Bring Your Own Blessing

Girl's Night in, a joyful VBS, a lifted stress, date night, and homegrown peonies.

What blessings have crossed your path this week?

Walking With God, A Sermon

Some time ago, I was asked to lead worship for our church's Vacation Bible School Sunday, which was today. Since I had nothing else going on in my life (like having five kids home for summer vacation, planning Lily's Surprise Birthday Party and the neighborhood block party, fighting a school board over a teacher's contract, having a year's worth of Thank You cards to write and as many baby/wedding gifts to buy and send, you know, little things....lots and lots of them....) I was happy to oblige. 

The week? Fantastic. The theme? Noah's Ark. The Sermon????? Yes, I wrote and delivered a sermon. While I can't say for sure how it went for everyone else and I admit I had to resist the urge to pull out the southern-style-evangilizing-preacher-man in me, hee hee hee, it felt pretty darn natural, as if I were writing for you guys and then actually delivering the post to you personally, albeit a little too fast. Anyway, below is what I wrote for my first attempt at filling the pulpit. This is also the reason you haven't seen any blog posts recently....apparently it takes all the writing energy I can muster (as well as any cleaning energy too, sorry Kurt!) to lead a church for an hour. ;)

Walking With God

Now I must confess, I have been critiquing sermons for decades. When I was a child, I used to compare various preachers with different composers depending on how long they went on past what seemed like a reasonable stopping point. And apparently my ego was bigger than my britches because I had always thought, if given the opportunity, it would be a piece of cake to write and deliver a good sermon. After all, both my grandfathers, and three out of four uncles, were ministers, surely it’s in the blood, right?

That's what I thought until a few weeks back when Rev. Ken asked if I would put together and run the VBS service. He told me I could organize it however I pleased but that if there was to be a sermon, I was the one who would have to preach it. And apparently I missed the word “if” because I immediately jumped to:
What? Why would anyone want to listen to anything I have to say? Certainly there are plenty of people in this church far more qualified for this job. He assured me it would be a piece of cake, “After all, Karen," he said, "it’s only Noah.”

Only Noah? Now, just a minute. I have read the story of Noah many times and although we have this beautiful, almost Disneyfied children’s version that is so fitting for VBS, that is not quite the entire story. You see, we gloss over some of the finer details. I’d even go as far to say that the whole story, starting in the beginning, with humanity disappointing God, pushing him to his breaking point, you know, the point where he decides to BLOT OUT ALL OF CREATION, remember that part? Well, that is downright scary if you ask me. This is what has been tossing and turning in my head for a few weeks: How to preach a sermon on Noah that stays true to the story without giving all of our children  (and perhaps a few of us adults) nightmares!
So, I sat down one morning to read and reread Gensis 6-9. I was filled with questions and decided to sit on it for a little while until one night, around 2:00 in the morning, I sat bolt upright in my bed and thought, “What have I agreed to this time?! What was I thinking?” and then another question came to me, “And what does it mean to walk with God anyway?” 

