Tuesday, November 20, 2012

"Weezer...You're Almost Chipper....Did You Run Over a Small Child or Somethin'?"

I LOVE the movie Steel Magnolias. I’m not fond of sad movies but this one is too funny to get stuck on the sadness. My favorite scene is actually the cemetery scene where Malynn has a meltdown over losing her daughter and wants to hit something….hard, and her friends aren’t use to her losing her composure. So, the older friend Clarie, grabs the sour puss, Weezer, and says, “Here….hit this…..knock her lights out!” Eventually everyone busts out laughing, including the grieving mom. Malynn is speaking to Dolly Pardon’s character later and apologizes for breaking down on everyone and Dolly says, “Don’t be silly….Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion!” Everyone who saw the movie understood because we were all crying and laughing along with them.

Well, I had one of those moments myself this weekend. Fortunately, it was not to that degree. It was a moment where my heart was breaking a little but was quickly covered by a smile and just a moment of pure joy from above. It was our baby girl Jude’s 3rd birthday on Sunday. My parents were here for their first visit and I had decided to have her little party on Saturday night because it was unusually rainy and we were going to save our last outing for Sunday when it would be nicer out. Plus, I couldn’t wait for her to open her cash register and see how she liked it! J So, she took a late nap and my dad and I went to pick up her long awaited ice-cream cake. Only, when I got back…. she was in tears.

I’m going to have to rewind a little to better explain the tears. You have to understand, my youngest child is a little social butterfly. It’s new for me because my boys were always so stand off-ish.  They are super nice, mannerly boys but they are still not that outgoing when it comes to talking to new people. Not Jude. She carries on conversations with the checkers at the grocery store. She was very tight knit with her nursery buddies from our church we left in Tennessee….she saw them 3 times a week from the time she was a little baby. Plus, she had several cousins a bit older than her that loved doting on her. Not to mention all the adults!  So, she was use to a lot of attention and a lot of interaction. Moving to California and going to a new, much larger church, has been an adjustment. The people are super nice but, she’s one of many little ones and is missing the spoiling she received from our Tennessee crew. Her first two birthday parties had to be held in the fellowship hall of the church because there were so many people we wanted to share it with that there would be nowhere for them to sit in our house! So, in talking about her birthday over the past couple of weeks, she had already mentioned a few times “my friends aren’t going to see me for my party”. And by “friends”, she includes cousins in that….she enjoys them all so much she thinks of them as friends first. She also has a very good memory. So, needless to say……she realized this party was going to be missing something. Or someone.
Now I’ll fast forward back to the scene with the tears.

I put her cake in the freezer in the garage so it wouldn’t melt and came in the door with a big bundle of balloons only to find her in tears and the balloons didn’t make much difference at first. I asked her why she was crying and she said, “I don’t know!” My mother said she had just mentioned that her friends weren’t going to be at her party. I sat down and held her and talked to her as she sobbed and sobbed for a little while then said, “but you didn’t get me a cake!” Here’s where it got so unexpectedly precious:
Me: Of course I got you a cake! It’s an ice cream cake like you wanted….I just had to leave it in the freezer so the ice cream wouldn’t melt. You want to go see it?

Jude: (tears starting to slow but in a pitiful voice), Yes, mommy.

Me: (As cheerful as I could possibly be) Well let’s go see your cake then!
Off we go to the garage where I put her down and pull the cake out of the freezer and bend down beside her where she can really see it.  Her face immediately lights up and she looks so happy.

Me: See…..this is your ice cream cake! J
Jude: (beside herself and giggling throws her arms around my neck and says,) Oh, nank you mommy!!!

