Weight in the Court

Every so often I spend time in a court room.  I’m usually waiting to have my two minute say on a claim.    I’ve read enough Grisham novels to be interested in the drama and I’ve worked with enough attorneys to generally keep up with what is happening.   When I has a teen I wanted to be an attorney.   Turns out it’s cheaper and more time efficient to hire one than to get the degree.  But I like courtrooms. Occasionally it’s humorous.  Sometimes its sad. It’s never boring. This week, regardless that the scene was short, was remarkable.

I was sitting in the back row of the gallery.   I like to sit in the back. A better view of the crowd.   It was obvious there was one man who was not happy to be present.   The court clerk called the room to order and asked if anyone needed an interpreter or accommodations.   The man in the front row quite loudly informed the clerk he has had a recent knee replacement replacement and so he needed to go first.   The clerk marked her paper, nodded and continued her speech.

Angry man repeadly huffed and sighed and interrupted the clerk while demanding special treatment.  When he was assigned to his mediator he slightly limped out.   All judgment aside, I’m sure the surgery hurt.   He made sure we all knew.

And then there was this other man who quietly sat in the back.  He didn’t respond when she asked if anyone needed accommodations. Although no one would have blinked had he asked.  He sat quietly and patiently waited his turn.

This man had clearly survived a horrible fire.  His whole body was scarred and marbled.  He had no ears.    It looked like it must hurt to blink.  Both hands had stumps for fingers.  One leg was noticably much shorter.

When this man’s case was called I smiled because it turned out he was a self employed business owner.    I love entrepreneurs.  Especially ones who beat the odds.

When it was his turn to leave the courtroom, he picked up his documents deftly with what was left of his hands and walked out confidently  though it was obvious by gate and speed that every step hurt.

I wanna be like this guy.   Independent.  Tough.   Courageous.  Unassuming.  Patient.  Faithful.   Resourceful.

Sadly,  frequently  I’m like the first man.  Overly concerned about my needs, holding on tightly to my excuses (however valid they may be) and loudly demanding accommodations.

Now I only saw both men for about five minutes. I have no idea who they really are or the stories either would tell.  But I do know our lives are made up of choices we make in little five minutes increments.  Choices about how we handle what life deals.  And people are watching.

 I was a witness to an incredible juxtaposition of two responses to a wait in a court room.   And one man’s choice reflected character.   Weighty.  

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Priceless Porcelain

photoI spent Sunday afternoon at a bridal shower for my beautiful cousin.   She’s marrying my kind of man.   Big burly guy with a full beard who cooks and brews his own beer and has a gentle spirit.   Good choice.    The bridal shower was a full formal English tea.  My lovely aunt pulled out all her fancy dishes and her even fancier recipes.  We were surrounded by Devonshire cream, peanut butter truffles, chicken salad tarts, cucumber sandwiches and strawberry soup.   Earl Grey and Mango Passion and Peppermint Teas.   Rolled butter and jam and heart-shaped scones.    It was all beautiful.

I brought my daughters along even though I think technically they weren’t invited.  My aunt is the kind

photo 1where people who show up uninvited get a warm welcome.   She hauled a familiar child’s table and chairs downstairs and unpacked a beautiful tiny tea set.    I gulped a little.  The table, chairs and tea set all belonged to my cousin, Annie.   She currently has her tea parties in heaven.   Treasures from ones we’ve lost should be treated with care.

And my two-year old is….well….she’s two.

My aunt looked directly at the little miss and said “I know you’ll be fine, you know how to  be gentle”.   She looked at me and said “I won’t take it with me”.

Ah yes.  That lesson again.   People matter more than things.   Our treasures are in heaven.

