cultivate (kuhl - tuh - veyt)
v. 1) develop 2) nurture

graft (grahft)
n. 1) transplant 2) bud 3) union

Sunday, May 26, 2013

A Memorial

sa·lute  [suh-loot] - to express respect or praise for; honor; commend.

To the young man fresh out of high school, we salute you.

To the single mom soaking up little hugs before she faces months of separation, we salute you.

To the man who has no one but his dog to hug goodbye, we salute you.

To the career soldier with his sights set on Colonel, we salute you.

To the husband wondering if his marriage will survive his new orders, we salute you.

To the women who have bucked tradition and signed on the dotted line, we salute you.

To the scores of men and women enlisting because you love this country, we salute you.

To those who arrived at boot camp wondering if you'd made a mistake, you pressed on and we salute you.

To those who desire to serve, but find themselves ineligible, we salute you.

To those who served your time and got the heck out, we salute you.

To those who reenlisted, we salute you.

To the units who have pressed on when grieving the loss of one of their own, we salute you.

To those facing second, third, fourth deployments, we salute you.

To those who disappointingly faced a medical discharge, we salute you.

To those who are forever changed from the heavy toll of combat, we salute you.

To our veterans who fought wars so unlike today's, you paved the way, epitomized patriotism, and we salute you.

To our wounded who feel cheated out of duty, we salute you.

To our Prisoners of War, you endured much and paid a steep price. We salute you.

To our Missing in Action, all hope is not lost. You are not forgotten. We salute you.

To our Killed in Action, you have paid the ultimate price for our freedom. We solemnly salute you. And it is not enough.

We salute the mama who hugged her daughter for the last time, the father who recognized the honor shining back in his son's eyes, the spouses who dread to answer the door, the children whose childhoods are colored with a little more fear than their peers, and the widows who validate those fears.

To our United States Military, every branch, every uniform. Past and present. 
We strongly salute you.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Muddled Thoughts And Made-Up Words

I took a braincation.

I sent my brain on a vacation. It wasn't a glitzy destination with gobs of sightseeing and colorful memories. It was more of a gentle river ride, drifting to the whims of a lazy current; The details of which are easily forgettable, but the effects of which are far-reaching. I drifted from bank to bank, allowing refreshing waters to wash away grimy sludge. What's left behind are more pristine thoughts than the muddled quagmire I've been slogging through for the past few weeks.

It wasn't writer's block, it was writer's deluge. So very many thoughts and too few minutes left before the clock strikes midnight. With an overload of ideas, I short-circuited my own creativity. Not brilliant, I tell you.

So after a nice little trip down the lazy river, I've returned with less sludge, more clarity and a sweet tan.* My thanks and admiration to you dear readers for indulging my fancies. 


*If I'm going to get tanned on my braincation, you'd better believe it won't be one of those burn-and-then-peel-back-to-pasty-white jobs. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Let Them: A Saturday Series

This first Saturday series is called "Let Them". There are so many things we just big, fat don't let our kids do. I'm meeting some of those things head-on and seeing what happens.

Let Them Dream God-Sized Dreams

In this final installment of this "Let Them" series, I am feeling nostalgic and hopeful; Nostalgic for cultivated tender years and hopeful that perhaps my children will one day nestle into their childhood memories wrapped in warm nostalgia. And when they slip into the crevices of their past, I pray their path is cushioned with big dreams. God-sized dreams.

As my children journey through their memories there will always be shards of broken dreams littering the way, and that is OK. For some dreams are white-washed and need to be shattered in one sacred breath by The Cornerstone. Other dreams are nothing short of God-breathed. These are the spaces of our lives where Christ is most evident; Where I leave off and my God is all that remains. And who's to say this can't all be accomplished in the tiniest of frames? Who's to say a toddler is too small for God-sized dreams? Who's to say your 4 foot, nuthin' son cannot be the link to eradicating extreme poverty? Who's to say your teenage daughter cannot be a voice for the voiceless, braces and all? If your children come to you with dreams so big your breath catches in your throat, let them. Let them dream and let them pursue those dreams, no matter how impossible or elusive they may seem to be. 

Dreams, fulfilled and broken alike, all reflect the handiwork and brilliance of our Savior. In wholeness or brokenness all we have, are and hope to be is cocooned in our Creator. He alone knows what vibrant colors will emerge to take wing. 

Let them dream, let them soar!


