It’s A Little Thing

Driving through the Grand Tetons to Yellowstone on vacation, my husband easily spotted buffalo, elk, antelope, even a mink. I said aloud, “Jesus I only want to see a Moose. If you could just show me one please.”

My husband smiled and patted my arm. I no sooner said that then we drove around a corner and we saw this:

Yes, I am sure you are laughing as we did upon seeing it. I told my husband, “Don’t laugh too hard, God is just reminding me of specifics in prayer and that we need to take this vacation lightly.” So I said, “Ok Lord, you got me! Now just so we are clear I’d like to see a real moose please. If it’s not too much trouble to make that happen.”

We spent three days exploring. We saw chipmunks. squirrels, swans, geese, and everything you could imagine. We walked a little ways on a moose trail and my husband said, “Do you think God is just going to bring a moose to you? Maybe we need to hike in?” I smiled and said, “No, he’s going to show me a moose. I won’t have to work for it that way. I just have to have faith and know.” We went to the gift shop and I bought my granddaughter Erin a stuffed moose toy in faith.

The last few hours in the car I whispered, “I know I’m going to see a moose at the last minute. You’re dramatic that way.” We drove out of the park and heading towards Cody Wyoming. My husband said, “Sorry Babe, I really thought you’d get to see your moose.” I patted his arm and said. “My mom said I have always had great faith. How are you a Pastor and you’re already giving up on seeing a moose?”

We drive out of the park a good hour and a half and just as the sun begins to go down I point to a meadow and say excitedly, “WHAT’S THAT?” My husband, and I know he is stunned and excited because he never talks like this says, “That is a frickin’ moose.” I laugh and say, “THANK YOU JESUS!” Then we get out of the car to take pictures.

I

So why do I tell you this story? Because God is interested in every little thing in your life.

Big or small.

Silly or serious.

When you begin a conversation that turns into a prayer life, these things begin to happen.

My husband said to me that this story doesn’t seem extraordinary in and of itself. Then he said, “But I’ve seen it happen to you so many times that it is extraordinary.” And it can happen to you. Just believe and trust and know. Does it happen all the time? No, but happens most of the time and it builds my faith and I hope it builds yours.

He Saw and Believed

Dear Cameron Joshua and Erin Marie,

IMG_0659

Today there is a crisis in our nation and the country is in a Stay In Place order due to a virus called Corona virus, which means we aren’t able to meet together for what for us is the most blessed celebration of our faith, Easter Sunday.  I have been missing you both so profoundly as you, Erin, turn 6 weeks old, and you, Cameron, turn 3 in a few weeks. I am missing more of your life than I ever thought I would but today Hope resurfaced.

Today my beautiful grandchildren, today, your Papa got up and made coffee for us, then he showered and put on a suit and tie. I followed his lead and dressed for church as if it was any other normal Sunday. We got in our car and drove off to the church.

John 20:1 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb.

Today your Papa went into an empty church, and said to the essential staff that it takes to preach an online message to and said, “The church may be empty this morning but so was the tomb and we are going to proclaim the WORD to more people than we would have reached normally.”

IMG_5078

Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;

Your Papa met Jesus when he was not much older than you are and he has proclaimed him since. He wasn’t going to stay home and not reach anyone on this day, THE DAY,  our faith is built on. He was going to go to his pulpit and shout it out to the world. This isn’t any ordinary day and this isn’t a day to be taken casually. Is any day really?

IMG_2545

If you’ve ever preached to an empty room it isn’t easy. You get feedback and body language from those who are present and came to hear. It helps you move forward but your Papa has been doing this a long time. And he pushed through knowing he was called by God to give Hope and an invitation.

IMG_4922 3

So today he was a Pastor to a world who is scared that they will get a virus. He preached for you both, that you always know that Jesus is the center of our life. He preached to the ones who still don’t know about Jesus and he reminded me and himself that Jesus is the center of it all. While God has sat us all down, Papa is still doing what he has called to do.

I wrote all of this out in my bible today but just in case it is lost, technology will live on. One thing you will have forever is that Nana and Papa love you with their whole heart and you have a strong legacy of prayer and service to the Church and Jesus Christ. Hallelujah! He is Risen. We have hope and God’s Promises.

