You there, sliding out of your wedges into walking shoes for a 15-minute cardio lunch to Cardi B or however her name is spelled.
You. Going back to brunette after years of being ash blonde.
Even you, who thought you would never be a mom. Reading this on the way to give birth.
We TRANSFORM. We females. We literally change ourselves, our homes, the World. Once John came home and I had painted the outside of our house. By lunchtime. I kid you not.
We transform Dollar Tree items into insane custom party decor. We transform flour and yeast and butter into rolls which transform our thighs into more ample laps.
Transformation, creative becoming is in our nature. That we will become is a given; that which we will become is squarely upon us. We choose by the direction in which we set our spirit. We select by what we allow into our minds and hearts. Our volition determines whether we will wallow or rise up and become what God created us to be.
Come hear more this Saturday, March 16. FBC, Jennings, LA. Registration at 8:00 a.m.
It is time I came clean. It seems that no matter how hard I try to beat this on my own I just cannot. I. Love. Rehab. Adore it. Addicted to it. In each dilapidated space I see potential. I imagine that each ramshackle residence I pass could be beautiful with just a few gallons of paint and a new screened door. Or a new roof and a bulldozer for a precious few but I see original glory in those little places with overgrown grass and lazy gutters.
We have owned seven homes and our sixth was the newest we had ever purchased. The floors were pristine, the backsplash up to date, the deck wasn’t a demo. It was truly awful. It was perfect and did not need me. At all. In fact, I could only serve to mess it UP. It was a beautiful reno hiatus but I did not feel like it would be our forever home. It was an awesome address with incredible neighbors but then again we couldn’t park the bass boat out in the driveway like the true classless people we are.
I called Andy our realtor eighteen months ago because he knows my flair for the nomadic. I told him that we wanted something a little older with a few projects to keep me busy. I then threw the full force of my intermittent Adderall-Infused attention to realtor.com. I found a perfect looking house with serious internal issues so we walked away. Then I saw The Patton House. The first time I did a drive-by was Halloween night and the scene of costumed children and neighborhood parties was something so HGTV, it confirmed that we needed to try for this one.
The grey brick house had a large window which was circular at the top and I was in love. As I perused our honeymoon pictures months later, I realized why. My favorite photos from that week is in front of the main entrance to The Cloister on Sea Island which had an identical window, just grander. I assume that is why it spoke to me. We got in to see the home the next day and to my great joy there was a dilapidated Butler’s quarters in the back yard. HOT DOG! A project! We made an offer and were moved in before Christmas. You know, the slowest time of the year.
We have moved a wall or two, gutted the kitchen and painted everything inside but patiently waiting in the backyard was the Butler, a perpetual burr under my saddle. So I began to tackle Rhett this week. My renovation is mainly cosmetic: ship-lapping walls, patching floors and opening him up a little. I’d love a light & airy she-shed. I guess that would make her a Rhetta. Yesterday as I was removing the solid wood front door, I had unscrewed seven of the eight screws on the door jam and the eighth wasn’t budging so I took a hammer to it. The solid door fell hard and brought with it part of the door frame. It was stuck.
I tried to lift the girthy door to no avail. At least it was angled so that I could slide down out the front. After the initial thud and numerous attempts to move the front door I noticed a petite, beautiful butterfly floating around the scene. I then began to laugh. Butterflies find me wherever I go. I think of the thin veil between heaven and earth and since Maggie Lee’s passing I think of her whenever a butterfly comes around. Their whimsy comforts me and I feel visited by these little beauties in an intentional way.
“Ok, little doodle. I guess you are here to help me lift this door? I am SURE that we can do this together. Maybe you could fly under here and give it a good push?” I just grinned and tried to hoist the wooden beast again and could not. I slid down the plank and approached the door from the left side. To my shock, with a modicum of effort, I raised the door. Then I really started to laugh. “Thank you for the help little butterfly. Who knew you were so strong?”
The orange and black visitor never came particularly close. I cleared the front doorway and instantly the butterfly was gone. Do I think my daughter was reincarnated as a butterfly to help me lift a heavy door? Do I think the butterfly’s presence brought with it insane strength? No and no. Other than owning four dogs I am not crazy. But I am aware of the whisperings of God in my still, small moments and invite those moments with open spirit.