I love that my aunt holds things loosely and people tightly.   It’s the right priority.

photo 4The little girls were, in fact, gentle.   I’m sure the vote of confidence from my aunt went a long way.  I should remember this.  I tend to rise to the standard that I’m treated.   If  I assume they’ll be gentle than it’s significantly more likely they’ll be gentle.   The girls toasted each other.  They toasted the bride.   They ate all the sugar cubes.    photo 3

After the tea, the youngest daughter hauled presents up to the bride.   My eldest daughter learned how to make a rehearsal practice bridal bouquet.   We told her this was an important life skill.    Used significantly more often than algebra.   Don’t tell her I said that.   Don’t tell my math teacher friends that either.   Algebra is important.

photo 5After everyone went home my sister and I stayed to help with the dishes.    My aunt sent me a text today expressing great thanks for the help serving the tea and doing the dishes.    It was seriously my pleasure.  Standing in the kitchen yesterday with my sister and my aunt I thought about our weddings and bridal showers and graduation parties.    My aunt helped at them all.  It frequently required planet tickets to do so.    This post is officially my return thank you.   Thank you for the many parties and recipes and dishes.   Thank you for the life lessons and the love.   Thank you for sharing your daughter’s tea set with my daughters.   Thank you for letting us love on your daughter.

Moms and daughters.  Aunts and nieces.

It was priceless.

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Nine for Nine

Right about this time nine years ago I had just arrived at the hospital.   My husband had safely traversed the long and windey road we lived down to haul his overdue and laboring wife to the hospital.   Okay so I was only one day overdue but it was the longest day of my entire life.    Naturally I had a notebook paper and a stop watch and was timing and recording every contraction.   I still have it in the new arrival’s babybook.  Paper and lists always help.

IMG_1158In honor of The Eldest’s birthday my husband made a cake.   He always makes us cakes.    This one is a winner.   Its a Clementine Cake like the one featured in the movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.     Great movie.  Great cake.   It involves lots of sugar, a whole bunch of clementine oranges and almond flour.     Points with some for being gluten free.

The first time the Resident Chef made this cake it was actually too sweet.  And a little too wet.  I ate an enormous piece anyway.  The candied oranges on top I ate …..um…..a lot of them.

I’m planning on cheating today on my diet and I’m eating a piece of this cake later today.  I figure I deserve it for the nine months I hauled the birthday girl around and the various times I’ve hauled her around over the last nine years.   Nine years full of joy, a little heartache and quite a few photos.   She is the oldest after all.

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ONE:     I love green hat!   Those sweet grandmas at the hospital who donate hats to the  newborns are on my favorite people list.  Both our girls still have their hats.   The nine-year-olds is in tatters and hides in her baby book tucked in along side my lists – when she ate, when she slept, how she made us grin.

TWO:      Another hat!  And a red button nose.    This one was always willing to sit and pose and her daddy loved it.   Truthfully she’s still likes to dance and sinDSC_0816_2g and tell jokes and entertain.   This little red nose and sparkling blue eyes epitomize life with her as a toddler.  When I was a little girl I always knew my mom was in the mood for some silly fun when i noticed her eyes sparkling.    The nine-year-old matches her grandma. DSC_4540 corrected

THREE:    Someone once told me that part of growing up is learning to be a part of a team.  To listen quietly.  To be respectful of teachers.    I agree.  But I think that’s the lesser important part of growing up.   I believe that growing up involves learning to stand.   To speak.  To have courage and conviction.   To lead.    This photo tells me she’s getting it.   She looks life straight on.

FOUR:  DSC_1663 photoshop

Freckles.   I really love Freckles.    My mama calls them angel kisses.

FIVE:    Every childhood has some painful chapters.  Bullies or sickness or family strife.   Kids in some places have hunger and war and homelessness.   So i’m overIMG_2273whelmed with gratitude that so far this one’s painful chapters have been covered by grace.    And while I would not have picked the road she traveled – I am proud of how she traveled it.    My daughter told me the day that this photo was taken that she was sad it was the last time she’d have to go see her doctor.  Mind you – I was cheering it was the last day for shots to the scalp.  She said she’d miss her doctor.    Doctor said the kid was the toughest one she’d ever personally met.    High pain tolerance.   Great courage.    Good girl.

