Cute boys, worthy goals and lasting life tokens (Flashback Friday)

Well, after tallying all the results, organizing them, sifting them and analyzing the polls from this week, I’ve come to a huge decision:

I’m going to post whenever the stuff comes pouring out of my brain.

Actually, you really helped me come up with a plan. I’ll share once or twice a week and then every Friday will be Flashback Friday. As some of you know, I used to be a blogger by e-mail, sending out stories and snippets from my journey. On Fridays, I’ll share from those archives.

I appreciate you!

Here we go—from the summer of 2003:

August 15, 2003

The other morning Sami started middle school, 6th grade. Before she left I grabbed her hands. I asked if I could pray for her and she nodded. I prayed for her bus ride, her teachers, her friends and her schoolwork. At the end of my prayer, I looked up at her with tears in my eyes, so full was my heart.

“Mom,” she said, highly offended,  “you forgot to pray about the cute boys!”

“Oh,” I quickly bowed my head. “And dear Lord, please keep all the cute boys as far away from Sami as possible.”

“Mooooommmmmmm……”

August 23rd, 2003

I spent some time with one of my favorite people the other day, Emma Joy. She’s only 3 years old. She’s very smart and we have some of the best conversations. We were talking about her fourth birthday. “I’ll be able to swim all by myself… and jump.”

Yes, jump.

She jumped right then and there and solemnly informed me that she couldn’t jump very high as a 3 year old. “But when I’m 4, I’m going to jump much higher.”

I thought that was a worthy goal. And so, by the time I’m 35, I’m going to be able to jump. Not high, but much higher than a 34-year-old.

(Post note: I’m 42 and I still can’t jump. Although to be honest, I haven’t really tried lately. Hold on; let me check real quick… (pause, stand up, jump, hear an odd noise in my knee, sit down…) Uh, nope. Still can’t jump. Maybe when I’m 43.)

Reeses, Sam and me

September 2, 2003

Sami and I were driving back from Missouri late last night. Sami was feeling especially affectionate. The dog was settled between us and Sami reached over and pulled me towards her. (Yes, I was driving, but I kept my hands on the wheel and my eyes on the road.  Yes, I am very safety conscious. Totally.) In between us our dog, Reeses, was pleasantly smashed.

“Mom,” she said, “I know what I want for my birthday. I want God to give you, me and Reeses Lasting Life Tokens. That way, we will all die at the same time and never have to be without each other.”

It kind of choked me up. Lasting Life tokens.

I thought some more. I guess He does do that. I guess He did do that. His Son.

“Oh Sami, we may not die at the same moment, but we do have tokens. Free passes. The entry into life together for always. We didn’t even have to pay anything for it. We just said yes.”

One Lasting Life Token please.

Oh thank you, Jesus…

Dance in your jammies (Part 2 to Look at me!)

Ok, so yesterday I talked about my deep need to know I matter, that I’m special to God, my family and at least a few thousand (OK, OK, 787) Facebook friends. I pooh-poohed thinking too much of the good things God has brought into my life or pondering too long on the things I’ve accomplished. There’s a flip side though. I don’t really want to be the person who berates herself either… “I’m just a slimy piece of Twinkie wrapper, a piece of dirt caught in the bottom of someone’s shoe, a smidge of mouse dropping in the corner of the garage… covered by dust… and a 12-year-old bag of fertilizer.”

No, that’s not going to work. If I think of myself as a no-good, rotten ne’er do well, then that’s exactly how I’m going to act.

So how do we do this thing?

Four things popped into my brain as I was thinking about it. One of those four had to do with pepperoni pizza, so we’ll forget that – but the other three thoughts stuck with me. They may not feel all connected, but it’s my blog so I get to break all literary rules that force me to keep it neat anyway.

So here we go:

I’m loved.

God loves me. He loved me when I used to sneak out of the church to smoke a cigarette and when I sat doing that radio broadcast with the big kahuna. He found me downright adorable when I was 3 years old, spunky at 16 and fondly persnickety at 42. He loves me because I’m his own. His girl. His daughter. That’s what defines me and thank God that’s the way it is. When I define myself by things I’ve done, it gets messy. It means when a book tanks, I tank. When 1000 friends de-friend me, I am a loser. It means if half of you unsubscribe from this blog because I don’t follow literary rules, I’m done.

But if God loves me and holds my “success,” then I’m safe. If my journey as a loved woman of God takes a few dark turns, I’m in good hands. If I make some strides in earthly success, it’s his deal. If I tank one day and shine the next, He’s got me.

Ah, the freedom in being defined by his love and not by my works!