I love to see the dilapidated be reclaimed. Especially when that structure is me.
Blessed are the found but even greater those lost inside God’s love; bereft of a Plan B, agenda-free and obsessed with God for God’s self alone.
Blessed are those with phenomenal rhythm but even more blessed are those who tune their lives to the eternal goodness of God and hum that other-worldly tune to such holy acts as taking out the trash.
Blessed are the full but how deeply blessed are those who willingly pull the plug on their pride reservoir and kneel before The Maker completely aware of their soul’s insufficiency.
Blessed are the followed but far greater those who stalk Jesus like paparazzi, knowing that a glimpse of the Savior is worth more than a thousand follows.
Blessed are the beautiful but still more so those who have traded the ashes of broken dreams, failures and humiliations for the beauty God stands patiently ready to exchange.
Blessed are the rigid for their desk tops are organized but more blessed are those rigidly devoted to Christ who are more concerned with the logs in their own eyes than splinters in the eyes of another.
Blessed are the debate victors but far happier those who value their opponent as God’s own child rather than a foe to be eliminated. One open ear is more valuable than a hundred judgemental eyes.
Blessed are the recognized but still more vital are those with the uncanny knack to recognize potential in someone who has written off their own future. A week of encouragement beats a life of imprisonment.
Blessed are those deemed important but more blessed are those who see the importance of God’s redemption in this life. Just as one renovated home can bring change to an entire street so one redeemed parent can change the trajectory of generations.
Blessed are the powerful but, hear me, far greater the blessing of those who use power to help and heal the broken for that is to their eternal credit.
Over 200 North West Louisiana K-8th graders received school uniforms, a fresh haircut, string pack, book, shiny nails and community services for free at MLC’s Khaki Fair August 4th.
Since the air conditioning units failed the day before, we kicked it box fan and body odor style this year. We may have all sweat like a Ryan Lochte at the Rio de Janiero Police Station but the little people who brought their best manners and grateful parents made me wish I had a billion dollars to buy everyone in the world a uniform.
THIS IS HOW WE ROLL
Clients entered the registration / air conditioned chapel and were seated in rows of ten (the system developed for The Highland Blessing Dinner on Thursday Nights.) After watching the Baby Ella video highlighting the importance of loving words to infant brain development, folks walked to the toasty gym and their children received a uniform in a nifty string pack. This year, The Doctor’s Travis Stork donated those packs to our families.
LEAN ON ME
After uniforms, just to the left of shorty-pants alley was resource row: our blessed community partners including SPAR, Early Steps, Head Start, Early Head Start, Step Forward and Ocean Dental. The back wall was lined with a book give away sponsored by Church for The Highlands which led to a reading wonderland. The Bossier Library showed up hot but happy as kids crashed on the air couches surrounding the magical Tee Pee of Happiness.
YOU’RE SO FANCY
The final leg of Khaki Fair was the favorite of most of our kids. Two stylists and a barber cranked out some fun and fabulous back to school hair. For our girls who did not opt for a trim there was the Super Nail A Team who polished with precision. Super Nail. Upon exit the little people received a drink and a snack and one more admonition to have a great year.
THE REST OF THE STORY
Khaki Fest / Fair is typically around August 2nd, the anniversary of Maggie Lee’s passing. The busier my hands are the happier my heart is at the beginning of this month. The real truth is that all of the Maggie Lee for Good activities for me are nothing short of a Heavenly collaboration. I am inspired by who she was and still is even if she does have a different address.
I don’t know much at all but as I hugged my friend who lost her daughter 18 months ago, I relayed those words: You do get points for surviving. I did not tell her to cheer up. I did not tell her that her Grandson’s graduation would be a snap and I did not tell her that I knew how she felt even though I have buried a daughter.
That simple statement has echoed in my mind so many times. God knows how it feels to be in the weeds, devastated and angry. Jesus felt these emotions. And it is not just my opinion that we get survival points, the Bible flat out tells me we do. This verse in James celebrates the fact that if we can simply stand we get everything. Psst…here’s the thing- He HELPS us to stand. When we have nothing left, He pours into our spirit with His Spirit and enables us to stand.