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The thing about the candied oranges on this clementine cake is that you eat the whole orange.   Rind and all.   Its a little bitter thrown in with the sweet.    Its a bit like the painful chapters.   All rainbow and sunshines and spoiling and kids turn out too sweet.   Growth can be painful but the result is oh so fabulous.

SIX:    No sleep.   Miles of walking.    One enormousIMG_2877us museum.    These two amazing smiles.   The one is famous.   The other melts my heart.   I loved that she wanted to see the Mona Lisa.   She said that its not dark like all the books show.  Its full of color.  And so is my nine-yIMG_2981ear-old.

SEVEN:    I was standing staring at the Notre Dame Cathedral.   My daughter liked the pigeons.   Naturally.   She loves to dive in where there is movement and life and energy.   And she’s not afraid of a little mess.   Or a lot of mess.  If you are looking for some adventure then this is the girl for you.   You’ll be tired.  But its worth it.

EIGHT:    This nine-year-old can beat me at chess.   Not all the time.  But i have to really pay attention and think ahead to win.    Give her another year in chess club and I’m gonna have to read up to keep up.    She’s willing to share her secrets to winning though and that fact makes me proud to be her mama.  She’d rather everyone get better than save up the sIMG_3123ecrets to win for herself.    Although that mischevioIMG_2197us grin comes out in full force when she says “check mate”.

NINE:     She’s not perfect.  None of us are.  But she’s passionate and fun and intelligent and she loves to read and cartwheel and …..can you tell we like her? As my mom says ” I guess we’ll keep her another year”.

It’ll be fun to watch what happens in this next year.  Her last one in single digits.  I’m sure it’ll have moments of bitter, tons of sweet and that extra zing to make it all come together.    Zest.    My nine year old has lots of Zest.     Like this cakeIMG_1160.

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Flip Side: Lost

correct

My spouse does most of our laundry.   He makes his own detergent and generally doesn’t let me touch the washer or dryer.  Not that I’m complaining.    I help fold sometimes and I am solely responsible for putting away the laundry for myself and the girls.   I believe this is because my organizational skills in the various closets drive him crazy.  Our marriage does better if he doesn’t have to look in the closets.   I also deal with mismatched socks.    My husband never has a problem with his socks.  Never.   He says it’s because he puts them in the laundry at the same time.   Novel idea.   The girls and I haven’t tried this plan really so we have periodic socks that get lost.

I used to have a basket that I kept all the mismatched socks in.   This became depressing so about a year ago I threw out all the mismatched socks and started afresh.  My new plan was that any time there wasn’t a mate I’d just throw the sock back in the laundry.    The socks tend to find their lost partners over a few loads and its worked pretty well.   Until lately.

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I’ve developed a pile again.  Only this time they are going through the laundry repeatedly.   The purple stripey sock there made me mad this morning.   I really like those socks.   Its been awhile since it had a partner.

I went downstairs to get The eldest out of bed and was still thinking about my sock.   As she dealt with the fact it was morning I chose her clothes for the day. Side note:  I count the fact that she still let’s me do this as a great blessing.  I opened her sock drawer and was dismayed to find another big pile of mismatched socks.  Apparently she had a different plan downstairs with her lost socks.   I thought well lookie here,  I need the same plan! and I grabbed all the socks and threw them in her laundry.

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 A couple of minutes later and my tired morning brain rattled around and finally set off a purple stripey sock alarm.    It was like playing the game of memory.   Wait a minute.    I saw two of these today: and now they are both sitting in piles of dirty laundry.

Lots of things get lost in my world.   I juggle lots of life.    Its a joy.   But as I’ve mentioned before I have lots of loose ends.   Lost socks. My cousin recently posted a quotation that said ” I hope wherever my hair ties go they are all happy together.” Lost keys.   Lost rings.  I told this sad story a couple of years ago.  The Value of Rings.  I never found my mama’s ring.   So my husband bought me a new one.  Too big.  My parents bought me a new one.  Slightly too big.   I lost it too.  I bought a new one.   Too small.   I feel like Goldilocks.

