Take my word for it, this IS thriving.

This will be my [likely feeble] attempt at "making it quick."  Because I've got approximately 947 things I should be doing besides sitting behind a computer typing up a blog post, but I need to decompress and this is...what I do.  Tell me someone else gets that?  I never, ever, ever imagined my left-brained self would find solace in words, but I think I may have convinced myself that I'm something I'm actually not.  And, see?  Already on a tangent.

Where have I been?

Trying to heed the words of this song:

Just to know You and
To make You known
We lift Your name on High
Shine like the sun make darkness run and hide
We know we were made for so much more
Than ordinary lives
It's time for us to more than just survive
We were made to thrive
For too long I camped in survival mode.  I have wasted so much precious time in that spot.  I know this is just a Christian pop song and not biblical authority, but my goodness it has rocked me to the core.

I refuse to merely just "survive."

Funny segue, though, speaking of surviving, I can share this quick Leah story since it turned out okay in the end.

We have been at VBS this week, and while I used to make fun of the people who volunteered at it and talked about how tired they were afterwards, I've totally become one of them.  Anyway, my kids have been troopers.  They really are great.  But for some reason, tonight they just all seemed to need me all at the same time for what seemed like all night long.  At one point, I used the laundry room restroom in an effort to get a moment of peace, only to find out that I couldn't even close the door thanks to the ginormous pile of waiting-to-be-stain-treated clothing, and I actually had to say to three of my children, "Do not follow me into the bathroom while I'm peeing."  (I know everyone likes a pee story.)  Their reasons for wanting me were reasonable enough.  Leah pooped and needed a diaper change. (Everyone likes poop stories too.  Right?)  Sarah wanted a to read a story.  Abby wanted to recite a Bible verse to me.  Ben wanted to practice his lines for the drama in the VBS musical.  Noah, well, he's just rotten and he wants someone to hold him all the live long day, so his reason was less...reasonable.

It was a night of 30-second tasks turned 3-hour tasks, but I actually managed to cream a few dozen ears of corn while Noah played delightfully in his exersaucer next to me.  As I lifted the giant bag of corn waste out of the trashcan to take it outside, I observed that Noah and I were alone in the kitchen.  I opened the garage, walked out to the trashcan, dropped the bag in, and returned inside.  Where I found Leah.  Standing next to the exersaucer.  Feeding Noah small bits of something.  And he was like a little baby bird.
Just mouth open and ready.  I said to her, "Leah!  What is that?!"  She didn't even look up and replied as casually as you can imagine, "Those are rocks."


In the total elapsed time of what couldn't have been more than 45 seconds, my two year old filled my seven month old's mouth with fireplace pebbles.  He didn't want to give them back to me either.  Delicious, I tell you.

After she was appropriately scolded for what might have been a terrible, terrible catastrophe, I laughed.  Because we have to.  And what I mean by that is, we really should.  It makes this life so much better. 

Then...we took some pictures in a basketball trashcan.  Because I'm delirious, and I thought it would be funny.

And now I have the pleasure of trying to write a title for this randomness. 

My goodness.  It's so time to go to bed.  I've got more thriving to do tomorrow.  Hope you've all had a blessed June!


Eight Minutes Late for Father's Day - Close Enough

It was late in the year 2000.  I was seventeen, sitting in the middle seat of our tan '92 Ford Aerostar, 8 hours into an 11-hour trip to see my sister and brother-in-law who were stationed at Fort Stewart, Georgia.  It was more than a casual visit for me.  We were going to visit Mercer University after stopping by Julie's house, where I would compete in "Scholar's Weekend" for some type of scholarship, which would ultimately be the deciding factor in what brought me to the South.  We were cruising down I-95, a trip I had no idea would eventually become intimately familiar to me.  The day was beautiful, picture-perfect even.  Not a cloud in the sky.  My mom was talking (naturally) in the passenger seat.  My dad was driving (as is typically the case) and listening, occasionally nodding. 

All of the sudden, the windshield wipers came on. 

And they would not turn off.

They had a mind of their own.

My mom and I got the giggles. 

My dad was not amused.

Surely you can imagine the sound of dry wipers on a dry windshield.  Flubbing across, struggling back and forth as we cruised along at 75mph on a beautiful, winter day. 