And so I prayed. I prayed that God would guide my thoughts and that God would fill my heart with His goodness and word so that I would know where to take Noah. But I kept coming back to the same question: What does it mean to walk with God? Do I walk with God? Because sometimes it certainly doesn’t feel like it. And you can ask my husband, I certainly don't act like it sometimes either!
What does it mean to walk with God: You know, we talked a lot about this with the kids this week at VBS. When asked what does it mean to walk with God, they had some great answers: to follow Jesus, to be good, to share, be nice and then of course there were a few conversations that veared into raccoons and African ball pythons…… 
In short walking with God means doing what God intends for us to do, not what I want, or my friends want or society wants but what God wants. Keeping God central to our lives while we live out His will for us. It means that when we awake in the middle of the night struggling with something, whether that be big or small, that we take the time to pray, to talk to God, asking Him what He wants us to say, or do; how God wants us to act in the various circumstances of our lives.
So there I was, two o’clock in the morning, attempting to walk with God. And I asked, "God, what do you want me to say to my friends at Minnetonka United Methodist?" Oddly, it remained very, very quiet. And with five kids in the house even at 2:00 in the morning, silence is very odd indeed! Perhaps I should have taken that as a hint because there was no sudden answer, no thundering voice, or tiny whisper; no light bulb going off in my head, no big A-ha. I felt truly alone. 
But then I am guessing even Noah himself at times felt alone. While we know he walked with God and by all accounts, he had pretty clear instructions about what was coming and what he needed to do, I can only imagine that if the future of the world rested on my shoulders, if all of creation were counting on me and they didn't even know it, if I were building a massive boat in the middle of a desert most likely being mocked all the while, if I were Noah and about to face world wide devastation, and no one would listen to me, I am guessing I would feel awfully alone. And don’t we all feel that way at times? Don't you sometimes feel alone? You can be in a room crowded full of people, full of friends and family even, but if you have just been handed a devastating diagnosis, or lost a job, or a loved one, or are in the midst of a struggling or broken relationship; if you are being bullied at school or at work; when the stress you carry each and every day dwarfs that of building of an ark, you are likely to feel very much alone. 
Actually, I’m not sure what I was expecting sitting there awake at two o'clock in the morning, but as I sat there, unable to sleep and a wee bit stressed over the thought of standing here before you today, my baby stirred in his crib and I suddenly remembered, I wasn’t alone. And that's when it hit me: Noah walked with God. Noah wasn’t alone. 
And fortunately for us, although there is a flood a’comin’ (and there is always a flood coming) although life is full of storms, and it may even rain for 40 days and 40 nights and we may feel as if we are all alone on that boat, a boat we’re not sure is even going to stay a float and although we might feel like getting down on our knees, begging to know when this storm will come to pass, although we might find ourselves there, talking to God, even angry and desperate to GET OFF THE BOAT, we are lucky because God has made his covenant with us. And not only has he set his rainbow in the storm clouds of our life but he has sent us a guide, a teacher, a friend to walk along the road with us, to hold us up when we feel like giving up, to hold us tight when we’ve lost our grip and to hold us together when everything seems to be falling apart. And no, I am not talking about my good friend Lisa, though she’s pretty great, or your brother John, or your mom or dad or spouse. I’m talking about God loving us so much that even though we have blundered time and again and even though we are broken and even though we can’t quite get it all together, He loves us so much that He sent His Son to act as our ark, and bring us to safety. 

Friends, we as God’s children have been given a lifeboat. God has remembered us; Just as He remembered Noah, God the creator of all things great and small, has remembered us: He has remembered you _____ and you _____ and you _____ and He has sent us His son so that we may truly live. You see, God is not in the business of forgetting His creation. And I believe God’s intention for us is that we will remember Him as He has remembered us and that we will turn to Him, in good times and bad, and seek out His will for us. That we, like Noah, will walk with God for we, like Noah, HAVE found favor in His eyes. That we, like Noah will be blameless, because we, like Noah will do all God commands: We will love God with all our hearts, souls and minds and we will love our neighbors; our friends and family, and yes even our enemies and in doing so we will prepare our own lives, we will conduct our own lives in such a way that our children will know God and that our children will find themselves held in God’s ark through the storms that come up in their lives. Noah may have built the original ark but you and I must continue to build, we must build, to bring all God’s children into relationship with Him.
And when we walk with God, we are ready when He calls. When we walk with God, we prepare ourselves to be called and yes we can expect to be called, called to build something of enormous proportions: perhaps God's Kingdom here on Earth. 

The ark Noah built may have been large; it may have taken a lifetime to build and the storm may have been treacherous but Noah was definitely not alone and neither are we. He couldn’t have done it alone, and neither can we.

Friends, I couldn’t even put four pieces of lumber together by myself to build my kids a sandbox, much less build a boat the size of 4 football fields, or a Kingdom fit for God. Yet God is telling me I have to build, He’s telling us we have to help build His Kingdom right here on Earth, and lucky for us, just as God was in control of the building way back then, He still is now.

I have a friend who told me recently that he wasn’t sure in those first couple of years of marriage that he and his wife would make it. He struggled with what they call "anger management issues"; he had quite a hot head and a very short fuse and it lead him and his wife onto some pretty rocky grounds. He went on to say, 15 years and 4 children later, “Thank goodness we have the Bible for I don’t know how we would have figured it out without God’s help.” What a witness to the power of walking with God! Thank goodness we have the Bible. Thank goodness we are not alone. Thank goodness we have a loving and forgiving God who not only wants to be in relationship with us but who also provides guidance so we know how to find Him. So that we know how to keep walking with Him even when we are on rocky ground, even in stormy weather. God calls us into relationship and instead of leaving us stranded in the flood waters, He offers us a way to keep a float, our very own ark. Thank goodness. Thank God.  

Have a wonderful week! 



Bring Your Own Blessing:

It'd be hard to pass up the opportunity to thank all the fathers out there. We have much to be thankful for this last week: Lily's birthday (always a hit), a fantastic block party that got rained out right into our home, a timely loan of a trailer so that we could finally get rid of the extra garage door motor thingamajig....

But, this week, we honor pops. Thanks Dad, Lupo, Chris, Marv, Mr. Richard (and the list goes on and on) And of course, I can't forget Kurt! After all, without him, there'd be no Lily to get our laughs from! :)

What blessing did you come across this week?



