Oh happy day…when Jesus washed…He washed my sins away!
Blessings to you as you celebrate the resurrection! Today’s post is on OurCityOnAHill. Please click below:
Today, I wanted to say how much I appreciate you as someone who reads my blog. Thank you for sharing life with me! I hope your Valentine’s Day was filled with extraordinary love. Today’s post is on OurCityOnAHill. Please click below to read. YOU OWN THOSE GATES! Read, and you’ll see what I mean!
As a mom at Christmas, I write a script in my mind for how the magical moments of this season should unfold. I have these special memories of Christmas as a child; they were probably messy and chaotic, but when looking at frozen pictures of the past, they appear to be Norman Rockwell esque. So as I prepare meals, shop for gifts and make plans, I envision these magical moments with my family. The script in my mind is perfection.
But…for some reason, it doesn’t usually play out that way. This happened last week. Mary asked for an experience for Christmas this year…an ice skating date with mommy. Then dinner at her favorite pizza place right next to the rink, a cozy restaurant below the art museum that looks at the tinsel trail of trees. You can imagine the visions I had of gliding on the ice together while Christmas music played and then nestling in at that special restaurant in the middle of the park.
And, as we walked up to the rink in our three pairs of socks, two coats, and two pairs of pants in the surprise record low temperatures that hit on the date we chose, we saw the hip hop radio station’s van. Rather than Christmas music, we heard the bop of the nnst, nnst, nnst. As we walked up, they were blasting a song about “dropping your a..” at full blast, and we could hardly hear each other. Perhaps fitting for what was happening on the ice, but not fitting for the precious Christmas experience I envisioned with my five year old. Oh dear. Maybe we should come back another night. But then I remembered the efforts of stuffing our three-socked feet into our boots and zipping up all our zippers. There was no turning back!
At check in, Mary proudly told the woman how this was her Christmas gift. We stuffed our feet into the heavy skates and bravely made our way onto the ice. It was quite hard. As soon as our skates hit that awaited ice, the dj in charge told everyone to clear off for their game of turkey bowling. Clear the ice. We just got on. The woman in charge saw the looks on our faces and quietly told us that we could stay. So, we had the entire ice rink to ourselves which, for safety reasons, was very helpful. While the dj manned the turkey bowling game, the Christmas music resumed. It was fabulous! But not exactly the gliding together I had envisioned because Mary was determined to skate without a helping hand from me. We laughed as she fell about forty times, and thankfully didn’t hit her hard little head. It was wet ice mixed with crashes and cold wind. But she loved it. She would not quit until she did a whole loop by herself. It looked like a painful disaster to me, but Mary was thrilled. And she finally did it!
Then we walked to the pizza restaurant, starving. It was full of people and the hostess greeted us with the news it was closed for a private party. What in the world?! On our night?! This was absolutely not part of the plan. Rather than head home, where my numb feet wanted to go, I drove Mary to a little place down the road that I hoped would still be open. It was empty and they told us we could sit anywhere. Mary chose the bar, the high seats, of course. She ordered sweet potato fries that came with a chocolate dipping sauce – something, Mary told me, is only at fancy restaurants. This was way better than pizza.
As the wait staff gathered around us and rolled silverware, Mary told them all about her ice skating adventure. They were thoroughly entertained by their small visitor. She told them all about her excitement for Christmas and her love for baby Jesus, a topic that was warmly welcomed out of the mouth of Mary. Wine was poured, Christmas was celebrated, more stories were told, and laughs lingered as we all embraced our unexpected, warm moment before braving the cold again. Mary did about eighty percent of the talking and beamed with glee as the center of attention. As the ice melted off my legs, I looked around at our new friends and at her windburned, laughing face with chocolate all over it…somehow the magic I was hoping for found its way to us.
I made this picture into an ornament as a gift to Mary to remember the gift of her experience.
But really, it is a gift to me. It’s a reminder that in our failed quest for perfection, sometimes we find ourselves enveloped by a better storyline…that in the midst of unexpected cold, hard falls, closed doors, and moments we’d never put on the script, perfection makes its way to us. And that is the great joy of Christmas.
