Is it possible that snow in April, stupid lung diseases, and other atrocities could be good for us?

IMG_3843.jpgWe lived in the most glorious, sunny, mountainous and palm-treed locations both times that we lived abroad. Aix-en-Provence, France and Casablanca, Morocco are two dreamy places to have once been called “home”.

While living abroad, we met people from all over the states, as well as from around the world. Then we all moved on and returned to our “homeland” which means we now have friends scattered around the globe.

Visiting some of our friends in Southern California for the first time changed everything for me and my “Best Places In the World to Live” list. To be honest, my first thought when I encountered the beauty of southern California was not that I wished to live there, but one of feeling sorry for my Californian friends. Let me explain:

To me, the south of France and Morocco were these magical, breathtakingly beautiful holy sites where God revealed Himself to me. I cried the first time I saw the French Alps, the Mediterranean Sea, the palm-tree lined streets of Casablanca, and the Sahara Desert (to be fair, I do cry a lot…) Every time I encountered new beauty my Michigan-eyes had never known, I was left speechless, breathless, and entered a holy state of worship for a God who could (and would) create such beauty. My Michigan-eyes had beheld a LOT of glorious things in our mitten state, but just nothing like mountains, ocean, desert, palm trees, oh – and that elusive SUNSHINE!!! (Today, on April 11, it snowed in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Need I say more???)

So when on my inaugural trip to California I discovered identical beauty – mountains, ocean, desert, palm trees, sunshine (which can all be seen AT THE SAME TIME, for heavens sake!) – I realized that there was NO WAY my Californian friends could have felt the same depth, love, and appreciation that I did while we all lived in France and Morocco. There is no way that they woke up every day and said, “Lord have mercy! Another sunny day!” (as I did). There is no way they took endless pictures of palm trees (as I did). There is no way they walked the beaches every day and said, “God in heaven, help me to carry this moment with me forever – even into the polar vortex that is bound to hit in the middle of my future Michigan winters” (as I did).

I was CAPTIVATED by the weather and the landscape of those two countries – but only because I come from a backdrop of cold, snowy, and relatively flat Michigan. My California friends who also lived in France and Morocco with us must have greeted each new day with “Just another day in paradise.”

And that difference in our two experiences is such a CRUCIAL thing for us to remember when life gets hard, ugly, disappointing or blizzard-y.

A light shines brighter against a backdrop of darkness.

Comfort is only as comfortable to the degree of discomfort it relieves.

Joy is only as joyful as the sorrow from which it rescues.

Pain relief is only helpful to the degree of suffering it relieves.

God is only as good as to the depth of which we recognize our sin and need of a Savior.

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When we meet people who (seem) to come from a very “charmed” life – who basically seem to escape all suffering in this life (they are smart, rich, thin, never struggled with teenage acne, their kids all make good choices, no cancer, disease, or disorders, no bad hair days, and their dog never poops on the living room rug… Kind of like the sun is always shining in their lives. You know the type…) well, it is tempting for us to wish we were them. It seems like THAT would be the life we all want and should strive (pray) for.

But I wonder…. I wonder if we’d be missing out on some very important things God wants to show us if our lives were void of the pain, the messy, the heartache (the snow?) I wonder if there are actually parts of GOD we would not know if we never knew pain, suffering, hurt and loss.

Why are we given so many different names for God if we’d never need them? If we all pursued and achieved the “charmed” life without any pain and suffering, certainly there are attributes of God we would never know.

 

How can we know God as our DELIVERER if we’re never in a horrible place from which we need delivering?

How can we know God as our COMFORTER if we’ve never been uncomfortable?

How can we know God as our HEALER and GREAT PHYSICIAN if we’ve never known illness or disease or suffered emotional/spiritual brokenness?

How can we know God as our PROVIDER if we’ve never ached for provision?

How can we know our God, the PRINCE OF PEACE if we’ve spent our whole lives avoiding conflict, running from adversity, never challenged?

