FEEDING MY TRIBE

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FEEDING MY TRIBE

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.                                                                                                                                                              1 Corinthians 10:31

I have picky eaters. Well, five out of seven anyway. They just don’t get the whole “variety is the spice of life” cliché somehow. Sure, it’s my fault, but that doesn’t make it any easier. I keep waiting for those “7 year taste bud changes” that I’ve heard so much about to kick in, but I guess that is just for other people’s children.

I have one who won’t eat cheese, potatoes or beans. Another one who wants to be a vegetarian, except she doesn’t really like a lot of veggies….hmmmm. My hubby won’t eat condiments, raw veggies or fruit. And my youngest prefers junk food to anything real. I do have one teenage boy who will eat pretty much anything, so he keeps me sane. And my oldest occasionally goes on a vegan tangent but he lives down the road so I can work around that.

Honestly, I used to try really hard. I would whip up all kinds of nutritious feasts and sometimes a sandwich or two on the side to meet the specs of one or two children…a bowl of PJ and J mixed together w/ crumbled up bread, or the millionth bowl of canned chili.

But one day I snapped. I had had enough of throwing away food and time for a clan who would walk into the kitchen asking, “Ew, what is that smell?”

I began feeding them frozen meals and buying way too many five dollar pizzas. Then I discovered Costco. Aisles full of prepared food without preservatives, often organic, and I knew I had found my answer. No more slaving away at the stove to feed my people, all I had to do was pop something in the oven, and I got my whole night back! Everyone raved about the amazing new food. We were all so happy finally. Except for the bill of course. But we must all adjust, right? I guess I am in my “whatever you do” chapter right now. I am certainly praising God for Costco!

BONUS IDEA: A fun trick I have learned is never throw liquids away. If I find a cup of abandoned juice sitting around, I stick it in the freezer and voila! Instant joy for the kid who finds it a few hours later. Same thing with yogurt. I find half eaten containers of the pricey goo getting hot on the counter. I slide it into the freezer and Tada! I’m a superstar when one of my grazers happens upon it in its frozen glory. I’ve even been known to freeze their cereal milk. They think it’s heavenly ice cream. At least I understand the cliché’ waste not, want not, right?

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Heart ART

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Heart ART

Her heart, fractured and fragmented, spilled like puzzle pieces strewn about, shattered like glass slipped from careless hands. Tiny slivers shot across the floor, hid in corners and underneath couches. A ragged heart shattered by loving in a fallen world.
Lonely and comfortless, knowing no peace, only pain and self pity, sorrow and guilt.

Some spaces remained soft, others calloused. Many hard like the rocks beneath the cold rivers of the Reservation.  Like stepping stones, the pain of great loss could be traced from one tragedy to the next.

 

A word  from her mother, disappointment from her siblings or father. Memories of boyfriends stomping madly on her maiden heart, the shredding of divorce, disapproval of her second go, the drama of blending, becoming one and arguments over nothing, children coming and going, some never finding their way into her arms at all. So much loss.

Her anger and disappointment with herself, her choices, fears, regrets. The pieces of her heart squashed or crooked, some still clinging to hope, for a future, a chance to be something in a world gone sideways.

Then a light, distant yet intimate, closed in around her. Brighter and closer, the light warmed her very marrow. Transfixed, she watched it gather her wayward fractions from behind sofas and darkened crannies. Radiant light shone through them, like stained glass.

She beheld the mosaic of her heart reconnecting in magnificent splendor. Rainbows shot across the room spilling glory everywhere. Her battle worn heart reborn. Resurrected.  WHOLE. The cracked and broken places invited more light to dance, their shadows now translucent. Nothing remained of  loss except the revelation that God doesn’t waste pain.

Her whole heart beat an extraordinary tune. A song of peace, like a pan flute on a mountain morning, a faraway song, that echoed everywhere. Though she was still aware of the sorrows, they didn’t hurt anymore. Their complaining now hushed by a joy that would not be quieted, would not allow them room.

She saw the Master’s hand. He’d created a thing of beauty out of her mess to help others see Him through theirs.