But we should still dance in our jammies…

When we get things right, we should still celebrate. When we get noticed at work, when we share a chocolate bar (and we really don’t want to), when we love on our child even after he or she gets 27 speeding tickets in 19 days – we should take some time to boogie. David, in the Bible, knew how to celebrate. At one point he danced in the street in his linen ephod.  What’s a linen ephod? Think Fruit of the Loom, loincloth, tighty whitey. People were shocked, but He could care less, He loved his God and couldn’t contain the wild celebration of God’s goodness.

Now, I am not encouraging you to dance in your underwear. David was lucky. They didn’t have charges like “indecent exposure” back in his day.

Perhaps you could dance in your jammies instead. Although do avoid any main streets….

Listen, when good things come, celebrate. Dance, Smile, laugh. Go out to dinner. Treat yourself on ice cream. Do a jig in your jammies. Good things and our good God are worth celebrating!

One last quick thing – when we do that, live loved and dance for God’s goodness, we point the way to God.

Late one afternoon, I was looking over a lake. The sun was just setting. The rays created a pathway of light on the water. I traced its sparkling beauty from the shore to the setting sun. That jeweled pathway was pointing the way to the source of light.

That’s what we get to do. When we live loved and celebrate God and the good things He is doing in our lives, we point people to him. Like each shimmering wave on that lovely lake, we all sparkle together and point to the same source.

The cool thing? When we do that, others find him easier to spot… and ultimately, get to dance in their jammies too.

Look at me!

Look at me!

My longing to be noticed started off harmless enough. After all, I was the first girl born after a batch of boys. Look at my toes! Look at my dress! Look at how cute I am! John, on the left, was less than thrilled with me, but don’t you worry, I did what I could to win him over through my toddler years.

Just a few years later…

At 7 years old, I’d spin a hundred times. “Watch me, Mama, watch me!”

At 9, I’d climb a tree and cling to the branch. “Look at me, Dad! Look at how high I got!”

My parents were kind over the years. My brothers, not as much. “That’s nothing, you’re just a girl. I could climb higher than that.”  (They couldn’t, by the way. I was a superb tree climber.) But never mind that. For the most part, my little girl need to be noticed was met.

So now I’m a little older, a growing and mature believer in our God. I’ve learned that it’s not very polite to stand in front of a group and say “Look at me!” And I get that it would be weird for me to spin a hundred times in my living room and then turn to my husband, “Wasn’t that good? Wasn’t it, love?”

Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, those little girl longings still surface.

Like when I recently filled out a marketing form for my publisher. They asked me how many friends I have on Facebook. I wrote, “1000-ish.”

 

Look at me!

Almost immediately it felt like the Holy Spirit cleared his throat over my shoulder.

 

Fine. (Erase, erase). “787 – but I’m working on it.”

I saw that little girl again when I was recently interviewed for a national radio broadcast. After the interview, someone took a picture of me with the big kahuna on one side and the lovely doctor co-host on the other. I received a letter (with the picture) a few days later.

 

Look at me!

I put the picture and letter up on the fridge.

I was tempted to invite over my neighbors, the newspaper boy and any random strangers meandering by our home. “Come on in, grab a bite to eat… no, really. Just open that refrigerator door and help yourself!”  Maybe I’d even tape up the door so they couldn’t actually open it, then they would be forced to ogle the prominent picture on the fridge. “Oh my goodness, Elsa, is that you with….”

“Oh, that silly old picture? I forgot it was there.”

Oh friends, what is wrong with me? Does a picture make me matter? Do 1000 friends make me more special then 787 friends? If that’s the case, what happens when I bump over the 2000 mark? Does God invite me up to heaven for a VIP dinner? Hand me a certificate and call me out in front of the crowd? “Goodness, Elsa, I was waiting for the moment you would cross 2000 friends on Facebook. Now you have truly arrived and can officially be my number one girl.”

Blech. Ugh. Gross.

So I sat in that awhile. Gave myself a good tongue-lashing for my little girl self-obsession.  And then God in his grace, reminded me that He has slowly been growing me up. He brought to mind the stories I talked about on that radio show… the tales of my most broken moments as a young single mom – how I made bad choices and hurt people I cared about. And then how I told the big kahuna and the kind doctor and that radio audience all about my God. I told them how He met me with his grace through loving older women. I talked about the sweet gifts He gave me in the midst of my poverty, pain and foolishness. I talked of how his love wooed me and drew me and set me free.

On that radio show, I got it: Look at HIM! Look at HIM!

And I imagine in that moment, God smiled. And nudged the nearest angel. “Ahhh, now see? Look at my girl..”

 

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time (1 Peter 5:6).

P.S. I’d love to hear your comments… and just so you know, there’s a part two to this blog. Stay tuned. 🙂