More important things get lost too.   I lose motivation and inspiration and hope and joy.   People lose faith and their path.     When I lose my way my first instinct is to write it off as a loss.   Its gone.  Lost.   Forget it.   Not worth the effort to find it.    When someone lets me down it’s tempting to throw out the relationship.  Find a new project.

This morning I dug through the dirty laundry trying to find and rescue my purple socks.   It was worth the effort.

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The truth is that Jesus invested great time and effort and hardship and pain to drag me through the laundry and reconnect me to hope.  The Shepherd left the flock to go and find me.   It makes me want to get my hands dirty.  Rescue something that’s lost.  Throw my hurt in the laundry and surface with passion.    Try forgiving the one you know who went astray.   I think you’ll both feel found.

Want to see my talented Uncle’s take on things that get lost?   Check out his Flip Side : Lost!

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No Joke

I went for a run this morning.   It was ugly.   One short slow mile.  I haven’t run in years.   But I have a friend who I believe decided I was her project and so I’m on a new plan and it included a run this morning   At about the half way point I checked my app.  It was important to me to document this momentous occasion.  Really it might have been because I like anything that involves a list.  Or numbers.  Or maybe it was because I was dying and wanted to make sure I hadn’t accidentally ran a lot longer than I was supposed to.  I hadn’t.  Shocker.  At any rate – when I looked at my app I was stunned that it said I’d only burnt 34 calories.  That much misery and I’d earned some broccoli.    I really feel like getting up early and actually putting on clothes and going outside and surviving the shocked looks of the actual runners who were out this morning and who probably thought I was an April Fool’s Day Joke would deserve more than broccoli  – maybe cheese cake.

So for the record.   I did a mile.    I’m not sure why I’m mentioning this except that I thrive on atta girls.   I wrote about this five  years ago (Little Notes, Big Impact) but its something that I still think about.  and sometimes worry about.

Yesterday I helped a friend write up a little blip for a newsletter.   It was not a big deal at all.  I love to write.   Even when its hard work its fun.   But when she sent a compliment it made me nervous.

Can I be painfully and brutally honest and let you see my broken parts?   You see I worry that I write for the attention.  Its part of why I haven’t blogged in years.   There are other reasons – one is 8 years old, the other is 2 years old.    And I get busy with projects.   And over the last couple years a lot of the things that I wanted to write about were not my stories to tell.   Painful seasons for people I love were foremost in my mind.    But part of the reason is that I’m pretty sure that pride and self promotion are part of the reason I like having a blog.   It’s a ton of fun to see the statistics stack up and its fun to hear people resonate with something I wrote.      Ugh.  Confessions are not my favorite.

I asked my friend what she thought.   Part of what she said the fact that I struggle with making sure my motivations are right is probably a good sign.  This was a good reminder.  It’s almost always about the heart.  Yesterday I also did what I normally do when I wonder about something.   I Googled it.  I typed up “Bible verse for dealing with compliments”.    And this is what came up.

I Corinthians 15:10   But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.  No, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, But the Grace of God that was with me. 

I loved this.

It’s good to work hard and succeed and stretch and run the race with excellence.  Because I recognize that none of the things that are good or right or growing are because of anything in my strength.  And if its God’s strength that is accomplishing anything then is likely going to be worthy of praise.  To Him.  Just like Paul I boast in Christ alone.  On my good days.   Sigh.

This whole training my body is hard work.  Training my heart and soul is harder.   It can be ugly.   Kinda like my run.   But the work is worth it for the glory ahead.  And its possible because the work is actually the Grace of God. And that’s no April Fool’s Day Joke.

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Building the Church

Tomorrow is the dedication day for the new building at the church I attend.  (For the five of you who read this who don’t know me well enough to know, I attend Liberty Bible Church.  You can see us at www.lbnaz.org).   The new building has been a several year project involving lots of plans and finance meetings and work days and the standard blood, sweat and tears.   In reality its a 35 year project that started in a living room of a house.  I remember.  I was five.