Bring Your Own Blessing

Running into random people you know at just the right time:

This week I took my kids to the park, got there and realized Liam had peed through his diaper. I had no extra clothes on hand though. When I was trying to get his new diaper on, a little girl from our church ran up to say hi. I sent her back to her dad to ask if he had an extra pair of little boy pants. He did. Problem solved!

The next day, I had a make-up appointment for Liam at his speech therapist's office. When we arrived, a friend whom I needed to talk to was sitting in the waiting room. Woo hoo for timing!

Yesterday, the kids and I skipped church (shhhhhh, don't tell!) because we were running half an hour late. We went to the local coffee house instead and when we were pulling into the parking lot, our friend Marv was pulling in as well. The kids were ecstatic and we had a very nice coffee time together (although I do believe I need to work with the kids on their inside voices when they are excited, which seems to be all the time!)

Three cheers for random encounters!

Where have you been blessed with good timing lately?


Lily's Birthday Wish

All her grandparents have been asking me what Lily wants for her upcoming birthday. I finally sat down with her to ask her.

Me: "Lily, what do you want for your birthday?"

Lily, without any hesitation at all: "Some antennae......and a stinger."

Ok, sure, that's exactly what I was thinking.....oh wait, no, it wasn't. Because seriously? What kid asks for a stinger?

Me: "Seriously Lily, if you could have anything you wanted, what would it be?"

Lily: "Well, I might want a Troy Polamalu costume, too. I think I'd really like that."

Trust me when I say, the only thing she needs to make herself more like Troy Polamalu, the strong safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers, is a big wig.....outside of that, she's pretty much just like him. You know, if you compare him to the Tasmanian Devil. With some antennae....and a stinger.


A Little Behind

Ever been so far behind that you throw your hands in the air and think maybe it is just best if you start fresh...I mean, completely and totally walk away from the stuff that isn't done and just move forward?

That has been my life these last few weeks. My hands are up as I figure out if it is possible to simply wipe the slate clean and begin again (no). If only the house would go along with the reboot and find itself miraculously put back together again (it won't). Alas, that will be on my to-do list starting around 4 p.m. tomorrow, seeing as how, the day is mostly booked up until then (that was yesterday and now it is the day after....argh!). And why on earth are there over 1500 emails sitting in my in-box? The cyber-clutter is as bad as the paper stacking up in my kitchen. Ack! Anyone else ever feel this way??? Obviously this is a sign that it is time to clear up and clean out. And just in time too, for summer vacation is right around the corner! Woo hoo! Now, Solomon, go self-entertain for the next few days while I get this sorted out! Hmmm, why didn't that work?

At any rate, I have been trying to figure out how to post the four partially written blog posts sitting on deck without 1) finishing them and 2)....well, actually there's just one. I realized today I had only half finished the post on my New York trip from THREE WEEKS ago and I already had a post or two half written before that....making me feel like perhaps I oughta just jump ship now before I go down with the boat....or maybe the solution is to actually hit the "edit post" tab rather than the "new post" tab and finish what I have started. Or find my delete button and actually use it as needed! I am certain there must be a support group for this. And a reality show.

Speaking of, my birthday was Tuesday and I must say, had I not known better, I'd've sworn I was being filmed by some deranged reality show director. The day really started the night before while I was saying bedtime prayers with the girls. I glanced over and noticed Little Dot's time in our house had expired. (Didn't I call this one? Only, she lasted probably a week longer than I would have thought...Go Dot!)

"Madeline, your fish is dead," I announced, so coldly I appeared to be vying for this year's Mommy-Dearest award. She looked at me suspiciously. I think she thought I was kidding. "Look, it is floating belly up. I'm sorry. Let's take it to it's bathroom burial," I said, condolences lagging much too far behind the moment...but hey, I did get an "I'm sorry" in there, right? Apparently I missed compassion day in Mommy-School. I picked up the fish bowl and the girls followed me to the bathroom. Kurt walked in as I told Madeline, "Your fish, you flush," and dumped the fish into the toilet while saying a few words about her "little dot" of time with us. Madeline flushed the toilet and we watched Little Dot disappear. I took the bowl, changed the water and put it back in the girls room, telling them we could get a new fish the next day.

A few minutes later, Kurt and I heard Lily sobbing upstairs. And, because I also failed Sympathy Methods 101 in school, the only thing I thought to say was, "It's okay Lily. We can get a new fish tomorrow." This only increased the volume and duration of her sobs. I imagined her at my untimely funeral (God forbid) and Kurt telling her, "It's okay Lily, we can get you a new mommy tomorrow." Seeing that maybe I was not being as nurturing as I should be, I did a 180 and began telling her it's okay to be sad when you lose something you love. Little Dot was a good fish. We will all miss her (a half truth at best) and other such gentler things. It didn't make any difference. We assured her she could pick out and name the new fish, which she seemed happy about but kept crying anyway. I realized it didn't matter what I said. "Do you want to read a book?" I finally asked.

