Recently I read an article about relationships. It was specific to parent-baby relationships.
It seems relationship develops with eye to eye contact. Gazing into one another’s eyes does something to the developing baby’s brain that allows it to create relationships.
Without this skill initiated in the brain of an infant, reactive attachment disorders occur. Relationships don’t develop the intended way.
Today, I was thinking about how this relates to my relationship with Jesus. If my relationship with him looks like a drive-by grab and go, a read 5 Psalms and a Proverb, it’s not much of a relationship. (I’ve done that as a daily discipline and it can be a rich opportunity.) It’s a duty. It’s a good duty because if I’m paying attention to what is in those five Psalms and Proverb, I’ll be fed.
It isn’t the same as a gourmet meal, served with finesse and art. The flavors aren’t developed. The balance between sweet and sour are missing. The enjoyment factor doesn’t extend beyond the immediate. There is no lingering over and making it last. It’s an eat and run.
But, if I sit at the feet of Jesus and gaze into His eyes, seeing what He sees; hearing His message for me, I develop a relationship. With practice I can hear what He wants me to do and say.
As we approach Holy Week, let us be intentional about sitting at the foot of the cross and recognizing the relationship forged because He was willing to go to the cross. Let’s gaze into His eyes and see what He sees and hear His message for our individual lives.
I remember well the day I spotted it at a church garage sale. I watched another lady pick it up, look at it and ponder whether it would go home with her. I was salivating over what she held. I held my breath, hoping against hope she would leave it behind. She hesitated. I waited for her decision. If she put it down, there would be no returning for it. As soon as she decided against purchasing it, I pounced on it. A Squeezo. Big dollars new, pennies on the dollar at the garage sale. It has been one of my favorite tools during canning season.
Last fall, while I was using my Squeezo, I realized I was preserving FREE food. Everything I had simmered overnight in my roaster was from the garden and free to me. Not just free because it was in my garden, but free because I had saved seeds from the previous season and started the plants and nurtured them and finally harvested their produce. Free for a little sweat and labor; free for effort. A gift, really, from the Lord.
If you want ‘free’ food next fall, now is the time to start. If you don’t have a garden spot in your yard and want one, plan now. Start small till you get the hang of it. Plant the foods you love to eat. If you live where there is a covenant not allowing a garden, there are community spots around the city for small gardens.
And, if gardening isn’t your thing, there are ways to get fresh produce direct from the farm each week, sometimes called Community Supported Agriculture or CSA for short. I can help you find one. A fee is paid for weekly or biweekly basket of whatever is fresh in the garden. Often there are different sized ‘shares’ for purchase. It isn’t free, but it’s fresh.
There are many resources at the public library to help you initiate a garden if you need help. There are a number of considerations before taking the plunge. There are organizations that can help you grow (pun intended) like Master Gardeners and other gardening groups. There is a Master Gardener demonstration plot on the south border of Walker Johnson Park with fruits, vegetables, flowers, compost, and an orchard. It’s free to walk around and see what they have done. Most summers, free gardening programs are held one night a week, too.
Gardening is dirty business. Recently, I read that folks who garden have a healthier digestive system and more immunity than the average person. The dirt actually has bacteria and fungus in it and working in the dirt allows us to inhale some of it. The bacteria is the healthy kind, used in the gut for digestion.
There are many ways to garden and arguments on each side of the fence. There are those who use herbicides and pesticides and those who avoid them. Some make and use compost. Others buy it in a bag. Some gardens are small and some are large. I’ve been gardening for half a century give or take a few years and every year I experiment with something. I’ve never had two gardens alike because of my own trials and the uncertainty of climate. Success and failure each come in every garden year. Some things are funny and others made me cry.
Some seasons, bounty overflows and every canning jar is filled to the brim and storage shelves sag under the weight of it all. Other years, there is little surplus for preserving. One never knows. In the heat of Indian Summer, when the preservation is at peak, the thought of an easy dinner ‘off the shelf’ gives me energy to continue the process.
If gardening is of interest to you as a hobby or a necessity, talk to one of the many successful gardeners in our church body for tips and encouragement. This is the planning season for a gardener. We will dig in the dirt as early as late March…sooner if the ground isn’t too damp. Growing one’s own food is a win. And, the food is free, mostly.