Each year at Christmas, new memories are made and old ones are relived. As I opened the box of our tree ornaments, memories from over the years spilled out into the room. Remember that trip? Here’s that one from my childhood! Awe look, the year we got married? And look, our first Christmas with a baby! Years and years of memories all hung in one place. And then I pulled out the little wooden sleigh from her…my aunt Kitty.
Kitty was my mom’s older sister who lived a few doors down. My childhood memories are flooded with Aunt Kitty. Our grandparents lived far away and she was a grandmother and an aunt all wrapped into one. She was so jolly and had a belly laugh that made you feel so good and special when you were with her. She gave out king-sized candy bars to hundreds of neighbors on Halloween; she was recklessly generous. And when I say she did Christmas, I mean she DID Christmas!
That’s why I will never forget twelve years ago on Christmas Eve when we got a call from a neighbor saying there was an ambulance at her house. We hung up the landline and my sister and I sped over. The stockings were hung, the gifts were wrapped, the food was made, she had worked so hard preparing a magical Christmas that only Kitty could prepare for her eleven grandchildren. She went to sleep on the couch after a long day of finishing touches, and she never woke up. As soon as we pulled up to her home, we knew. We just knew.
As I sat in Kitty’s funeral next to my younger sister and saw her fingers shake as she held the program…those fingers that had dialed the numbers to Kitty’s landline at least once a week since she was old enough to talk…I looked around at those Christmas trees in the front of the church and just sobbed. Christmas Eve. She was taken from us on Christmas Eve. It just didn’t seem right.
Twelve years have passed, I have gotten married and now have three precious children to soak in the magic of Christmas. They are absolutely adorable and hilarious this time of year. But even as new memories are made, I can’t get through this season without thinking of Kitty and having at least one good cry.
Because I miss her.
Maybe there is someone you miss this time of year too. It’s the happiest time of the year, and I dearly love it, but Christmas also brings us memories of people who are no longer here to share in the season; the family member who isn’t at the dinner table any more, the address in the Christmas card list you have to delete. Death is real. And it hurts. It’s not how it is supposed to be.
And this year as I got out that wooden sleigh, I feel like God was right there with me. And He reassured me that it’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to have a good cry. It’s okay to have these emotions and not feel the need to stuff them down. It’s okay not to be okay with death.
Because He isn’t.
At the tomb of His dear friend, Jesus wept. I know He would have wept with us that day in Kitty’s living room. He felt the sting of grief I know so well, and He too cried. And then He did something about it. He commanded his friend Lazarus to come out of that grave. And shortly after that, He did something even more miraculous. He went to the cross.
He came in all humanity and all power to look death straight in the eye and swallow it so we wouldn’t have to. He loves us so much He came to set us free of the shackles of sin and the sting of death. Because we matter.
We miss our loved ones, but we won’t always have to. “He will remove the cloud of gloom, the shadow of death that hangs over the earth. He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign Lord will wipe away all tears.” (Isaiah 25:7-8) That hole in our hearts that yearns for things to be made whole again…He came to fill it, and He’s the only One big enough.
My wish list is long and exciting, but I think what we all desire most deeply this time of year is for the death of the people we love, and the brokenness both inside and around us, to be overcome and gone forever. That’s the cry of my heart and I believe that’s what Christmas promises.
Yes, there is death and darkness. But the birth of Jesus introduces us to the life and light that cuts straight through the heart of it, victorious.
“In him (Jesus) was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)
There is something stronger than death; the love that broke into the universe on Christmas Day. The love that is making all things new.
And sometimes new memories shine light on the old. My children asked today if we could get out our birthday sign for Jesus. I told them not yet, and reminded them they needed to wait until the 25th. John, who is three, started jumping up and down. “Are we going to heaven, mama!? Are we going to get to sing to him in heaven?! Can we go and see him on his birthday, mama, please!? Can we go…”
I listened to his joyful request as his precious words began to cut straight through the heart of such a painful memory…it was the moment I lost it this year. I immediately thought of Kitty and how she went home to be with Jesus on the Eve of His birthday. She was with Him that night. John asked about my emotions, and I reminded him about Kitty. He was thrilled to know that she made it to heaven just in time to sing.