IMG_1182

I Wonder If She Knows…

I watch Cameron intently as he plays. He is serious, studious, loving, funny in a sarcastic way, and I can’t help but see my son in him. His profile, the way he assesses the environment before he either engages or not. The way he moves closer to us as a stranger walks into the room. His total refusal to call my mom Nana because as he pointed out, “No, you my Nana.” It points to his loyalty. The way he sees himself as protector.

I point all of this out to my daughter-in-love and while she smiles and laughs with me I recognize she has no point of reference to her husband as a toddler. Nor should she.

I wonder if she knows that as she mothers him the time flies quickly by? I wonder if she knows that the reason why he will pick a great wife is that she will raise a great man and have faith in herself that she can? I wonder if she knows the love she feels for her son will multiply a thousand times when she looks at his child?

No, she doesn’t know yet because none of us do before it happens. Instead good moms stress kindness, love, manners, respect, honor, humility, and education all while juggling a huge to-do list and worrying that we aren’t doing enough or that we are doing too much. In the meantime our children wrap themselves around our heart and we know that we will never be the same and we don’t want to be. No, no one can prepare you for those feelings that will come until they do.

I look at my grandson and my heart swells with joy. When we sing together or when he says, “Nana I will sing you a song” and breaks out in a toddler version of Amazing Grace it is as if angels are singing. Yes, yes, off key and pitch but nevertheless beautiful and a sound you wouldn’t trade for the world.

In those moments we do not have the profound revelation that all that we have lived through, all the hurts, pains, dysfunction that we all face will be worth it for the results that await us in the near future.

My daughter-in-love is beautiful. She is real, honest, loving, filled with integrity and character and the most amazing mom on the planet. She along with her husband are teaching Cameron the value of family, creating a strong and stable home where violence and love are opposed to one another. I heard Anthony say to Cameron in the middle of a toddler tantrum, “No, I don’t hit you and you don’t hit me. You can be angry but you can’t hit.” Above all their home is Christ-centered and they are laying solid foundation in our faith as Christians.

I am grateful she continues to humor me as I tell her stories of my son as a toddler, listens to recordings of his bath time, and has taken time to read through every single piece of art he made in pre-school. She is preparing Cameron to be a good big brother, a worthwhile friend, a man of character who will one day lead his family well. And although she doesn’t know it yet, she is preparing her heart to guide a daughter-in-love, to love her well, and to laugh and hold her grand babies one day.

I wonder if she knows that I hold her close in my heart because of who she is all by herself? My son’s wife, my grandson’s mom is all secondary to who she is. Her name is Frances Martinez and you are blessed if you know her.

Tribalism Continued

While sorting through my feelings of tribalism and it’s non-ending cycle of inclusion and exclusion I found Joaquin Phoenix and his acceptance speech something to be thought out. Take a listen:

Words like championing causes vs commonality of passion towards any issue doesn’t necessarily include or exclude unless we have no room for opinion. He talked of an egocentric world view and while his point was a natural world view, it wasn’t lost on me that even in discussion of causes we leave no room for difference. As he so eloquently put it we are best when we support each other instead of canceling each other out. There was another layer laid on my heart as I continue to work out my thought process on this issue.

I Didn’t Post It

Social Media is becoming the bane of my existence and yes it is not lost on me that I am typing on a blog.

It all started December 2. My husband’s birthday. Well, maybe it started before then, but this is when it clicked for me. We each have social media accounts but due to metrics which I don’t care to understand, nor research, nor change, my posts rarely, if ever, show up on his feed nor do his show up on mine. We comment to each other about it even.

I decided that for his birthday I was taking him out of town. I also made a self discovery that the long flowery post for his birthday on how great he is wasn’t for him since he may not see it. So why write it? I mean, do I need to tell the world how much he means or was I simply posting to be seen? No, instead I decided I would tell him everything I thought face to face. We arrived at our hotel and we stood out on the balcony watching the waves and I told him everything I would have written on Facebook. Eye to eye watching his smile reach his eyes cause he’s a words of affirmation guy.