How can we know our God, the SANCTUARY, if we’ve never been in a place of needing protection?

How can we know God as a REFUGE FROM THE STORM if our lives are always “sunny”?

How can we know God as the BREATH OF LIFE if we never recognize our desperate need for Him in ALL things?

How can we know God as our SHEPHERD if we never see ourselves as lowly sheep?

 

I’m not in any way suggesting we shouldn’t live in California! Nor am I saying God gives suffering – I believe HE IS PERFECT and would never author pain, loss, and suffering. But I do believe, with all my heart, that through the suffering we discover a God we hadn’t previously known – and we come to experience Him and love Him more fully, deeper and truer.

And, after all, isn’t that what He wants most from us???

 

 

Rae Dunn, Jesus, and a Washing Machine

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Am I the truly the last one to the Rae Dunn Party? I have only recently discovered it’s magical lure when my sweet friend gifted me a mug engraved with“Sing” after she read my blog on how I’m struggling to sing.

Apparently, RD is the latest craze and people are clamoring and clawing their way to select stores and clandestine gas station rendezvous to get their hands on more of this imperfectly perfect pottery.

Now, much to my chagrin, I am too.

Days after unapologetically jumping that pottery bandwagon, I’m sitting in my car in the black, wee morning hours (which, if you know me, should already clue you in I’m no longer thinking rationally) waiting for Home Goods to open their doors so I can rush in and deploy some rusty high school basketball skills and “box out” any obnoxious Johanna Gaines wannabe’s so I can beat them to the latest installation of Rae Dunn goodness.

The longer I sit here in the parking lot, the more I feel something disturbing in my soul. I’m feeling queasy about this shopping virus I’ve caught. Honestly, the real me – the healthy me – knows this is not what I want to be about. It’s not what I want to do with my precious time. It’s not where I want to spend our money or my energies either.

Furthermore, I need more cute mugs about as much as I need another hysterectomy.

But as I wait in my warm car and contemplate all this I ask myself, “So if this is not who you want to be, then why are you really here, Cindy?”

I should be at home. I have a long messy list of people in real need waiting for me back home: several friends in the midst of difficult, serious trials who could all use a loving phone call, my junior-high discipleship girls begging for an afternoon of my time, my widowed mom needing a “check-in” because I just don’t do that enough, a friend in Morocco hoping for a call as she faces a mountain of paperwork in an attempt to move their family to Canada, and a hard-working-tax-season husband who I desperately needed to reconnect with over a lunch date. And the list goes on…

People. All these people who are important in my life. People I love dearly and care passionately about their wellbeing. But yet, I’m escaping the responsibility of caring for them to instead chase down some stupid Rae Dunn dishes.

Why?

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When our lives were flipped upside down – almost 20 years ago now – Paul and I prayed every day that our lives would better reflect that which we said we believed. Specifically, we wanted our lives to reflect that PEOPLE are always more important than THINGS. At that time, we knew we had been spending too much of our time on things (whether buying things, taking care of our things, saving for more things, scrolling and dreaming about things or just talking about our things) we KNEW this was not the way of the kingdom. So we fervently prayed God would flip that on its head.

For the most part, He did.

So what the heck am I doing here in the Home Goods parking lot about to buy more THINGS while PEOPLE who genuinely need me today wait???

Many smart people have been able to hone in on this pervasive problem that is mine today and name it.

Jon Acuff, the bestselling author of Do Over and Finish calls it a “Hiding Place” – an activity you focus on instead of your goal or living out your true calling. Steven Pressfield in his highly acclaimed book The War of Art calls it the “Resistance” and describes it as a “toxic force that deforms our spirit” and keeps us from our truest selves.

That is definitely true for me. I’m hiding, resisting and avoiding. I’m avoiding the “messy” things in my life by running to a store. Because this is brainless, instant gratification. And, let’s be honest, there’s no REAL cost (because I believe if something costs you only money, it’s really no cost at all). Shopping is just dang easy.