As I rejoiced with John, the words of “Oh Come All Ye Faithful”, my favorite Christmas hymn and one that comforted me greatly in the years after Kitty’s death, played through my mind,
Sing, choirs of angels, Sing in exultation, Sing all ye citizens of heaven above…Glory to God…Now in flesh appearing…
Those of us who miss loved ones at Christmas, we are invited to sing along triumphantly with all of the citizens of heaven, and perhaps with more volume than before,
Oh, come let us adore Him…Christ the Lord!
What does it mean to be pro-life?
I believe LIFE comes from God and is so amazing, so vast and such a miracle that it could never be squeezed down or boxed into a political party. Life is made in the image of God and that includes the unborn, and also those who have been born; each man and woman, black, white, rich, poor, marginalized, elite, foreign, oppressed, strong, disabled, young and old. Each is hand-stitched together in love to reflect the glory of our Creator. He loves us so much that He knows the hairs on our heads, Republican and Democrat alike, and He sent His son to die for each one of us. We are all worthy of dignity, extravagant love, and amazing grace, despite how we’ve all fallen short.
Webster defines life as “the period of time when a person is alive.” But the word Jesus uses in John 10:10 when he says he has come to give life is the Greek word Zoe which means, “every living soul” and “of the absolute fullness of life, both essential and ethical, which belongs to God, a life active and vigorous, and to last forever.”
This is the kind of life I want to be for. It’s the kind of life I’ve received by the grace and love of Jesus Christ, despite how short I’ve fallen of His glory and how much I’ve broken the law. The amazing love that has been shown to me by Him and by graceful people who follow Him is what has transformed my life. It is only by His grace that I can say I am pro-life.
I don’t personally believe the front lines of life and death are at the polls where the laws will be changed. I believe the law is important, but agree with Jesus that it is powerless to transform. “For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending His own son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.” Romans 8:3.
When it comes to the unborn, I believe the battle of life and death lies in the hearts of pregnant women who are alone and afraid, and who probably feel judged. I believe being pro life means sitting face to face with her and telling her that her life matters, that she is made in the image of God and that He promises her a hope and a future. It’s telling her she is forgiven for her sins and worthy of extravagant love, that she is a daughter, that she belongs, that God will never leave her or forsake her or her child, and that she does not have to be ashamed or afraid. It is being for her as well as her child. It is holding her hand and sharing a love that is stronger than any law and has the power to transform, redeem and save.
I believe being pro-life includes the life of the woman who has had an abortion. One out of three women have walked this unthinkable road and are silently suffering in shame through the election dialogue. If you are pro life, you are for her, a sinner in desperate need of Truth and grace. Jesus has come for her too, to cleanse her from all unrighteousness and set her free from the shackles of shame.
Being pro-life is so much more than being anti-abortion. It is seeing life as a gift from God and seeing all people of all races, ethnicities, religions, sinful backgrounds and social classes as being made in His image and worthy of being treated with dignity. It’s giving a voice to the voiceless, the vulnerable and the marginalized, both born and unborn. I have been sad to see how human life has been debated in this election in a divisive, hurtful and confusing way. Life refers to all life, comes from God alone and cannot be contained by a political party or candidate. The zoe life Jesus offers is way too big for that!
Each American on both sides is a gift from God, worthy of dignity and grace. We all desperately desire to be understood, heard, valued and loved now more than ever. It’s time to move on with life.
Today’s post is on OurCityOnAHill. Please click the picture or link to read. I hope you enJOY some laughter today! http://www.ourcityonahill.net/did-jesus-laugh-by-katie-taylor/
“Fear Not, Little Flock” is something I wrote for a community blog last month, but wanted to share here as well. I hope it encourages you!
My three-year-old stood at our back door in his ninja turtle cape and plastic sword in hand. Nose pressed to the glass, he longingly looked out.
“Come with me, mommy!” he begged.
I was cleaning up dishes and told John to go out by himself for a minute.
“I don’t want to, mommy. I’m scared.”
I explained that the fenced in back yard was perfectly safe.
He looked down and muttered, “but what about the cat?”
A fat, orange cat had come to visit the other day. We had never seen it before and didn’t know which neighbor it belonged to. As soon as we opened the door to go say hello, it leapt back over the fence and fled.
But it’s fluffy size terrified John.
