Playful Vacations

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This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Once again old men and women will walk Jerusalem’s streets with their canes and will sit together in the city squares.  And the streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls at play. –Zechariah 8:4-5 (bold for emphasis)

This past week, our family took a vacation with just the 5 of us.  It’s the last one we’ll ever have (and one of the few we’ve taken) before my daughter gets married in April and our family begins to expand.  Since her engagement back in September, I’ve experienced the bittersweet joy of helping to plan her bright future and feeling nostalgic for childhood.  I miss the days of make-believe and playing with dolls, cars, balls, pots and pans.  So much of raising my children involved me getting to play with their toys and entering back into their world of childhood.  As they’ve become young adults and no longer need me as a playmate, I forgot that childlike playing remains important at every age.  Playtime helps relieve stress, combats jaded thoughts, requires silly laughter.  Children don’t carry the responsibility that the adult world forces upon us.

For 5 glorious days, we played.  We walked till our feet could go no more … and then we walked some more.  Riding amusement rides, singing-a-long with princesses and snowmen, laughing ourselves into exhaustion.

For 5 glorious days, I unplugged from technology–leaving my computer at home and only answering calls and texts from my family in the amusement park wondering where I had wandered off to in the crowd.

For 5 glorious days, our friend who works at the amusement park gave us the tour-guide treatment–telling us fun-facts, allowing us to use her discount at the stores, mapping out our day in the park.

For 2 glorious hours, we relaxed on the beach before our flight home. Digging our toes in the sand, listening to the waves as the tide came in, feeling the 80-degree-sun beat on our skin–knowing at the end of the day we’d be back in land-locked Colorado with temperatures in the teens.

So, as I walked toward the ocean confidently in my airplane-ready outfit with my jeans rolled up so I could dip my feet in the cold Pacific, my mind flooded with memories of the 5 glorious days.  Yes, I saw the tide coming in.  Yes, I knew the odds that my clutzy ways just might trip me into the waves.  Yes, I know you shouldn’t try to outrun a wave on shifting sand when you’re not used to the beach.  Yes, I went anyway.  The first large wave just took me off-guard and got my pant legs wet.  Never deterred, I got up and continued walking.  I knew they’d dry before the airport.

Then, the second large wave came with more power, and I tried running uphill …

Without success …

You see where this is going, don’t you?  …

I fell on my butt.  I would have had time to get up and at least just stand there getting my pant legs more wet; but I was laughing so hard at myself–and everyone else was laughing too!–that the wave just washed all over me.  Sand, sea water, denim … there was no way my pants would dry.  Looking through my luggage, I realized the drawback to ‘packing light’:  I only had shorts and t-shirts.  Great for sunny California, not-so-great for snow-packed Colorado.  Well, good thing I almost never get cold.  So, donned with shorts, a t-shirt and my son’s hoodie, we returned home.

Real life.  I heard someone say that we must focus on our mind and the Bible in loving God.  I began to lose my 5 glorious days of playfulness.  Because, once again, all the silenced voices expressed their defeat to me.  The ones who have heard they aren’t smart enough and who struggle with reading the Bible.  The ones who experience the heart of God through empathy, but don’t always have a Bible verse to back up what they feel.  The ones who passionately and sacrificially serve the poor, but haven’t been to Sunday school and don’t know all the stories.  I heard them cry out as the breath was forced from their lungs like a punch in the gut.  Because once again, their view of God was less-than.  Once again, their piece of the spiritual puzzle wasn’t valued.  *sigh*

Perhaps next week I’ll focus on the topic of the Bible’s place in living out the gospel of Christ.

For now, I need to do laundry and maybe rub some sand from my jeans in my hands.  For now, I’ll remember the taste of churros and the thrill of roller coasters.  For now, I’ll envision my 6’5″ body-building 19 year old wearing the oversized, white, padded mouse hands as we frolicked through the park.  For now, I’ll remember the lightness of playing.

For now I am free.

I welcome comments!  Please keep them respectful and constructive.

