Spring-Signals that Inform Life

Recently we sat in the car at a red light waiting for green. I was going on hour 2 of carpool – not because we were traveling outside of a 3-mile radius of our house, but because staggered school-end-times plus drama practice plus track practice result in lots of wait.

I looked out my window and saw this tree:

“Boy, that tree looks sad doesn’t,” I said to my shotgun rider.

“It looks dead,” she replied.

But right next it stood an almost exact replica – same height, same shape and same type of tree – but very different:

Spring has sprung on the second tree (not so much for the sad-tree.) Life hidden behind an outside that looked dead has made it’s way to the surface. That’s what happens with spring. New life. Whether seen with the human eye or hidden from sight, the life that springs forth from within is certain.

I love the way the Lord often reminds us through nature of so many of his eternal Truths. Shotgun-rider and I talked about

  • Faith – being sure of what you hope for, certain of what isn’t seen. Faith informing situations where what we can see isn’t the whole picture. There’s more to the story of those leafless trees – as there is in life. And neither of us would have to travel far to think about something in our own lives that feels like it’s toast (For me: a yearbook ad that was due last week for our graduating senior – which seems trite, especially when compared to another situation that involves deep, deep almost untouchable heartache with a couple of friends as well as someone super close to me, but is center stage as appearing slightly hopeless. For her: a friendship gone south and a class that feels always up hill,…)
  • We talked about timing – some things, people, situations might sprout and bloom before another, but that doesn’t define the tree’s worth, or ours;
  • We talked about suffering & grief that really can leave us feeling dead or damaged or worthless with nothing beautiful to show – but that like the tree, we can rest assured that there’s more than meets the eye when we remember the life that comes from within (whether seen or unseen), from the roots planted in rich soil (which is so important), especially when planted by “streams of living water.” (Psalm 1)
  • And then Easter – the greatest story of what looked dead actually conquering death to never die again. Enter Hope stage left. Well, Hope and Peace and Joy and … LIFE.

It’s hard to go much further in the car when lights turn green – well, that and it’s so easy to over-talk and turn a possibly thoughtful conversation into weird.

But those trees have lingered in my mind.

Then – slightly out of the blue, I got an email from Steven Curtis Chapman’s super nice PR folks. I had seen a copy of his new book Between Heaven and the Real World and really hoped he would be up for a chat on our little SaySomething Show (check it out sometime – some super nice, incredibly informative, folks have stopped by or joined carpool for a chat.) My expectations being low, I was surprised by Stacie’s kind response (even after I misspelled SCC’s name – not everyone is aware of my tight friendship with Typo :) “Hi Kay – I may be able to get some time of Steven’s either next Thursday or Friday, just prior to the Dallas show. is that doable or too late?”

Ummm – ANYTIME is good with us!!! my instant response.

And I was reminded of Steven Curtis Chapman’s song, “Spring is Coming” – written after the tragic death of their 5 year-old daughter Maria when we looked at those trees. I hope you will take the time to hear what he has to say. He talks about his tour, the book, about grief and hope.

We are all on a journey carrying grief, sadness and longing and ache in our heart for what isn’t as it should be, for what is unfixable on this side of heaven. And yet the hope that keeps us breathing and keeps us taking the next step is that the story is not over yet – what it looks like, they way it appears right now, is not the end of the story – the Gospel, the hope that we have right now.

AND he shares the Steven Curtis Chapman 5 tips on a purposeful, joy-filled life (my new favorite questions.) So here you go:

As always, thanks for walking the road with me.

-Kay

A Facts-of-Life Chat

“Oh – should I roll up the window?” my shotgun passenger sarcastically asks. We were about to get on Central Expressway.

I respond with an eye roll.

“I’m not going to let you forget,” she laughingly nods. “What else have you told me that isn’t true. Hmmm… I wonder.”

Several years ago, when the kids were much younger, likely at the end of a long day, probably when a kid in the far-back seat was bothered/crying because the wind from an open window was blowing him (or her) – I might have told my car-riding brood that “It’s illegal to have the windows down when driving on the highway.”