Until that orange surprise visitor came, John was fine going outside alone. But I understand his fear. When we are surprised, we want to arm ourselves against those kind of surprises again. That phone call, that diagnosis, that accident, that heartbreak caught us off guard. We want to move forward prepared for it. If it comes, darn it, we’ll have predicted it. We are on the inside looking out for it.
The tender words of Jesus came to mind, “Fear not, little flock.” (Luke 12:32) I knelt down and looked John in the eyes. I told him he was twice the size of that orange cat. I also pointed out the plastic sword in his hand.
“If you see him coming, run after him with your sword and he will be so scared, he will run away. He’ll jump that fence so fast, it will be funny. Remember last time?”
His little eyes lit up with visions of being a superhero in action.
“Why don’t you go out there and look for him and scare him away?” I suggested.
He plunged out the door, sword in hand. After a few minutes of no cat, he was running in circles, playing on the new swing set, pushing his plastic mower and digging in the dirt. It was a great, sunny morning that John got to experience instead of watch from inside.
And that cat….would you believe it….never showed up.
This conversation reminded me of a talk with my husband recently. Only this time, I was the fearful one. He asked me to tell him what I was afraid of, and while some of my fears seem so silly and selfish, I was honest. It helped to say them out loud and bring them to light. It helped me see where I wasn’t believing God. And that if these worst case scenarios were to happen, even death, I would be okay in Christ. God doesn’t promise we won’t have trouble, but that He will be with us and has given us power to overcome it. He never says that cat won’t come, but that in the name of Jesus, it will flee.
Then Will helped me look back at the last time something scary happened. While painful, I am okay. In fact, each surprise, hard situation in life has served to mold me more into the image of Christ. I am more than okay. Then he pointed out my sword, my Ephesians 6 armor already in hand “the sword of the spirit which is the word of God.” It says,
“The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)
“I (Jesus) have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy…” (Luke 10:19)
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
I thanked my husband for the reminder. In Christ, I am twice the size of what I fear. It helped give me the courage to step back out of my comfort zone, victorious sword in hand, and ready for what comes. I’ve seen a lot of neat things since…but not the cat.
When it comes to things we worry about, did you know that:
40% never happen
30% are in regard to unchangeable deeds of the past
12% focus on opinions of others that cannot be controlled
10% center of personal health which only worsens when we worry about it
8% concern real problems we can influence
(Max Lucado, Come Thirsty, p.101.)
And I’ll add…0% outside of the redemptive power of God and victory in Jesus Christ.
“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32 ESV)
“Are you sure Mary can wear her princess dress to school?” my husband asked before they walked out the door.
“Yes! I’m positive.” I explained how a second grader had told me all about “gold day” and how there was a concert, and the girls were supposed to wear gold princess costumes. Lucky for us, we have Belle’s beautiful gold dress in our playroom ready for such a day. Mary goes to a Christian school where the children wear uniforms, but today was different.
As he pulled up to the school for drop off, Will called me. “Are you sure? It doesn’t seem like anyone else is wearing a princess dress.”
Just to be sure, I texted the teacher. I told her that Mary had on a gold princess dress for the concert like she was supposed to, but that for PE she had on a yellow shirt and khaki skirt underneath. See, I think of everything.
As they were pulling up, she texted back.
Big gulp. What in the world? I recalled my source. A precious second grader. I flipped to the newsletter and read about the day. It was not a concert, but rather a prayer gathering around the flagpole and the children were to wear the color gold to support childhood cancer. No concert. No costumes. Huge gulp.
I felt terrible. How could I have missed the details of such an important day for such a worthy cause SO badly? And, I had actually read the newsletter yesterday!
Will did what any good husband would do and called me after the awkward drop off. He was rightfully frustrated. He took this time to vent a few other things that had frustrated him lately, a few other balls I had dropped, and suggestions for how we (and he meant we) could do better. Will and I have very different personalities, which makes us work so well. He never misses a detail and I miss a lot from big picture land. In these conversations, sometimes the enemy has a way of making me think there is something wrong with me. The “I’m not good enough” lie has a way of getting through to me, of no fault at all to my gracious husband.