The way of Jesus – the way of loving people with all of me – is rarely easy.

And as far back as Bible times, the earliest followers of Christ struggled with the same crap:

15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[a] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

Romans 7:15 -20 

The apostle Paul doesn’t really go on at this point in the text to tell us how to respond when this happens, except to acknowledge it IS SIN living in us.

And we KNOW that we cannot overcome sin on our own. It’s just not possible.

We sin. We need a Savior. Period.

Holiness begins with knowing just how unholy we are. So that’s where we begin.

We acknowledge we are a sin-full people. We confess. We come clean.

WASH. RINSE. REPEAT.

Jesus – our holy washing machine.

I’m so thankful for a Savior who operates my rinse cycle – who puts my car in drive and pulls me out of the Home Goods parking lot so I can go home and do that which I know I’ve been called to and made to do.

Anyone else care to bravely share what things they do that they do not want to do? Are there things that pull you away from that which you know is right to do?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Date and the Cockroach

Unknown-1When we lived in Morocco we had a serious cockroach problem. They were everywhere – that was the problem. I never understood it. I had believed cockroaches only lived in dirty places so I tried to keep our house impeccably clean. But these cockroach-demons thought it was their house, too, and refused to leave no matter what we tried to eradicate them. And they were unbelievably, disgustingly large – nearly big enough to saddle-up and ride. They were so big that one time when a cockroach flew in through our screenless window and smacked me in the shoulder I thought it was a bird (which happened on occasion in Morocco, too). And these vermin are uglier than sin, or Gollum, or even the flying monkeys of Oz. Unlike traditional cockroaches that prefer your basement, sewer or garbage cans, our cockroaches seemed to prefer our upper-level bedrooms. Also, just like satan, these roaches were nocturnal and would hunt us down at night. Sometimes they crawled up on our bed. On several occasions, they crawled up on us. One time, in the middle of the night, Paul had one crawl up on his face and it tried to suck the spit from his mouth. Yes, it did.

Lord, have mercy. How I hate cockroaches.

However, living in Morocco also presented us with glorious things that, as Michiganders, we couldn’t get enough of – like sunshine, the ocean, surfing, mint tea, and, most affectionately, the year-round fresh fruit. I loved the unique sweetness of the watermelon, the juicy clementines, and abundant yellow cantaloupe with a red dot drawn on the side. (I repeatedly asked the locals for the specific name of the cantaloupe and they always replied “Yes, of course, it’s name in English is: Yellow cantaloupe with a red dot on the side.”) But Paul, he liked the dates the best. He ate them like candy. He would always pick up a box of dates whenever he did the shopping and would sneak them in the house when I wasn’t looking. He had to sneak because I would have never, ever, ever, ever to infinity, bought a box of dates. Never. I was loathe to even try one because, to me, they looked EXACTLY like cockroaches. The date’s opaque reddish-brown color along with its oblong shape and size are identical to the cockroach! If you added a couple antennae and four of those nasty, jagged, fast-as-lightning legs – voila! – a cockroach. Paul would rip open a date and yank out the pit and it looked to me just like dissecting a cockroach. I get puke in my mouth just thinking about it. Disgusting.

But one fateful day on a visit to the home of our dear Moroccan friends, I felt obliged (coerced?) to eat a date. They were passed around as the before-dinner-snack. And because Moroccans are the most hospitable people on this planet I didn’t want to dishonor them by refusing the food offered. Furthermore, they kept insisting these were the best dates in all of Morocco and my life just wouldn’t be complete without experiencing their succulence. So, I inhaled deeply, thanked God that living overseas had taught me to perfect “mouth-breathing-while-chewing-to-avoid-tasting”, and I ate one. Lo and behold, the skies parted, the muzzein stopped his call to prayer, the wild dogs stopped their barking, the incessant chorus of horns from the congested Casablancan streets stopped their honking, and a fantastic ray of sunshine beamed through the nearby gothic window lighting up that whole bowl of dates with a heavenly glow. I had experienced the divine. I proceeded to bury my face in that bowl and without any reserve or conscience, I devoured those dates. Every last one of them. Forget what I said earlier about infinity – those dates are now on my all-time favorite foods list and I will most definitely be buying dates both now and forevermore. Amen.

