Last week I went on a tour in part of Detroit. I’ll be honest. I’ve only been to Detroit to see a football game and I can only remember Ford Field. But that was a long time ago.
Things are different now. Much different.
My husband works in the outlying Detroit area. He is not downtown but rather in one of the neighborhoods surrounding the downtown area. He took me on a tour of the neighborhood where he works and and we slowly made our way downtown.
I was not prepared for what I saw.
Vacancy on all fronts. Homes, buildings, streets empty and crumbling. The landscape was wide, plenty of space for a lot of people. But nobody was there. Okay there were some people milling around. But not enough to fill the space called Detroit.
As we traveled down the road I saw house after house, building after building boarded up, windows and doors kicked out, garbage, furniture, appliances, you name it, strewn all over the place. Buildings were literally falling apart from the inside out. I was speechless. Yea, it’s not a safe place at times. There is reason for caution, my husband has heard enough from people who live there to verify this. But it’s not the case for most people. He was comfortable, I was more cautious. I kept thinking. This is an American city, how can this be?
And then, I had to go. You know…I had to take care of a few things. We had finished dinner earlier and I didn’t take care of business before I left. We were in the thick of the neighborhood and turning around meant a 25 minute back which would have cut into our schedule. Suddenly a magical yellow sign appeared. Ah, yes, a McDonalds stood all alone on the next corner. (You have to keep in mind, there aren’t businesses or gas stations in amply supply, it’s desolate there.)
I’ll be totally honest. I wasn’t too thrilled about getting out of the car at this point. But I had to do what I had to do. When we pulled in the parking lot we parked next to a car that had a club on their steering wheel. (A device to keep people from stealing the car.) I was not amused.
I went in the door and immediately walked toward the bathrooms. A young woman was sitting at a table with headphones and a lap top busy working on something. She was dressed like a male rapper that you see on MTV. Her eyes looked up at me and without moving she said,
“You need to be buzzed in.”
“Excuse me.” I looked back puzzled.
“To use the bathroom you have to be buzzed in.” Still not moving a muscle.
“Thanks” I said.
I went up to the counter, waiting behind others ordering their dinner. Finally it’s my turn.
The clerk buzzed me in and I was in the bathroom. Now I didn’t know whether to feel safe or scared being locked in? I decided that I was uncomfortable at best and worked quickly to get out. I noticed that the bathroom was a little messy. Toilet paper knocked down and paper towels on the floor. But I didn’t stay long. I thanked the girl who informed me about the buzzing when I walked out and I was safely back the car to continue our tour.
As we drove around the question that kept coming to me was. What can I do? How could I make a difference? Witnessing the discouraged communities made my heart ache to help, to bring hope, to comfort to make something better for someone else.
Vacant places calls something deep inside of me.
I wrestled with this the rest of our ride. It was just about the time we arrived back to our hotel that a realization hit me between my eyes.
I could have picked up the garbage off the bathroom floor!
That’s what I could have done. The mess was right in front of me and I could have done something and I didn’t. I was too concerned about getting out of the mess that it never occurred to me to stop and clean things up for the next person who had to be buzzed in.
Isn’t that the way it goes though. We see the mess and we are in a hurry to get away from it or we like to pick and choose which mess we are willing to clean up. I’m guilting of thinking: I didn’t create this mess, why should I clean it up? It’s true, we can’t put blame on ourselves for others’ mistakes, but we can bring something good into it when given the opportunity.
I was given an opportunity and I missed it.
Bringing good is often small and unseen. It doesn’t boast. It just cleans up the place for somebody else from time to time. It’s not concerned about getting noticed. It says, I didn’t make this mess but I can help in this one way, albeit small, to make things better for someone else.
My heart sunk when I fully realized what happened.
A friend shared with me once a long time ago that his goal is to always leave places and people in better shape than when he found them.
I think that’s a good motto to live by. Hopefully getting buzzed at McDonalds last week will help me remember it!