My next door neighbor pounded on our front door recently. She stepped in when I opened the door and quickly explained that she and her husband have purchased another house. The house is bigger and the yard is smaller. Both benefit this couple. She can inherit a baby grand piano and they will have less struggle with the outside maintenance. She invited me to her house to sort through quilt fabric.
Since FREE is something I like a lot, I eagerly followed her. I brought home a paper box of quilting fabric. It’s not a hobby she is working on at the moment so she doesn’t want to move it only to have it fill space in her new home. Since that Sunday evening, my dining room has developed dust bunnies from the lint of fabric cutting and stitching.
Not everyone quilts, so let me give you some foundational information. Big pieces of fabric are cut into small pieces. Small pieces are sewn into medium shapes and the small and medium pieces are joined many times till one large project is done. All the little pieces of different sizes and shapes and colors together make a pleasing design. That’s the overview.
Quilting can be therapeutic or frustrating. There are many skills necessary to complete the project. The first being accuracy. One needs to cut out the little pieces accurately or the parts won’t fit together.
Regardless of how accurate any quilter is, the stitching stretch esthe fabric a little and when several pieces are sewn together, each unit is trimmed to be an accurate measurement so when it is joined to the next section, it fits.
The process of trimming is called ‘squaring up’. It doesn’t necessarily mean the piece is square. It just means the wobbly edges and dog ears are trimmed so the next effort to join two pieces come together accurately. There is that word again. Accurate.
When I was squaring up a rectangle composed of 7 little pieces, sometimes, I would only trim a thread or two. But, it made all the difference in the shape. What made an even bigger difference is the PILE of threads that accumulated after trimming just a dozen of these pieces.
It reminded me of my days. Sometimes, I need to take a look at how the day is going and trim a few things out of it. Maybe I let a thread of irritation get under my skin. I’m not very agreeable if that happens. Certainly, the patient fruit of the spirit isn’t apparent within me. Perhaps there are several threads of frustration that need to be whacked off. I need to bring in the scissors and cut that out and replace it with some trust or faith.
Regrouping with a little heaven sent prayer has squared up my bad attitude more than once. Sometimes, I walk away from my quilting, realizing I’ve done enough for the day. It looks better when I return because I haven’t let fatigue or a deadline create an impossible mess.
Quilting is like a geometry lesson. One thread off at the beginning of an angle doesn’t seem like much variance till out in space that degree magnifies and completely misses the intended target. I want my life to hit the target, so if I need to regroup throughout the day to accomplish my task, it is worth it.
I suspect building a house or installing plumbing and electricity are similar. Accuracy counts. Getting the angle right is important. Squaring up isn’t just for quilting, it is for every building project including the project of life.
Let’s square up our lives with the Word. It might hurt to trim off those rough edges and eliminate some loose strings. But we want all the pieces to fit together and create the masterpiece our Father is stitching together.
Mixed feelings. That’s the way I’ve felt over the last few weeks. Friends have died. Funerals have been attended. Why are my feelings mixed? I’m selfish. When I go, I’m sad these folks won’t be around to stop in; call for prayer; lift up in prayer any more. I’m a little jealous: they graduated and I’m still in remedial classes.
It’s true. Recently, I attended the funeral of a former pastor’s wife. She developed callouses on her knees from praying, IN HIGH SCHOOL. She didn’t stop spending time on her knees when she graduated from there. She and her husband were prayer warriors. They excelled in visitation and loving people where they were. Never did a condescending comment come from her lips. Never did she see the ‘needs improvement’ side of anyone. Even when someone was in trouble, her comment would be, ‘Oh, how this person needs Jesus.’
She didn’t watch television. She prayed. She spent time with Jesus on her knees beside her bed or couch rather than let her mind numbly listen to the commentators or canned laughter. (Though she did have an affinity for Andy and Barney on Mayberry).
Weeks later, we heard one of our dearest friends was headed for a second brain surgery. It didn’t go so well and he graduated, too. We recounted the many aspects of our relationship. Our daughters were best friends as little girls. That drew us together. We remembered our first encounter and his magnetic attraction. We heard the stories of others with similar impressions.
Family members shared aspects of his personality we didn’t know, from melancholy to enthusiasm (we knew that one). We learned he was the rabbit of the family: always hopping toward adventure and never allowing anyone to catch him though he shared his newfound loves with everyone who might be interested.
