Funny Scenes from Real Life

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Actual conversation with an 8th grade boy:

Him: What’s that?
Me: (looking down at my Kindle Paperwhite and then back at the boy) A Kindle
Him: (eyes wide) That’s the strangest looking Kindle I ever saw.
Me: That’s because it’s just a Kindle, not a tablet. It’s for reading.
Him: Wow. (leaning over to examine the screen) It looks like a plastic book.
Me: Yes, well, it IS a plastic book.

 

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And to share another funny…

In church this morning, our pastor was explaining how he felt on the airplane getting ready to leave for Africa. He is a black man and had been dreaming about the trip and fellowshipping with the African people, etc… However, once on the plane, he had a bit of a panic. People were speaking other languages all around him, and he was alone and there was other stuff to freak him out. He told this whole story with a lot of animation.

My 10-year-old looked at me and said, “Well, bless his heart,” with perfect Southern twang.

I definitely did high five my kid in church.

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My Eyes in the Rear View Mirror

We are driving home from my best friend’s house, listening to an audio book, chatting here and there. I’m trying to stay awake. Coffee still tastes bad, no matter that it’s my favorite specialty coffee in all the world. Med adjustments are the pits. Then, our book ends. I’ll play music on my iPhone.
What to play?

Haydn has his daddy’s tastes, and there’s no heavy metal on my phone. Oy. So I pick Aerosmith. It’s rock, right? And I grew up on Aerosmith. Steven Tyler remains one of the sexiest men alive in my opinion. We can jam to Aerosmith for an hour and a half and then we will be home sweet home. Hopefully before the medicated nausea kicks in for the day and before the predicted thunder storms descend on Tupelo.

I still know all the words to each song that plays. I sing along. I tell Haydn how I used to listen to Aerosmith with my daddy.

I tap out a rhythm on the steering wheel.
I sing loud, voice cracking.
I wiggle in the driver’s seat.
I glance across the car at my son.
He is 11.

Suddenly, I switch places with him.

I am 11.
Dad picks me up for our weekend;
Carrie in the backseat and me riding shotgun in the black Camaro.
Or maybe the teal Grand Am.
Music fills the car.
Dad sings along,
tapping out a rhythm on his steering wheel.

It’s surreal.

When did this happen?
I am not the kid riding shotgun anymore.
I’m the parent dreaming dreams,
remembering when I lived these songs,
when each word felt so true to me.

I have my own man-child now,
a boy so much like my father that I see my dad bursting from his seams.
And I miss my daddy, far away in South Carolina.
And I miss 17, when there wasn’t even breathing room
between pleasure and pain.
And I miss 13, watching Liv and Alicia
on Justin’s big screen TV,
and I miss dancing in my underwear,
screaming WALK THIS WAY.

But here I am,
my eyes in the rear view mirror,
my kid in the passenger seat.

And, Steven, you were right.
The light at the end of the tunnel
might be me.

When Brothers Get Along

Two lines of thought converged on me this week. For months and months, maybe even years, I have toyed with the stories of brothers in the Bible. When you think of Biblical brothers, who comes to mind?

  • Cain and Abel?  Yeah, that ended well.
  • Isaac and Ishmael?  Comforting, no?
  • Jacob and Esau? Well, they eventually made up.
  • Joseph in his coat and the brothers who peopled his dreams? Such a sweet story. Not.
  • James and John? Maybe a bit more encouraging, even if they did tend to be hot-tempered Mama’s boys.
  • Jesus and his brothers? They believed Him… after He died. Sheesh.

I have thought of these pairings again and again as I raise my own set of boys, these brothers who bicker and punch and also tickle and tease and then go back to crying and yelling because someone looked at someone else and make him stop looking at me like that/copying me/stealing my toys/making those faces.

Boys.

As I was reading a book set in Syria, a book that taught me a lot I never knew about Islam and the Quran as well as new angles from which to approach my own Scriptures, I thought of the things we have in common and also how we differ. I enjoyed comparing our stories to those in the Quran, our version of Mary and theirs, etc… How could these two faiths come from one man and still the faithful cannot get along to save our lives? Literally to save so many lives.

My mind snaked its way back to the brothers. I ran down the list again and landed on Isaac and Ishmael. When you think about it, Christianity (or, at least Judaism) and Islam are brothers. Isaac fathered Jacob who went forth and became Israel. Ishmael also prospered and filled the land with descendants.

And here we are, thousands of years later, still divided by the differences of brothers.

And here I am, thousands of years later, still struggling to reconcile two boys from the same father. So alike and so different.

How would the world change if brothers got along?

Psalm 133:1-3
 
Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, 
on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! 
It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! 
For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.