After tolerating the rubbery reverberations for about 15 minutes, all the while I watched as his ears changed from skin-colored to pinkish to angry-red, my dad pulled a classic "John" move.  He turned off at the next exit and ripped the fuse out.  Those wipers couldn't turn on if they wanted to now.

Can you guess how many minutes after we headed south again before it started raining?  About ten.  No lie. 

My mom and I got the giggles again. 

My dad was once again not amused as he pulled off at the next exit to put the fuse back in.

For the duration of the trip, that fuse went in and out as the weather deemed it necessary.  When we got home to Maryland, he made the repair in classic John fashion.  He installed a toggle switch under the steering wheel.  Left meant the wipers were off, right meant they were on.  There were no speeds anymore.  Just on and off.  Stop and go.  But the wipers were at the mercy of the driver, and that's what mattered to my dad. 

I have nine bajillion stories like this.  Because my dad is a fixer.  His fixes might not be the most glamorous, but they get the job done.  Without having to call in a professional. 

On their last visit here, my mom informed my dad, once again, that she had dropped the camera and it was not working.  The lens was stuck open.  He didn't do a fancy fix.  As Sam looked on and cringed, my dad pounded that thing against the wall a few times.  Sam's evaluation of the situation was, "That's the difference between a mechanical engineer (my dad) and an electrical engineer (Sam)."

He has a great sense of humor and finds things to laugh about every single day.  Sometimes he laughs so hard, he has trouble catching his breath and has to wipe tears from his eyes.

He appears a burly, tough guy, but that's strictly for show.  He's a teddy bear who melts with every hug from his grandkids.  He's a pushover who will read "one more book" all night long.  He's a tender-heart who, especially as he gets older, tears up regularly when he hears a good story of human kindness or bravery or valor.  He's the yes-man, willing to lend a helping hand to pretty much anyone who asks.  And when the baby cries, he's the first one to offer to hold him.  You know, so they don't have to cry.

He's a man of commitment.  He's been married to my mom for 42 and a half years.  He has served in the same church his entire life.  He sets his mind to something and does it, like read his Bible every morning and do 100+ pushups per day.  And, my goodness, his bills are paid in full and on time.

He doesn't necessarily say lots, but he can if you get him started on certain topics  - WWII, the civil war, guns, politics (sometimes), 90's comedies, soccer, motors (particularly how to fix them and how they work), and mostly food.  He has strong opinions and might share them if you ask, but he will never stir the pot. 

He's been an amazing example.  He's a good man, my dad.

I had some pretty high standards going in to marriage.  Thank God I found Sam.  He has done an awesome job filling some big ol' shoes. 


I Do It Myself! (Something my 2 year old says, which, apparently, she learned from me.)

I'm just going to get right to the point (a rarity for me, I realize).  I do not like for people to help me.  I like to do it myself.  Whatever "it" may be.  I have always viewed asking for help as a sign of weakness, and by golly, I refuse to let anyone think I'm weak.  Even if it's true. 

Is this accurate at all?  Of course not.  Why do I feel like asking for help is weak?  Because I struggle with pride.  In a big way.  Maybe in the biggest way.  Meaning, pride is, as a Shakespearean scholar would say, my tragic flaw.  I surely hope it doesn't bring about my downfall, but if I keep it up on this course, it very well may.

That said...

I keep finding myself in situations where I cannot help but to rely on and even ask for help. 

It's almost as if God is trying to humble me.  Imagine that. 

Most recently, I was on my way to pick up Abby and Sarah from a VBS they were attending with our neighbors - just cruising down the road when I heard the distinctive sound of a tire pop.  I made it to the church a couple of miles away before the low-tire-pressure indicator light came on, and by the time I got the girls and came back out to my van, the tire was as flat as flat can be.  Kind of like my hair.

I called Sam - which is always my first reaction to anything.  (Sorry, Sam.)  He was unreachable at work or on his cell.  So, I took the kids around to the playground to kill some time.  I don't know a soul at that church, besides my neighbor who somehow ducked out without me noticing. I decided that I would wait everyone out and change the tire myself after everyone had gone home.  I know how to do it.  I just didn't want an audience.  Or worse, I didn't some stranger to help me.

It kept getting later and later and those people were still lingering and lingering.  Sarah had to go to the bathroom (or did she?  I think she was just tired of playing on the hot playground).  We traipsed inside, and when that was over we walked back out to the flat tire.  I was going to crank the a/c, buckle everyone in their seats, and do the thing. 