Noah Webster defines character as a ‘mark’. This man’s character made marks on everyone who encountered him. Whether he was being deposed by attorneys or offering a hand to lift someone up, he made a mark.
His mark was extravagant generosity and kindness underscored with integrity and humor. He read voraciously and shared his wisdom with humility and gentleness. He opened his home to the homeless and offered a respite from the wars of life, educating along the way. Everyone who met him considered him a ‘best friend’.
It all makes me wonder about my mark, my character. It’s not an effort to ask how I look in front of other people, what opinions you or a host of others have of me. It’s what kind of a mark Jesus sees in me. Has my character molded to His image? Is my desire to ‘be like Him’ a daily discipline or effort OR is it procrastinated because the Olympic coverage is more interesting?
This problem of selfishness isn’t unique to me. Each of us battles it. Would I sacrifice an hour of sleep to be on my knees in prayer for the miracles we need in our body OR should I just roll over and finish that dream? Am I willing to sacrifice my hobbies to meet the needs of one who cannot do anything for himself?
Because in my advancing years, it seems to me sacrifice is an investment in character development. When I’m willing to give up what my body yearns to have, my soul benefits. And, not just my soul but everything about my demeanor changes. It affects the people who see me, talk to me, live with me, wait on me in the stores, and it changes their lives, too.
So, while I’m struggling with the selfish desire to have more time with those who have graduated, I want to prepare myself for an eternal future of fellowship with them. That requires some focused discipline and encouragement from within and leadership from family and friends.
It’s a reminder to be thankful for the positive qualities, the character marks my friends have made and recognize my goal is to be like the Friend who never forsakes or leave me but is by my side every minute of every day, making a mark on me.
The days of “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas” are behind us and we did have snow to mask the lifeless grass and bring contrast to the tree branches. The grass in our yard seemed green right up till Christmas time.
Years ago, as soon as the snow fell, the children would love to go out and play games in the snow, whether it was tossing the football across the yard or playing a game of fox and geese, or building snowmen and snow forts. While I was thankful for the yard and opportunity for them to play outside, I missed the pristine appearance of the pure white snow with footprints and snow angels. It disrupted the perfect.
This year, though, the snow came. None of the children dressed in snow suits and boots to run outside and bomb one another and half the neighborhood kids with snowballs. They didn’t make tracks in the snow for games. There were no snowmen. Games of fox and geese didn’t appear in our back yard.
I missed it. There were tracks in the yard from the bunnies, the squirrels, the animals living in the forest 2 lots over who come out to play. But there were no footprints, no game tracks, no football lines. Nada.
I cannot turn back the clock to enjoy those days. However, the lesson for me is to be content in the moment with the age and stage of life of my children and my world. Perhaps you also wish for things that aren’t currently in your sphere, or wish some things in your sphere would change. It has taken many decades to wean myself out of that frame of mind.
When my children are home, I want to sit and enjoy them. I will clean up the messes after they have left my home. I will have time to do it then. When there is fresh snow on the ground, I’ll enjoy the pristine appearance. When the bunnies have run through it, making tracks and the squirrels have dug holes to find walnuts, I’ll be thankful for food and life. The animals do offer us some amusement with their games and antics.
A dear friend from a church we attended when we were first married had 2 young children when we met her. She gave sage advice always and one comment was ‘each stage just gets better and better.’ I’ve repeated her words to many a young mom and even stood in front of a mirror and recited that advice to myself. As we age and grow and learn to trust Him more, we can relax and enjoy the moment (most of them) looking for the gem, the lesson, the ‘gold’, in each experience.
Paul reminds us to follow his example. He was hungry, thirsty, beaten, shipwrecked. Yet, he learned to be content in all situations. My life is not filled with the same kind of strife he had and I’m learning to sit back and let God work, trying to be content in the season of my life, even if there is snow on the ground.
I sat and zoned out on the couch. I looked at the clock on my computer screen. I’d spent an entire hour scrolling through Face Book. Most of what I had just seen didn’t interest me: videos about pets or memes about politics on each side of the aisle. I was disgusted with myself. Why didn’t I pick up the Bible study that was sitting to my right?
