What is good

I am sitting in the little space of this world called my home with a candle burning inches from my nose. Thank you Mistletoe with pure, natural plant extracts. Thank you for helping save my sanity this morning.

For the blackened pot of scalded rice is still over sharing her smells. She testifies to the fact that teen aged boys have the best of intentions when starting to cook but the distractions are plentiful. Oh so plentiful.

As a matter of fact, every pot in my kitchen has swanky little scalding marks. And melted handles. And broken tops. And whispered prayers over them lingering from a mama who wonders if she will survive this 5 kid thing sometimes.

Her forks have not survived.

That’s right. We officially have no real forks left. They’ve been dwindling for quite some time. Then this week I realized the last of the real forks have escaped the house of the crazy smells. Escaped. Vanished. Gone. Poof.

I don’t know where they all go.

And I’ve replaced them too many times to replace them again. So, much to the twisted expression of my green friends, we are using plastic. I know. Awful.

And just past the utensil drawer minus the forks is hanging a little bulletin board where I post invites. There’s still one from this past summer and a notice about the fall festival at one of my kid’s schools. The one we forgot to attend.

Then around the corner is a laundry room the size of a closet that stays a mess. A mess. And I have neither the vision nor the energy to change it.

Of course down the hall from there rests a plethora of shoes. Shoes that should be on shoe racks in closets but never quite make it. Sometimes I demand they return to their full and put up position and sometimes I sigh and just step over them. A battle for another day.

The mail collects in piles. The cut coupons go unused. The sour cream has grown mold. And here I sit with my nose parked above a candle on this day rich with resolution possibilities.

I could vow to get organized. Promise to put systems in place to prevent scalded pots, missing forks, misplaced shoes, unused coupons, piling mail, and soured sour cream.

But tomorrow, despite my systems, another pot will get scalded.

Because that is the way life is. Not everything can be systematically fixed.

And wrapped in the unpredictable, messy, and sometimes annoying realities of a home, beats the heart of woman presented with a courageous choice. To love mercy.

Like dewy mist gently falling to give grass relief from the pending hot summer day. A woman’s mercy can fall gently but protect fiercely.

The world will call foolish those that smile in the midst of scalded pots, thrown away forks, misplaced shoes, and soured sour cream. But my Jesus calls it good.

Micah 6:8, “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

By the way… The home of the missing forks, scalded pots, five kids, and a mommy and daddy trying to love mercy and hold on to their sanity can be seen on Oprah tomorrow. She’s re-airing the fascinating families show.

Happy New Year dear friends. May we all remember what is good.


The Slop Bucket

Yesterday I met a friend for coffee.

This is one of the great bonuses of having my son home from college. He needs money. I need time. My girls need activity. So off they went to Monkey Joes- a crazy indoor playground that is the delight to many a child and the cause of many a head throb to over-holidayed moms.

Not that I was feeling like I needed a break from all the family togetherness.

But my friend needed me.

Thank the sweet heavens above my friend needed me and offered to buy me a coffee.

So, we met and chatted. We processed a situation I wish we didn’t have to process- mean people.

I know I should say that people aren’t mean. Just sometimes people do mean things. And I know there are always two sides to every story. Glory be do I ever realize there are two sides. But during the holidays when nice is usually served up in high fashion, even the slightest meanness can seem really huge.

And knowing my friend spent way too many days crying during these holidays made me sad. For her. For them. For the reality that we Christians can be mean sometimes. We can be sharp and cutting and too tired to find the right words.

Last week I got an e-mail from someone who was too tired to find the right words. I still don’t understand what caused her to be in such a tiff. And though I made my fingers type words back to her that were gentle and graceful, I will admit that what I really wanted to do was get in her face and tell her a thing or two. Boy did I have the perfect comeback. Because I can be mean. Just like those people that hurt my friend.

We are all more alike than we’d care to admit.

And not that I want to wax philosophical on this Tuesday morning, but I here I go anyhow.