But then...

A nice lady in the van next to me got out and said, "Do you need a ride somewhere?" 

I politely declined.  She said, "I have four extra seats, but I see you need five. [Ben is away at the moment.]  Let me run inside and see if I can find someone else to help take you home."  I tried to convince her not to, but she ignored me.  What she returned with was two men who insisted that they were changing my tire right then and there.  At that precise moment, Sam called back.  I tried to tell them that my husband was coming and they said, "Tell him not to!  We're here and we're doing it.  Let him stay at work."


THEN, they sent me away with the kids.  I mean it.  They weren't taking no for an answer.  They told me to go the nursery and let the kids play while they changed the tire.  I told them it would at least be fitting for us to sit outside and be miserable and sticky with them, but they weren't hearing that.  So in I went, a first-time guest at this church, with four of my kids to play in the air-conditioned nursery at the back of the building, while two men I'd never met before changed my tire in the hot, noontime Georgia sun and humidity.

Ten or fifteen minutes later, one of the men appeared in the nursery with a smile on his face and two thumbs up.  They did it.  I smiled and thanked them.  Then I said, "Tell me your name." 

"Oh. I'm Paul.  I'm the pastor here.  And this is Randy, he's my assistant pastor."

Of course they were.

I welled up a little, because that's what I do.  Then I went home and baked them some brownies and wrote them a gushing thank you note about their servant leadership and living out Jesus to a stranger.  Because, that also is what I do.

Seriously.  That rocked.

I might have thought that having a flat tire with four kids in tow in a strange place where I know nobody would have turned out to be a bad memory, but it wasn't.  Because I got to see Jesus that day.

As an isolated event, this is still a great story, but I'd be lying by omission if I didn't at least mention some of the other ways God as provided me with help in a very tangible way in similar circumstances. 

On Saturday night, when my neighbor was home and able to watch our girls while we took Noah to the ER to check out mysterious swelling that showed up on his head in a matter of minutes.  (He's fine.)

Two weeks ago when my neighbor's daughter was available to keep my kids while I took profusely-bleeding Sarah to the doctor to have her foot stitched up.

A couple of months ago, when by a strange combination of events, my dad and I found ourselves stranded at an auto-parts store in Perry without a cell phone or a car, while our $50 order of fried chicken awaited us across town at Skipper Johns, a Ma & Pa operation that was closing for the night in less than 10 minutes.  I walked back inside the store to ask if I could use their phone and instead crossed paths with a lovely woman who was holding her cell phone in her hand.  I asked if I could use it and briefly explained our plight.  She handed the phone over, and I jokingly said, "You wouldn't want to drive us over to Skipper Johns, would you?"  To which she replied without hesitation and a smile on her face, "Sure, I'll do that."  Now, I know my dad is not young, but he is still strapping.  So, I admired her courage for taking a chance that we were not trying to rob and kill her.  I was absolutely shocked that she said yes as we drove the few miles to the chicken place, and as is the case when I get nervous, I began my non-stop chatter.  I said, "I don't make a habit of asking favors from strangers."  So she told me her name and said, "There.  Now we aren't strangers anymore."  I have since forgotten her name, but I know she's a friendly postman in the city of Perry.  So I'm pretty sure I could track her down and pay her back with some brownies, because...well, you know.

A few more months ago when I had a staph infection, a three month old, and a sky-high fever with five kids home all day and a dear friend showed up without asking to bring me dinner. 

Each of these circumstances was less than ideal to start with, but by the end, all I could see was God's provision.  All I could see was Jesus being lived out by his children.  And it was all because I accepted help that was available to me (begrudgingly at times, sure.  I'm not only prideful, but I'm also stubborn).  I gave these people an opportunity to bless me.  And I hope in some small way, that gave them joy and purpose.  This is what Jesus calls us to do.  Be his hands and feet.  To show Him to others with our lives.  These people all did that for me. 

I keep thinking of something a friend of mine has said several times - when you don't ask for or accept help, you are robbing someone of the blessing of providing.  I get that.  Some lessons are learned the hard way.

Now it's my turn.  To be the blessing.  Opportunity abounds.

I dare you to think back on some of your "misfortunes" and see them through the lens of God's provision.  I bet you gain a different perspective. 

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