people walking by all around, just singing.

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We made it through a couple of verses and then couldn’t remember the third.  Gloria said, “Oh, I’m so thirsty.  I wish we had some water.”

As she said it, a woman in a pink sports bra walked right up to us and said, “Do you work here?  I really need some water.”

It was so odd, like she almost repeated what Gloria had said.  And she came out of nowhere.

She appeared.

Her arms and chest were covered in scars and faded tattoos.  She was a beautiful woman, but older than she seemed at first.  The short top was a few sizes too small.  She was bursting out of it on every side.

“I tried to get a drink of water at the pharmacy.  They said they don’t serve hookers in there.”  She was indignant.  “I’m not a hooker.  I’m a dancer.”

We asked her name.  “Lupe,” she said.  We told her ours.

She talked on in frustration of how she had been treated all day.  As she walked through town because her car broke down.  She was going to sleep in it that night.  She had been to the temple before, and the people were nice, she said.  She thought they might give her water.  She was visiting from Vegas, looking for a better job.

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Gloria asked Lupe if she felt safe in her line of work.

“Oh.  Well.  No one’s ever tried to kill me, but they try to rape me in the parking lot when I leave.  I learned to change clothes before I go.  Now I just wear an old sweat suit, and it’s fine.”

“Wow,” we said.  And we just kept chatting.  Kids.  Shoes.  Lupe liked Gloria’s dress.

We were just three women talking.  She said she was thirsty and hot.  We were, too.  She said her feet hurt.  Ours did, too.

As we stood near the church, two other women and their children walked up and tried the door, and found it locked, like we had.

They had tourist maps in their hands.  The gold crosses around their necks shone nearly white.  They walked by us.

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Gloria and I are always friendly, we can’t even help it.  We spoke to the women.

They sped up walking.  They would hardly look at us.  I saw them staring hard at Lupe, and they almost covered their faces with their maps.  They mumbled something in reply to our greeting and walked quickly away.

Lupe just glanced at them and then back at us.  She seemed unfazed, but their behavior was so unnecessary.  It was weird.

We talked a little more with Lupe, but she wanted to walk in a public bathroom outside the temple.  We felt like we needed to wait with the car.  We told her we would give her money.  We wanted to pray with her.  She said she could use prayer.  We said to just meet us at the car when she came out.

She walked in the bathroom, and  we walked back to the car.  A few minutes passed, and we wondered if we should check on her.  We walked back to where we could see the bathroom door, and we saw two men walk in.

Gloria and I always find pennies.  They remind me of something Heidi Baker always says, “Stop for the one.”

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As we left Echo Park, Gloria bent down and picked up the filthiest penny I have ever seen from under a bus bench.  It looked like it had been wrapped in bubble gum and rolled in dog hair and dirt.  But, under it all was glowing copper, no doubt.  Still a penny.  Still forged with a purpose.  Still valuable.

I don’t know if Lupe had planned a meeting with those men or not, but she never came back to us.  We met some policemen later, near the time we finally got the car unlocked, but they didn’t seem worried about her.

I pray she is safe.  I pray she knows she is loved.  I pray she sometimes thinks of two women who enjoyed spending time with her outside of a church.  I pray she goes back there and tries again.  And the doors are open.  And she finds what she’s looking for.

What she’s really looking for.

I pray I get another chance.  To love well, to reach out, to go one step further in serving and in boldness.

And I pray for the women who passed us by.  As lovely and clean as those women were, they were the opposite of pretty, dressed in judgement.  Walking in fear.

We can always do better.  I pray they can try again, too.  That they get another chance to minister to a stranger.  That they find what they are looking for.

Really looking for.

***

God is love.

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.