Monday, March 24, 2014

Death by Fineness

Last weekend I had the privilege of attending an amazing women's conference at a large church.
One of our BFFs is the pastor.
His wife has become one of my BFFs over the years, despite not being around each other day to day.
We love to chat, this friend and I.
About food.
About marriage.
About church.
About our kids.
About life.

We began to talk about the plague of "fake authenticity" that seems to be gaining momentum amongst some Christians.
What does that mean, "fake authenticity"?
We have a growing number of struggles and sins that are ok to share out loud within our church walls, small groups, life groups, accountability groups, whatever you may call them.

It's ok to say you want to speak nicer to your kids.
It's ok to say you need to read your Bible more.
It's ok to say you sometimes get angry with your spouse about something.
It's ok to say you struggle with self-image.

But... don't go further.
Don't tread into ground that we may not have an easy answer for.
Don't make us uncomfortable.
Stay away from awkward.
We want comfortable authenticity.

What if...
Your struggle is lust?
You are full of jealousy, horribly eaten up with jealousy of a friend or co-worker.
You have homosexual feelings, despite being married?
You are hurt by something so deeply, you just cannot seem to get past it?
You feel hatred, hard core hatred, toward another person and its making you miserable?
You no longer believe what you are reading in your Bible... at all.
You want to hurt yourself because you hate the way you look?

Are we allowed to talk about these issues?
Because when someone shares one of these,
there is a deeper need to walk with someone through the hard stuff.
The messy stuff is... messy.
The walking through takes longer.
There is no prayer at the end of life group that will end a woman's struggle with admitting she no longer loves or wants to sleep with her spouse.

Instead, we say, "I'm fine!"
How are you? "I'M FINE!"
We say it until we may even believe it ourselves.
Let's have snacks and go home.

My dear friend put it so very eloquently:
"I think we are going to die of fineness..." 

Don't settle for the lie about being fine.
Don't settle for comfortable authenticity.
Find people, like my friend, who want to walk through the hard stuff with you.

And to Veronica...
Thank you for being there for me in such a real way this year.
And for the AMAZING quote above.
Love you, friend.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The 25¢ Hero

Alden has been very into coloring neatly as of late.
This is a good thing, since he has gotten a lot of papers sent home with "Neater Please," emblazoned across the top.
What can I say?
He is a third kid.
I was just happy he wasn't eating the crayons, and not worrying about him staying in the lines.
Ok, I would have been ok with minimal crayon consumption, but I digress...

So, he has been diligently coloring in the mornings before school.
He came to me last week and asked for new crayons for school.
"Do you need new crayons?" I ask.
"Are yours broken or missing?" I wondered.
I mean, why am I going to give him new crayons if he doesn't need them, right? 

"Well, no... but I just want them to be nice and sharp," he explained.

I looked down at that little face and thought, "ok, why not."
I remember loving new sharp crayons. New crayons are the best.
So I went out to the mudroom and got he and Emerson both a new pack of crayons.
I have an abundant supply, because when they are 25¢ during back to school season, I buy about ten boxes.
I can't help myself.
I love school supplies.

Those two little boys were flat out elated.
Over a 25¢ box of crayons.
Alden literally jumped into my arms and said, "Oh, thank you Mama!"
Then he gave me a kiss and declared me the best mom ever.

I walked into the kitchen and told Micah,
"I just became a hero. For only 25¢."

Oh mamas, I know.
I know we don't want to raise little selfish, spoiled kiddos.
And normally I am the queen of saying kids today, mine included, have TOO MUCH stuff.
But sometimes...
give them that extra cookie,
the excessive amounts of marshmallows in their hot chocolate,
or that new box of crayons.
Be your kid's 25¢ hero. 

If a fellow isn't thankful for what he's got, 
he isn't likely to be thankful for what he's going to get.  
                                                    ~Frank A. Clark

Friday, February 28, 2014

Love and hurt...

My last blog was met with... mixed reactions.
I knew it would be.
I tried to prepare for it.

I received e-mails accusing me of being divisive,
damaging the body,
spewing my angry rhetoric,
and in general, not being a nice Christian girl.
I was told I should just move on "quietly".

That was hard, but as I said, I expected it.
I knew I was calling out something that makes us all cringe...
Maybe it is because I did not grow up in the "Bakery" that I find covering up these issues so distasteful.
A pattern of secrecy is not authentic to the message we try to share.