Well, it’s not. And since there was never an opportunity to circle back with the truth (I mean no one really ever rolled the window down on the highway again) I’ve never known that anyone heard or remembered. I sure didn’t remember.

Until recently. When my current shotgun rider yell-gasped, “DON’T DO THAT!” to her friend sitting next. “Don’t do what,” her friend responded. “DON’T ROLL YOUR WINDOW DOWN! We’re on the HIGHWAY!” “What??” her friend inquired. “It’s ILLEGAL to roll you window down on the highway!” And then the truth presented itself. The friend looked at shotgun rider, shook her head and said, “What are you talking about?! It’s not illegal.

Apparently, my kid had been living with the stress of someone rolling down the window while on the highway for years. She bit her lip, squinted one eye and shook her head in disbelief as she looked at me in disbelief with a what-else-isn’t-true stare.

Oops.

Honestly, I’m sure I said it in a Calgon-moment when I just couldn’t take the window-noise or the whining anymore. It wasn’t said with malice or even memory of doing it. I will never live it down.

So today, we get on Central Expressway laughing about it, I ask, “What else have I said where I might have manipulated the truth to maintain peace?”

“I don’t know what you’ve said, but I know what you haven’t told me about!” She’s slightly joking, but she’s a little right. There are some topics that are a challenge to navigate and never seem completely discussed – for so many reasons. Because no matter how much is said, it seems more is needed because it’s complicated and can be shrouded in things like secret, shame, curiosity, unknowns, hurt, and sometimes uncomfortable embarrassment.

But the facts of life shouldn’t be embarrassing and they need to be discussed.

Just in Dallas alone, we have terrific resources familiar to themoatblog readers who can help. If you’re not familiar with Mary Flo Ridley, she does an excellent job to help parents out with little kids – bringing to the front burner topics that need to be aired at earlier and earlier ages. Our friend Kathleen Fischer has very frank material on the subject, coming at it from an educator/nurse/life-coach/health-care professional angle. And a new guest, Tracy Levinson, who is an author, teacher, speaker, mom and new-show host on The Blaze is hitting it home with teens and young adults.

And how timely that Tracy just happened to stop by my house last week for a Say Something Show Kitchen-Chat with my friends Courtney DeFeo and Brenda Teele. We chat about shame, purity, purity rings (why’s and why not’s), teens, girls, boys and even how older women can come to grips with their own history that might still hold them hostage. It’s a bold, frank, authentic & fun conversation about a topic that can often goes unspoken – especially in communities of faith.

Tracy’s “hope is to help as many women and girls as possible by empowering them to choose wisdom, love and peace, as opposed to making decisions from fear, shame or condemnation.” She also shares about her new book, unashamed — candid conversations about dating, love, nakedness and faith.

With all this in the arsenal – hopefully continued conversations with my kids will be a little more realistic and meaningful than my quick fix no-windows-down-on-the-highway approach. One can hope :)

Thanks for walking the road with me.

-Kay

There’s more on SaySomething. Did you miss Dr. Tony Evans “5 Tips to a Productive & Joy-Filled Life”? It’s less than 7 minutes of greatness. Here you go:

Be sure to visit saysomethingshow.com for more or our YouTube channel and subscribe :)

A Giving Lent

God has been a part of my life for almost as long as I can remember. But Lent wasn’t a significant part of worship in the churches we attended. So, I was intrigued and curious when I would see my Catholic or more liturgical friends show up on Ash Wednesday with a cross on their forehead.

So, with the season of Lent at hand, chatter about what it means and why it’s observed bantered around our carpool drop-off this morning.

“What is Lent,” floated the youngest.

“It’s when you fast from something,” said one. “You know, give it up.”

“Why would you do that?” the youngest really wanted to know.

So I shared from my limited knowledge (something I”m accustomed to doing :). “I’m pretty sure Lent began as a way for Catholics to remind themselves about the value of repentance. People tend to choose something in their life, usually something they really like, to give up as a remembrance of what Christ did for them – at least that’s how I understand it.”