Thursday, May 9, 2013


There is a reason I don't watch much t.v. If I were to stumble across a show like "Toddlers and Tiaras" I would then have to explain to the Professor how exactly the remote "just happened" to slip out of my hand and crack the t.v. screen. Accidentally.

I consider myself a fairly reasonable person. My girls experiment with nail polish and on rare occasions are allowed minimal make-up in public.* When I read this girl's interview, I was equal parts horrified, grieved, and self-righteous; Horrified at who/what this little girl (and her pageant comrades) are and will yet become, grieved for all they can never be and self-righteous that I would never do this to my girls.

Everything in me screams, "In what alternate universe is this acceptable?!?" This girl is growing up in a world where her best is not nearly good enough. Hence the spray tans, hair extensions and fake teeth. Oh have mercy. Did I just write that? Sweetie, your skin isn't porcelain-perfect, let's fix it. Your hair is not thick, shiny, long enough. But that's OK, because we have something superior to add to your noggin. Your precious little baby teeth aren't cuttin' it. Here's some kid-friendly, bubble gum flavored Polident and your brand new chompers. Muuuuuch better. Now eat a carrot and hit the stage in this pint-sized Madonna cone costume.** The ultra-crazies aside, I truly believe these parents just want what's best for their daughters. But this runway could take them from "Toddlers and Tiaras" to "16 and Pregnant".

Innocence is not like a wart; It does not grow back.*** So much has already been lost and these little munchkins haven't even hit the kindergarten playground yet. I want so badly to grip their mothers' hands and tell them how fleeting these years are. Childhood is gone all too soon on it's natural timetable; Let alone when thrust upon a fast track. I grieve for their discarded innocence, so harshly replaced by too few sequins and too many spotlights. They can never be truly carefree. What with the corsets and all. I know some of these moms would argue that my girls are the ones not experiencing a full life. My daughters will most likely never be famous, never have their own perfume line and never have a room full of trophies.**** However, my daughters will also never be itty-bitty sex symbols.

I confess to openly judging these parents. Thus far, I haven't been able not to (another great reason not to watch the boob tube*****). I really would like to understand their rationale. The closest I've come is from the aforementioned interview. Mrs. Barrett said what she wants for her daughter is for her to be a "well-rounded individual". While I'm fairly certain that dropping fifty Gs on pageants isn't conducive to this goal, I also realize how ridiculously short I often fall in reaching my parenting goals. If I were to list my goals on a reality t.v. show, the world over would be certain to find every inconsistency, every flaw. And they are many. While I will never understand the world of pageants, I refuse to be sucked into the parenting wars. It's easy to judge these parents from my couch, when what they really need is love...and perhaps a little balance. The truth is every single parent will scan the horizon of innocence, only to realize that what they see is a mirage of their children; Some sooner than others. Children grow, goals go unmet, and every trophy, badge and reality show will gather dust.

Trying To Humbly Drop My Stones,

*They also have their own make-up and have a hayday painting their faces to look like circus clowns. "Mermaid Shimmer" has a stunning effect when swept across the bridge of the nose. I highly recommend it for your next gala.
**Oh how I wish I were exaggerating.
***Catchy, right? Feel free to quote me.
****If they do, you'll find me writing from the Bahamas.
*****Calling it that just dated me in a major way. *sigh* Might make for some interesting blog search results...

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Let Them: A Saturday Series

This first Saturday series is called "Let Them". There are so many things we just big, fat don't let our kids do. I'm meeting some of those things head-on and seeing what happens.

Let Them Do What They Love

Disassembling transponders, creating new recipes, building a robot, writing original music scores, painting, gardening, raising sea monkeys. Every child is hardwired with certain talents and interests. We encourage additional interests, but there are inherent "bents" in each person. One person is artsy. Another is analytical. A third is adventurous. Too often society tries to cram all the kids into their cookie cutter hobbies. Everyone in grade school takes an art class which means painting old soup cans for Mother' Day pencil holders. What about the poor kid who would rather manipulate magnets or design a scale model replica solar hovercraft? 

Before all the teachers give me an earful about trying to staff and budget my insane programs, let me say thank you. Thank you for teaching art when you have a degree in history. Thank you for corralling 30+ kids into a too-small art room, managing to keep paint off all their clothes and making sure their mamas receive a Mother's Day gift. You rock. Also, I know you've been saving soup cans for eons and your husband was beginning to grumble about the overflowing bags of soup cans taking up residence in his garage. You doubly rock.