While we were having this challenging conversation, my one-year-old climbed on a chair and started eating the jewelry on my dresser. Gold earrings were being shoved into her mouth at warp speed. Did I feed her breakfast? My three-year-old son was running around in his new batman cape crying because I wouldn’t let him watch the superhero show on Netflix. Not just a cry, but an all-out fit the neighbors could probably hear. I glanced at the clock, twenty minutes till we were supposed to be out the door to Bible Study, and I had not showered. No time to defend myself, I told Will I had to go.
I need a break. I need a day off. I am just not good at this. I cannot seem to get it all together. I keep forgetting things. I bet other moms don’t do this.
As I was putting on the kids’ shoes to get out the door, John cried about leaving the glow-in-the-dark spiders we had just gotten for Halloween. We had actually bought the spiders for other little kids we were “booing” in hopes of making them feel special by anonymously dropping off a pumpkin of candy with a sign. A sweet gesture, but as I looked at the spiders, I recalled a recent message relating spiders to sin. Maybe I am just spreading darkness to my kids and others with these silly candy buckets.
It’s crazy, isn’t it?! Insane! But if you’re a mom, you’ve walked through this mommy condemnation. It comes straight from the pit. You take one wrong turn and suddenly everything you do is seen through the microscope of that cloak of shame labeled “bad mommy.” It spirals out of control so fast! As crazy and silly as these thoughts are, when you’re in them, they are real.
Shame led to self pity as I crashed into a full mommy meltdown. You may know the kind. I texted my husband to tell him I was sorry for everything. I added, “I’m just tired of being me.” It was exactly how I felt. Maybe someone else would be better at this. Tears welled up as I looked at the clock and saw how late we were. I gave up. We won’t go to Bible study. We won’t go anywhere today. We’ll just sit here. I thought of Mary and her princess dress and how silly I made her look for such a respectable cause and I cringed.
And then, the next thought came. Maybe I should just go back to work. I was good at that. If I missed details there, it was all on me, not on my poor 5-year-old and husband. I got a paycheck, people told me I was good, and while I know God clearly called me out of that into this…this is HARD. Maybe I should just go back to that.
And in my pity party on the floor, in the chaos of John and Anna running circles around a crying mommy holding their little shoes, I heard the Holy Spirit whisper these two powerful words: “MOVE ON.” Earlier I had read those very words in the story of the Red Sea crossing in Exodus. While I’ve read it many times, it’s as if a divine highlighter showed me those words and said, “these are for you, sister.”
And I pray that by sharing this raw moment that they might be for someone else too. They come when the Israelites are about to cross the Red Sea. We know that, but of course, they don’t. All they can see are the 600+ chariots of Egyptians coming after them. They are terrified and cry out to God, “what have you done to us…it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert.” (Exodus 14:11-12) Oh, how I get them! Oh, how I just said “it would be better if I just went back to work.” That plan when someone else owned my time was so much easier than this crazy plan!
Moses encourages them to trust God and then God says these powerful words, “Tell the Israelites to MOVE ON.” (Exodus 14:15 NIV) The ESV version says “tell the people of Israel to GO FORWARD.” He doesn’t address their questions or complaints in that moment. He just says “MOVE ON.”
I sometimes hear and say “move on” in a condescending way, implying the things to move on from are not a big deal and should be forgotten. But I don’t believe the Lord has that tone or that this isn’t a big deal. Also, I don’t believe He is ever condescending to His people. I hear His words more as a loving and very firm command: MOVE ON.
Because in order for them to be delivered into freedom, they had to participate. He was doing the AMAZING miracle of parting the red sea and drowning their enemies, but they HAD to move forward for this to happen. They had to stop staring at the Egyptians in terror, turn the other way and take a step forward.
Those words fell on me like a waterfall in my puddle of self pity on the floor. I can either stay here or I can follow His instructions to move on and go forward…both in my mind and my day.
By the grace of God, I got everyone’s shoes on and we made it to Bible Study. Wednesdays are some of my favorite days with my kids and it was great! I was able to hear another mom share about not feeling good enough. I was able to laugh about my morning. My kids learned about the Gospel of John and sang songs. We enjoyed a lunch outside with friends. It was a life-giving time I would have missed had I not chosen to move on. That territory was mine today, but I had to step forward into it.