I did not do it to attack,
be mean,
damage the body,
or spew anything.

It was my last ditch effort to say hard things to people I love.
I had a Head Baker I loved.
I had a Bakery I loved.
I had friendships and community I loved.
I lost those things, and not for the right reasons.

I left with a heavy heart, that grew heavier still as lies were told,
people were thrown out,
and the truth would not be heard.

For the last year my heart has broken, daily, for the customers at that bakery.
Why not just say, "Screw 'em" and move on?
Because they were my family, my friends, my co-laborers.
I have shed more tears for that Bakery and her customers, and yes, even for the Head Baker.

Oh, I know.
You don't believe that part, about loving the Head Baker.
Some are saying, "You must really hate him to write that."
You could not be more wrong.
Hate can walk away.
Hate can say, forget you.
Sometimes love is not flowers and chocolates.
Sometimes, it is taking the person's hand and telling them hard things, because you love them.

When the softer approaches are met with rebuke, you take one or two with you.
When those are refused, you take more with you.
When those are refused, and you are cast out... your heart breaks.
I have been angry at actions, yes.
But I have never once stopped loving the Head Baker, the staff, and all the customers.
But sometimes, those you love, you must wound with the truth.
That is not unkind.
Or divisive.
Or angry rhetoric.
Or being a bad Christian girl.

For the last year, I feel like I have watched my "family" in a house that is on fire.
Yes, your room might not be, I get that.
But I have quietly tried to say, "I think it's hot in there."
"Is that a flame?"
"Do you smell smoke?"

My last blog post was the equivalent of finally yelling, "FIRE!"
I am sorry if the yelling hurt your ears, but not as sorry as I would be if you get burnt...

So, hate me if you must.
Lob every Bible verse about soft answers, and kind speaking at me.
I will take them.
I know my heart, and it's intent.
I also know Bakeries need to be clean to prosper, (and there are many that do) and I will not apologize for shedding light on that.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Rats in the Bakery

Once upon a time there was a Bakery.
It was neatly decorated, with just the right touches to make your dining experience top notch.
Good coffee.
Tasty delicacies.
Fun employees.

The Head Baker was in charge.
He chose which pastries to make.
He ran the kitchen and the staff.
He was funny; customers liked him, the staff liked him, everyone liked him.

People from all over came to the Bakery to enjoy the treats and hang out.
They liked the chatter.
Their children enjoyed it.
Everyone smiled.
Everyone was happy.

As the business grew, so did the demands on the staff and the Head Baker.
He got employees to handle things like ordering flour,
writing the menu on the boards,
and chatting with the customers.
Sometimes though, he would swoop in and lose his temper with the staff.

"Why did you order THAT kind of flour?" he'd boom.
"Did you tell that customer we may someday make raspberry danishes?
I hate raspberry, we will never do that. How could YOU decide that?" he'd fume.
"Do you really think that writing looks good? I know I told you to handle it, but here is exactly how I want it done," he'd fuss.

The employees started to lose confidence.
"If he keeps changing everything we do, why do we bother?" they wondered.
Eventually, the Assistant Baker got moved to Flour Man,
the Customer Service Man got moved to Dish Washer,
the Head Frosting Man got moved to... well no was sure just what he did anymore.
And the poor Menu Writer just kept rewriting menus after working for hours on them.

Life in the kitchen was no longer fun.
But the staff hoped it was just a phase.
Part of getting bigger and busier.
They knew their beloved Head Baker would not keep acting like this.
Surely they would be pleasing to him again.

Then, the Head Baker started to take trips to visit other far away bakeries.
"See how they do things" he'd say.
"I've got go help them set up their staff and show them how it's done."
The staff wanted to tell him to stay, but alas... they knew the Head Baker would do what he wanted.

Before too long a bigger problem arose.
There were rats in the kitchen.
Yes! Rats!

The staff tried to tell the Head Baker, but he waved them off.
Before long, the rats' droppings were getting into the pastries.
The Dish Washer finally approached the Head Baker and said,
"Sir, I hate to tell you this, but I think I have spied rat droppings in some of the pans."

The Head Baker was furious.
How dare this Dish Washer tell him this.
He fumed, he threatened.
He told the Dish Washer, "Your kids are dirty! I see them playing in the mud.
Go take care of your own dirty kids before you tell me about these rats!"