The church where I was raised never discouraged or encouraged observing Lent. But I’m all for a season of focus and surrender before the Lord – especially in light of the Cross.

“I think give is really the operative word,” I added. “It’s kind of fun to focus on giving. I was thinking the other day that I’d like to focus on give – through giving, giving up, and giving in.”

On the giving front, I was recently inspired by Janet Denison and her  blog post God is Kind. She had been moved by a gentleman who did the simple act of holding a door open for her at the Post Office. An act that might seem insignificant, especially in the South, but made all the more sweet since two other people had walked past her trying to manage a large package, gather her mail, hold her purse, find the keys and get through a door all at the same time.

It was a simple gesture of kindness on that man’s part, but it meant a lot to me. As I drove home I found myself wondering why. Simple kindness should be the norm, but that day at the post office, it was an exception. I am typically quick to hold a door, but there have been times when I was in a hurry and didn’t pay attention. Sometimes I hold the door, but I don’t meet the person’s eye and smile. I often hold the door without saying anything at all. This man held the door, smiled, and spoke to me. He was kind.

So, I think I am going to focus my Lenten season on giving kindness instead of giving up something. I know that kindness shouldn’t be just for a season, but maybe if I place that focus on my life for a season it will form a godly habit in this hurried life I lead.

I LOVE her inspiration to GIVE in addition to or instead of giving-up for Lent.

I’m in.

Still, I feel like I could use a little giving up, especially in the food category. I don’t like how easy it is to grab and eat whatever, whenever. So, I’m thinking of punting refined sugar. Which around this house is a small feat since one of its inhabitants has been on a baking rampage. My word, the girl can bake. Everything she makes is beyond yummy, almost always at hand and by far and away my favorite things to eat. She’s okay with my short reprieve – not taking it personally – but will certainly rub in any hiatus from her treats.

Then giving-in, something that has been on my mind a lot. By that, I mean a conscious giving-in to the complete and total salvation that came with the Christ’s death on the cross – the power of which is at hand today. I’m a bit tired of the world’s winning ways so often driven by fear/pressures/expectations/etc. and usually centered on performance. What if we really let eternity inform today and saw things through the lens of salvific-perfection?

We know that we are saved by faith through grace, but we tend to shelve a portion of salvation to be realized upon our entrance into heaven – like we’ve been thrown a life-line that keeps us from drowning, but we’re still in the water. It’s easy to look longingly toward heaven, but what if we could realize the abundance of complete and total salvation – TODAY.

I recently watched Tangled with the kids (I love it as much as they do.) And I thought about Rapunzel being a daughter of the king – saved from the tower that had held her prisoner for so many years, pretty much her whole life. What if when she discovers the truth that she is the daughter of the King, accepts the birthright but never enters the castle and all the flourishing abundance of her salvation? What if she she just stays in a boat, on the water outside of the city, waiting for the day/someday instead of experiencing flourishing abundance TODAY.

Hmmm….

Well, I know when entering a period of fasting or such, it’s best to not talk about it. So, just sharing my thoughts.

The kid exiting our car this morning loved the concept of Lent and giving.

“Great! I like that you’re going to give,” he said as he hopped out. “After school, can you give me some money?”

Always keeping it real around here.

Thanks for walking the road with me,

Kay

Eggs vs Goldfish

“Why do eggs make you so full so fast?” asked the kid sitting next to me. He needed to be sharp for the day ahead so I added some eggs to his waffle breakfast.

Reaching for all my scientific expertise I answer with the usual, “I don’t know” followed by a guess – “probably because it has protein.” Then teasingly/truthfully add, “Those eggs will for sure keep you going longer than your food of choice – Goldfish.”

The kid is fourteen and will still reach for a snack-bag of Goldfish over just about anything. And there’s nothing wrong with Goldfish – unless you’ve made them a food-group.