There’s a bucket inside each heart where hurts are dumped. Little hurts, big hurts, past hurts- they all get dumped into this slop bucket. We think we’re fine because the hurts are contained. We think we’ve dealt with the hurts because they aren’t rising to the surface that often. But then someone comes along and kicks that slop bucket with a mean word or two and it spills over.

Sloshing. Spilling. Leaking. Staining. And every word we speak in response carries some of what’s in our slop bucket.

So here’s the thing.

Slop can be good if it’s been turned into compassion. Some people have let Jesus touch their slop mixing in mercy, grace, forgiveness, and a love that reaches just beyond what we’re capable of on our own.

But too many of us have let our slop bucket sit and ferment in pride, resistance, my right to be right, and bitterness that cuts off our potential to grow into the woman we’re designed to become. So, instead of compassion, the harshest judgement drips out with each of our words.

Compassion. Judgement. The reality that every Jesus girl has a slop bucket.

These are good things to think about over coffee when you’ve sent your kids to Monkey Joes.


The fine line between pretending and purposing

Last week I threw a little party for Brooke. She’s 11 going on 41 and as such wanted a birthday brunch with grown up things.

Forget the typical kid fare of pizza, Cheetos, and soda.

She wanted appetizers of filled filo dough and Sister Schubert rolls glazed with honey butter and stuffed with chicken. Fruit on display, peppermint bark, and cranberry punch rounded out the rather mature menu choices.

Then there were the activities. Pin the tail on the stable donkey is so yesterday. I thought my suggestion was quite clever, but no.

She wanted a gift exchange where we supplied all the wrapped gifts. I was okay with this idea because it is a great delight to my soul to spend time in the $1 section of Target. I know. Issues. I have them. That’s why I won’t tell you about how much I love the office supplies aisle and how I’ll sometimes just stand there and stare at all the possibilities. And breathe deeply. I love the smell of fresh office supplies. I’m now totally over sharing and will get back to my point.

Where was I?

Oh yes, the gift exchange.

So, this was the main event of the great birthday brunch of 2009 complete with filo dough, sister rolls, and Target dollar items.

Brooke was beside herself with excitement as she stood among the 17 party attenders to explain the rules. Which might I insert one more tangent here. I am knocking on the door of 41 and don’t think I would have 17 girls show up to my birthday party. Seriously. It probably has something to do with all the time I spend standing in the office supplies aisle smelling the air. That is not a quality usually listed with things you can do to “win friends and influence people.”

Oh the tangents of a Monday morning blog post are entirely too plentiful.

So, Brooke stands on the couch and lists the rules of a good and proper gift exchange. I’d heard all these rules given at each adult gift exchange I’d ever attended and was thinking to myself how funny it is that Brooke knows these rules so well, when she completely caught me off guard with rule number 5.

“Rule number 5: If you get something you don’t like, pretend that you do like it. This is the most important rule of all.”

I couldn’t stop myself from giggling out loud. Along with my office supplies issues, I have inappropriate laughter disorder. ILD. I’ll over share about that another time.

Anyhow, I looked over at Holly and quipped, “A truer rule has never been given.”

And that’s what has got me thinking about the fine line between pretending and purposing. Haven’t we all been given things that we don’t particularly like? Maybe I’m the only petty one in the party today, but it makes me sweat when I open something and want to sound sincere in my appreciation but fear I won’t.

Y’all, it’s rule number 5. And all girls know rule number 5. And never is there a more fascinating thing to watch then the attempts at pretending that go on at gift exchanges between women. It is a psychological study I wish someone would do.

Because not only do we know rule number 5 at the gift exchange, we apply rule number 5 too much in our lives. We are master pretenders are we not?

But what if some part of what allows us to pretend could be redirected slightly. Instead of faking, we could learn to purposefully find something we do like about the gift… or that woman that gets on our nerves… or our husband’s comment… or whatever else triggers us to revert to rule number 5.

There’s always something to like.

Some tiny thread of something that we could purpose to focus on and make the smile go from fake to true. From feeling slighted to slightly delighted.

And if nothing else turns your mood in a sweeter direction, surely there’s a store near you with an office supply aisle that you could drive over and stand in.

Happy Monday y’all.