Whatever the test, whatever the devastation, disappointment or dismal diagnosis- you can stand! Persevere because you do, after all, get points for surviving.
I love Barclay’s thoughts on The eternality of God:
Now let us take eternal life. It is far better to speak of eternal life than to speak of everlasting life. The main idea behind eternal life is not simply that of duration. It is quite clear that a life which went on for ever could just as easily be hell as heaven. The idea behind eternal life is the idea of a certain quality of life. What kind? There is only one person who can properly be described by this adjective eternal (aionios, Greek #166) and that one person is God. Eternal life is the kind of life that God lives; it is God’s life. To enter into eternal life is to enter into possession of that kind of life which is the life of God. It is to be lifted up above merely human, transient things into that joy and peace which belong only to God. Clearly a man can enter into this close fellowship with God only when he renders to him that love, that reverence, that devotion, that obedience which truly bring him into fellowship with him.
If not already, pretty soon the sun screen-shined SUV seats will be covered in permission slips, after-school snacks and random articles of clothing shucked en route to after school activities. The Road-Pro 12-Volt Slow Cooker you plug into your cigarette lighter will start looking good as nano seconds count in the carpool relay.
So as we prepare for the year, before we get lost in a Sharpie high, let’s get real for two minutes. I give you a few sanity-savers in shorthand:
1. Expect that your child will fail gloriously at least once this year and guess what, so will you.
After selling a kidney to pay for her private tumbling lessons, your daughter may try out and not make the cheerleading squad when 8 of her BFF’s do.
Your son could run for student body President and despite a $75.00 Sam’s Club vat of beef jerky adorned with the slogan, “Don’t be a JERK, Vote Ben for Prez!” he may lose. Using a speech you convinced him to let you tweak no less. Yes, that will leave a mark.
Your little guy will perhaps by God’s grace squeak out a C in Chemistry which you know full well means that he will most likely not get into the college of his choosing.
You may have a toddler who is invited to leave preschool because of biting or a 19-year-old son invited to leave the university for the same reason.
The great news? You probably will lay an egg of your own this school year.
You will go MIA; Missing the awards ceremony where your child is named student of the year. You will only remember this when your friends text you pictures after the fact. These pictures may or may not include your child with furrowed brow feverishly searching the crowd for your face.
The passion with which you volunteer to be snack mom in August outstrips your memory in November. If you do somehow miraculously remember, your snack will contain trace amounts of tree nuts sending at least one child searching for an epi pen (don’t ask me how scary this is or how I know. Snack Moms everywhere: please use caution.)
Or, the Mother of all sins: You forget to submit pictures for the year-end slide show. Of course the Mom who assembles the whole shebang is certain that the 14th and 39th picture contain a forearm, pony tail or t-shirt most likely belonging to your child. Which makes everything way better.
Parents, even bringing your A game most of the time: You. Will. Seriously. Blow. It. Embrace this reality now and prepare in advance to grace yourself and your child.
2. Expect that your child will not be included in every single social event which occurs and do not have a panic attack about it. Your child smells your social anxiety, don’t stink-bomb your issues on the innocent.
Barring the mean girl phenomenon, most of the time it is an oversight rather than a personal attack when your child is excluded. Mercifully, as kids age their birthday parties shrink in number present (or else none of us would survive to grandparenthood.) With fewer children being invited, often it is a numbers game rather than an intentional affront.
Nothing ruins a weekend like seeing 4 of your child’s buddies piling into a car with overnight bags after school on Friday. Or even more hurtful, them seeing the fun they are missing on Instagram. Just remember how fluid relationship dynamics are when you are 12, choose a fun activity of your own to do and take away the phone for the night if need be. As a parent you cannot make up for the hurt of peers but you can model how to shoulder disappointment gracefully. And get a dog.
Unfortunately we parents can suffer from “PKSD,” or Post Kickball Stress Disorder from childhood: being excluded, chosen last, being called fat, skinny, stupid, or brainy. One in every 10 parent actually ate the paste in Kindergarden. We all have our stuff, right? Too often we see our kids as people kits we try to perfectly construct as better versions of ourselves. If we are honest, at times the drive to ensure our kids are included stems from our own need for acceptance.
