Friday, March 23, 2018

Random Act of Kindness: Prayer

The best soccer partner!

I've officially been replaced!

St. Patrick's half marathon with two of my favorites.

At the grocery store, I am mission-oriented and efficient.  Usually, my grocery run is crammed between an appointment and a school pickup.  I don't have the luxury of browsing over nutrition labels, debating over the sodium content of one tomato soup versus another.  That sort of introspection would require minutes, and those precious minutes could cost me a trip to the frozen food section (where Ben & Jerry is patiently waiting for me). 

Today was no different.  I wedged my grocery trip between a run and an appointment.  If I was lucky, I could spend 45 minutes within the store.  (An added complicating factor for any store excursion is the chance of running into a chatty friend or neighbor.  Should this occur, my ability to connect with Ben & Jerry is nil.)

I raced through the store and landed at the register in record time.  The cashier, a seasoned pro, treated the conveyor belt as an olympic sport.  She moved item after item off the belt with a pace that would make an adept sprinter swoon.

I lined the belt with an apple bag, bread, pasta sauce, and milk jugs.  Perishables and staples filled the entire length of the conveyor.  The women in front of me was whipping out her credit card to pay for her groceries.  I was minutes away from leaving the store.

From a few aisles over, I heard the cries.  The howls and wails commanded attention; everyone within earshot turned towards the commotion.

It was a scene.  A stocky, adolescent boy flopped around on the ground like a fish that had just unwillingly emerged from the sea.  His arms were flailing, and his legs kicked with the same amount of intensity.  A white-haired gentleman, seemingly feeble in nature, was attempting to pull him off the ground while managing a grocery cart full of items.

The situation was puzzling.  The boy was way past the age for a toddler-sized fit.  He appeared mentally sound and physically capable.  I had my suspicions about the boy.  As one with some experience, I observed signs that the boy was autistic.  The man, it appeared, was perhaps his grandfather.  Something in the hustle and bustle of the checkout lines made this boy's head spin and pulled him into a full-on melt down.

Tears welled in my eyes.  My heart went out to the man struggling with the boy, and the boy struggling with the man. 

 I have been there before.  Having a child behave inexplicably and poorly in public ranks as one of my least favorite experiences.  Embarrassment, fear, and hopelessness wash over the caretaker.

I immediately prayed about how I should help.  From this situation, I stood a few lanes over. The conveyor belt was already filled with my items and the cashier was actively ringing up my things.  A line of customers were posed behind me in the wait.  I was boxed in.

A hardy gentleman approached the boy and the man. He grabbed the man's grocery cart and pushed it towards the exit while uttering soothing words.  Another man assisted with the boy.  There wasn't much left for any other bystanders to do. 

But I continued to pray.

When we hear stories of the kindness of strangers, we see the actions.  Those are the stories listed on social media or covered in the news. They are important and amazing acts of charity, affection, and mercy.  But sometimes the role God has for us is to let others do the legwork, while we are to hit our knees (figuratively) in prayer.  I believe God calls some people to help out, but He calls other people to pray.  The praying is just as important.

By the time all my groceries were bagged, I walked by the aisle of the scene.  The boy, man, and their shopping cart were long gone.  I sent up one last prayer.  The scene may be finished, but the prayers don't have to end.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Use Your Gifts

Today, I hosted a spring brunch for my Bible study.  (The spring part is ironic as snow is currently blanketing our yard.)  Pink napkins and little flower pots dressed the table.  Pastel Easter eggs filled a glass bowl in the center.  Coffee mugs lined the counter.

A few days ago, I began the preparations.  I wanted to make gifts for the ladies, little tokens of appreciation for sweet friends.  For hours, I scanned Pinterest.  The adorable images appeared effortless.  I gained a confidence in my nonexistent ability as a crafter. Surely anyone with access to a glue gun and stickers could whip up something adorable!  But, my head spun with the endless amount of choices.