I could have gone into little life-lecture on how there are food groups that offer more nutrients than others – that food is our body’s fuel – that wise nutritional choices affect our ability to function throughout the day – yada, yada, yada. But I didn’t. Instead – as I sat next to him, watching him eat – I thought about those eggs and Goldfish. And I wondered why we’re so quick to run to the bright snacks that look and taste so good in the moment, that tempt us to think they’re vitamin-infused/healthy/baked-in-goodness, that quickly leave us flat and empty – rather than reach for lasting sustenance. I thought about how the things that fill to full often come with work & preparation, sometimes smell bad, don’t always pop with “flavor-blasted” excitement, can look boring. But only one satisfies and promotes growth. The other is fun and harmless in small doses, but simply lacks sustenance.

And I’m not talking about food.

My mind had quickly moved from eggs and Goldfish to all the other things in life where we opt for snack-ease over lasting sustenance.

Just in the other room, another kid was watching television, sort of. He was also playing Geometry Dash on an iPad at the same time. Not a bad thing in and of itself. In fact mindless decompression can be just what the doctor ordered after a long day.

But a diet of t.v. and iPad can leave anyone feeling a bit rotten, isolated and duped into thinking there’s nothing better in life than a screen to fill free time.

Just around the corner, a bit more nutritious form of entertainment sat on the dining room table. Two board games (Five Tribes and Power Grid) were waiting patiently for play to resume. The thing about board games, especially those of the strategy variety, it takes time, lots of thought and live human-interaction. Board games tend to be meaty, hard to learn and far from instant gratification. They promote problem-solving thought processes that not only offer sustenance in the moment, but growth & preparation for future real-life situations. And a board game win is a hard-fought road, paved not only with multiple losses but also learning and memorable accomplishment.

“I beat my 20-year-old brother in Five Tribes yesterday,” the 9yo t.v/iPad kid proudly told my friend who had stopped by for a iced-tea the other day. She had seen and asked about the games on our table. “I won by one point,” he continued.

She teasingly asked, “Have you ever lost to him?”

He grinned, “Only about 50 times.” Enter a side-dish of tenacity.

Eggs vs Goldfish.

Another example, and the I’ll quit => books. These days, reading any book is a good thing (especially books about freeing kids from entitlement or books about finding contentment in a culture of comparison – [shameless plug alert!]). We’ve gotten so accustomed to spoon-fed, tweet-length sound bites, it’s actually hard to sit down and digest something over 1000-words. Not a bad thing in and of itself. In fact mindless decompression can be just what the doctor ordered after a long day.

But adding to our diet throught-provoking, deep & challenging literature that promotes contemplation, questioning and consideration of human-existence circumstances so often portrayed through lives very different from our own is like reaching for kale instead of candy. Something we could use right about now.

Telelvsion iPad boy is reading in school Caddie Woodlawn, a classic. The other night he happily rattled off all that had been happening since I last snuggled next to him to read. “So the town invited Indian kids and folks that didn’t have much to a fair. And everyone got a coin to spend. Well Caddie gave her coin to a couple of kids who didn’t much of anything. That way they could go home with more. And you know the crazy thing – even though she gave away her chance to win or go home with something, she actually was the winner. Isn’t that incredible? She had really looked forward to spending that gold coin. But it was in the giving away that she actually got something real. She was so happy. And her happy lasted a lot longer than if she used her coin win a toy.”

Yeah, that. From a hard to read, seemingly boring, sometimes tedious book.

Then there’s Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment (where a sentence lasts a page – not joking!) that is likely forever impacting our 18yo about the deepest intricacies in the human psyche – especially as it relates to truth and lies.

Mind-kale vs mind-candy.

Anywhooo … random thoughts during breakfast. Random and little convicting. Here’s to adding eggs to a Goldfish diet. It doesn’t stop with entertainment or books – it keeps going. Relationship: Text messaging is great, why not find some time in the calendar for relationship-kale today. Take a texting friend to lunch or for a long walk. Then, encourage those of the younger variety traveling alongside to do the same. It just might turn down the volume on so many of the social media/performance/measuring-up pressures that fill their space.

Thanks for walking the road with me.

-Kay