However, my problem remained. Cockroaches and dates still look shockingly similar. And what if, on a certain occasion, I would reach into our cupboard and instead of grabbing a date, inadvertently grab a cockroach? That may seem hard to fathom, but I promise you, in my kitchen in Morocco – it was entirely possible. What if I didn’t notice it was a cockroach until it was too late, say, after I had bitten the head off? Or worse yet, the butt? How would I make sure that when I wanted to eat this beautiful, succulent fruit that God kissed the earth with, I wouldn’t mistakenly grab something that looks exactly like it, but is actually pure evil?

(Now I know what the Bible says about God having created every living thing. It only makes sense that he created the cockroach. But I just gotta believe there is another explanation. I think somehow satan got his greedy little hands on what was otherwise an innocent cricket or gentle grasshopper and mutated it ever so slightly to become the cockroach. Maybe Adam lost a bet or a coin-toss or something – I don’t know. But I cannot believe that my all-loving God saw the cockroach and pronounced it “good” – I’m sticking with “pure evil”).

Because that ‘ole enemy of our souls is such a masterful deceiver, he is expert at taking something beautiful and twisting it just enough that we think we are tasting of the good, but he’s selling us the lie. He masterfully disguises the evil, – my gosh, it looks exactly like a date –and lures us into taking a bite, only to find we’ve been duped – we are eating cockroach butt.

For example, we all need food to live. Food is good. Food is beautiful. Food for fuel is the date. When I eat half a pan of brownies while staring out the window simply because I’m procrastinating – that is the butt of a cockroach.

Anytime the good is mutated slightly – often ever so subtIy – we are at risk for unknowingly consuming or endorsing something that is entirely evil.

When the “good” becomes warped, or too time-consuming, or over-magnified, or power-fueled, or greed-based, it then becomes “evil”. This can apply to nearly everything: work, play, education, exercise, cleanliness, shopping, leadership, knowledge, friendships, even (oooooh, here I go….) Bible studies!

Here’s another one – one of the “hottest” of our day: kids’ sports. It’s an example of ensuing evil that is so subtle, so culturally accepted and applauded, that it is unbelievably easy to miss. I see parents everywhere who love their children – a lot – which, of course, is a good thing. And in the name of love they sign their little Johnny up for soccer, hoping Johnny will develop habits of discipline, make new friends, stay fit, and find something he is passionate about. But then, a few years down the road, the parents and Johnny alike are some kind of soccer horror story where the only thing they live, breathe, think and discuss is soccer, Soccer, SOCCER, SOCCCCCCCERRRRRRR! Unbeknownst to them, because it happened so subtly, they have sacrificed family dinners, vacations, attending church, time with their other kids, money they meant to give to charitable causes, and even peace of mind just so Johnny could play soccer, Soccer, SOCCER, SOCCCCCCCERRRRRR!   Because, the fact is, we cannot say “yes” to something without saying “no” to something else. Something ALWAYS gives. Of course, they will very defensively tell you having your child in sports is a good thing, and their humble hopes and goals are that Johnny will get to play in high-school, or even college, or possibly be the next Lionel Messi, so all of this “investment” will have its payoff.

But here it is: they are sucking on a cockroach butt.