For every child there will come a time when they are the odd person out, such is the rhythm of life on Earth. Perhaps without that vital lesson they would not know empathy for others as they desperately need to. When this hurtful yet normal part of childhood occurs, train yourself to look for things in your life which are going right to thank God for. Disappointment is inevitable but what we do with it is up to us.
3. Remember that if you do this parenting gig right you work yourself out of a job
I was floored this past weekend as I saw a Dad coaching his daughter through the process of making a waffle at the breakfast bar. She looked to be a bright 11-year old, engaged in conversation about the bike race they would participate in the next day.
So the Father read the laminated waffle directions like he is Annie Sullivan pressing the letters W-A-T-E-R into the hand of Helen Keller in “The Miracle Worker.” She waited impishly on his every directive, insecurely followed orders and appeared afraid to fail. Chances are this young lady was more than capable of cranking out a waffle but she was simply not trusted with the task. We cannot expect a switch to flip at 18 and our children suddenly have great judgement when they have had limited experience using theirs. Let them burn a waffle at 11
Envision your life in 20 years. Now envision your couch. Now envision your grown child eating your Ben & Jerry’s, watching your TV on that couch. None of us truly see this as a beautiful outcome, do we? The thought perhaps is radical but when we prepare the way for the child rather than the child for the way, we provide a false sense of the reality they will face.
Trust your children to handle their business as much as you possibly can. Sure some children require more supervision than others to reach their full potential but start small this year and curtail the hovering. It will liberate you and train your child to be more self-sufficient. To be fair, in a calm conversation let the kids know that you expect them to be responsible for their “job:” schoolwork and extracurriculars. Then the hard part: let them struggle. The S word, I know, but it is really, really important part of their growth as a person.
As Oswald Chambers said, “It is not so much that prayer changes things but prayer changes me and I change things.” When we pray, we release the death grip we have on something when really we have no control upon it whatsoever. Prayer transforms our vision.
Prayer is a tool for me to reach out and focus on God who lasts forever rather than my problems which thankfully will not. Just silently contemplating the hugeness of God brings a breath of perspective I desperately need. When the desire to helicopter is strong, as is my desire for action, prayer is the action I need to take. It slows me down, tempers my emotion and gives me fresh eyes for the challenge at hand.
So as the Summer fades from view and school hits like a monsoon, pace yourself, grace yourself, ditch the helicoptering and pray.
“Birds have nests. Foxes gave dens.
But the hope of the whole world rests on the shoulders of a homeless man.”
My path crossed with a gentleman we’ll call Joe. Affable fellow from up North, Joe is polite, hard-working and occasionally homeless.
When demons are beaten back, he is focused and resourceful, daily walking miles to his $4.50 an hour bus-boy job. When he succumbs to temptation, he is undependable and subsequently everything gets derailed as happened five weeks ago.
I guess the same is true to a degree with us all and our secret sin. Except his struggles are tougher to hide and since his life has the slightest margin for error, one binge destroys everything.
Fresh from rehab he returned to his former job but the owner was forced to replace him when he left. He realized that his own choices had caused the reality but he was still dismayed.
“I was so upset.” Joe said, “I was ready to go to CVS and buy something but I went to a meeting instead. It was hard, Ms. Jinny, but I made it.”
His eyes glimmered as he shared his victory. He held up the neon two-week sobriety keychain as if it were a Rolex given to him after 40 years of hard work. He was incredibly proud of himself and I was as well.
How liberating Joe’s honesty was. What he was really saying was that he wanted to get totally drunk to lessen his dire disappointment. That was probably the most honest thing I had heard in church. Ever.
The thing about seeing life from Joe’s perspective is that he is acutely aware of his human frailty. We’re all frail but just with varying degrees of insulation and correlating confidence in our comfort. When you take a closer glance at this man’s life, the colors become a bit brighter than first glance might reveal.
The only debt Joe has is $100 outstanding on a ticket. Possession-wise, his only belongings fit into the smallest storage unit rented before entrance into the latest treatment program. He lives day to day like those in many other parts of the world do, a far cry from our Western ideal of security.