Child-Sized Addictions

Today, I’m attempting to teach my youngest son about addiction. Laugh if you will, but he is horribly addicted to video games. I blame myself. I let my kids’ Kindle time limits slowly disappear. They are limited to one hour of Xbox 360 each day and recently lost those privileges for a month due to persistent name-calling. That helped me isolate another problem: the Kindles. I started paying close attention to how they act toward one another when the Kindle is in their hands. It wasn’t pretty.

I reverted to the original 1-hour Kindle limit. Of course, I decided to do this just before the rain set in, so now I have kids confined to the house and less hope of entertaining them. Cooped up kids are not fun at all.

This morning, I heard David, my 9-year-old, downstairs in the garage. He was giving the punching bag what-for, so I knew something was up. When he made it back upstairs, I asked him to come talk to me. He was angry about his Kindle time limit. In typical mom fashion, I asked him about the kids around the world who don’t have Kindles. Or any other video game for that matter. I asked him to think about kids who don’t even have enough food to eat. I sent him to his room until he could have a coherent conversation, as he was crying and refusing to do more than grunt at me.

When he came down, we talked about addiction. We talked about how this little box of glass and plastic is controlling his life. He is allowing his entire day, each day, to be ruined over a bit of electronic diversion. I mentioned that he only goes to church a few hours per week, but he has never thrown a tantrum over me limiting his church time. He has never complained he doesn’t get enough time to read or play piano or draw pictures. I wasn’t yelling. I pointed out that I am not angry. It is my fault for letting it get this bad in the first place. I told him I understand that addiction is too much for a kid to handle on his own, and that’s why I am stepping in. Together, we will beat it.

He tried to convince me he was upset because the Kindle was a gift from his granddaddy (who passed away a year ago). Now, tell me my kid isn’t smart. It was a good weapon.

If I’d believed him.

Me: So, if I keep the Kindle but let you play Xbox all day, you will still be upset?
Him: (Confused) No.
Me: You’d be happy with the Xbox?
Him: (Hopeful) Yes.
Me: But the Xbox was not a gift from Granddaddy.
Him: (Blank stare)

Good try, bud. Good try.

I see myself in David. I once gave up books for lent. That was the hardest fast of my life. I was so addicted to books, at the time, I would read the crappiest of crappy fiction just to be reading. After Easter that year, things changed. I don’t only read heavy theology now, but I also can’t stomach fluff on a regular basis. My addiction is broken. I still adore books (obviously), but I don’t feel controlled by them. I also broke a food addiction this year. Gah, that was hard.

Too hard for a 9-year-old to manage on his own.

That’s what I told David. He’s a kid. He can’t handle a big physiological issue, like addiction. It is my job to protect him from such things and to help him through when my protection fails. I failed him this time, and it bites. For both of us. I hate seeing my big-hearted boy overcome by this. Where video games are involved, he morphs from this beautiful soul into an angry little demon of a kid. I wish you could see it.

He’s still mad. He will be for a while. That’s addiction. Withdrawal. The whole shebang. We’re both learning some hard lessons in this.

What are you learning today?

A Scene from Real Life

I give you a scene from real life.

We traveled to a baseball tournament a few weekends ago, and we stayed with my best friend’s family. Between games, my boys entertained Leila’s girls, and it was lovely. One morning, Leila carried a cardboard box into the kitchen. We get enough packages that my boys instantly recognized it as something that had been delivered.

Leila set the box on her kitchen island. My boys swarmed to her side.

Boys: What book did you get?
Leila: Book?
Boys: In the box. What book is it?
Leila: It’s not a book. It’s a shower curtain.

My boys were baffled. Apparently, all UPS boxes contain books.

Yes, these are definitely my kids. Can you guess what usually comes in the mail for their mommy?

I have wanted to sponsor a Compassion child for a few years now. It would be yet another monthly expense, I knew, so I put it off. And I put it off. And I put it off some more. I’ve had this idea, for a while, that I can sponsor a child as soon as I sign a book contract. That book contract is an elusive thing, so by the time I found myself sitting by my good friend Rosemary at a show featuring Chonda Pierce and Geoff Moore, I still had not sponsored a child.

I decided, it was time to quit putting it off. There will never be a “good time” to add another “bill” to our monthly pile. Life doesn’t work that way. Jesus talks about not just loving our friends, but also our enemies. He’s all about doing things that require sacrifice and trust in Him. So I started surfing Compassion’s database of children in need of sponsorship.

Let me tell you, that database of children is overwhelming. There are SO MANY KIDS IN NEED. So many, friends. I scrolled through their names and faces with a heavy heart. Why can’t I adopt ALL. THE. CHILDREN? All of them. I want to feed them and clothe them and educate them. I want to fix this messed up world, where we live our middle-class high life and sweet babies STARVE TO DEATH. Fight to end abortion, sure. But for crying out loud can we feed and care for the children already in this world. We sure don’t “choose life” for these beautiful souls all around our quickly shrinking planet.