The control that soccer has over their family’s life is no longer the beautiful fruit of the date – the beautiful thing that sports can and should be in the life of a child – but a raw and disease-ridden cockroach that will end up killing something in their lives. Perhaps it will kill Johnny’s passion. Or perhaps their marriage. Or their relationships with their friends, neighbors, or other children. Or their time that God meant for them to be in service to others. Or their money God meant for them to share. Or their diversified interests. Something will die. Because that is the scheme of satan – “….he comes to lie, kill and destroy”.   And when we mistake the cockroach for the date – something will die.

In no way am I suggesting soccer is bad. Soccer is good. Soccer and swimming, play practice and piano, basketball and baseball, scholastic tutoring and science Olympiad, clarinet lessons and camera club: ALL GOOD. These things are dates, and when given their proper place and appropriate level of significance in the lives of our children, these things produce good and beautiful fruit in their lives.

However, when a good thing (perhaps soccer, but could be any kid’s activity) becomes too all-consuming, combined with every other all-consuming activity we’ve said “yes” to for our kids, we, the FAMILY, become exactly that: CONSUMED. We are EATEN ALIVE by the monster of our lives that we ourselves are responsible for creating. We created it – but it is all because we first bought the lie. We were deceived into biting into that which looked exactly like a date.

The enemy of our souls is relentlessly whispering to us this lie: “Do it ALL, you good and faithful parents! Give your kids ALL of it! If you don’t, they won’t make it in this world. They won’t succeed if you don’t give them every opportunity available. They will never make the [insert goal] if you don’t sign them up for the [insert activity]. You’re gonna have to work harder, push more, eat faster, sleep less, give greater in order for your kids to succeed in this world – that’s just the way it is today. If you don’t give-in to this new world order, maybe you don’t really love your kids. Maybe you’re selfish. This is your KIDS we’re talking about…”

We’ve had several children in our home over the last few years that say they can’t remember the last family dinner they’ve shared around their dining room table. Cockroach butt. I’ve been to so many all-day swimming and volleyball and gymnastics tournaments and watched countless younger siblings curled up on a blanket in the corner playing video games or watching movies on an i-pad for eight hours straight while big brother or sister competes. Cockroach butt. When husbands and wives can’t remember their last date-night – cockroach butt. When elderly parents no longer get visits from their children and grand-children – cockroach butt. When moms are working to supplement dad’s two-job income just to support all the kids’ sports and activity expenses – cockroach butt. When “coping” means the whole family needs to be on Prozac – it’s definitely cockroach butt.

All this begs one of the most important questions for our generation: Have we made our KIDS a false god? Out of love, and thinking that it was good, could it be we have elevated the successes and goals of our children to an unhealthy place costing us our marriages, our family relationships, our friendships, our health, our family dinners, our philanthropic dollars, our generosity and hospitality to others, our sanity – and even our peace of mind? How crafty of satan to take that which is good (our love for our kids) and twist it just enough that it actually becomes a very dangerous, self-destructive thing in society. The date is really a cockroach.

And here is a truth: We don’t have to live like this. WE DON’T HAVE TO LIVE LIKE THIS! We only need to take a step back and really gaze into the eyes of the monster that is eating us – identify the monster as the cockroach and lay it down. LAY IT DOWN. Stop pretending that it’s okay.

It’s not okay. LAY IT DOWN.

If you, like me, have heard yourself whining about your fatigue, complaining about your busyness, or just plain sad that your life isn’t what you thought it’d be because some external factors are just sucking the life out of you, maybe we all need to reach in our mouths and pull out the stuff we’ve been chewing on and take a good look at it: Is it a date or a cockroach?

 

 

 

Angels in the Sewage

sewer.cvb_t290It may be true that snowstorms suck and this past February was the coldest Michigan has seen in over 100 years… but I think a February of solid rain in tropical countries is potentially worse. Here’s why:

We should have all died as we sloshed around, knee-deep, in Darrin and Julie’s sewage.