The first seven years that Liberty Bible was around there was no building.  Or rather there were lots of buildings.  We just didn’t own any of them.   I watched my parents and a small group of friends move chairs and rent buildings and dream big dreams.   My faith sprouted in those days of wandering.

And then.  I remember an early morning service on the bare empty land we’d miraculously just purchased.  Grandma Gertrude broke ground and we started to build.    By the time i was 13 we actually had a room the teens could call their own.   We decorated the walls with little folded pieces of tissue paper to make some sort of odd border.    Sure wasn’t fancy.   But pretty fantastic things happened.   We sat around in that little room and talked about the BIG questions.   No, not the ones about why does bad stuff happen to good people.  More like,  “Why do the other girls in Jr. High have to be so mean?” Or “Why doesn’t that boy ask me out”.  Those big important questions.  One Bible study we did was titled “How not to be a goober”.   The theology questions came later but were made possible because we trusted the people in those little rooms.     My faith blossomed in a building.

I hear some people say that Jesus wouldn’t care about buildings.   I don’t actually agree.   But I completely understand why they say that.  I’ve stood in Africa and shook my head at the American church and her excess.   I will never forget a service in Rwanda at a church where part of the service was spent in a praise and prayer session thanking God that they had enough money to buy a mop and cleaning solution.

If I’m honest, part of the reason I’ll never forget that church is the thankfulness for the mop and partly because I had just had my most embarrassing moment.  Nothing will ever top it.  Even the Epic event on Monday was not even close.    (You can read about it at A Lesson in Rwanda.)

I’ve also toured some amazingly gorgeous cathedrals world-wide and wondered if it wouldn’t be better if the money was used to feed the hungry.    But I’ve also stood in those spaces and my soul has sung at the beauty and wonder and grandeur and I think heaven will be similar.    My faith has been strengthened in beautiful buildings.

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 If you’ve read the Bible you’d know that God digs buildings too.   Much of the Pentateuch (big theology word for the first five books of the Bible – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) is spent in time where God is telling his people how to build a place for them to worship while the traveled around the desert.  And the Tabernacle (another Bible word for the place they worshiped) was a super fancy and super expensive.  King Solomon spent a vast amount of time and money building the temple again all at God’s direction.

And then i read the gospels  (first four books of the New Testament – they tell the story of Jesus).  i see that while Jesus spent much of his ministry binding up wounds and feeding the hungry he also spent a lot of his time in the temple.  And his biggest show of anger was at people who were misusing and defiling the building because it was a place where people met God.     So I believe God sees the value in buildings.   But my guess is that He thinks buildings have value only because people have value.

Fast forward to the next book of the Bible and here the issue of church buildings gets tricky.   The book of Acts is all about the building of the church of Jesus.   And it wasn’t a building at all.   It was people.   The group of people who claimed to be followers that hung out and ate and prayed together was called the church.   They met in homes.    Which is why many people in the Christian community don’t buy the idea that a building is important.   But if you read on you’ll see many of those early leaders preaching and teaching and meeting still at the temple.  A lot.  The big fancy building.    Until the persecution kicked in big time and then they met in secret places.   Like believers now in countries all around the world.

I completely agree that the church is not a building.  it’s the living people who work together and pray and love God and push back on darkness.   And building the church is not about a hammer and nails.  It’s about discipleship (a church word for helping people learn and mature in their faith) and evangilism (church word for telling other people about Jesus) and about meeting practical needs of hurting people.

But I still don’t think the existence and importance of home churches (or home groups, or small groups, or life groups, or whatever trendy new name the local church calls a group of people who get together to study and pray) negates the need for an actual brick and mortar building….or tent…or coffee shop…   In at least some churches.  For some groups of believers.