So, yes, overwhelming, because I can’t adopt all the children. I can’t feed them all or clothe them all or teach them all sorts of things, they way I teach my own. I can’t sponsor them all.

But I can sponsor one of them.

I had to narrow it down. How to find the one child I have been thinking of sponsoring for years. I needed some search parameters. I decided, first, I would sponsor a girl. I live in a house of maleness. Husband, two sons, boy dog, boy cat. I rarely lay eyes on my stepdaughter. So, a girl. And, at first, I limited my search to Haiti. My best friends’ family lives in Haiti, and I have prayer-adopted a woman there. It seemed right. I did not, however, stumble upon a child that seemed like “the one.” I debated just letting Compassion choose for me, but then I broadened my search to other countries, and I thought.

How to chose a child…

By name. The thought popped into my head. “I have called you by name. You are mine.”

What name?

I started typing in family names, thinking if I picked a girl with the name of my grandmother or my aunt or something of the sort, it would be just like she was born to us. She would hold a name I might have given a biological daughter, if I’d ever had one. I kept getting a blank screen. Kentucky hill-folk names are apparently not popular in 3rd world countries. Who knew? I stared at another blank screen and then…

I typed in Nat. I watched my screen fill with faces. There were names like Sakinatou, Enat, and Tsinat, but there was also: Nathaly, Natielle, Natalia and… Nathali.

And I knew she was ours. There were two girls with the name. I bookmarked their profiles, waiting for a paycheck to pay our first month. When I pulled them up again, not sure how to choose between them, the first girl had disappeared. She’d received a sponsor in the day since I first looked. That made the final decision easy. We have paid our first month and received our sponsor packet. Yesterday, I sent our first letter. I am so overjoyed. I want to write to her everyday like a crazy person.

I want to sponsor all of the Nat girls. All of them. Maybe, one day, I will. I mean, we started paying for the braces Haydn will wear soon. When I looked at the monthly payment, I thought, “I could sponsor three children for this and still be paying less.” Maybe, when we have paid all of Haydn’s braces, we will be so used to making that payment, I can just sponsor more kids.

I promise, Compassion is not sponsoring this post. It’s just in my heart. Please consider sponsoring one of these beautiful children. Please.

I Need You to Multiply

I’d just broken up a fight between my sons. They’d been playing a video game and come to an impasse that resulted in flaring tempers and the stubbornness of will they inherited from my husband and myself. I made them shut off the Xbox and find something else to occupy their time for a while. Then, I sat down at my desk, where my Bible was waiting.
 
I almost closed the Bible and went upstairs to cry. It had been that kind of day, the kind of day where my children’s inability to be kind to one another feels like the heaviest burden I’ve ever carried. I know, this isn’t true, but it was feeling very true, and I was exhausted. I was behind on a handful of personal projects. The kitchen needed a thorough cleaning. I needed to check Haydn’s geography workbook and make spelling and vocabulary lists for the new week. So, yeah, I almost closed the Bible, my brain too fuzzy to concentrate on scripture.
Instead, I took a deep breath and dove in. This is what I read:
 

When Jesus got the news, he slipped away by boat to an out-of-the-way place by himself. But unsuccessfully—someone saw him and the word got around. Soon a lot of people from the nearby villages walked around the lake to where he was. When he saw them coming, he was overcome with pity and healed their sick.

Toward evening the disciples approached him. “We’re out in the country and it’s getting late. Dismiss the people so they can go to the villages and get some supper.”
But Jesus said, “There is no need to dismiss them. You give them supper.”
“All we have are five loaves of bread and two fish,” they said.

Jesus said, “Bring them here.” Then he had the people sit on the grass. He took the five loaves and two fish, lifted his face to heaven in prayer, blessed, broke, and gave the bread to the disciples. The disciples then gave the food to the congregation. They all ate their fill. They gathered twelve baskets of leftovers. About five thousand were fed.  

(Matthew 14:13-21)

 
Yes, Jesus, I prayed. Yes. Yes. Yes. This is me. I have only as much patience as your disciples had fish. My loaves of compassion are limited. I don’t see how we’re going to manage this – this raising and teaching of boys, this running of a household, this writing of novels, this seeking after you always always always. My energy is no more than two loaves and five fish. 
 
I need you to multiply my resources. I can’t do this, but you can.
 
He can, friends. I am scared and tired and frustrated, but He is not. I can’t succeed, not so long as my efforts are my own. But He can.
 
He can.
He can.
He can.