Monday, April 25, 2016

Building A Strong Home

My boys are most happy when going wild with cardboard boxes. Our dining room has held rockets, ships, trains, skyscrapers.

Yesterday we visited my parents. Mom has taken to stashing boxes in her closet. When the boys come to visit, she extracts a few. But when visiting yesterday, we ran short on time. So we pushed the half-constructed works into my van and they came home.

Today the schoolroom was a crazy mess of tape, box flaps, scissors, and twine.

"I'm building a stuffed animal home," Zay says. His box is a multi-level structure. On each floor he's carved a door.

"Let me help you," Gabe says.

They whisper for a few minutes. Then they hunker hard over the same box. They snip. They tape. Their bodies press close as they shimmy cardboard pieces into the box.

And I notice their ability to see the weak spots. The areas that won't hold the weight. The places that will come crashing down.

"If Greyhound Blue stays on this floor, you'll need some more tape here," Gabe says. He points to a bare spot in the back where the cardboard floor meets the wall without reinforcement.  Zay is on it. He stretches duct tape and reaches for the scissors.

"I need to make this door stronger," Zay says. "Panther Guy's too wide. He'll tear the door loose."

Strap. Snip.

They keep working and the house gets stronger.

It makes me think of our house. Our home. Our physical house has its weak spots. More than we'd like - it's a century and a half old. However it's our spiritual house that holds my thoughts. There are obvious weaknesses - the bristly stuff that happens because we live close and tight. But I know there are other places too. Weak spots that aren't as obvious. Places where sin makes the walls weak or maybe our roof  isn't shored up quite enough with living out God's Word.

Lord, let us see the weak spots. Let them be known so we can be wise. So we can work hard. So we can reinforce. So we can take them to You in prayer.

So we can experience Your strength and grace.

Gabe and Zay finish the house, bolt upstairs, and return with a basket of stuffed friends. One-eyed Tigger goes into the box. Rabbit-with-no-fur-on-his -ears is next. Vanilla Cat. Jewel Bear. Old Friend.

The animals seem to like their new digs. Gabe and Zay sit back on their heels and beam from ear to ear.

The floors are firm.

The structure holds.

And I celebrate, too. For the goodness God's given and the  goodness He'll give.

Lord, help us to build homes that honor You. Amen..

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Laughter And Living Joy

We're visiting Lonny's parents and we've gathered around the table. There are cookies, coffee, and there's a stack of clean, white paper for the little boys.

The grown people chat.

The boys draw.

It's quiet. We're tired. We've raked fall's leaves under the spring sun and we're spent.

"What are you drawing?" Lonny's mom asks.

Zay looks up. Too-long bangs fall over his forehead. "It's a picture," he says. "A picture of us."

Logan and Grant lean and look. Then Zay lifts his paper so we all can see.

"Here we are," he says.

He's right. There we are. It's a family portrait by a child's hand. Rugby's tail looks life a fifth leg. Our legs are sticks with flaps at the ends. Our bodies are round potatoes. We're smiling like jack-o-lanterns and have ears big as all outdoors.

Zay smiles with pride. Then, all of a sudden, he begins to laugh.

It starts as a small bubble. A hiccup of joy. Then it ripples straight through. The laughter gathers momentum, and he's giggling now. The drawing slides to the table and his hands go to his mouth. He tries to press the laughter inside but he can't and now he's holding his middle and there are tears, real tears. Lonny and his dad talk politics. His mother and I are talk, too. The big boys are on their phones. Sam and Gabe keep drawing, but soon all eyes are on Zay.

We can't help but laugh.

His laughter is like a wave that stretches far and pulls us in.

His pitch is high and the sound is sweet and we're lost in it. Nothing is funny, really, but this glee is contagious. We laugh. All of us. It feels silly at first, but then I understand.

This is joy.

So many times, so many days, I'm too busy to remember joy. In my "grown-up-ness", I think and worry and move from task to task. And then there are the burdens. The ones I carry day in and out and the battle can go long. I often carry the weight of circumstance and circumstance can crush the soul.

Yet the Lord wants us to have joy.

I'm learning, as I lean into the Lord, that while joy can't be fabricated or forced, it's possible to have joy even in the midst of a troubling circumstance. As a children, we sing "We've got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart."


Down in my heart.

Joy, the soul-settling kind, comes not from circumstance but from living in the freedom of the promised Presence of the Lord.

He's with me - no matter what.

There I'll be when troubles come. He will hide me. He will set me on a high rock out of reach of all my enemies. Then I will bring him sacrifices and sing his praises with much joy. Psalm 27:5-7 TLB

I understand, as my own cheeks are warm and my sides ache too, that it's not often that I cut loose and abandon all to something so precious and sweet. It feels good to laugh this hard.

I want a life filled with more laughter.

Laughter and joy.

Eventually Zay runs out of steam. My mother-in-law dabs her eyes. We mellow.. Things simmer down. Zay composes himself and takes a fresh sheet of paper. Conversation rumbles one more.

