Epic Failure

It’s been so dry that every time I hose down the potted mums, a half dozen bees appear for a drink.  They don’t bother me.  All they want is some water.  Yes, that’s how dry it’s been in Ohio.  The finches hang out at the thistle seed, lazy and fat.

I love the sound of rain even when it’s been raining for days. This morning, I got up early just so I could stand outside in the dark and feel drops falling on me.  But the drops did not fall.

I pulled my container plants out in a nice messy row so that they could soak up the freshness.  But they remain dusty and pathetic.

I am not fresh.

This has been a week of epic failure.  Can you spell A-T-T-I-T-U-D-E?

I think it all started earlier this month when not one but every clerk, waiter, checker, and retailer asked me if I was getting ready for the big weekend.  Did we have plans?  What big weekend, I wanted to know?  Oh, yeah.  Labor Day Weekend.  I felt like asking the Lady Violet question in proper Maggie Smith British (For you Downton Abbey fans),  ”Excuse me, what is a week-END?”

My husband is a pastor.  We work on weekends.  Did I really spout this to every poor unsuspecting person?  Even the girl at Target.  Yes, I did.  I tried to sound joyful about the prospect, but inside, I confess, I was wishing that we were getting ready for the big weekend.  Our daughter called, and I promptly told her that everyone else in Ohio was at the lake.  What were they doing for the Big Weekend?

Never mind that we have been given the privilege of sharing God’s hope, love and peace.  Never mind that we can freely worship and enjoy the encouragement of other Christians.

I yelled at the cat that he was in my way, when clearly, I was in his way.  Picked an argument with my husband, who picked back.  Quit on changing the seasonal decorations in our house, because why put up any autumn decorations when it’s 80 degrees outside?

The epicness (is that a word?) of my failings culminated with an hour back and forth “discussion” in an online comment section under an article about Donald Trump.  Please don’t judge me. Thank you, God, for the Bible study on Hosea.  This week, I learned about God’s unfailing love and how He rescues us over and over and over….

Even from online comment sections.


And then I saw this.


I knew everything was going to be all right.  To everything there is a season.  Maybe we need seasons of A-T-T-I-I-T-U-U-D-E to understand why we need G-R-A-T-I-T-U-D-E.

“Bless the LORD O my soul, and forget not all His benefits…”  Psalm 103:2

These benefits would include the amazing creation of the pumpkin.  Oh, yes, and people.  We all need hope.

What are you grateful for today?


Cleaning Up the Poop

It was just a wisp at first.  That moment when you smell something that is out of place.  It’s not the cookies in the oven or the cinnamon tart quaintly melting on the counter.  No, this was the smell of poop.  Sewage.  You know, sewage.

Have you ever had one of those weeks?  Months? Years?  Yeah, for us it was the week before Christmas a couple years ago.  I guess we were overdue.  The sewer backed up into our basement.  We found out that there was no access.  So the plumber had to cut our main pipe to clean out the line.  Have you ever seen a main sewage pipe?  It’s almost as big around as a small woman’s waist.

Clogged.  With sewage.  Use your imagination here.  Or maybe not.

It took 4 hours of overtime, 8 pm to midnight, 3 days before Christmas to snake out the system.

When the men left, they dragged their dripping equipment across our basement floor, across our rug, up the basement stairs, and across our kitchen floor.  My husband, my hero, picked up the other end of the hose to carry it across the dining room carpeting.  It still dripped.  What was it dripping?

Black, stinky sewage.  On light tan carpeting.

My husband, my hero, stayed up until almost 2 am to clean the floor in the basement.

The next day, two days before Christmas, he threw the basement wool throw rug into our almost new high tech front load washing machine.

Which promptly clogged up the pump and just about every hose in our almost new high tech front load washing machine with little wool hairs and backed the water up onto the floor.

My pastor husband did not speak very pastorally.  Use your imagination.  Or maybe not.

Most of our family was visiting, which included our two toddler grandchildren.  Have you ever seen the amount of laundry toddlers produce?  Bless the technician’s heart who came out the day after Christmas and didn’t charge us overtime.

That Christmas was supposed to be special.  We had everyone together, except for our one son-in-law, who works an amazingly tough job away from home.  My expectations soared.  But our daughter Emily and her husband and son were moving West to Phoenix.  Our grandson’s world was turned upside down.  Our house filled with tension between the string of events caused by backed up poop and too much commotion.

I blinked and Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were gone.

We didn’t get a family picture.  In fact, we got very few pictures with people in them.

We didn’t watch our traditional Christmas Eve movie.

We didn’t play a game.

We didn’t even light our Advent Wreath once.

A surprise present that I planned for my husband’s birthday in January fell terribly flat.

The expenses to fix broken things piled up.

Isn’t that what Jesus came for?

The peace the angel talked about in Luke chapter 2 was not so much a worldly peace where wars would never happen or circumstances would be perfect.  The angel spoke of a supernatural peace available from knowing God through Jesus Christ. Even though our house filled with a different aroma 3 days before Christmas, even though we didn’t take a family picture, watch our Christmas Eve movie, gather round the table for a game, or light our Advent Wreath, Jesus dwelled here.  Because He promises to be Emmanuel, God With Us.

Why do we try to hide the fact that sewage exists?  It exists physically and spiritually and mentally and emotionally.  Rejoice in peace, because our Savior is with us.  As I look back over Christmas 2013, I will find the beautiful moments and know that there is always one eternal moment to hold close in our hearts…Emmanuel God With Us.