The good news for St. Joe- he overcame his demons, stuck to his guns and as of Thursday he is again gainfully employed by his former boss.
Jack heard Joe tell John about his job and commented, “I have never seen anyone so happy in my life. He has to walk 2 miles to a $4.50 an hour job and he was ecstatic.”
This is my friend, Gina’s Maggie Lee for Good story…what’s yours?
Maggie Lee For Good (North Texas Food Bank)
Why was my 11-year-old so driven to organize a canned food drive at her school? I think it was a way for her to have action or maybe control over a situation that left her feeling so helpless and so insecure about how she saw her world. When your best friend dies when you’re in elementary school it certainly doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t even make sense when you’re 40. How can all your dreams of your future be taken away from you when you haven’t even lived long enough to have much of a past?
Just a few weeks before Maggie Lee’s accident the girls discussed and daydreamed endlessly about their future and the role each of them would play in it. They engaged in sweet little girl fantasies that included living in an apartment together in New York City, working in musical theater together, being on Broadway, being famous in L.A. , working with the Jonas Brothers, walking down the red carpet hand in hand, and encouraging each other through every glorious success. They believed the fantasy…I believed their fantasy.
I could picture Maggie Lee by my girl’s side being her cheerleader. Why wouldn’t I believe the fantasy, she had always been a positive force in her life since she was two years old. She was an unselfish encourager even then. I don’t think she had a jealous bone in her little body. I would often shake my head in amazement at what an unusual child Maggie Lee was. We were surely blessed by this gale of wind, filled with sunshine, which would blow through our house when she would visit.
So how does a little girl tie down this pervasive feeling of insecurity along with a feeling of emptiness that only a deep sense of loss can create? She gets busy. She focused on a goal. Maggie Lee for Good was created on Maggie Lee’s birthday, October 29th. With a new goal in mind she was able to channel her grief and somehow make purpose of a tragedy that made no sense to her. It also helped her t be able to share with all the kids in her school how even as a child you can affect and help others. You can change them or create change for them.
She got the permission from the principal at Grace Academy of Dallas to have a Maggie Lee for Good cannedFood Drivebenefitting North Texas Food Bank. Along with the student council, they made posters asking families to donate food, either bringing it to school or doing online shopping at the North Texas Food bank website. They stood in carline with posters asking for donations and advertised in the school newpaper. In the end they collected enough canned goods to change the lives of 100’s of families…for good.
When Maggie Lee was in Second Grade at Lakeview Elementary, I remember her rushing into my car at carpool line, bursting with excitement to share an amazing story. Eyes wide and face dancing with animation, she exclaimed, “Listen to THIS, Mommy….This is SO a God thing!”
Well, today, on the second anniversary of the bus wreck, SO a God thing happened that I could not keep this to myself.
Colleen Gibbs has been my bff since 7th grade. She was there for my first comedic performance at Camp Tejas. She worked in meeting planning for 12 years until I finally convinced her to book my events since both halves of her brain actually work. For her precious family’s Maggie Lee for Good project last October 29th, they held an art show at their home. This was no ordinary art show, there was a prayer station for my family, a build-your-own snack station and a fabulous display of Kathleen and Meredith’s art work.
Incredibly, The Doucettes raised $305.00 with this project and decided to donate the entire amount to our World Vision Child in East Khasi Hills, India; a girl named Rinky. Amazingly, just today when we returned from our trip to Houston, (Mimi got a new knee, LOOK OUT WORLD!) we received a letter dated 16/Feb/2011, thanking us for the donation. On October 29th, 2010, three precious curly-haired girls took on an art show as their Maggie Lee for Good Labor of Love. July 12th, 2011, their kindness boomerang-ed and fell into our laps at a most opportune time.
And, without a doubt, that is SO a God thing.
East Khasi Hills Area Development Program
“Greeting from me and my Family. Once again thank you very much for your love and your support to me and my family. I have received the gift you send me through World Vision. With this money we have spent school fees, school uniform, school bags, Gass Chulaspot, text books, exercise book and trousercloth. These items are very useful for me and my brother and my sister. It has helped the burden of my father. We do not have anything to give you in return but only my gratefulnessand gratitude and prayers for you. God bless you.”