She goes on and on about it and keeps hugging me and kissing me as I point out what all is on it. Oh my….words simply can’t describe the mixture of emotions wrapped up in this scene for me.
I asked if she liked her cake and she emphatically said, “Yes mommy! Now let’s put it back so it doesn’t melt!”
I returned all of her hugs and kisses and told her I loved her bunches and that she was such a sweet, special girl and deserved a pretty cake for her birthday and that I was so glad she liked it. She came back in the house a different child. She was in the best mood….helping everyone, listening so well, and just as sweet as….well….ice cream cake! She needed some help in the upstairs bathroom and as I was helping her she said, “I love you mommy. I not say no to you anymore. I sorry I not been a good sister, I not hit my brothers anymore.” (To which I thanked her for saying that and told her not to worry….that she is a really good girl and that we all act ugly sometimes but we all still love each other even when we’re upset…we just have to try not to get mad so easily and be nice to each other as much as we can.)
The point is….she remembered how much she was loved. She had an understanding that her mommy was there for her and loved her, no matter how she felt or how everything else looked. Not much can top that feeling for a mama. She went on to have a very large time that night. She loved everything and played hard until 11:00 (super late for her) without a single tear or grumpy word at all.

I also had a more subtle but equally rewarding experience earlier that day with my somewhat grumpy 11 yr old, Preston. He’s entering the stage of “mom is a bummer….won’t let me play xbox all day every day, won’t let me stay up late anytime I want, makes me get up and take out the trash, turn off the tv and do homework, take a shower, etc. “ Couple that with a middle schooler who, like Jude, is going from being in a really tight knit environment to a sea of strangers, then add in hormones…..  there tends to be a lot of pouting, “woe is me”,  and “the glass is half empty” mentality to deal with. He is really a great, funny  kid and really can be fun loving but he has a tendency to be soooooo serious.

So, here is the scene from earlier in the day with Preston:
On the weekends, we tend to snack a little in the morning and I fix a brunch late morning. As I’m cooking, I often have to tell the boys “no more snacks for now….this is almost ready”. This Saturday was no different. And as always, they weren’t thrilled with being told “no more snacks”.
Preston:  (comes back in the kitchen and sees the sausage casserole I’d just pulled out of the oven): What’s that?
Me: Sausage casserole
Preston:  (very excited)Alright!! And what is that you’re fixing there?

Me: Pancakes.
Preston: (his face lights up and he throws his arms open and…. using his silly voice….says),  Mommy!!!

Now, since he typically thinks he’s too big and cool to be lovey dovey, I’m usually the one who does the hugging these days….. so I seized the moment and enjoyed a big hug from my baby boy.
But, again, though maybe not as dramatically as his sister, he remembered he was loved and his mama took care of him. Pure joy for mama!