“Yes. Lord. I will do whatever you ask of me. I will follow where you lead. I trust You and Your ways that are not my own. I trust Your timing and Your goodness.”

Her heart, now a vessel of life and strength, filled and reborn with the power of the Holy Spirit, glazed in grace, sought her adventure as she followed her King.

The Muddle in the Middle

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beach pics (553)

Do y’all remember that old show, Malcolm in the Middle? One of my favorite scenes was at the breakfast table.

Mom snapped at her youngest son, “Drink your milk!”
He whined, “But mom, there’s chunks in it.”
“Then chew it!”

I had quite a few laughs over that scene back when my little darlings were still in diapers.
But with babyhood behind me, and a house full of tweens, I’ve realized that show wasn’t the farce I thought it was.

During a recent strife fest between two of my tweenies, I became an invisible referee. They continued to duke it out as if I weren’t in the room. I finally snapped. I admit it. In true Hulk form, I screamed, “You guys suck!”

It sounds so awful now, but I meant it. There are moments in this chapter that drain my joy like a sucked out juice box.

I have no excuse. I’ve been a Christian for twenty six years. I know better. I know who I am in Christ. I know the power I have through the Holy Spirit. I also know the enemy works overtime to mess with believers. I know the power of words for good and evil. I also get it that hormones are flying willy-nilly.

So what now? How do I walk in self-control when chaos swarms? That has been my prayer a lot lately.

God answered me today.

My Daddy stopped by to to drop off a gift and while he was here, my two youngest managed to burst a water balloon right over my laptop. After a panicky clean up, I went rather shakily, back to our visit.

I told him, “It’s a good thing for them that you were here. I’m sure I would’ve freaked out on them a whole lot worse and said some things I’d have regretted.”
With eyes pools of sympathy, he said he wished he could help.

After he left, I asked God how He was gonna use my dead computer drama for good. Then I saw it.

I need to live my life and respond to each situation as if my Father were in the room beside me. Because He always is. And like my earthy Daddy, my Heavenly Father’s heart is full of sympathy and compassion and He only wants to help me.

So, I’m gonna practice. I’m going to picture God hanging out in my kitchen, helping me cope with kindness instead of anger. Sweet Daddy that He is.

Go to Peace, not to pieces.

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When things get wild and hairy and you start to act real scary.
When you want to scream and rant, even though you know you can’t.
Don’t yell at all your children or put them outside in the rain.
Quiet your brain. You’re not insane. We know your pain.
Breathe again and go to peace, not to pieces.

When siblings strive and fight from morning until night,
Though they know it isn’t  right.
Don’t bite. Don’t increase your appetite.
Go to peace, not to pieces.

When your house is upside down and your hubby starts to frown,
When piles are everywhere and the children do not care,
when they sit on their derriere and you want to pull their hair.
Don’t despair. Don’t go there.
Go to peace, not to pieces.

Peace from Jesus is our promise. He certainly did pay.
So shoo that strife away. Start over every day.
Sing or cry or pray. Praise God in your own way.

Be grateful your their mama. (Despite annoying drama.)

Don’t wring your hands or give in to demands
That come with falling apart. Don’t break their hearts.

Then you’ll have a real mess and I must confess,
I have done it both ways a million times each
and the only way that works is peace.

So don’t be surprised. It’s ugly guys.
And all the kings horses and all the kings men….
Only the King of Kings gives peace that’s not pretend.
So go to Him when you can’t swim.
He is your rescue. And your children’s’ too.
Go to Peace, not to pieces.

Take them to peace with you.
Show them the way. Make them say what they need to say.
Say it out loud. It will make God proud
to hear their voices making right choices.
Have them echo so they will know the way to go
when you are not there to show. They will grow.

And you will too.

When you go to peace, not to pieces.

Big Little Prayers

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“Cast all our cares upon him, for he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

When we were so broke, I served coffee in recycled peanut butter jars, I prayed for acrylic paints. A few weeks later, my parents mailed me a set of forty colors.

When we needed spoons, a friend gave me a whole drawer full, after spring cleaning.