Only I found myself answering questions. People noticed I didn’t wax poetic on social media they wanted to know was everything alright? Perhaps because we’ve all been sucked into believing it was the thing to do in the past. Were we in trouble? No, but at some point you have to get real, real about who you are and what you are doing. Maybe I’m changing because honestly prior to this I thought how special it was to post what I felt for my husband on social media, but really? How I feel about him shows. It shows when we sit together. It shows when we look for each other in a crowded room. It shows when we have dinner together and talk about everything and nothing. I don’t have to prove a point.

We are both pastors. Between us we host four small groups a week. We each host one alone and two together. Those two together we host in our home and so our friends are over twice a week which means we share our home with about 20 people a week. We love it. We love our friends and we love our life but there are some things we determined some time ago we would not share. So our bedroom is off limits. That is a sacred space that belongs to the two of us. There isn’t anything special about our room except it’s a room for us in our home that only the two of us share.

Can we get back to a place where something doesn’t need to be wrong to not make an over the top public declaration that the person who it was meant for wasn’t going to see? I post vacations after they happen. I don’t always post when our grandson is over. Sometimes things are in the moment and I don’t need an audience. Yes, I want to share my life. Yes I want to keep in contact with people in my life, but I want the sacred as well. I’m not a fishbowl person and I recognize that I live a fishbowl life in many ways but still there remains private, not secret, places in which I can choose not to share.

So I took a piece of my life back. I honestly don’t think anyone cares what I do all day. I don’t think you care or have time for what I ate today, unless it’s some fabulous recipe that I may want to let you know about. Beyond that, my makeup routine, coffee routine, workout routine, it’s all mundane we all have them.

I am grateful to those who reached out to see if my marriage is intact, if it’s good. It shows my friends noticed and they care. I loved that but it’s time to get real with myself and with you. I want to look into those blue eyes and tell him what he means to me and I don’t need an audience.

Intimacy can’t be found in media. When it is attempted it’s called pornography.

Intimacy is found in tangible expression.

Intimacy is real, sacred, private.

The Shadow Of Tribalism

When we began to speak of our tribes several years ago, I embraced the concept wholeheartedly. Growing up third generation American my ancestors told stories of why we needed to stick together against racism and for survivalism in a country that didn’t always embrace its diversity. Tribalism embraces a poverty mindset that says we must preserve ourselves in the midst of those who would take away who we are.

Growing up in California I was privileged to have grown up with a wide variety of culture yet even then there was tribalism. When we go to eat Chinese Food in China Town we know there aren’t going to be stores where we can buy tortillas.

So the concept of “streams” and “tribes” didn’t signal any alarms until I began to examine how we use them. We use them to keep people rounded up and to keep others out. We hang onto to a sense of who is in, who is allowed to visit, and who is definitely out.

Jesus came to dispel tribalism or at least redefine it. He brought about the discussion and complexity of community while he mingled with many. When Jesus is among the people his mother and brothers show up to talk to him.

Matthew 12:46 While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. 47 Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”

48 He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

In fact his detractors questioned his choice of dinner companions.

Matthew 9:10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

Ultimately the inclusivity of whosoever is what brought him down. The tribe could not fathom sharing their lives with those who did not belong and that is the shadow which we walk in today because tribalism is still our thing. When we determine who is in and who is out not based on qualification but based on standing within the tribe we are acting out of the lack instead of embracing the abundance Jesus tried to bring. When we decide we can’t live in community within the confines of a tribe not because of evil but because of our perceived notions of where we stand within that tribe it shows we have yet to pick up our cross and follow Jesus.

As I struggle to dispel the concept of tribalism and embrace inclusive community I doubt this will be the last post on the topic but it begins the process of discovering my role in it all.

Intentional Planning

I was listening to a call from Dr. Laura that has me mulling some things over. Have you ever heard the desperation in someone’s voice and related to those thoughts? The conversation I heard has made a significant self discovery. 

The call was from a mom who had her last daughter leave for college. She was having a hard time adjusting to an empty nest. She had poured herself into her life as a mom and she felt she no longer had purpose beyond that. Dr. Laura carefully navigated her back to herself. She asked her what she had dreamed of being as a young woman and took her on a journey of rediscovering her life before motherhood and moving her toward her life after motherhood. 