I don’t own a smart phone. I tell clerks I’m not smart enough to navigate it. David has an iPad and that is struggle enough for me. I can take a photo with it and send it to my children or find the TV listing for the evening on it. I just use my laptop for the few things I need.
Recently, though, between Face Book blog posts and other information I’ve actually researched, an alarming notion has come to me. It’s what I described in the first paragraph. There is a magnetic attraction to the screen. Somewhere in my reading, I saw that there are actual algorithms created to make screen time as alluring as alcohol, gambling, and a host of other vices we call addictive.
Our children have grown up with the computer. There are all kinds of statistical information on how it affects their lives. So, let’s look briefly at some of the ways.
The American Association of Pediatricians have created recommendations for screen time and revised it based on a child’s brain growth and development. Screen time is only recommended for children younger than 18 months for Skype or Face Time with families at a distance. Otherwise, ANY screen time: TV, computers, video games, movies are not recommended. This is based on a host of things from how light affects the brain to the rapidly changing images on the screen to vestibular motion issues. The best article I’ve read on that is here: https://handsonotrehab.com/screen-time-brain-sensory-processing/ If you have children younger than 12, it’s a must read.
Bullying has always been around. Despite our best efforts at making it go away, human nature suggests it will not. It has, however, taken a different form. Instead of taunting on the side walk as children return home from school our children now see it on all forms of social media. I don’t need to elaborate on the ways and means. You have also read and seen all the statistics.
Teaching our children compassion and empathy at home may be the best remedy for and the best antidote for bullying but the other element social media shouts at children is comparison. With the filters available on phones, everyone can and does look perfect. The more hours our developing tweens spend with screen time, the harder comparison becomes.
Time magazine illustrated the relationship between depression and screen time in this article: http://time.com/4974863/kids-smartphones-depression/. None of us can meet the standards air brushing and filters offer. It’s not real. It reminds me of the chic flick movies or even stories of Cinderalla and Snow White. It’s a story, not reality.
What is the answer? There are many remedies, I’m sure. Personally, I think human interaction trumps electronic media every day. How does one instill human interaction when the fear of missing out floods your emotions? Maybe discipline.
I discovered that I wanted to check my email ‘one last time’ before bed. This was a ‘wake up call’ to my brain because of the blue light. Then, when I got to bed, my alert brain struggled to slow down and rest. My remedy was to check my mail late in the day and then turn the computer off. It required self discipline. (Except on Tuesday night when I would be headed to bed and realize my Uplink article had not been posted and submitted…then my computer came on once more!).
As a parent, there are likely some family guidelines and restrictions you will need to choose for your family. Knowing when to allow a child to have his own phone; when and where he can use it; what limitations come with it need to be hammered out by the adults.
This blog post might give you some ideas of what one family did to counteract the influence of a cell phone in the life of their daughter. https://www.handsfreemama.com/2017/12/15/tether-yourself-the-enlightening-talk-parents-arent-having-can-keep-teens-from-a-damaging-drift/
When our children were in school, video games were the electronic media everyone had. We refused to participate. Then, one of our children saved enough money to buy the current version of Play Station. We had limits: even though said child owned the property; parents controlled the use of it. We created a contract and parent and child signed it. Conditions for the use of the toy included having chores and homework done and a good attitude. Poor attitudes and mouthiness could restrict the use. It worked for us. (Yes, our children were sometimes more verbal than we preferred.)
Likely, there are other good ideas elsewhere and many families have had experience. Ask parents who have survived these issues with their children. Share with your friends and see what they do. As teens, when we wanted something, we claimed, ‘EVERYONE ELSE IS…’ to which my wise mother would reply, ‘The Schmalenberger, Sampson, Burkhart kids are NOT.’ Parents communicated where the boundaries were for their children and our sphere of friends had parents who talked to one another.
The purpose of this article is not to tell you what to do, rather to recognize the pitfalls and dangers we all face in an ever changing environment. Let’s work together as parents and family to create safe boundaries for us as adults and establish the same for our children.
It happened so quickly, so quietly, so subtly that I hardly noticed. Until I did.
I had a routine of prayer. I pray all the time through the course of the day, asking God to direct my path and tell me what order to do things and to be attentive to opportunities that come my way. But, I had a place and a time and an order for prayer.