When my Teflon pan shamelessly shed in our supper, my sister in law gifted me a steel one that would last a lifetime.

As my flock of children outgrew everything overnight, bags of hand-me-downs found their way to us from family, friends, and strangers.

I didn’t advertise these needs. I prayed. Some answers came quickly; others required long-suffering. But faith was rising in me all the while. God cared about our needs, big and small and he seemed to be having fun proving it.

When we moved to North Carolina from Florida, we were clueless about winter wear. But native Aunt Gigi knew. She surprised us by purchasing snow boots, snow suits, heavy jackets and gloves for all the children.

Among other things, we’d ditched our fake Christmas tree to save space in the moving truck. During a visit with my husband’s sister, she offered us one of hers, complete with decorations and lights. It was the fanciest tree we’ve ever had!

I desired for my children to learn piano, and prayed for a keyboard. A military friend, downsizing for a move to Hawaii, gave us theirs.

Our home school group sponsored a free-cycle day at the park. We found beautiful, barely-used towels, a crock pot, drinking glasses and books galore. I’d been believing specifically for these items. I’d even won a free membership into the group through a raffle at the opening meeting!

One afternoon I browsed a lovely shop just to have some alone-time. I signed up for their Mother’s Day raffle and won! I received a “Life is good” hat, a shirt, cologne, lotion, fancy chocolates and coffee!

While we were getting back on our feet financially, we moved into a small rental. My husband’s Aunt began filling it up with a table and chairs, window and shower curtains, linens, trash cans, a microwave, dishes, a coffee maker, and rugs. She blessed the children with toys and clothes. She even hung a lovely fall wreath on the door!

We didn’t ask people for things. I had only prayed for a table. But we serve a generous God.

I wanted Easter outfits for my children. A few days later, my parents mailed them a box of beautiful new clothes.

Our washing machine didn’t survive the move back to Florida. My mother in law blessed us with one. I didn’t even have time to let the laundry pile up!

The blessing list goes on and on.

We’re still awaiting answers. We’re still casting cares.

God uses willing hearts and hands to care for his people. Now that we are on the other side of our poverty chapter, we scout for opportunities to be His hands.

It’s definitely more fun to give than to receive.

But when you are in need, receiving sure feels pretty amazing too.

God is Green

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“Mom, why don’t we recycle anything?” My sweet boy asked me one day.

“Oh golly honey, I don’t need another job.” I said, as I threw away a plastic container.

“I’ll help.” He said, his blue eyes imploring me with the puppy-head-tilt.

“Oh, okay, Bubby. I’ll work on it.” I said, reaching into the trash to rescue the slimy jug.

I jumped off the recycling wagon many years ago. But when my ten year old son turned “green” on me, I decided it was time to start washing out my trash again. In the process, I unexpectedly redefined myself as an artist.

In a home bursting with children, my art world had shriveled to a few shelves in my laundry room. Diapers and home schooling curriculum took precedence over expensive art supplies. Occasionally, I would ferret a few minutes to a create something on top of my dryer. But, frustration often hindered me.

I prayed about it and realized I was not being content. My focus was on lack, instead of gratitude. I decided to be more inventive. The Lord mercifully yanked the blinders off, reminding me of the cliche’— Necessity is the mother of invention.

I began to visualize the artistic potential of vibrant candy foils, broken dishes (we have a lot of those), old jewelry and a myriad of other things I’d overlooked. Rinsed out salsa jars became up-cycled mosaic vases. I painted over tired artwork from thrift stores. I collected junk mail and free magazines for collages and altered books. I home schooled myself in the art of mixed media via YouTube and the library.

I soon recognized that God is “green” too. He doesn’t throw us away just because we’re a mess, or old, or broken. If we’ll let Him, He’ll clean us up and re-purpose us. He uses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise (1 Cor. 1:27). He reinvents our lives, transforming us into works of splendor and meaning. Beauty for ashes. (Isaiah 61:3) That is the heart of our awesome God.

Practice, Practice, Practice.

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Philippians 4:9 (NASB)
“The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me [Paul], practice these things, and the God of peace shall be with you.”