Tears miraculously dried up and the dead fish was all but forgotten as she eagerly pulled out a Clifford book. Riiiiight. She must get her grieving skills from the same place I got my sympathy skills. Thus began my birthday, a little early.

At around 4 a.m. I rolled over to pick up the baby from the bassinet and pulled my back out. Irritated, I tried to shrug it off as a symptom of getting older but then, my alarm clock didn't go off two hours later....well, technically it did but somehow the volume was turned off so it didn't actually do anything alarming. And then I realized oh, it's not that I am getting older, it's just that it is my birthday and Graceful Chickens have birthdays Graceful Chicken style.

We were then in a rush to get out the door and I must admit, I was super disappointed I didn't have time to go get my free birthday coffee at the local coffee shop like I had planned. After hurrying through the morning, I got the older kids to the bus stop just in the nick of time and took the younger kids to Liam's speech appointment only slightly behind schedule. As I was getting Solomon out of the car though, I missed the step to the curb and fell to the ground in a heap, catching the baby in his car seat on the way. Truly a scene I must say and one of those unexpected blessings as well because at some point in that fall my back shifted back into place. Yeeee-Haw! What a start!

The speech therapist, whom we love, didn't quite finish up early like I had requested but I rushed to the coffee house afterward to get my free LARGE drink before heading back to a play date I was hosting in which I rudely spent the first ten minutes cleaning up from breakfast and the last twenty entertaining a potty training Liam in the bathroom (during which he didn't actually go) while feeding Solomon at the same time. After sending our friends home, we were off again to retrieve Madeline and Matt, the carpool buddy, from school. Hyped up on caffeine because I had forgotten to tell the coffee shop I wanted a DECAF iced coffee, I got Matt home and was all but shaking by the time we got back to our house for lunch. At that point, Marv came by, bearing the gift of a scrumptious watermelon with a candle in it (he even lit it for me!) and we took him out back to show him his wonderful sand box all filled with sand and toys. Unfortunately, we had to rush him away as well because we had a gym appointment at 1 p.m. (the infant room requires a reservation). I was not about to miss the chance at working off the coffee drink and de-stressing from what seemed to be a crazy sort of day. Which was only half over.

After a great workout with a friend, I was back to the grind. Shower, Aidan pick-up, pizza ordering (since Kurt had inadvertently taken in the left overs I had been planning on heating up for dinner) and off to the pet store where Lily picked out a nice, friendly little female beta fish. Apparently the goldfish are only 29 cents for a reason. While other people we know seem to have no problem keeping them alive, the pet store owner suggested we go a different route. I don't know why we need another fish; after all, how could we possibly replace good ol' Little Dot? I do hear my folks chuckling though....

When we arrived at the pizza place, they told us their electricity had gone out. No pizza. Of course. But now you just have to laugh, right? I mean, go figure! Costco to the rescue. Kurt got us a big pizza (the only size they sell) and back home we went to celebrate before running off to Madeline's soccer game. The day ended well. Cake fixes everything don't ya think? That and the huge surprise gift of a new laptop computer! Woo hoo! I knew my computer was getting old when some of the letters started disappearing slightly, and the up arrow simply doesn't work and I have to convert every document that comes in because I have OLD software.  But I had no idea Kurt was going to replace it for me! Now, if only I could get my act together and get the new one set up before technology advances again. Aaaaah! Too late!

Anyway, here is the picture of the kids and my cake and some birthday flowers that arrived just at the right time to set things straight again! (You might recognize it as my B.Y.O.B. picture but I thought it was good enough to share twice. After all, this represents what all 34 years of my life have lead up to: Kids, Cake, and Flowers...it's enough to make anyone happy....and perhaps a little wrinkly....and grey, but who's counting?)

And if you think my birthday ended there, you are sadly mistaken because it's the weekend now and it is eighty degrees....IN OUR HOUSE! Air conditioner. Broken. Gads! Meeeelting are we......

I think I'll just go now....and stick my head in the refrigerator.....perhaps I'll eat some left over cake while there...of course, then I won't be just a little behind....hee hee hee.


Bring Your Own Blessing

Warm Birthday Wishes. And my 5 biggest blessings to celebrate with. And let's not forget the guy who remembered the most important part: CAKE. Thanks Kurt!

What blessings can you celebrate this week?