Crying Over Spilled Oatmeal

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Leah spilled her oatmeal as she carried her bowl from the dining room to the kitchen.

I heard the splat.

I sighed and grabbed a wet wash cloth.

“Hey, Mom! Look! It landed in the shape of a heart!” she said.

She took the washcloth out of my hand and cleaned it up by herself.

I hugged her and swallowed hard as my contacts started to blur. What if I had yelled at her when I heard the oatmeal fall? I might have missed out on this moment, and she may have been afraid to spill and make mistakes in the future — the opposite of what I want for her.

Yesterday, Aiden, who earlier in the day had adamantly insisted that his parents don’t love him, got a monster thorn in his foot. He limped home, crying.

I tweezed it out of his very dirty foot, and then washed and dried his feet.

He climbed into my lap (he doesn’t really fit anymore.. it was more like being sat upon, but I didn’t mind at all) and put his arms around my neck and said, “Thanks, Mom. I DO know you love me.” His words had really hurt me, and they were apparently still on his conscience. What if he hadn’t stepped on the thorn? Would he have had a chance to make things right? What if I had yelled at him and refused to help because of his negligence for not wearing shoes outside?

In my childbirth class last night, the last one of the 12 week series, there was discussion over how disgusting it will be to change diapers. “Yeah, but you’re not just changing diapers, you are showing your kids you love them,” I said. “You are showing them you’re there for them even when they stink the most.” I hope my students remember this at 3am when they are down to their last diaper in the pack and are washing crib sheets.

If we just go through motions without love, overly-sugared spilled oatmeal, up-the-back poopy diapers, and why-aren’t-you-wearing-shoes-while-you-play-outside?!?! foot thorns can be pretty annoying.

Be thankful for and make the most of every opportunity, and humble yourself enough to allow the spills, stink and stickers get to your heart.

I need to be reminded of this, too.

Beautiful Spiderweb: Arigope Aurantia


Nestled amongst the blades of Freesia I found this lovely yellow garden spider.

The first thing I noticed wasn’t the spider itself, but its amazing zigzag stabilimentum.

The weaving was so vibrant and fine, I thought it was a piece of light blue plastic mesh netting, perhaps a scrap from a bag of fruit. Upon closer inspection, however, I realized it would have been impossible to have landed so perfectly in the center of the web, let alone for the spider to be sitting upon it.

What have you recently discovered in your backyard?

Where is Christ in the Small Things?

Via Facebook, my friend wrote,

“In Christ Alone” seems so irrelevant when you’ve just spilled 2.5 pounds of flour everywhere. Where is Christ in the small things?”

My dear friend,

I’m sorry about the flour!! :(

I’ve had my share of messes to clean, even really stinky ones. I find that “the small things” are disguised little tweaks along the process of molding you into the person God wants for you to be.

Some ‘small things’ are especially frustrating, like losing your passport the night before your big trip —but, they are more than that. They are valuable teaching moments that draw you closer to God if you soften your heart.

‘Small things’ are opportunities for you to think of Christ and what he would do in the situation, even though you feel like losing your temper or questioning your faith.

Focus on your Savior instead of the clean up, as if you were doing the work just for him.

Picking up the proverbial flour and throwing it around the room in a heated rant is probably not the most profitable way to deal with messy situations.

Even if we are upset, we can also be…

Humble – Yes, I’m an adult and sometimes I spill flour!

Thankful – I am upset this flour is ruined, but thankful God provides for our food needs, and that this isn’t the only substance of our last meal like the widow and son met by Elijah the prophet!

Gracious – Despite it being one of my least favorite things to clean up horrible messes, I will do my best for God’s glory.

It is tough sometimes, though! Like, I don’t know, hmm…. when your five year old is sprayed in the face by a skunk or your seven year old physically fights with you because he’s afraid to get closer to the “spider toilet” and instead pukes on your only pair of sneakers.

(Okay, in that latter incident, I did lose my temper BIG TIME… and had to apologize to my son!)

We truly see Christ when we choose to put off the flesh and to put on the heart of Christ. We see him when we consciously applying the cross to the details of our life, knowing he laid down his life for us.

One last thing — there is nothing wrong with having emotions. Christ was just as human as you and I and he understands what it’s like to be faced with a bad day or a ridiculous incident. Such things are part of life. It is good for us to pour our hearts out to Him who understands us so completely, body and soul.

Accidentally spilling flour isn’t a sin, and I’m sure Christ had his share of interesting things happen while he was here on this earth! Certainly he knows what it feels like to have an annoying day!

What if Jesus was in your kitchen when you accidentally spilled? Would he tell you how clumsy you are and make fun of you? Or would he just say, “It’s okay. You have a lot on your plate, and this is just too plain overwhelming at the moment. Let me help you clean it up?”

Sometimes we get angry with ourselves and project that God must be angry with us, too. When you think of God’s voice, especially in frustrating situations, do not think of it as angry, overbearing, quick-tempered, and as coming from one who is seeking only perfectionism. Instead, picture the voice of someone who loves you very much, even when you’re feeling your worst.

Remember — it is while we were ‘yet sinners’ that he died for us.