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The ABC’s of Shame: Addictions, Bliss, Cookie Comas

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‘So eat your meals heartily, not worrying about what others say about you—you’re eating to God’s glory, after all, not to please them. As a matter of fact, do everything that way, heartily and freely to God’s glory’–1 Corinthians 10:31.

Why do we feel shame when we have joy?  Have you noticed that in our society, we tend to feel guilty, not just when we’ve done something perceived as wrong, but also when we are happiest.

I’ve got an addiction that I only succumb to once a year.  Thankfully, my addiction is only available for a few weeks out of the year; but I’ve learned to stock up so I can imbibe all year long.  Thin Mints.  Yep.  That’s my addiction.  Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookies.  And I get several boxes of Samoas–they’re my daughter’s favorite.  I get enough to last through December.  Just a box every few months so that they keep their special occasion feel.  My dealer … er … ‘supplier’ … no that doesn’t sound any better … FRIEND!  That’s a great word!  My friend covertly meets me at McDonald’s, Starbucks, Chick-fil-A–wherever there’s a parking lot, really.  We make the exchange:  Me handing over a check for more money than I would ever spend on cookies, and her handing me an ungodly number of cookie boxes.  This year it qualified as a ‘case’ of cookies … That would be 12 boxes.

I’m not proud of my addiction.  I’ve realized just how much shame I feel with those boxes of cookies hidden in my room until the right amount of need-t0-cry-for-an-evening-rough-day reminds me that I can feel better–not fixed–just better.  A couple of years ago, my friend met me at McDonald’s for some coffee, then we went out to her trunk.  She opened it up revealing cases of the cookies.  I ‘shopped’ to my heart’s content; and as we said goodbye, several women came up to her looking over their shoulders and whispering, “Are you selling those?”  I laughed, left her to her other sales and drove out of town back to my home–with a sleeve of opened Thin Mints riding shotgun.

How often have I passed by a table outside of a store with adorable little girls selling their cookie wares and felt just a little self-righteous about my ability to say, ‘No, thank you’, while others just cannot help themselves.  Then, when I’ve gone out of town to purchase mine (so no one knows just how many I hoard in my home), I feel shame eating the incredible chocolatey-minty goodness that makes me so happy on my hour-long ride back home.  I’ve noticed that as I find freedom from shame, I don’t eat as many cookies in one sitting, nor do I have to do it covertly.  Which leads me to believe that shame can lead to addictions.  And, in my case, to cookie comas!

Instead of loathing myself for enjoying a few cookies, I can rejoice in the moments of bliss that having a couple of them give me after a stressful day.  Instead of hiding my ‘stash’, and secretly scarfing some down when no one is looking, I can savor them and enjoy the serenity of breathing in and breathing out when life throws me the curve balls.  Instead of shame, I find freedom.

Does this work for all addictions.  Absolutely NOT!  Some addictions need re-direction to healthier options.  Sex, drugs, alcohol and even sugar addictions should be overcome, not managed.  Does that mean that those who struggle with destructive addictions and unhealthy living cannot find blissful moments?  NO!  They just need to find healthier options on their road to freedom.  They still need release from the shame of their addiction; but that release should not give them justification to continue it–just as I cannot justify eating an entire sleeve of Thin Mints and throwing my body into a cookie coma.

But we all can revel in moments of joy without shame.  And one thing I have learned with Girl Scout Cookies:

Buying cookies should not feel like a drug deal.

Have you ever felt shame when you’ve done something not shameful?  Have you learned how to live in freedom?

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Psycho Mom Moment

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My kids say that I have a ‘crazy’ streak.  They don’t see it often.  Mostly it comes out when I’m putting our ‘fake house’ together about a half hour before company comes over.  They call it ‘cleaning mom mode.’  I go around clearing counters and the kitchen table.  Hiding piles of papers that have accumulated over the school year.  Clearing corners of shoes and other non-essentials stripped off after coming in the door.  Returning pillows and throw blankets to a casually-tossed, shabby-chic ambiance in the family room.  I create the ‘fake house’ that I want people to think is where we live.  ‘Cleaning Mom Mode’ is nowhere near ‘Psycho Mom.’