The Dish Washer was greatly saddened.
Yes, his older son did like mud.
But he was too old for the Dish Washer to keep cleaning him off.
His son had to learn to choose not to jump in the mud himself.
How could the Head Baker not see this, and what did it have to do with the rats in the kitchen?

The Dish Washer knew he must leave.
He could not let the Head Baker talk about his family this way.
Sadly, he said goodbye to his kitchen friends, and left.

Some customers wondered where the beloved employee went.
The Head Baker emerged from the kitchen and said,
"He had to go. I just tried to help him with his muddy child and he got mad.
He yelled at me. He cursed at me. We cannot have a man like that in our Bakery."

The people believed him.
The other employees knew this was not true,
but they needed their jobs, and they loved the customers,
so they carried on.

But the Flour Man knew.
He knew this was not right.
He knew the Dish Washer had not done those things.
He knew the Head Baker needed to stop these actions.
And the rats, still no one was dealing with the rats.

A few months passed.
More jobs got switched around.
The Head Baker was rarely in the kitchen anymore.
When he was, he was never happy with the way things were going.
He would not listen to anyone who brought up the rat problem.
Eventually the staff began to get used to the rats, and their droppings mixed into the pastries.

But the Flour Man could not.
Finally, a few special customers came to him.
These customers were special because they were on the Bakery Board.
They helped decide things about the Bakery... in theory.
Even they had to admit, they had no control over the Head Baker.
They just said yes to his plans because they had no way not to.

The Flour Man had to tell them about the rats.
They had to admit, they already knew.
"We just thought it best not to say anything."
"It makes the Head Baker so angry if we do."

"But we love this Bakery. We love the Head Baker," said the flour man.
"We should talk to him about this. We can get rid
of these rats, and fix this before all the customers find out!"

So, they all agreed. At the next Bakery Meeting, they would talk to the Head Baker.
The meeting did not go well.
The Head Baker was furious.
"How dare you!" He fumed at the Flour Man.
"You just want to be the Head Baker! You don't even do your job as Flour Man well."

The Flour Man was heartbroken.
He loved being Flour Man; he was good at it.
He never wanted to be Head Baker.
He was happier helping out behind the scenes.

The meeting ended.
Nothing was resolved, and the Flour Man realized,
they had still never talked about the rats.
"One more chance, at the last Bakery Board meeting," he thought.

But at that last meeting, the Head Baker threw everyone for a loop.
He stormed in, and declared, "Either you get rid of this Flour Man, or I'm going, and I'll
take my Assistant Baker with me!"

The Bakery Board did not know what to do.
The Flour Man did not know what to do.
The Head Baker had all the recipes, how could they make the pastries without him? 
By now, some customers were already questioning what was going on in the kitchen.

Finally, the Flour Man realized.
He would have to go.
He loved this Bakery so much, loved the customers, and his fellow staff.
But he knew the Head Baker would not relent until he was gone.

He packed up his flour guides.
Took off his apron.

He had to leave out the back door, that very day.
He was not allowed to tell the customers goodbye.
The Head Baker would do that.

When the Head Baker told them, the customers were shocked.
They knew the Flour Man and his family well.
They loved them. They asked lots of questions.

The Head Baker did not expect this.
He'd gotten rid of the Dish Washer and others before him without much problem.
He knew he'd better act fast.
"The Flour Man wanted to run my kitchen. When I said no, he got mad and left.
He didn't care enough to stay and work things out. He didn't care if you all got the best flour
for your pastries or not. He is a bad Flour Man."

Some believed him.
Most did not.
But they loved their pastries, so they kept coming to the Bakery.

When they asked the Flour Man what happened he finally told them the truth.
"I am sad to tell you this, but there are rats in the kitchen.
The Head Baker is not what you think he is when he is back in the kitchen with us.
All I wanted to do was to tell him about the rats, but he wouldn't hear of it."

Some customers went to the Head Baker.
"Why would you fire the Flour Man? Why won't you deal with the rats?"
"We love this bakery, please Head Baker, please take care of the rats and bring back the Flour Man!"
"We will pay for the exterminator to come!"

"You can leave too," replied the Head Baker coldly.
"You are cruel to bring up those rats. That is not your business.
Go to another bakery. I will find new customers to fill your seats."

The customers were sad.
They didn't want to go to another Bakery.
They loved this Bakery.
But the Head Baker would not talk about or take care of the rats.