I just finished watching the most hilarious video of a kid who had his wisdom teeth removed. For some reason he responded in a humorous way to the anesthesia that was used. He was hysterical. You’ve probably seen a similar video floating around the internet in recent years. Several times he stopped his random ranting to say “Mom, my eyes are leaking! Why are my eyes leaking?” He was crying about everything and in his interpretation he thought he was leaking.
People leak in all kinds of ways. Tears are only one way. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that people leak all the time. They leak just about everywhere they go.
Now before you go thinking I’m being crass let me assure you I’m not, well maybe just a little bit.
Leaking people are those who have a leak in their internal plumbing system and cant keep it from spilling out onto anybody near by. Just like a leaking pipe drips on the nearest surface, a leaking individual drips on the nearest person. Things that are best dealt with “inside the pipe” now are flowing “outside the pipe” and the result is that everyone gets wet.
I think you understand this better than you’d admit.
Let’s be honest, we all deal with the person in the store who is irritable and intrusive. They are irate at being inconvenienced and don’t hesitate to take it out on the nearest sales clerk. We’ve seen this. (Maybe we’ve been that leaky person?) How about the co-worker who is deeply defensive and having a conversation with them turns into some sort of competition where they have to be declared the winner of the most recent dialog. There are those in our lives who make family gatherings or parties, well, let’s say…like a game. You try to avoid them because everything topic of conversation or issue of the moment revolves around them or keeping them happy. This is just a sampling of leaky people.
In life we are all on our own journey to…wherever it is we think we want to go. What do we do when someone else’s journey intersects with our own and they leak all over us? How do we handle it when other people who spill out unresolved relational, physical, emotional or spiritual issues all over us? I know you know what I’m talking about now.
Surely, you’ve said a time or two, “I can’t stand that person.” or “I just want to get away from him.” or “I seriously couldn’t take another moment with her, she is exhausting.” Other peoples’ leaks keep us from having peaceful homes, job environments, neighborhoods, churches, social gatherings and schools. Leaky people tend to get us all worked up reveal our own plumbing issues.
Here’s the most important thing to remember when dealing with a leaky person: You leak too.
We are all leaky pipes in the plumbing of society. You may be more aware of your leak and are diligently trying fix your plumbing, but you too have done your share of leaking.
Here’s the second thing to remember when dealing with a leaky person: Try to leak something good on them.
We all have a choice of how we respond when faced with leaky people. What will your attitude be? Find the most radical way to leak something good on others who don’t seem to deserve it. It might surprise you.
Making eye contact with one who is constantly invasive. Listening completely to discern the real complaint of a negative person and seek to resolve to underlying issue instead of avoiding them. Telling someone the truth, candid and beneficial honesty, to a destructive soul who wreaks havoc can be the most good they’ve received in a long time. Doing a kind deed in an unexpected way for the most un-admired person. Face conflict with humility and gentleness when dealing with a demanding personality instead of hiding, especially when the overall good of others is at stake. Pray for reckless and self seeker in quiet and unknown ways. You get the idea.
Find radical ways to leak something good. Remember, you leak too.
Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers all the wrongs. ~ Proverbs 10:12
So here’s how the latest conversation with my son goes:
Jake, your feet smell. Get them out of my face.
Mom, you’re supposed to love me no matter what.
I do love you but your feet still stink and I can’t take it.
But mom you’re supposed to accept me no matter how bad I smell.
Why is he not repulsed by the smell? Why can’t he put his dishes in the dishwasher? Why does he think it’s ok to torment his sister to the point where she is squealing like a pig?
These are among some of the great mysteries of motherhood. These are the things you don’t know about when you first get that baby in your arms or when you are chasing after your toddler. They smell, but it’s a tolerable smell…almost a cute baby like smell. But you have control. You bathe them and boom…all clean smelling. When they are young they are a different kind of mystery. But it amazes you just the same.
In the span of motherhood (or parenthood) you become accustomed to being baffled.