None of this to say that motherhood is bad It is a wonderful season. She immersed herself in the role that was offered in that time and space of her life. I am happy she was able to see and set her priority as a mom. This isn’t easy to do.  I was driving during the call and actually said out loud to the radio, “Awww, you’re a mom with a good heart.” 

Then it got real. Dr. Laura told her she was to be commended for her thoughtful way of navigating this time of her life. She said that sometimes women have more babies so as to not let go of that feeling of being needed. As soon as their child gets to a certain age, they’ll have another baby and begin a cycle. Dr. Laura didn’t say it as a bad thing rather just a fact of life for some. 

It was then that it hit me. I was that woman. When my daughter Casey was heading off to college and the thought of being alone hit me, I immersed myself in a new marriage, small stepchildren. When things got especially hard, I immersed myself in one week old rescue dog I named Lulu which was an ode to Toddler Casey who one day proclaimed that her name was CaseyLulu and no one could address her as Casey anymore. When nothing seemed to be going right and I felt as if I were drowning in grief and displacement, I went harder at this process never allowing myself to settle in a new role. So while I didn’t have another child physically, I began again in essence. Perhaps the reason I didn’t think about what happens next was because I was a young mom and I had never been an adult without children. If I learned a lesson, can I put it down in words for myself and others who are going through these same points in life? 

Our season as our kid’s parents is short in the relative scheme of life. We are entrusted with these little beings to raise and it is our job to entrust them with the future and the knowledge of God and healthy relationships with others. After that, we become colleagues to these familiar adults and offer advice when asked. It is before we get to this time that we have to look for the next thing we are going to do with our lives. 

Life is forever changing. 

My hope is that you are aware and looking forward to the next part of your life. My time for mothering is complete. My children are all up and out. Each of them are productive members of society and for that I am grateful beyond measure to God. 

This new season that I am in brings on challenges of its own in new thought processes. I have a new purpose as a Nana to Cameron Joshua who is 2. Lulu the Wonder Dog turns 13 in about a month and our eyes fix on what is next. We are weighing options of retirement, where and when are the questions as we look to the next opportunity. As I type I realize much of life’s answers and good choices are made with lots of prayer and self reflection before we impulsively plunge into something that looks like a solution to frankly a problem that doesn’t have to be one. Life isn’t lived out fully if we are putting out fires of what-if thinking but instead it is lived out with assessment and consideration and looking at the bigger picture and the future that awaits.  

Accusations Abound

A friend called to ask advice over an incident that occurred. I listened carefully, then I laughed because what do you do other than laugh? The story went like this. My friend has three dogs. As with most pet owners they are indoor/outdoor dogs and at any given moment they can be inside or outside.

The neighbor children took to daring each other to climb over the fence into my friend’s yard to see what the dogs would do. My friend’s dog’s are trained and friendly but they are dogs and therefore can react differently than anticipated if they feel threatened. My friend happened to be home to see the children climb over into her yard and her dogs, fortunately reacted accordingly without barking or acting aggressively.

Upon further thought, she walked over to the neighbor’s home and politely told the mother about the incident telling her that her dogs were trained but that dogs react differently under pressure and she didn’t want anyone to get hurt. The mother became angry and said that these dogs “better not” bite her children. Rather than apologizing for her trespassing children she went into accusation mode. My friend shouldn’t have dogs if they are going to hurt children. Needless to say the conversation didn’t go well. The mother told my friend she would call the police because her dogs were dangerous.

What do you do when there is no foundation for an accusation? I remember a similar incident when we had our cat Joy who passed away of old age a few years ago. A neighbor came to my door and said that my cat was getting the other cats pregnant on our block and I needed to do something about it. She knew this because the kittens looked like my cat she explained. I assured her that it was not my cat as my cat was female and spayed. She shouted, “Are you sure because these kittens sure look like your cat?” Believe me I am sure.