We were living in Morocco – a country that many would describe as “backwards.” Admittedly, it is confusing why the country still tolerates garbage everywhere – littering the streets, fields and beaches; or why buildings are left half-done for decades – sometimes with occupants; or why there are essentially no rules for driving: lane lines are entirely irrelevant and disregarded, traffic lights are merely suggestions, and many drivers don’t own a drivers license. Perhaps that does describe a “backwards” country.  But to me, it was all beautiful. Morocco was our home and because the people were thoroughly loving and kind, it was actually quite easy to look right past the confusing, backward parts.

Except one.

There was a serious lapse in logic when Moroccan builders built the low-cost cement row homes of which we rented. I’m no builder –  the farthest thing from it, actually. But even I wonder what the heck they were thinking when they would first pour a HUGE cement sewage holding tank, and then construct the home directly over it.

There are many reasons this seems stupid to me. The biggest reason is the cockroach population that proliferated so rapidly in that sewage tank that within weeks of a new home construction, they would find their way up the drainage systems and into our HOMES to find more food and water. Cockroaches were a part of our everyday life in Morocco. I hate cockroaches – almost as much as the flying monkeys of OZ. Now, I know God is the Maker of all, but I still think cockroaches must somehow be the spawn of satan. But that’s another story.

Probably the second stupidest reason that one should not build their home directly over their sewage tank, is that in torrential rains (which occur November through March in non-drought years in Morocco) the tank overflows and can potentially back up into your home. Lovely, huh?

In an act of love and selfishness, when our friends Darrin and Julie decided to join us and work in Morocco, we found a house for them just down the street from ours. We were thrilled to have them be our neighbors. We were so excited to get to “do life” together in our little Muslim surfing village on the outskirts of Casablanca.

One thing we never anticipated was that to “do life” together would mean we’d be wading knee-deep through their sewage.

The second year in their home, Darrin and Julie (and kids Sawyer and McKenna) woke up one day to water swirling around their ankles. It was rainy season, and it was a wicked one, and the rains had not let up for days. The Jones’ septic tank beneath their home couldn’t handle the water. It bubbled into their home from every shower drain, toilet, and even cracks in the concrete. By the time we heard of their disaster in the late morning, the water had risen knee-high. A small army of loving, self-less people raced to their aid and set up a rescue mission. We created a bucket brigade passing buckets of sewage water up a set of stairs and out the door to the street. More people were dumping buckets of sewage into the backyard – which itself was flooded, but we had so few options. Glory be, but someone found a small electric water pump – probably the ONLY water pump in this nation that seems to just accept flooding – and we placed it precariously on a chair in the middle of the flooded dining room. Julie sat on a chair next to it, creating her own little island in a swirling brown sea – and with her feet in the air, she filled the water receptacle with sewage water – bucket after bucket after bucket – praying the little pump would keep up with the rising waters. The rest of us prayed it wouldn’t fall off the chair.

There were people in nearly every room of their home, helping in every way. In addition to the bucket brigade, there were people in the back yard attempting to unclog a sewage drain hoping we could start sending water out that way. There were people in the garage who brought food in for all the workers. There were people standing in the street, in the rain, just trying to figure out how to help.

And every person that entered their home that day should have died.

Every person who came to help entered Darrin and Julie’s home on the main level, and then descended their stairs to the lower level where the kitchen, living area and two bedrooms were located. As we saw the rising sewage water, we would toss off our shoes, rip off our socks and roll up our pant legs. We’d grab a bucket and walk right into the sewage and get busy. I don’t remember anyone mentioning the risk of electrocution. I do remember watching people race to unplug certain things like the TV, computers, and lamps and thinking “I’m pretty sure standing knee deep in water and pulling on electrical cords is something Bill Nye the Science Guy said to never do.”  I do remember somebody mentioning that the water level had risen as high as the wall outlets. Outlets which carry 220volts, not the 120v we use in the USA. Outlets which were wired by electricians who are not required to be licensed in this country. Outlets which have delivered enough voltage into a full-grown man to launch him right off his feet (that would be Darrin as well, but, again…. another story).