First, I prayed scripture. Then, I prayed for my children: scripture over them; the armor of God, the work of the Holy Spirit. I prayed specifically for each of the needs of each one, as I knew it or as the Holy Spirit nudged me to pray for them.
Then, I had a list of friends for whom to pray. Friends from YWAM. Friends from other cities. Friends who needed Jesus. Friends who had gone their own way.
I had a list of people who were suffering from cancer or other illnesses.
I had a long litany of people on the mission field, from around the world. In fact, that was how I remembered in what order and how to pray for them. In my mind’s eye, I prayed around the globe. It was easy.
I prayed for our church and individuals in it.
There were family members that needed prayer.
But, life happened and fatigue set in. And, one day, I realized that I was ‘quitting’ my prayers before one of the groups had been covered in prayer. Over a series of weeks or even months, one by one, a group would be dropped from my prayers.
Isn’t it? That my own fatigue at the end of the day would be so over powering that the most important part of my day would be cut short.
And, at the same time, we were in greater need of prayer than we had been in a few seasons of our life. It seemed to go hand in hand. As I was less deliberate in prayer, I needed it more. The revelation was just that: revelational.
I don’t know if you made resolutions to be more faithful in some discipline of your life. If prayer is one of them, let me encourage you. It’s hard work. It’s easy to let it go. But praying for others has buoyed me up and improved my own situation time and again. It’s been the shoring up of my own faith; the daily sustenance I need in my own life. I focus on others and it helps me. It’s part of that Spiritual Economy which seems to be opposite what the world says.
And, I’m sure of one thing. If the enemy wants to get under your skin, he will convince you to skip prayer for one day or skip one part of your prayer routine one day. Then, another. Another. Soon, it will be completely forgotten and who knows what will happen.
It’s a lesson learned from experience. Prayer. Daily. Regularly. Without fail. It’s good for you and others, too.
We live in a house about to celebrate its centennial birthday. We have already warned the children. There will be a party. It will coincide with a wedding anniversary that ends in zero for us, so we are going to celebrate.
Our home was built as a one bedroom bungalow. The Nelson family lived here for nearly half its life. We have occupied much of the rest of it. The Nelsons had three sons. One stopped by to show his daughter where he grew up. He was warm and friendly and told us entertaining stories of the fish pond; the beef animal that collapsed the chimney in the garage, half of which served as an apartment during WWII when housing was short.
And, after his death, his widow sent us pictures of the house from various angles and stages of remodel. It created a timeline. Mrs. Nelson wrote detailed descriptions on the back of the photos of the direction of the shot and which tree limbs could be seen in each corner of the picture. It was a treasure trove of information. One flower garden looks like a collapsed root cellar and one picture shows the root cellar.
The house transformed and multiple additions and remodel jobs changed it from one bedroom to many. The original south wall of the house lost a window, created a door for what we call ‘the south addition’: a twelve foot, two bedroom addition, later remodeled to add a bathroom and an upstairs bedroom. And, the patio was eventually enclosed to create a long narrow bedroom: ours. It overlooks a park like back yard that offers us repose and stay-cation. It’s on the east side of the house, which means morning light streams through the picture window to waken us if the alarm didn’t eject us before the sun peaked the hillside behind us.
The ‘master’ bedroom may have great light but it lacks much heat. The furnace folks forgot to put a cold air return in it. There is heat but not much. It’s fine. I grew up in bedrooms with no heat and prefer to sleep in cooler temperatures. When we had to find substitute cold storage for the food from our failed extra refrigerator, we just put baskets of butter and cheese in the bedroom. It was just fine. Room temperature and refrigerator temperature were almost identical.
But, the ambient room temperature wasn’t so good when influenza knocked on our door. It seemed unkind and illogical to try to sleep in the refrigerator and breathe in air that was that cold. So, we moved to one of the bedrooms in the south addition. That room is now called ‘the sunroom.’ Maybe because our daughter painted it sunshine yellow or maybe because there is a nice big south window and another big west one. It lets in good daylight in the afternoon.
Not in the morning. I noticed after we had slept in the much warmer room for several nights that I didn’t like that room. There wasn’t MORNING sun to waken me. Yes, the temperature was moderate and pleasant but it seemed too warm for decent sleep.