I believe I have been delivered, and that God has freed me from the bondage of sin once and for all. I believe that when I received Jesus Christ as my Savior, I was rescued from my sin, past, present and future, and that I became a new creation. Deliverance has happened in my life, praise the Lord.
But I also believe that the Lord delivers me every day. Today was a big one. The mommy condemnation is a big one. My thought process can spiral into defeat and I need deliverance. I need freedom. I need to get to other side of that sea and I need the voices that drag me into the slavery of shame again to be drowned.
I believe the key to it is in those two very powerful words tucked away in this grand story. When we are in the pit, we can stay there or we can do as God says, “MOVE ON, GO FORWARD.” He is ready to do a big work. He is ready to do the miraculous. The sea is ready, the plan is unfolding, but we have got to turn direction and take a step forward. That’s our role to play. I pray someone out there needs to hear those powerful words as much as I did today. Whatever your pit, whatever your bondage, whatever your crazy…maybe you find these two firm words spoken from the heart of a loving Father who longs to deliver you to freedom as life-giving as I do: move on.
This summer, our family of five embarked on a great adventure! I like to call it “camping without the tent.” It was Will’s idea to take us to the Marriott in Muscle Shoals, and we were thrilled for the kids to experience their first night in a hotel.
As we packed, I said to them, “Now, this is something very special, so I want you guys to be nice to each other and do what mommy and daddy say, okay?!”
They nodded with wide eyes.
John kept asking if they had an indoor pool in the car. We told him we would see. As our minivan pulled around the circle at the grand entrance to the Marriott, John said, “Ohhhh noooooo, mommy.”
“What baby?” I asked.
“There’s other kids here!”
When I described the hotel and showed him pictures online, he thought we’d be the only people in the whole place. Bless him!
His sadness melted away when we walked into the lobby. One look at the grand fountain in the entryway and he was squealing.
“They do have an indoor pool, mommy! They do! Put my bathing suit on!”
I had to pull his little arms out of the fountain and steer him to the elevator. He and Mary were completely enthralled with the elevator and gold luggage rack and bellman. When we opened the door to our room, Will and I were a bit surprised. We had gotten the last room in the place which, it turns out, had just one queen bed. We remarked about this to each other and Mary, who had never heard beds described in sizes, picked up on one word; “queen”.
“We get to sleep in a queen’s bed! John, we get to sleep in a queen’s bed with mommy and daddy!”
Poor baby Anna was irate not to be included in the queen’s bed. We woke up to her greeting us from her adjoining pack n play letting us know she wanted in. It was 6am. Will called down to the desk to ask what time the pool opened and the woman told us 7. Lucky for us! The pool actually opened at 8 and we were thrilled and shocked to be the only ones there. It is a huge pool with no entry, a real waterslide, bridges and fountains. We had the entire thing to ourselves, much to the surprise of everyone who got the memo it opened at 8. This was totally in line with John’s grand vision!
And then we discovered the hot tub. Mary and John had never seen one and thought it was amazing. When asked what her favorite part of the trip was, Mary said “the hot pool.”
The kids had never seen a breakfast buffet either and could not believe all of the options under those golden covers. They piled a massive amount of sugary cereals, pancakes and syrup onto their plates, and tried a few new foods too. It was like a royal feast for those of us who slept in the queen’s bed.
We have been blessed to travel to some neat places this summer, but Mary and John agreed going to the Marriott was their favorite thing. Will and I cherish the memory and hold it dear. There is nothing more precious than seeing a familiar experience made new through the eyes of child!
Lord, open our eyes to see the wonders of your world every day. Awaken us to see the blessings You give us with child-like appreciation. Captivate us with how You transform the ordinary into brand new. May we learn from our children to appreciate this amazing life, and appreciate You, our Amazing Daddy. Thanks for making us royal. Amen.
“For an answer Jesus called over a child, whom he stood in the middle of the room, and said, “I’m telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you’re not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God’s kingdom. What’s more, when you receive the childlike on my account, it’s the same as receiving me.”
Matthew 18:2-5 MSG
I visited the pool from my childhood this summer, and as we walked in, a smile burst across my face when I saw it; the high dive. They don’t build them like this any more. I was flooded with memories of trying new dives with childhood friends, sitting on the side of the pool until we caught our breath, only to walk up the stairs and courageously try again. It was more than silly kid fun; it was overcoming fears with a spirit of excellence. We did it together. It was absolutely awesome.