We sit up and straighten up and the moment is gone.

But something precious has happened and I'm grateful.

Laughter is a pure and simple gift.

And the joy of His Presence can be mine.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Building and Breaking - The Power of Words

Gabriel has been to a friend's and when he gets home he turns his bank upside down. Coins cascade to the carpet.

"Parker has a robot. He built it. It walks and talks. I'd love to have one, too."

Gabe is a saver, so after the coins, he probes the belly of his bank for wadded dollar bills. There are quite a few. We count his money and browse Amazon. He's close but he doesn't have quite enough.

"Extra chores?" he asks.

I can't resist a smile beaming hope and joy.

When the brown box arrives, my boy is breathless. It's Saturday, so he begins building right away. I'm thankful as I watch him. He can do things I cannot. He's persistent, and it's not long before his robot looks like a robot. A robot without legs.

And I watch him work.

Each move is carefully calculated. He reads the instruction manual. Holds the pieces. He thinks before he makes a move.

As I watch, I begin to wonder. Oh, if we would be this careful with the way we treat others. If only we would be so careful with words.

So often in family life and in true-blue living, we're comfortable and careless and words can pour forward in a hasty rush. We don't always consider carefully. We don't examine and measure and ponder where they're placed.

Words hold power. We can use them to lift others up or tear them down. Words can build or break.

One afternoon not long ago, Gabriel and I were in the grocery store. I watched an older gentleman watch us. He smiled and spoke to my boy.

"I've been noticing how you help your Mama," he said. "Keep it up. The world needs men like you. You're a fine young man."

Delight settled on Gabe's sweet face. The encouragement spoke to the center of his soul. But then just minutes later, Gabe and I were in the parking lot lifting bags to our trunk when another gentleman passed by.

"Nice parking job, lady," he growled.

I looked at my tires. It was true that I'd parked outside the lines. But his words were a violation, too. I carried the disapproval with me as we traveled home.

Oh, the power of words...

Lord, let me use words to build others. Help me remember that what we say matters.

Gabriel and his robot hang together for most of the afternoon. The robot gets his legs. Gabriel works on parts and pieces and it isn't long before the robot dances when Gabriel gives the command. Gabe smiles and his eyes shine joy because carefully placed pieces bring forth a good thing.

True of little boys and robots.

True of the power of words.

Gracious words are like  honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. Proverbs 16:24 ESV

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Taking Time for Two

Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their toil. Ecclesiastes 4:9 ESV

There was a big box of brown bananas on the kitchen counter. My son Grant had brought it home from work.

I guessed it wasn't the season for banana splits at the ice cream shop. But I didn't have time for baking. My week was jammed tight. I let the bananas sit on the counter until dinner time. Then I hefted the box to the floor.

But the next day was Saturday and I felt ambitious. I could bake just a couple of loaves, pitch the rest of the bananas, and still get to the other things I needed to do. I pulled flour and sugar from the cupboard.

"What are you doing?" Isaiah asked as he walked into the kitchen.

"Baking a loaf or two of bread."

"Great," he said. "I'd love to help."

I thought about telling him no. I didn't have much time, and the helping, the monitoring a small one while he shoveled flour from the big bin, the fishing egg shells from the batter, the extra wiping and cleaning and sweeping from the adventure....I didn't have the hours for that.

But Zay tugged the kitchen stool across the room. He perched on the seat. He grinned at a way that pulled my soul.

"Okay," I said. "We'll work together. Two loaves."

I gave Isaiah the job of mashing the bananas. He chattered while he worked. I learned about his Sunday school class. What he's planning on making the brothers for Christmas. The house that he's going to build for me when he grows up. I learned about why his favorite color is green. About his favorite song. About the stuffed otter he mended with tape because Flash ate the left ear.

In no time at all the two loaves were done.

And I didn't want to stop.

"What do you think about working through this box of bananas, Zay?" I asked.

"The whole thing?"

"The whole box."

He pushed his sleeves up. "Well let's get to work."

Isaiah and I baked like wild. He mashed. I mixed. I poured. He popped loaves from cooled-down pans. In no time at all the counters were full.

"Guess we found the bottom of the box," Isaiah said. He carted the cardboard off to make a jet plane or something of the sort.

Yes, I guess we had. But in the togetherness, in the sharing of a chore, I knew I'd found something even more sweet.

Thank you, Lord, for willing hands and a willing heart. Amen.


1 c sugar
1 1/4 c mashed bananas
1/2 c butter
2 eggs
1 3/4 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 T sour cream

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray mini loaf pans with baking spray. Blend bananas, sour cream, butter, and eggs. Beat 2 minutes at medium speed. Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup. Level. Add flour, salt, baking powder, and soda. Beat 2 minutes medium speed. Stir in nuts. Pour into prepared pans. Bake until inserted toothpick comes out clean.