All that hedging aside, what i do know is that Liberty Bible needed a physical addition.   We had lots of people added.   So we added space.    It’s a great space.   Lots of room for people to talk.   Big nice clean kitchen.   Huge storage space for all the Bow the Knee sets that previously were scattered all over the county.   Beautiful classrooms.    I can’t wait to see the people in them.

Liberty Bible is not a perfect church by any means.  We bump heads sometimes and we let people down.   We have loose ends and we’ve got blind spots.   All churches do.   It’s cause they are made of people.   And the only perfect person in all of history is the One we follow.

One of my favorite Bible verses is a command from a preacher to the people in his church.

 Colossions 3:13 “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Bear with each other.   I think he told them this because he knew that we’d drive each other crazy and there absolutely would be plenty of occasions where forgiveness was necessary.   Some of my favorite people are ones I’ve had to forgive.   And most of them one time or another have had to forgive me.   The ones who haven’t don’t know me very well yet.  But i also know that I would not want to do my life without my church.   And by that i mean the people.   Not the building.

LIberty Bible is not the only great church.    I love New Heights and their free clinic.  I love Living Hope and their outreach to broken and hurting people.  I love that Summit View partners with my daughter’s public elementary school and there are tulips currently blooming by her door because of that church.  That stack of shoes in the foyer at Crossroads right now is pretty fantastic.  I love our Bow the Knee partner churches.  I love our Rwanda team partner churches.  I love Starting Grounds and First Evangelical Free and Real Life and Nampa First and Ridgefield Nazarene and John Day Nazarene…..ok i’ll be honest, partly I love those ones because dear friends I grew up with at Liberty now serve at those churches.    I love SaddleBack and North Point.   I love little churches and big churches and home churches and alternative churches.    I love the church in China and Yemen and Israel.     The beautiful thing about all these great churches is that they are all so different and yet they are all pointed the same direction.  And there is probably a place that would be perfect for you.

But Liberty Bible remains my favorite.  Not because its better.   Because its my home.  Its my family.  Its my people.   And i love them.  At any rate, this group of believers built a building.   And we’re pretty excited about it.   You can come to our dedication service tomorrow morning if you want to join in the cheer.

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Sweet Sixteen

The traditional gift for a 16th wedding anniversary is wax.   I looked it up.   Wax.    Today is the 16th anniversary of the day that the resident chef and I said yes.

 Aaron Mindy Wedding

I do not want wax as a gift.   I don’t really understand wax as a gift.  Frankly I don’t even like the word wax.  Gross.   I received  a Fitbit.   If you compare our most recent photo with our wedding photo you will see why at 16 years I wanted a fit bit.   Thankfully this photo was taken two months ago BEFORE our we don’t eat diet started.

aaron and mindy beach

My spouse likely does not want wax either.  Maybe wax paper?  He does cook a lot.  But I went with what he asked for and  I gave my spouse video recording equipment.

As I usually do, I’ve been thinking a lot as this date approached.  Why I’m grateful for my husband and what I celebrate at 16 years.

I’m grateful for our kids.   For a big strong dad and two little girls.  For Mickey Mouse Yahtzee and pancakes and good night stories.   For a partner in parenting.  For the looks that we have shared over the heads of 8 year old bad attitudes or funny jokes or sleeping babies.

aaron and yahtzee

I’m grateful for adventures, for toes in sand and mountain cliffs and memories.    I’m grateful for dinners and parties and for huge guest lists.   I’m grateful for answered prayers.    I’m grateful for tears and fights and that even on the bad days I know that we aren’t going anywhere.   I’m grateful that in doctors offices and waiting rooms that my spouse shows up with quiet strength.  I’m grateful that when I call home and say “what do you think about…” that his answer is almost always “go for it”.

Sixteen Years.  I feel like we need a cake with sixteen candles.  Wait.  Those are wax.   Maybe the gift of wax is more like a metaphor.   At 16 years you celebrate the fact that you’ve been flexible and bendable and that you’re stuck together.  And that can shine a light.   Like wax.

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