Baffled by the amount of diapers they go through when they are babies.
Baffled by the amount of toilet paper a house goes through in a week.
Baffled by the amount of times Mom is yelled.
Baffled by the realization that you may very well have lost a few marbles along the way.
Oh the Mother Load. The weighty job of being a mother.
All that comes with motherhood that you never knew about. The things that your own mother couldn’t describe and decided it was best for you to just learn for yourself. The on-the-job moments that turn you into a gorilla, a negotiator, a banker, a clown, a therapist, a doctor, a teacher, a dictator and a punching bag.
You become someone you never knew you could be. Sometimes you like that person and sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you feel independent and fresh and then the check out clerk at the store calls you Ma’am and suddenly you realize you must look mature and you remember you are responsible for more than just you.
You are a mother.
You carry the Mother Load.
But underneath the weight of what you carry lies a gift that you were given from the start. This gift stays with you if you remain open to receiving it but it gets lost if you ignore it. It shows up in the most unlikely places and unsuspecting of times.
It’s the gift of mystery.
When that baby is handed to you, you marvel at the tiny little features and perfection of it all. As time marches, our backs begin to ache and our feet get sore and we no longer live in the mystery of life. But our children bring it to us each and every day.
It comes when they suddenly need braces because their teeth have grown crooked.
They grew! What a profound mystery.
It comes when they ride a two wheeler or a motor cycle for the first time. When they figure out how to tie their shoe or negotiate an IPad. When they can read and actually understand what they’ve read. When their hair changes color or textures because of hormones. When they make dinner without your help. When they laugh at Jimmy Fallen or sing Disney songs…just because they’re so much fun. When they strive for a new goal or make a new friend. When they choose to be with you over someone else and wave their smelly feet in front of you.
Yes friends, deep within the Mother Load of your job as mom lies the gift of mystery.
….p.s. I had to open the window while writing because the smell was really that bad! I’m serious…his feet stink.
p.s.s.…as I hit publish on this post I heard the bathroom door open upstairs where my daughter was taking a shower. Suddenly the upstairs will filled with the sounds of the Disney music she was singing…how can you not love that?…….wonder never ceases to amaze me….
I went for a walk the other day. As I rounded a corner by an open field I notice a black crow flying very low to the ground. Right on it’s tail was a bunny running as fast as it could after it.
I have never seen that before in my life!
A bunny chasing a crow? Seriously, what in the world was it trying to do? Did it really think it could catch a bird twice its’ size? And what was going to happen if the bunny caught up to it?
The bird flew up and the bunny stopped chasing it. Then I saw it. It was so small I could barely make it out. A tiny baby bunny was furiously hopping back in the direction the larger bunny had taken off from. It was her baby. The bird dropped the baby bunny and it was making haste back to its’ hole while the mother stood guard in case the crow came back.
She was defending her baby.
Yesterday I was cutting my grass. When I got to the backyard a small swallow circled me the entire time. It swooped in and around me to the point I thought it was going to fly into me. I got the distinct impression it was trying to intimidate me. I remember reading somewhere that swallows are fiercely protective over their nests where their young are. She thought I was a predator seeking harm.
She was defending her baby.
It is quite remarkable that a bunny and a bird took on enemies that could easily defeat them. It seemed like a David and Goliath situation. What fascinated me was that these small creatures thought nothing of taking on monsters too big for them to defend their young and secure the safety of the defenseless. Talk about a momma bear….
That got me thinking. Who is it that needs defending? Am I someones momma bear. Often I cower. I feel small too do anything to make a difference. The bunny and the bird helped me realize that potential to be a difference maker doesn’t lie in size (i.e. capability) but rather in intent (i.e. just do something….anything).
A momma bear dwells inside all of us when we assume responsibility for the defenseless.
There are some people in my life who are defending children with the vigor of a momma bear.