I'm not suggesting an elective class for building scale model replicas of solar hovercrafts (although, how cool would that be?!?). I am suggesting moms and dads foster their children's interests, even when they don't coincide with yours. What I am not suggesting is enrolling little Susie in hip-hop, ballet and tap classes just because she busts a move in the living room. Take it easy Tiger Mom. 

So your kid keeps disassembling your vacuum cleaner? Go to Goodwill and buy the cheapest electronic gadget and hand him/her a screwdriver. Your kids are forever planting seeds from their apple snacks? Buy them flower seeds that might actually grow into something.* You see, this isn't about automatically adding more extracurricular activities to your calendar; It's about sending a strong message to your kids. I see that you really enjoy ________. You possess a God-given strength in this and I want to encourage you to pursue it! So, as we say, easy peasy lemon squeezy.**

One more note: We may not get it. It may not be our thing. It warms my heart every time I hear mamas talk superheros and comic book villains with their boys, or daddies who listen to endless princess chatter. Parents who stay tuned in despite their own disinterest will reap precious benefits. When we disengage from our children's interests we disengage from our children. When we disengage from our children we've lost the opportunity to minister to their tender hearts. 

The current sewing projects taking over my coffee table.


*My children still insist on watering their apple seeds. *Sigh* Poor homeschooled children just won't give it up...
**Not all interests are cheap nor easy. But just because Susie busts a move doesn't mean it's time to whip out the credit card. Sit on it for a season before shelling out a dime, then consider Parks and Rec, or (seriously) Youtube dance tutorials (previewed and approved by you). If she still shows interest and promise, then discuss one class. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Smelling Salts For The Church

Let me begin by saying I hate math. I struggled my way through high school algebra only to discover I had to take algebra again in college. What the heck is that all about?!? In September of 1998 (am I really that old?), I squared my shoulders and walked with a facade of confidence spread thinly over myself. After I crammed myself into a postage stamp desk, the middle-aged Algebra 101 professor began waxing on eloquently about our inner child and inner math student and how we needed to corral them with our inner teacher.

*blink, blink* 

I never did find my inner teacher, so I dropped out. 

Fast forward a year and algebra was still blank on my transcript. Fine. I'll try again. I stood in the doorway for a full three seconds in disbelief. There, greeting the students, was good ol' Professor Inner Child.

I turned on my heels and beat a hasty retreat. 

I'm still not sure what his spiel was all about. I'm not sure if he really believed what he was saying, or if he was just trying to hook us with a quasi-spiritual connection to math (of which none exist-don't argue this point). Was he appealing to our emotions? Was he just trying to be relevant to college-aged kids? I have absolutely no clue. What I do know is he should have stuck to what he knows: Mathematics.

Church, we need to stick to what we know: The gospel. 

We don't need to hook people with quasi-spiritual programs. Yoga for Jesus every Tuesday at 6 pm.*  We don't need to prey on emotions by playing tear-jerker videos every week depicting starving orphans and lonely prisoners. Pyrotechnics and cafes. Disco balls, fresh paint, upgraded lapel mics. We're no longer sticking to what we know. We're finding ourselves sticking to welcome packets and attendance sheets. None of these things are bad, but the gospel shouldn't be playing second fiddle to it.

Here's one easy step to cultivating a dying church: Try to be relevant. As fast as we can "Wow" them in the front door, they're sneaking out the back during "greeting time". Obviously our efforts at relevancy have flopped. If it weren't so, church attendance would be booming right now. Silent church bells and dilapidated steeples are the smelling salts for the church. Let's awaken, stop trying so hard to be relevant and begin being an authentic, gospel-led people. We needn't worry about relevancy. The gospel is always relevant. We don't need to dress it up in ladies' tea luncheons, western round-ups and seizure-inducing youth services. We've dumped enough money into state-of-the-art this-and-that. What this world needs is people to invest in them, who genuinely care about them. They need people who remember their biopsy results were today or that their son is with his dad this weekend. Inviting them to more programs will not be nearly as effective as inviting them into our home and lives.

Third time was a charm. A new professor made all the difference. He stuck to what he knows and I have the grade to prove it.***

Let's stick to what we know and relax our grip on the rest.

Prying My Fingers Loose,

*Whew! I no longer need to feel conflicted about whether I'm selling my soul to the Devil every time I do the eagle pose.**
**Just kidding. I've never so much as attempted yoga, but it sounds like exercise
***Unfortunately when I transferred it counted as an elective. You've got to be kidding me.