My children and I recently attended a birthday party at a skating rink. I am forty seven, y’all. It had been a while. But we laced our skates and up we stood. My older children whizzed passed me, full of boldness. But my youngest clung to me like a barnacle. Sacrificing control of my body, glued to a child with zero experience, terrified me. I reminded myself I had done this before, a hundred years ago. With sixteen wheels beneath us, we clutched tables and benches and inched toward that wooden floor. Time for practice.

Our skating scenario depicts, in the natural, what happens in the spiritual realm, as we believers journey through life. We all begin the same, but our paces differ. Our practicing varies. Sometimes, we need help to stand up or to keep going. We cling to things or people so we won’t fall. When we do fall, we need a lift. Nobody has this Christianity thing down perfectly, except Jesus.

So when Paul says to practice what he taught, practice listening to the word, watching his example and practice receiving, I am encouraged. I can practice.

I’m no master skater. People whizzed passed us. The novelty wore off quickly. Joe’s whining amplified and my attitude spiraled. But I had to keep moving forward, pick him up, and maintain my balance.

As the hours rolled by, something happened. My legs remembered. Joe loosened his grip then let go. He began his lone journey beside me. I found my old groove. We were both still practicing, but our confidence emerged. By the time they called for “last skate”, we had conquered fear. We had overcome. We had peace. And we couldn’t wait to go back and practice some more.

When we keep our eyes on Jesus, and do our best, we grow. Practice doesn’t make us perfect. But who cares? He is. And so is His peace He gives us.

Our Part

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“But the unbeliever does not welcome what comes from God’s Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to understand it since it is evaluated spiritually.”                                                                                                      1 Cor.2  Holman Christian Standard Bible

“Ewww… stop!” My children groan when our book trespasses the borders of romance. A chorus of fake barfing sounds drown me out.

“It’s God’s plan.”

They don’t care. Cooties still reign.

It’s the same thing when unbelievers squirm at the mention of Jesus. They’re still spiritually immature. They just don’t get it. He grosses them out.

I used to strategically inject Jesus into conversations with lost family members just in case they might listen. They’d reject Him, but I’d have to overcome offence. Eventually, God showed me I was in His lane.

It comforts me that some members of Jesus’ family didn’t listen to Him either (Matt 13:57).

It’s God’s job to soften hearts. He prepares them to receive the seed of His word. Our job as believers is to listen and obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Some hearts are already soft and we get to sow. Others, we water or weed. Occasionally, we get the thrill of ushering a soul into the Kingdom.

The few times I have led someone to Christ, they needed no convincing. They were so ripe I could’ve made banana bread out of them.

Many people invested in my heart before I recognized God’s voice. None of them were present when I accepted Christ. But really, they all were.
God will do His part. Let’s do ours.

Questions to ponder: Has God placed someone’s heart on yours? Does He want you to sow, water, weed or usher in?

Prayer: Help us decipher our part, Lord. Then help us to do it. We trust You with the rest.

Sweet Victory!

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Hormones are swirling over here these days (mine included). But recently, we had a victory and I thought it would do me, and hopefully you, some good to share.

My youngest, Joe, is  in first grade. A combination of my slacker “I-am-over-this chapter” attitude toward teaching my fifth child to read (I know, I know) and his  whiny disinterest gave us bumpy go.

But, somewhere between the Lord getting a hold of my attitude, my son maturing as the days go by, and following a better schedule, something clicked in  our little classroom. The light glowed in his sweet green eyes as he read some words without my fishing them from his throat.

We were both shouted in ecstasy! Then my girls got in on it. They started whooping and calling for a speech.

Joe stood on the couch and announced into the book-light mic, “I can read!”

Thunderous applause erupted, followed by more impromptu speeches by my daughters who shook my hand and said “Thank you for your service!” and “Thank you for teaching me to read!” and on and on.

By the end I was bawling and laughing and my ears were ringing, but I memorized every nanosecond.It was one of those perfect moments that validated this call on my life to home school. I’ll never forget it. What an honor to teach my children to read……YES!

Keep going, sweet mamas. It is all worth it.