My brother Tom operates a non profit called The Epik Project. It is an organization designed to battle the sex trafficking disaster. His passion is to challenge men to take responsibility for this situation. He believes men drive the demand for sex trafficking. Therefore, he wants to inspire men to defend the children who suffer at the hands of evil. You can read more about it at his website.
Then there is my friend Annette. She works for an organization called Kids Hope USA. This is an organization seeks to mentor young students who are falling through the cracks of society. Kids who don’t have positive adult role models or support. Annette recruits adults from local churches to participate in a weekly mentor relationship with grade school kids. The hope is that each child will feel affirmed, cared for and empowered. They are trying to pull them up from the cracks of society. You can read more about it at the Kids Hope USA website.
You are probably thinking, these people work for these organizations, I have a job and family, I can’t devote that kind of time. Well, you are right. But you can do something. Each one of us can. Each one of us has a momma bear waiting to pounce.
Here’s some idea starters:
- Look around. Find the needs of children in your neighborhood and town.
- Drop off groceries monthly to your local food pantry. Most of the people who use these are families with children who need nutrition.
- Do a fund raiser to give toward a children’s charity of your choice.
- Do your homework, find a charity either in the U.S. or abroad that participates in defending children on some level, and give to it monthly.
- Take time for children in your sphere of influence. Do you have a neighbor, niece, nephew, grandchild who needs an invested adult in their life? Step up and find ways to build that connection.
- Pray. No prayer is ever wasted. Develop a list of children and/or causes that you commit to weekly prayer.
- Do you know a single parent? Offer to baby sit for free. Bring a meal over on a regular basis to help out. Make yourself available to help with car pools and home projects. Help the single moms and dads defend their kids through serving them in practical ways.
Hopefully this list has got you thinking.
Last week a young neighbor boy came to my house. He’s no older than 10. He and his friend were taking orders for baked goods. He was raising money to buy two goats for a family in Haiti. This family needs help and goats are a source of provision for a poor family. So he was making cakes and cookies to raise funds. He needed $150. He was small and $150 is a lot of money, but it didn’t stop him from trying.
I asked him what made him want to do this. He said he saw poor children in Haiti in a magazine and he thought, I can do something, so he came up with this idea. The momma bear inside him was rallying…and he’s only a boy.
We all can learn from the boy, bunny and the bird…we can do something to defend the needs of the innocent, defenseless and unprotected children.
Think about it.
Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. ~ Psalm 82:3
Have you ever made this statement?
“I’m losing my patience with you.”
I have. I’ve said it to my kids, my dog, my husband…and I’ve said it to God.
I’m running low on patience lately. God just seems slow and it doesn’t seem as if I have what it takes to hang in there.
It’s not that God is behaving badly. Confusion and doubt cloud my vision. I lack faith. I need perspective.
God and I are not on the same timeline. He thinks and acts differently than I. He is not bound by the rules of this world. Finding my way with Him seems to require something other than my own intellect, knowledge, will and patience. I cannot go where God is wanting to go without His ability to get me there. My limited abilities only take me so far.
I’ve run out of patience with God.
I’m impatient. I have to ask for something more because my hope in God depends on it.
Hidden in the pages of Scripture I find the direction I seek.
May you have more and more of His loving-favor and peace as you come to know God and our Lord Jesus Christ better. He gives us everything we need for life and for holy living. He gives it through His great power. As we come to know Him better, we learn that He called us to share His own shining-greatness and perfect life. Through His shining-greatness and perfect life, He has given us promises. These promises are of great worth and no amount of money can buy them. Through these promises you can have God’s own life in you now that you have gotten away from the sinful things of the world which came from wrong desires of the flesh. ~2Peter 1:2-4
- The loving favor of God is something I can obtain.
- Peace comes as I get to know Jesus more.
- God is willing to share His own greatness with me so I can continue to press into the life He has for me.
Running out of my own patience could be a good thing. I become more curious about how God can help me in my mess. The end of my abilities can be the beginning of God’s abilities in me. When I get to the end of something in me a space is created. There is room for God’s “shining greatness” the scriptures talk about. I invite God to enter my weakness. I am then able to wait. Maybe that’s the goal?