Luke, 2:8-14

8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14“Glory to God in the highest heaven,

and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”





Time Change Torture

The delicious sensation of exposing a bare foot out from underneath the covers to catch the fresh refrigerated air before it turned to toasty warmth. Somewhere in the recesses of my memory resides vague cozy connections to Fall Back.  An “extra” hour of sleep, snuggling in bed with the pillow smushed just right beneath my side-sleeping cheek, the sounds of early morning as the furnace kicked on and hummed its comforting song.  I remember lying there wrapped up in security for an extra hour with no sense of urgency.

But now…now I am an early riser.  When our girls were babes and toddlers, falling back meant nothing to them either.  Motherhood called.  Work calls. The to-do list shouts. I used to and still can work myself up over Falling Back.  It means getting up at 4 am instead of 5 am, going to bed at 10:30 pm instead of 9:30 pm (yes, I go to bed early, too).  I have an unbending internal clock.  When we moved to Germany a few years ago with the military, it took me 2 months to shift my sleep habits 6 hours.  A lack of sleep can definitely be torture.  And then there is the darkness that envelops late autumn and winter.  It might be lighter in the morning, but yeah, when the sun goes down at 5 pm, something inside of me says it’s time to go down, too.  Can you imagine living before electricity or gas lighting?  Those people probably slept for 10 hours a night.  Ahhhhhh.

Then He whispers.

If you take the wings of the dawn…

If you dwell in the remotest part of the sea…

Even THERE My hand will lead you,

And My right hand will lay hold of you.

If you say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night,

Even the darkness is not dark to Me,

And the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to Me.

(Adapted from Psalm 139:9-12 – don’t you just LOVE the Psalms?)

It’ll be okay, mommas and wives and those who live alone.  God’s hand is there to hold and embrace and lift.  What’s an hour?  A precious time to spend with a baby who won’t be a baby very long?  Another reading of a favorite book with a toddler in your lap?  A kitchen-table conversation with a teen? (Okay, just kidding. Pretty sure your teens will sleep in.)  An hour of spending time with God, a log on the fire and a journal of thankfulness?

No change.  Just adapting. No torture.  Just contentment.

How can you find contentment  in adapting to Falling Back?


The Pause Button

In the middle of the movie, my husband reached over and took the remote, which was laying on the other side of me.

“I’m going to go get a snack, be right back!” he said and with one swift move of his thumb, he hit the pause button.

There on the screen was the actress in a cinematic frame of no movement with her mouth hanging open.

Yup, a few years ago, I felt like that actress.  A life with no movement and my mouth open in disbelief.

God had asked me to pause. While the rest of my friends surged forward in ministry, bearing fruit and accomplishing great works for Him, He asked me to screech to a halt.  And my brakes were smoking.

“Are you sure, LORD?  You want me to get out of this leadership position?  Do you know how embarrassing this will be?  What will people think?  Will they think I can’t do it?  Will the naysayers nod their heads and say to themselves, ‘I knew this would happen.’  And, LORD, how can I do nothing for You?”

The more I argued with God in our internal conversations, the more difficult and exhausting the ministry became.  Ignoring the Holy Spirit is one thing ; wrestling with Him is quite another.  I resigned from the leadership position and pulled out of teaching the Bible study I had committed to a couple of months previously.

Sometimes God asks us to do the reverse of what we think He should ask.  Sometimes, in our short-sighted humanity, He asks us to do nothing.

But nothing is always something with God.

One of my favorite Psalms is the 84th.  The sons of Korah wrote this beautiful song.  The Korahite Levites were men who were chosen to be the doorkeepers at the tents of their leaders.  They also stood at the posts of the tent that hosted the very Ark of the Covenant, the symbol of Christ to come.  They were not invited into the tent, but instructed to stand steadfastly outside of it.  Under Moses, these keepers became discontent and revolted.  God not only fired them from their positions, but He also swallowed them up.  Literally.  King David, however, in a move of redemption and restoration, brought them back.  As their jobs evolved through generations, the Korahites became known for standing at the doorposts and singing praises to to God. They not only sang them, but wrote and arranged them as well.

Now I don’t know about you, but if the Lord had asked me to stand outside our church and do nothing else except sing praises to God without asking me to serve in the church, my hurt feelings and pride could have tempted me to said, “Not me.  I was meant for something more.  I am outta here.”

Listen to what the sons of Korah had to say about God’s calling on their tribe.  In verse 10 of Psalm 84, they wrote this:

“Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.  I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.”

In verse 3, they penned this word painting of their hearts, “Even the sparrow has found a home and the swallow a nest for herself, a place near your altar, LORD Almighty, my God and my King.”

To be fixed to the entrance of an altar or tent was to dwell in one of the safest places, a place that backed up to a stronghold of spiritual and physical defense, a place where they waited for the very presence of the Lord Himself.  Servants who purposely cleaved to the doorpost waited there to become a permanent part of the household, having their ears pierced with an awl…wanting to serve that Master for a lifetime.
The courts were a bustling place of readiness and activity, the threshold a place of waiting and listening.     What started out as a place of duty evolved into a place of praise as they were filled to overflowing with joy in obedience to the King, composing poetry at the doorposts for the generations to come.
God’s nothing is always something.
What God knew in his all-seeing wisdom was that I needed to rest next to His heart, to listen, to soak in all of Him in His beauty and glory to prepare for what was to come.  With my family, I climbed through riesling vineyards turning golden in the September sun, hiked mountain-reflecting lakes, and listened to to His stillness.
God taught me again that This One Thing – waiting for His presence with the perfume of gladness – surpassed dwelling in the tents of a discontented and striving heart.
A few short months after God had asked me to pause, my husband and I found ourselves moved to a different ministry that would probably have burned us out, had we not lived in His rest, learning more about His sweetness and character.
O God, may we ask to dwell all our days in your house, to behold Your beauty and to meditate in Your temple, especially when we’re asked to pause for a season.