Monday, April 13, 2015

The Game of Life

Spin the wheel. Move your sporty little car down the game of life trail. Draw two cards and chose between them for your career...and then change it on down the road if it's not working out for you. Add a baby...or four with another spin. Buy or sell a house on a whim. Learn to play the bongos or maybe take dancing lessons. Not enough money to pay your debts? No problem - just take out a bank loan. My personal favorite: Get $20K just because someone else spun your "magic number." 

I grew up playing Life with my family. I'd load up that little pink car with all my kids - I always got the pink car because I was the only girl, btw. I'd stash my loads of cash neatly under the edge of the playing board just waiting and saving. It all seemed so simple. Pick this or that. Lucky break here -- get $500K. Be a teacher -- and make $100,000 a year. (Maybe the game should be called "Dreamland" instead!). Hit a streak of bad luck -- lose your money. But no worries -- payday is just a spin away!

Riley got the newest version of LIFE for his birthday, and we've been enjoying a little family game night (when we're not running crazy to "all the things"). Although Riley's version has been updated from my 1980s version, not much has really changed about the concept. As I watched the boys' excitement wax and wane, I couldn't help but be just a little sad, too. I wish I could make the real game of life that simple for them. What if they only had TWO careers to choose from -- with both netting them over $100K a year? What if choosing the right spouse was as simple as selecting a colored peg and plopping her into the car beside them (not to mention getting $20K wedding gifts from everyone else playing!). 

If I'm being honest, thinking about their futures sometimes make my mama heart hurt a little at the thought of their wrong choices and inevitable detours ahead in each of their lives. I want to protect them. Maybe just wrap their little blue car with some bubble wrap to prevent the dings and dents or even head-on collisions. Or maybe just tell them which girl is "the one" (and certainly tell them which ones are NOT!) or help them choose the best career for them. 

But I can't, really.

If I'm being realistic, all I can do is try to teach them to love Jesus and pray. I think back on all the times my parents tried to steer me in the right direction and at how I so often balked and did just the opposite. Sometimes it worked out for me - and sometimes it didn't...but there were certainly lots of dings along the way.

I've decided that watching your child hurt, whether physically or emotionally, because of a bad choice must be the worst part of parenting. I don't look forward to it. At. All. Even the few "little" situations we've had already were just awful.

So I pray daily for their safety and their protection from the hard knocks that are certain to come. I pray for their decisions and for the friends they will surround themselves with in the years to come. I pray for God to draw their hearts to Him and when they stray, protect them until they return to Him. I pray I can show them Jesus in real ways that make them want to love Him - and love others because of Him. Most of all, I pray for mercy and grace for all the mistakes I will make along the way.

Will I still try to tell them what to do? Probably. Will they listen? Probably not. After all, they did get a double dose of the stubborn gene, unfortunately. Will I love them and support them either way? Absolutely! 

Because really,  I can't wrap them (or their little hearts) in bubble wrap. And Jeff and I really only have them for a short time...we just have to remember that it's what we do with that short time makes all the difference in the game of ETERNAL LIFE.

Sidewalk Prophets has a song, "The Words I Would Say" that sums it up pretty well, I think...

Be strong in the Lord 
and never give up hope.
You're gonna do great things, 
I already know. 
God's got His hand on you 
so don't live life in fear.
Forgive and forget,
but don't forget why you're here.
Take your time and pray...
These are the word I would say. 

So, what are your parenting fears? How do you handle your worries about the future?

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Before I was Methodist...Some Maundy Thursday Thoughts

Before all my non-Methodist friends stop reading because they think I'm about to get all "my-religion-is-better-than-your-religion" on them...let me just say, I'm not. Press on, dear friend. There might be a gem hidden in these early morning, caffeine-deprived ramblings.

Today is Maundy Thursday. If you had told me that pre-Jeff Walton in my life, I would have been like, "Throw me some beads! Let's get this party started!" And if you had asked me about Lent or the Lenten season, I would have likely wondered why celebrating the hot mess in your dryer was essential to walking with Jesus to the cross. But whatever, man! Now, I'm no theologian or expert on Methodism - or anything for that matter - but I have come to understand these important events on a basic level and have truly come to appreciate this season of celebration.

Post-Jeff Walton me has come to understand that Lent is not about "giving up" chocolate or candy or other things in our lives...but about sacrificing the thing(s) that are preventing us from focusing our hearts on Jesus Christ. It's about cleaning out the clutter to prepare our hearts for celebrating the greatest gift of all time...the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. A death that was unnecessary for His own sins, but oh-so-necessary for the sins of the world. Yours. Mine. Your annoying neighbor's. The co-worker who talks too much. THE. SINS. OF. THE. WORLD. Soak that in for a minute.

Today - Maundy Thursday - is a celebration of "lasts," if you will. The Last Supper. Jesus' final time of fellowship with His closest friends before his terrifying and unimaginable walk to the cross. I am a sentimental gal and also one who is fiercely and deeply loyal to my closest friends. I cannot imagine the heartache Jesus felt as He shared this final meal with his dear friends...but I can imagine the JOY that He felt knowing that His sacrifice would save those friends from an eternity in hell. That His death would give them LIFE EVERLASTING. Can you imagine? What greater gift can you give a friend or family member -- or even your annoying neighbor or that talkative co-worker?

Our family is entering into a season of "lasts" as we begin preparing to move - last days of school, last meetings with J-Crew youth group, last Sunday School classes, last mission trips...the list gets long quickly. It's sad to think about (and I'm trying not to!), and I get a little wistful. But I know God has good things in store for us with this new adventure...things greater than we can imagine or comprehend...

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, 
plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, 
and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
Jeremiah 29: 11-13

His promises are true, and I am clinging to them in the moments of sadness that often wash over me.

What can we learn from Maundy Thursday and these lasts with Jesus and His friends?

1) Jesus gave us the example by which we now celebrate Holy Communion with the Last Supper. We break bread in fellowship with other believers after His example. His body...broken for the sins of many. His blood...shed for all mankind.

2) We are also given a beautiful example of humility in service as we see Jesus washing the feet of His disciples. Jesus' example of humble servanthood should be our model daily - in our homes and in our communities. What a beautiful picture of putting others before self!  

So, nix those beads, my friends, as we celebrate Maundy Thursday today! Instead, enjoy sweet fellowship with friends around your table and maybe engage in a random act of kindness today. Humble yourself in service as an act of thanksgiving for the sacrifice He's made so that YOU can live!

Happy Easter, peeps!

(See what I did there? Go get yourself - or at least your kids - some chicken-shaped colored marshmallows while you're at it!)