I called my friend Melinda for some guidance.  Melinda makes Joanna Gaines look like an amateur.  My dear pal knows her way around a Michael's store.  I would put money on the fact she could walk blindfold through the aisles and still find her way to every item on her list.

On the phone, Melinda listened to my ramblings.  I'm sure it came across as an incoherent stream of consciousness.  Me trying to decipher the array of crafting options; Melinda taking deep breaths (I imagine).

Finally, Melinda cut into the conversation.

"Please don't take this the wrong way," she began.

That start always makes me nervous.

She continued, "Becky, do what you do best.  You are not a crafter; your gift is words."

I love a friend who can speak both truth and wisdom in the same breath.

Melinda was right.  I was trying to force a square piece in a round hole, and it wasn't working.  God didn't create my hands to hold a glue gun; my hands were made for a keyboard or a ballpoint pen.

I scraped the nonexistent craft project, and I prayed about how God really wanted me to encourage these ladies.

Within minutes, I was pulling out my Bible and multicolored index cards.  As I thought about each friends, the words flowed onto each card.  Scribbles and scratches.  I wrote letters to each woman.  They included words about their gifts, moments of blessing, and Bible verses that sprung to mind when I thought about each woman.

I wondered if the ladies would appreciate index cards filled with my ramblings.  Would they rather have a leader who devoted her time to created gifts of potholders or puffy paint t-shirts?

The woman shuffled into my house around 9:30.  Within minutes, our plates were filled with egg casseroles, fresh fruit, and baked goods.  Around my dining room table, eight women feasted on food and friendship.  The laughter was contagious. 

When the last morsel was consumed, I pulled out the letters.  One by one, I spoke to my friends.  I retold the words God had put on my heart about every single woman.

I told my friend Kara she is bold for how she courageously shares her testimony.

I told my friend AJ that she is beautiful, because she is a beautiful creation in Christ.

I told my friend Melinda that she is a light, because she shines her light onto everyone in her path.

There was not a dry eye.

Today, my friend Melinda taught me a valuable lesson: use my gifts.

I've sworn off Pinterest.

God has better plans for me.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Raising Teenagers

Feels like he was just pushing around Matchbox cars!  Now he is behind the wheel!

My favorite girls: Erin and Rosie!  I think they hit it off!

March Madness: Third grade style! 

Snow and frigid temps wouldn't stop this group from celebrating Nicole's birthday!

We had triple the fun celebrating running friends Gwen, Gretchen, and Nicole's birthdays.

We run to be able to eat yummy things like this!

Blessed to run through life with these friends!

I'm a chronic under-estimator.  It's one of my fatal flaws.  I believe mountains are really molehills.  Challenges are really adventures.  Fat is really curves with a little cushion.

I tell myself things like....

Marathons aren't really that far.

I won't miss giving up sugar.

Traveling with kids will be a delightful experience.

The problem is somewhere along the way, things become hard.  Really hard, sometimes.   At that point, my glass half full, Mary Poppins attitude starts to wane.

I carry this same attitude into raising children.  Perhaps I watched one too many Brady Bunch episodes as a child, but I believed we would be one big happy family all the time.  (And what I learned from the Brady Bunch is that if family members had a disagreement, they would work it out within the span of a 30 minute show.  Remember how Marcia forgave Peter for throwing the football at her nose?  It happened before the commercial!)

With two teenage boys and two preteen boys, reality is started to become apparent.

Ya'll, teenagers are hard.

They love me when I tell them what they want to hear.  They hate me when I say no.  And I have to say no...a lot.

I'm officially a mean mother.  Or so I've been told.  We are the kind of mean parents that seemingly spoil all the fun, ask too many questions, demand accountability, and require household participation.

I'm beginning to understanding that raising teenagers will be a mountain of responsibility, not a molehill.  They will require energy, stamina, persistence, and PRAYER.  But I believe if we can stagger up the mountain together, the view at the top will be pretty amazing.