The influenza had done something else to me. It knocked me off my regular schedule. There was more sleep than I’ve ever experienced in a day and more fatigue with it. There was less reading and a lot less praying. And, I realized I didn’t like the new schedule one bit.
So, I moved back to the cooler bedroom. I opened my Bible and started to read mornings and evenings. I listened to podcasts and delayed messages from the Sunday morning service. I still needed more rest than I normally get, but the light into my soul helped my inner self heal from the lack of light.
It’s what makes us tick. Daylight with sunshine isn’t just a Seasonal Affective Disorder. It’s a spiritual condition as well. Without the Light of Christ, we wither and die. We can withstand many otherwise difficult environmental factors as long as we have His light in our hearts and minds.
Life is slowly returning to normal for us. It is taking much longer than my impatience demands. I’m not afraid of the rest because now I know where to turn for the Light my soul needs.
Martha and Mary
I am a Martha. Even though my name has ‘Mary’ in it. My tendency is to serve and especially if I can be behind the scenes and just do my thing. The story of Mary and Martha always troubles me a little. I know Jesus said Mary did the right thing by sitting at his feet. I would have been the Martha, all alone in the kitchen.
Once, I attended a ‘mom’s’ group where one lady confessed that her house was chaos but she didn’t mind because instead of cleaning, she would rather sit at the feet of Jesus. I admired her conviction but it didn’t register in my head. How could I focus on Jesus with chaos in my house?
Till recently. It was harder than I can tell you, but the light bulb not only came on, it stayed on long enough for me to experience the light.
My children were home for Christmas. The independent ones all live out of state. It’s rare that they come home and especially rare that 3 of them are here at the same time. With work schedules and travel, sometimes, there is just 24 hours when they can all arrive before someone must leave.
I wanted to bask in the glow of having all of them home. They have a lot of fun together. We have fun together. We are a strange lot, so I won’t bother you with the details of how we enjoyed one another’s company. I tried to simplify meal preparation and diminish my idea of perfection.
This year, I decided they could forage for food rather than have a set menu every meal. I bought things they could find and make a sandwich or salad and find satisfaction. Then, we planned one large meal a day. From those meals, there were always nibbles and bits they could use for snacks and lunches, too.
More importantly, after some of them left to return to jobs and schedules, one stayed behind. Lots happened while he was here. A new refrigerator had to be delivered while he was here. That required a large move. We have some storage cupboards that narrow the clearance on a doorway into the larder: where the dead fridge lived. It needed to leave. The new one needed to arrive.
Two storage cupboards and a 3 tier storage shelf had to move. My basement looked like Sam’s club delivery vehicle made a deposit without rhyme or reason. Then, the stairway bannister had to be removed. The basement door had to leave and a piece of furniture in the back porch needed to find a new location to accommodate the turning radius from the back door into the kitchen. You get the picture: bedlam.
All this happened the day before the last child was to go home. Three hours of workers walking in and out of the kitchen, the basement stairs, two rooms below added sand, tracks, and mud to the chaos. It wasn’t pretty.
Upstairs wasn’t much better. Remember that this happened after Christmas, so on this very day, I decided decorations needed to land on the dining room table. I would pack and sort and clean. Now, two levels of my house are chaotic.
My child, the night owl of the crowd decided this would be the evening for a nice long chat about family and catching up. And, I repressed the Martha in me and put blinders on my eyes so I tried not to notice the grit on the floor or the pine needles on the mantle or the pile of Christmas décor on the dining room table.
I sat in the presence of this child and enjoyed it all. The warmth and comfort and familiarity of giggles and humor. I saw the metamorphosis from the innocence of this one as a little tyke; a struggling adolescent; a dream filled college student; a mature and warm adult. It. Was. Heaven.
My child is not Jesus. Don’t mistake my point. My focus was directed on what mattered, not distracted by my personality. This took effort and conscious decision making. It made sense to me. It was so worth it.
Focus on what matters. Understanding personality and what drives you are essential to finding what matters. But when you find it, make certain you know how to appropriate each.
Now that my child is gone, my list has come out. Step by step, the house will be put back together, cleaned, stored, organized. Then, I’ll sit down with a big sigh and enjoy looking at it. A clean house gives me satisfaction. My children give me joy. There is a huge difference.