As I played with my children in the shallow end, I kept looking at the high dive, and it seemed to be looking at me too. “Hello, old friend. I’m still the same. I’m just as fun as I used to be … Are you?” As a mom of three little kids, it was an intriguing question.
I continued playing in the shallow end, but on that second night before going to sleep, I retraced the steps to the one and a half in my mind. The bounce, the flip, the landing. I could feel the splash. I could taste the chlorine. My blood rushed as I wondered if I could still do it. A one and a half off a low board is not as complicated, but off a high dive, when you are flipping and falling fast, it is a big deal. The stakes of landing right are as high as the board.
“I’m going to do it,” I told my dad. It had been about twenty years since I stood on the high dive. I asked my sister to video it and she agreed. I didn’t walk to the edge to size it up or talk to any onlookers. I knew what to do. My heart was beating so hard and I could feel the adrenaline as I climbed those familiar stairs and stood at the back of the board looking out. Ready. Set. Go. I could hardly believe it, but…I nailed it. My dad was watching from the shallow end cheering with fist pumps and holding my children. It was so exhilarating and liberating to know that this older body can still do it. I was beyond elated!
I wanted to share the video with my childhood friends and on Facebook to give other moms and “older” people the “me too” that says “you’ve still got it” and “you’re still fun!” It was a reminder to me that as a grown up, I don’t have to always sit by the pool with dry hair, but can show my children that I too have dreams and challenges and a desire to overcome fear with a spirit of excellence.
I watched the video, and my sweet sister had flipped the camera as I flipped. It didn’t take. I was crushed. I decided to do it again and asked my mom to video it. She did. I nailed it again. But, she was talking with the lifeguard and the video didn’t take exactly as I wanted. Did it capture the flip? Yes. Did it communicate the “me too”? Yes. But, in that moment, pride snuck in my heart. My desire to share shifted to a desire for approval. And the video wasn’t quite perfect enough to meet that desire.
I returned to the high dive again, and as I entered the water, I heard a loud crack. My pony tail holder not only came out, it shattered. I felt a little fuzzy and a little sore, but didn’t think much about it. Two days later, the headache lingered. It hurt to think. It hurt to touch my head. It just hurt.
Worried about my brain and wondering if I needed to see a doctor, I called a good friend who is a neurosurgeon. “You have a concussion.” he said firmly. “It’s like you’ve been in a car accident.” Oh dear! He told me nothing would make it go away but time. I could not exercise and needed to rest. A concussion in the 100+ degree Alabama heat when my brain was needed for the mental gymnastics of back-to-school was awful. God had my attention.
And He spoke to me in a book recommended by that neurosurgeon. During our conversation about my head, he (also a father of littles) happened to recommend a book for my children, “You Are Special” by Max Lucado. I got it for my kids, and while reading it, realized it was for me.
The story is about wooden people who live in a land where they give each other stickers for everything. They get stars for good looks, successes, accomplishments, etc. and dots for bad looks, mess ups, mistakes, etc. Punchinello, who is unattractive and clumsy, is covered in dots and very sad. Then, he meets a girl who has no dots or stars and asks her why. She tells him that she spends time each day with Eli, the woodworker (their Maker) and lets Him inform her who she really is. Getting to know Him made her stickers fall off. Punchinello goes to meet Eli who delights in Him and tells him the secret about the dots and stars; they only stick if you let them.
What a brilliant book! I felt like God was very protectively and kindly whispering through my pounding head, “when you look for those stars to stick, you’re going to get hurt.” He has brought me so far in not letting the dots stick. Countless dots have fallen off since I met Jesus, and I will never stop singing His praises for that. But the stars. Oh, how I love the stars! Oh, how I can stick them on others too. Oh, how I desired stars in capturing the high dive flip on film in the perfect way. The flip wasn’t the problem; it was doing it the third time. It was the heart seeking stars from others that led to seeing stars through my injured head.
Will I continue to struggle with this? Yes. Will God continue to help me overcome it? Yes. Every day, He will. The high dive was a gracious, painful, powerful and (in hindsight) humorous reminder that the One who made the stars…counts me as one of them. No stickers needed.