Looking back, I do not know how, for the love of God, no one was electrocuted that day. We were standing in water that was soaking in electricity. And even more unbelievable – no one got sick. Not a single case of gastroenteritis, or salmonellosis, or shigellosis, or hepatitis, or giardiasis. Not even a rash or a fever or a fungus. Nothing.

And this, I believe, is the reason: There are angels in the sewers.

I believe we are entertaining angels unaware – everywhere and all the time. But what I have discovered to be true so often in my own life is that in the darkest, dankest, most stinky, ugly and disgusting moments – the angels are really felt. They are known. We feel protected and safe. And we feel kept.

Sometimes you have to roll up your pants and just step into the sewage of life. You have to risk electrocution and hepatitis. You have to be brave and just do it because it is the right thing to do. And so GO DO IT, my friends. Be brave and GO DO IT because angels will keep you. You will be kept.

Sometimes you don’t ask for it. You don’t even have time to rip off your socks and shoes or roll up your pants – you simply wake up one day and find yourself in the middle of swirling sewage.

This – this swirling sewage, is what my life feels like currently. I did not ask for this. I did not willingly choose to engage in this battle with crap. But still, I am noticing the angels. I am feeling held. I am feeling kept.

May you truly know, brothers and sisters, that there are angels among us. ESPECIALLY in the sewage.

If I Had Only Nine More Years Left to Live

UnknownIt has been a year since I was diagnosed with Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM) a helluva stupid lung disease that is slowly consuming my lung tissue and sucking the life from me. There is no cure. It has been a hard year – and my disease has progressed even though I specifically, repeatedly, desperately asked God to not let that happen – and I feel constantly compelled to reexamine my life and it’s meaning. Last year, on Christmas Eve, I wrote a blog entitled “If I Only had 10 More Years to Live” – and how having a potentially terminal illness changed my life’s goals almost immediately. Living with this diagnosis for a year and letting that reality sink in has taught me even more – and I felt compelled to update that “bucket list”.

It’s like my own constitutional amendments…
1)  Contrary to what I wrote a year ago, I will NOT be keeping Snickers in my car 100% of the time to have on hand for panhandlers.

I piloted this program for several months and after single-handedly eating SIX bags of snack-size Snickers, gaining FOUR pounds, and only passing out ONE candy bar – I’ve decided I MUST come up with another plan or I won’t die of LAM, but Snickers toxicity! Because poverty and homelessness literally keep me awake at night, I’ve got to DO something. Ignoring the issue is not an option for me. I’ve decided I’m going to have Degage vouchers with me at all times to give out to panhandlers. They are coupons from our local inner-city mission that can be redeemed for a meal, bus fare, haircut, or hats and gloves. Even BETTER than a Snickers. Check out your own city mission and see what they offer – because every city has some (that is, homeless people AND helpful solutions).

2)  I will watch less volleyball.

I adore my daughter and want to fully support every endeavor that is important to her (and all five of my kids). However, the amount of time that sports are sucking from the life of our generation is sickening and I don’t want to be a part of that madness anymore.
Our culture has dictated societal “norms” for sports involvement that simply require more from our family that we’re willing to give. There is a great quote by Krishnamurti that made me realize I was succumbing to a dangerous trend: “It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted in a profoundly sick society.”

This lifestyle of dinner-in-the-car, homework-on-the-sidelines, texting-conversations, weekends-at-the-tournament, no-time-for-church, and washing-the-uniform-at-midnight, CANNOT be the best distribution of time that God had in mind when He planned for Christians to be His hands and feet! When we attend every stinkin’ thing our children participate in – in this world that has run amok with children’s athletics and child-focused activities – we are actually giving our children TOO much attention and thus making them our false god. Our children need our love and support, not our worship. Maybe if we took our children off the throne, we’d have more time for all the things Jesus told us to be about: the poor, the oppressed, the hungry, the hurting, the marginalized, each other.