One of the 10 Commandments is that you should not lie about your neighbor. I know these sets of basic human decency boundaries are considered outdated but they still hold true today for a civilized society. How do we hold to tenants that no longer apply? For those of us in Christ the bearing of false witness is a real thing. In a world where the media reports and then fact checks later it can get confusing as to what is right and what is wrong. Friends, don’t be deceived. We will give an account to God for every word that proceeds from our mouth. In a culture where truth isn’t valued it will be important to keep yourself clean of these types of infractions. Instead keep your peace. The accusations being thrown about are truly not your concern and don’t add a minute to your day.

My advice to my friend? Guard your pearls. Matthew 7:6

Because You Said Yes

I don’t typically write about you. It’s personal. My private world. Today I took a step out of myself and the day to day I get caught up in to catch a glimpse of you.

You asked, “Do you need anything?”

“No, honestly, I have every single thing I need.”

“That’s a blessed life.”

“It is.”

Then I noticed us. We laugh a lot. We laughed so much today that at one point, I couldn’t breathe or walk.

We have easy conversations. I don’t have to work to have things to say. We flow. 

We also hold hands. A lot. And smile at each other. A lot. Exchange glances a lot. 

I shouted, “WHAT IN THE WORLD DID I DO TO DESERVE YOU?”

“You were born on this planet. Then you were smart enough to say ‘yes, I will’. Because you said yes, the rest is just us.”

Sometimes you say things I’ll remember forever. 

The kicker? You made my day when you said, “I love these days.”

Me too. More than you know.

 

Leadership Lessons From Lulu The Wonder Dog

60817E47-0BCC-4CB9-9C71-DA1E85F7D7D3

When Baron arrived as a puppy to our home he happily bounded throughout the house. We began the daunting task of training him to sit, to stay, to walk on a leash, to use the doggy door and not the floor, to chew on his toys and not on the furniture.

Lulu The Wonder Dog was 10 years old at the time and she began the task of training him to be her assistant in the house. She corrected him when he came near her bowl. She corrected him when he pounced on her when she was taking a nap. She corrected him when he crawled on her bed without her permission. He learned quickly the boundaries of what would be acceptable and what wouldn’t.

The difference in these two breeds was noticeable. Lulu is a Cattle Dog, she herds for a living. She likes her humans in the same room, she walks ahead of us, then circles back behind us to make sure we are rounded up and sticking together. I am the alpha of the herd so she follows me and knows exactly where I am at all times. She is serious about her job and if you want to play fetch she won’t stop you, she just insists you go and get the object.

Baron is a Golden Retriever. He fetches things, socks, underwear, water bottles, doves, ducks, and tennis balls. He isn’t as sophisticated as Lulu so he chases cats. He isn’t concerned with herding, instead he looks for puddles, pools, lakes, mud, all while carrying two to four balls in his mouth at once. He hunts, he runs, and he is happy go lucky. If Lulu is the administrator, Baron is the frat boy.

Day two of his being home he was herded into the bathroom where I was getting ready. Not his scene he decided to turn around and proceed out of the bedroom. Lulu ran ahead of him, stopped him at the bedroom door and once again she herded him into the bathroom. She then laid across the bathroom entrance so that Baron could see what the mission was. She followed this pattern for days as if to let him know that their job was to guard me.

John 7:16 So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me.

She wasn’t concerned whether his breed herds or not. She had a mission and it was his job to help her complete that mission. She wasn’t concerned that his breed is smarter than hers, there was a mission and a way to complete that mission. She wasn’t concerned that he was younger and bigger than she was. You see, she understood delegation and empowering leaders.

She knew the mission was to empower leaders to implement the vision that she had been given for her family.

Baron would much rather do his own thing. He brings me a ball as I get out of the shower. I toss the ball but if it goes past the bathroom door, he stops and waits for me to leave the bathroom. Where is Lulu? Lulu who is now 12 years old, lays on her bed, inspecting what she expects, keeping on eye on her charge.

0C1A3F53-1198-45EE-8586-EB1BB47A23CC

Hebrews 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

I think of Lulu often when I’m at work. I don’t always like doing the jobs I have been tasked with but I have been empowered to implement the mission and I do so to the best of my ability, faithfully, no complaints, well some complaints, because it was what I was given to do.

How do you empower leaders in your line of work? How do you use your skills and talents to implement the vision of what you are putting your hands to do? I hope it’s with character and integrity.