Guest Post at CCEF : God is Awake

The resources offered through Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation have been a huge influence on my life. Their books make up a well-used section on my reference library shelf, and the instruction in Biblical counseling my mother-in-law received from their training program has benefited our family as well as a number of lives who have been touched by her personal ministry.

When Twitter friend Barbara Lane asked if I’d consider guest blogging for CCEF, I ran into my bedroom, screamed like a little girl, did a happy dance, picked my jaw up off the floor, took a deep breath, and then humbly responded, “Yes!” via e-mail. ;)

If you’d like, please take a moment to check out my post God is Awake, which I wrote after a long talk with my daughter Tabitha, about finding rest on anxious sleepless nights.

There is a place at the end of the guest post for comments, and I’d love for you to join in the discussion. What keeps you awake at night? What verses speak to your heart and help combat these fears? I’m interested to know your thoughts on how to “put off” fear and “put on” entrusting your cares to God’s infinitely strong and capable hands.

Please don’t stop there! While you’re at CCEF.org, take a moment to peruse the bookstore (their hope-giving mini books on tough topics are a handy size to keep in your purse or in a basket in your bathroom for guests), national conference information, counseling services and School of Biblical Counseling.

Last but not least, if you have been blessed by CCEF, please consider donating to wonderful and life-changing ministry.

Photo credit: “Joy of Holding a Baby’s Hand” by lifecreations via Flickr.

Be Strong and Have Faith

MicahandLeah

Some things, although excruciating, really have nothing to do with us, but rather are for the growth and benefit of others.

Be strong and have faith.

Photo: Micah, age one, and Leah, newborn. When I set her in his lap, she started to cry. He firmly patted her on the head to comfort her… but that didn’t work too well. We had a “be gentle… like this” teaching moment, and they’ve been the best of friends ever since.

Charity: Do Your Gifts Make Recipients Feel Loved or Judged?

retirement

“If you’re really hungry, you’ll eat scrapple,” said the older woman from our church, as she reached into a brown paper grocery bag. She pulled out a grayish brick of the cheap, Pennsylvania Dutch breakfast meat, made from pork scraps such as the feet and head meat, and set it on my mother’s counter top with a thud.

Twenty years later, I still cannot believe how my mother held it together while the woman, silver hair tightly knotted in a bun, pointer-finger extended, lectured her on frugal eating while my father was unemployed. The woman had lived through the Great Depression and had experience with stretching every last cent. She probably meant well. Her presentation, however, was very gruff and condescending.

As soon as the woman’s car left our driveway, my mom burst into tears. “I can’t help it that your dad lost his job!” My mom, one of strongest women I know, shook with sobs of profound hurt and anger. “People know you’re desperate and they just throw junk at you and then want a pat on the back for it,” she cried. “Six month ago, when I had your brother, that same woman brought over a beautiful, elaborate meal made with lots of love. Why can’t she put the same kind of thoughtfulness into this?”

I wrapped my arms around my mother’s neck and cried with her. The crazy way her thick, dark wavy hair stuck to my tear-streaked cheeks made us break into laughter. She pulled the strands of hair off of my face and smiled at me. “We are going to survive this,” she said with determination.

Gifted food like scrapple kept us fed and bags of very worn, two-decade-old hand-me-downs delivered in greenish-black garbage bags kept us clothed. Sometimes my mom would modify the clothes to make them fit or deconstruct them and use the fabric make something a little more stylish. (There’s a lot of extra fabric to be found in bell bottoms!) I am thankful for these provisions from the bottom of my heart. I also am thankful for my mom’s resourcefulness.

Enduring my father’s lingering unemployment taught me much about humility, thankfulness, frugality, and empathy. It also gave me a long time to think about giving and receiving.

This has been a year of hardship for many. As 2009 comes to an end, people will start to think about Christmas and suddenly realize for a little over month – from Black Friday through December 24th – that there are needy friends and neighbors who could use some help.

Sometimes it’s hard to give to others when you yourself have very little. That’s when it means the most.

Luke 21:1-4 And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins. And He said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on.”

When my mom’s friend Marie (not her real name) was single, she was both my French tutor and swimming instructor. She fell in love with someone whose past included time spent in jail. A few years and a few children into their marriage, Marie’s husband worked odd jobs while he went to seminary. Times were tough for them.

One sunny summer day, Marie called my mom. She wanted to give us a beautiful set of dishes and some produce from her garden. I remember my mom shared with me what Marie had said to her on the phone. “I have an extra set of dishes someone gave me, and this food would spoil before we could use it all. Please stop by so I can give them to you. To keep them would be hoarding!”

In our old brown Suburban, with us kids sitting in the way back, so we’d bounce on every bump and slide on the around-the-corners, we drove up to Marie’s gray mobile home. It was accented with a brick red, makeshift painted wooden front porch that precariously rested on cinder blocks.

Marie ran out to greet us, smiling. She embraced my mom warmly. The dishes didn’t come in a garbage bag, but a brown paper bag that had been lovingly hand-decorated by Marie and her girls.

Marie gave from her heart, passing on the blessing, happily. There were no strings attached. Just love and a hug.

Do your gifts make people feel loved or judged?

Photo credit: Retirement by onlyalice via Flickr.