The Flour Man and the customers who knew he was telling the truth about the rats, left.
They tried to tell others about the rats.
The remaining customers would not listen.
"No! We have never seen any rats!" they would say.
"We haven't ever gotten sick from the food here," they would reason.
"Until I see a rat with my own two eyes, I cannot see why I would go to another bakery," they'd justify.

"Oh," said the Flour Man. "I see."
He felt abandoned. Alone.
He knew there were rats.
He knew they were getting into the food.
He knew the customers were at risk.
But they would not listen.

"My children just love this Bakery," they said.
"All of my friends come to this Bakery," they replied.
"Aren't there rats at most of the bakeries in town anyway?" they'd ask.

So he stopped trying to tell them about the rats in the kitchen.
There were other bakeries without rats.
And the bakeries that had rats in the past, had put in traps, not just pretended there wasn't a rat problem.
He knew he would rather sit at home with his wife and children eating their own homemade pastries,
rather than eat something rats had been in.

As the weeks and months passed, the Flour Man and his wife and children grew closer to the customers who'd left the Bakery, and further away from the ones who had stayed.
That was hard.
One evening over dinner he looked at his wife and asked if she missed their life at the Bakery.
She thought for a minute and replied,
"I know here at home, and at the little Bakery we sometimes do go to, there are no fancy pastries.
Ours are more simple, but just as tasty.
I know our kitchen is clean, and there are no rats.
I would rather eat our simple rat-free pastries with a few friends anyway."

He was glad she was happy again.
His sons were too.
He thought she was done speaking, but then, she added this.

"No matter how pretty they make those pastries look at that Bakery, how great the frosting, cherry toppings, and sprinkles may seem, in the end... they are all still eating rat poop." 

And with that, the Flour Man was forced to close the book on his life at the Bakery.

In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, He began to say to his disciples first, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops."
                                                                            ~Luke 12:1 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Be Greedy, Be Very Greedy

Yes, I am telling you to be greedy.
And I do mean greedy.
And all the other synonyms that go along with it.

What shall you be so greedy with?
What kind of horrid advice is being doled out here?
Well, here it is, in a nutshell...

Be Greedy With Time

As I packed up some clothes and toys to sell in a consignment sale this week, I became sad.
It was the blasted play food that did me in.
The little fake milk bottles, the pizza slices, the plastic pile of spaghetti. It was too much. 
Then there was the little Subway set that Aunt Cherith bought Lincoln when he was 2. (and that was before Jim Gaffigan's "Eat Fresh" bit. She's a trail blazer that Aunt.) 
I was brought back to so many memories of being made a lunch of plastic peas, rolls, and a potato.
I revisited mind pictures of Teddy Bears being fed spoonfuls of pretend oatmeal, and grocery stores set up for me to come buy dinner ingredients in.
Alden used to empty out my cupboards and put this very food inside, pulling up his play stove to cook alongside me. Lincoln and Emerson used to have a cash register and we had elaborate shopping and restaurant dining experiences. I remember poor Em's first realization that the food was not, in fact, real. What a cookie let down that was.

As I packed it up, I realized, I wanted more.
More pretend meals to "interrupt" my busy day.
More pretend bites of plastic pickles.
More moments.
More memories.
More time.

But that phase is kind of over for my boys.
It struck me that they make real food now.
Emerson cracks real eggs and makes them on a real stove, in a real pan.
Alden scales the cupboard and makes his own bowl of real cereal or actual oatmeal.
Lincoln likes to prepare his own lunch and makes us all hot chocolate on cold days... with a real tea kettle, and hot steaming water.

Play food is over.
And it killed me.

I wanted to physically turn back the hands of time.
Come Back!!!!!!
But I know, we cannot do that.
So, instead I made a decision.
I will now turn into the greediest time hog of all.
I will grab every minute of play time with my boys as I can.
Last month as I deleted app after app off my phone for our electronics free week, I wasn't sad.
I didn't mourn their loss. There were no fond memories of scrabble games won, re-tweets, or candies crushed.
But that plastic piece of sliced cheese... that brought me to tears.

So whatever you are doing, be greedy with your kid time.
Grab it all.
Every minute.
Stuff your pockets, fill your bags, and then keep grabbing for more.
Do it when you are tired.
Do it when you are frustrated.
Do it when you don't want to.

Be greedy and do not apologize for it.

Time is the coin of your life. 
It is the only coin you have, 
and only you can determine how it will be spent. 
Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you. 
                                                            ~Carl Sandburg