- causes the soul to pause and consider something other than self
- demonstrates a inner longing that can only be filled outside yourself
- is an act of humility
Waiting takes us to God
Waiting on God is something entirely different than having patience with God. Believing that His answers and plan are far better than anything I could conjure up, trusting in His timing, being confident in His good love for me; all elements of waiting. Waiting fosters trust. Patience is not enough to experience answered prayer, waiting is required.
When we wait for an appointment we believe the appointment is worth our time. When we wait for a due date we are anticipating some important event in our life. When we wait for a loved one to have a change of heart we are believing that goodness can prevail.
Waiting reflects the anticipation of something better.
Maybe God wants to be waited on more than we think?
Maybe running out of my own limited ability is exactly what God has in mind?
Maybe it’s God’s way of pulling me toward Him?
What are you running out of?
Where have you come to an end?
It just could be the beginning of something.
“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him;” ~ Psalm 37:7
I know. I know.
You are all probably freaking out at the thought of winter. It took so long for summer to get here and it seems sacrilegious for me to even mention anything frosty.
I’m going to anyway.
Recently I was a part of a group writing project (click here for the booklet) for Faithful Bloggers. They recently have completed it and have made it available. Several authors contributed thoughts on lessons they learned regarding God, themselves, or really anything this past winter. There are some wonderful stories that have been shared and wanted you to be able to read them.
My piece God of the Snow Piles was included. I revamped a post that I made earlier this past year.
I hope you take the time to check it out. Just click on the above link.
I have to say I LOVE command strips!
You know what command strips are don’t you? They are the adhesive strips you can put on almost anything that you want stuck to a hard surface. I need nails for very few things these days because they make command strips that will hold up even the heaviest of pictures! The best part is…when you are done they simply peel off the wall leaving no mark whatsoever!! For someone like me who likes to rearrange wall art often, this has been a gift. My husband is the only one even happier about it. No more nail holes to patch.
I wish command strips worked on other things in my life. Things like, my mouth. I need command strips for my lips to keep them from opening up at inappropriate times and saying things I regret. I’ve been guilty of this recently and it has gotten me into holes that I’m still trying to dig out of.
My life would change if command strips were created for attitudes. My attitude can run with the wind. It fluctuates up and down based on my mood and the hormonal ride that goes along with being a female. Attitude command strips would keep my attitude stuck in the right place…oh the mountains I would climb!
I also really believe that my mind would drastically improve with command strips. I have a problem of replaying unkind thoughts and words over and over in my mind. Ideas that I have conjured up about myself that aren’t so flattering and words that have been said to me in haste or anger from others that forgiveness hasn’t quite settled. Unsettled situations and uncertain outcomes float their boat of fear and doubt in my mind leaving me seasick. Command strips would surely keep my thoughts in pleasant places and not so easily rocked.
Yes I do believe that command strips would help a lot of things for me. But they are meant for pictures and hooks, not mouths, attitudes and minds.
I guess I have to deal with these things the good old fashion way.
It’s the piercing of that first hit that breaks the wall open and readies it. The second hit plunges the nail with force into the thick wall. The third nail usually does the trick making it secure in place. Now the hole is a permanent mark in the history of the wall. Oh someone may come to patch it up, but the drywall or plaster has already been penetrated and anything used to fix it is just a filler. It can never go back to it’s original state.
Command strips for the soul would be an easy fix, but the soul is more dense and layered than any wall could be. That’s why we need nails. Nails say this is a permanent arrangement. Nails are the host of some new wall art that needs hanging. They provide the necessary structure from which to hang the new art, new words, new attitude, new mind…
So bring on the hammer and nails for my mouth, my thoughts and my mind. This is going to hurt. Command strips are nice, but they aren’t meant to stay forever.
For it is written ‘Be holy because I am holy.’ ~ I Peter 1:16