Sunday morning at church, this all came together for me. Our pastors Shawn and Garrick were wrapping up a series on being a living sacrifice: stewardship. This is the first time they’d actually shared the pulpit since I’ve been there. The sermon was, of course, on Thanksgiving. Oddly enough, the passage was out of 1 Chronicles 16, starting with verse 8. In my bible it titles this section, “David’s Song of Thanks”. Notice all the ways he tells them not only to remember…..but respond!
1 Chronicles 16:8-35
Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name;
make known his deeds among the peoples!
 Sing to him, sing praises to him,
 tell of all his wondrous works!
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!
Seek the Lord and his strength;
seek his presence continually!
Remember the wondrous works that he has done,
his miracles and the judgments he uttered,
O offspring of Israel his servant,
children of Jacob, his chosen ones!
He is the Lord our God;
his judgments are in all the earth.
Remember his covenant forever,
the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations,
the covenant that he made with Abraham,
his sworn promise to Isaac,
which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute,
to Israel as an everlasting covenant,
saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan,
as your portion for an inheritance.”
When you were few in number,
of little account, and sojourners in it,
wandering from nation to nation,
from one kingdom to another people,
he allowed no one to oppress them;
he rebuked kings on their account,
saying, “Touch not my anointed ones,
do my prophets no harm!”
Sing to the Lord, all the earth!
Tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples!
For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,
and he is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,
but the Lord made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and joy are in his place.
Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength!
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
bring an offering and come before him!
Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth;
yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice,
and let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!”
Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth.
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!
 Shawn and Garrick encouraged us to remember His goodness, even when we face tough times..... and not just have the emotional response of thanks in our heart, but to go out and live thankful lives. A truly thankful heart will display some outward signs. Namely, giving.
See, for my children, remembering they were loved conjured up those feelings of thankfulness that displayed themselves through smiles and hugs and words of thanks. Though, it’s understandable how a child can consider the cup half empty, especially given the changes mine have gone through lately. Obviously, it's harder for them to see the big picture and their tendency is toward self concern. What about us adults, though? Don’t we tend to focus on all we don’t have or all we’re missing, too? Does that do anything other than make us even more of a sour puss than a preteen boy who has to make new friends and whose mama is a meany who won’t let him play xbox? (I guess that would make us grown-ups a “Weezer”). Anyway, isn’t that the view we default to with God sometimes?  Of course, we’re not going to admit that we think God is a big meany. But, its apparent in our actions…or inaction. Again, namely…giving. Where is our joy and thanksgiving?
I have to sum up a testimony given by a church member named Steve about tithing that I totally understood: Steve said he and his wife had been tithing for a long time. Yet, he admitted it was purely out of obedience. He said when it came to writing that check when they were paid every two weeks, he couldn’t help thinking how much better off they might be if they put that money toward something else. But, again, he would put it in the bucket that’s passed around out of obedience. He talked about the concerns they’d had with two kids in college and paying those bills. This series had brought about discussions between Steve and his wife. (In this 10 week series on giving, I think we all have been evaluating where we stand.) Steve told us about a realization he and his wife came to recently. They were curious and sat down and figured up what he USE to make and what their bills were on that salary vs what he makes and pays out today. He said the numbers didn’t add up at all. He did not know how they made it, other than the Lord doing much more with their money than they ever could’ve. He testified that the Lord had begun to show him where he was seeing writing that check every two weeks, wrong.  He asks us to give back to him 10%. That is 10% out of the 100% He has already given us. It was all His anyway. Steve said it was beginning to be a joy for them to write that check and place it in the bucket as it comes around. Not out of obedience with the 10%….but with thanksgiving for the 90%.

 So, along with the Holy Spirit’s conviction, what is at the root of Steve and his wife’s heart change? REMEMBERING God’s love FOR them and faithfulness TO them. Steve made a conscious effort to look back over his life. I could certainly write a lengthy testimony about His faithfulness to me from childhood to now!  But, I’ll save that for another day since you would not finish reading it until Christmas!
Right now, though, when I think about all that we left for this move to California, especially the kids, it would be easy for me to start looking at it like He’s taken 90 and given us 10. Honestly, though, I just don’t want to be a “Weezer” saying, "the sooner my body gives out, the better off I'll be!"No, I want to be a Malynn… pushing the swing of her grandson, with a smile on her face saying “life goes on" and rejoicing as a bunny-clad man hops on a motorcycle to meet his pregnant wife at the hospital. Thankfully, though, it's not left up to just me...He has been faithful in His reassurances to me. That in itself has kept me singing His praises, trusting Him for our future, and thankful for and focused on all of our blessings: My hard working/fun loving husband, precious moments with our children like I had Saturday, family and friends, food on the table and a roof over our heads. Anything more we enjoy is just another example of His “grace upon grace.”

"Great is Thy faithfulness," O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.
 "Great is Thy faithfulness!" "Great is Thy faithfulness!"
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
"Great is Thy faithfulness," Lord, unto me!

 Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.
"Great is Thy faithfulness!" "Great is Thy faithfulness!"
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
"Great is Thy faithfulness," Lord, unto me!

 Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!
"Great is Thy faithfulness!" "Great is Thy faithfulness!"
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
"Great is Thy faithfulness," Lord, unto me!


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