If I really do only have 9 years left to live, I want to have time for friends with cancer, widowed neighbors, young moms with screaming toddlers, teens from the inner-city, the stranger in the backed-up check-out line who looks like he’s ready to cry, AND my kids! I love my kids profoundly – and by saying I want to give them a little less side-line attention does not mean I love them any less. I just want to try to make the remaining distribution of my limited time a reflection of a heart that breaks for the things that breaks God’s heart. My WHOLE world is not my children.

3)  Maybe if I watch less volleyball, I’ll have more time for the things that I didn’t get around to (but really MEANT to!) from last year’s bucket list: ICE CREAM dinners at the trailer park and time with nursing home residents who don’t get any visitors. Or maybe I’ll combine the two and load up my car with kids from the trailer park and together bring 20 gallons of ice cream to the nursing home! To me, that sounds like a taste of heaven.

4)  And this whole Ferguson mess taught me something: I need to make some black friends.

One of the richest experiences of our lives has been living in Morocco and making true, deep, lasting friendships with Muslims. When Islam has a name, a face, an address, a friendship, it changes your perspective on all things “Islamic”. I love these people in Morocco. And they love me. And so I’m extremely cautious before deriving any kind of conclusion about what is really happening is the Muslim world.

During the Ferguson debacle, I realized I don’t understand racism in America hardly at all. While in America, I have largely lived in an all-white, middle-class, Christian bubble. I didn’t mean to do that – it just kind of happened. I certainly don’t know enough black people deeply enough to say I can understand their life or our differences. That fact made me so sad. I tried to keep my mouth shut through all of the debates going on over that mess in Ferguson. Maybe I’ll weigh in when I have a bunch of black friends and feel I understand their hearts better. I’m not talking about exploiting some fake friendships. I really do want some black friends – and I just want to acknowledge that right now I’m ignorant. And ignorant people should keep quiet

5)  This past year has taught me I need to spend LESS time with my mother-in-law…

This is one of the hardest for me because I was wrongly believing that I was the only one who could help her and meet her needs. But what I’ve been failing to do was accept dementia. Dark. Unfair. Cruel. Relentless. And I can’t fix it or make it go away and going to visit her every day was only leaving both of us exhausted. I have to let it go and accept that we are losing her slowly to this ugly disease. I can give her only what I can give her – no more, but never any less either. This has helped me in other areas of my life, too. I’ve learned I’m a fixer and I hate it when I can’t solve problems or make them go away. But accepting that OUR SAVIOR came, specifically, to carry all our burdens, means that all we have to do is show up. We don’t have to fix them or carry them or worry about them, we just need to be fully present in the midst of them. He really DID come to set us FREE!

6)  A year later, and I’m STILL not gonna watch any Reality TV (Sorry all you DWTS fans – but I just don’t get it) Apparently, however, we as a family are going to occasionally curl up in blankets and absorb five seasons of Parenthood and try to solve issues like autism, teen sex, affairs and cancer with the family Braverman.

7)  And on the no dusting and vacuuming vow I made last year… WELLLLLLLL, the truth is really two-fold. One, I’ve learned that a house full of dust and pollen and dog hair is REALLY bad for my failing lungs and I really do want to make those two suckers last as long as possible. And two, when I can write words in the dust on my coffee table, it distracts me so much I can’t even think. So, truth be known, I’ve started dusting again. But not washing windows. And don’t even ASK me what my closets and drawers and laundry room look like. Housework? Paring it down to the necessities – and it feels so right.

In fact, THAT’S IT! – That’s what you do when you feel you’ve been given your expiration date…. You pare it all down to the necessities – discovering what it is that you truly need and what truly makes you feel most alive!!! Thank-you, Jesus, for coming to earth a baby, living to know all pain and suffering, dying to conquer death, and being ALL that I would truly ever need.
“For lo, I bring you good news of great joy that shall be for all people. For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2: 10, 11