We need to establish a difference between ‘psycho moms’ and ‘psycho mom moments.’  I wouldn’t call myself a ‘psycho mom.’  I tend  to meet challenges in parenting evenly and rationally.  I tend to … at least on the surface.  However, I do have moments when my kids cross a line that infuriates me and I react–not respond.

Before my kids became grown-up (well, I could debate whether they really are grown-up….), I enjoyed the position of playing God.  That magical time ended about the time they could speak and learned ‘NO!’  But the few short years that they had to go where I went, hang out with those I let them befriend and go to bed when I determined they needed sleep were blissful.  Parenting was easy then.  Having a 22 year old, a 19 year old and a 17 year old all living at home complicates parenting boundaries.  *sigh*  I really don’t want to go back to toddlerhood, but the uncomplicated world of children who get excited over bubbles and squirt guns has its perks.

My 17 year old went out with his at-the-time-girlfriend a few weeks ago.  He had just started dating her; and while we had met her, I soon found out just how little we knew about her.  I needed to get hold of him because he didn’t know that our state curfew for teens is 10pm during the week (even during the summer) and not midnight, as I had thought.  His phone went straight to voicemail … for 2 hours.  No answer to the 372 texts I sent.  Realizing that I had no idea where he might be or who this girl really is, I went into ‘crazed mom’ mode and quickly plummeted into ‘psycho mom.’  As panic ambushed my rational soul, I took on desperate measures.  Because I read murder mysteries and watch cop shows, I consider myself a bit of an expert in detective work.  Yep, I’m one of those delusional people.  I think that because I’ve seen open-heart surgery on YouTube, I could actually perform that surgery in a crisis.  I think we should all pray that I never witness someone having a heart attack.  I looked up his girlfriend on Facebook.  She has a common last name, so I looked through about 15 pages of the online White Pages trying to figure out where she lived.  I remembered that he had told me the general area of town she lived, so I didn’t fly blind in my search.  I narrowed it down to three potential houses.  Just after midnight (now the curfew he thought he had, he busted … for the third time … the last time had been the night before … yeah, I wasn’t rational anymore) I enlisted the help of my 22 year old.

The conversation went something like:

“You busy?”

“No, whatcha need?”

“I need you to help me go get your brother.”

“Where is he?”

“I don’t know for sure, but I’ve narrowed it down.”

“Why do you need me?”

“Someone has to drive the car he’s in back home.”

“Why can’t he do that?”

“Because he’ll be coming home with me.”

That last sentence scared her because I spoke it so slowly and deeply.  I don’t think any of my kids had seen my real ‘psycho mom’ moments before that.  I never had witnesses until that night.

Thankfully, the first house on my list happened to be her house.  I knew this fact because my son pulled onto the street right behind me.  He and I had a great lecture  discussion that ended with us hugging it out and assuring him that I loved him and forgave him (there’s more to this story; but it’s already a long one).  Suffice it to say, he won’t make that mistake again.

I wonder sometimes if God ever has ‘psycho parent’ moments with us.  Oh, I know He’s ‘GOD’ and knows all and has self-control and all that; but when I read the Bible, I see evidence that we can make Him a little crazy–especially with Moses in Exodus 22 when it sounds like Moses is talking God off the ledge, or when Jesus in several Gospel accounts saying it would be better to have a millstone around your neck and drowned if we hurt one of His little ones, or Abraham negotiating with God for Sodom and Gomorrah.  I take great comfort in that thought.  He loves us that much that we can make Him almost insanely protective.  He goes to great lengths to find us and help us see healthier, wiser, better options than the choices we make.  He loves us the way I love my kids–only better and more rationally.  He doesn’t parent out of fear–which, if we’re honest, that’s what vaults us into ‘psycho’ mode.  He holds us that high … He values us that much … He fiercely fights for us … Now, if only we could believe it about ourselves and each other.  We need to remind ourselves and each other what each of us is worth!

I talked to Jud the next morning about what happened while he slept.  A lot goes on at night with older kids while parents sleep.  Which is why I’m grateful that I’m a night-owl and suffer from insomnia.  We discussed the appropriate repercussions (for our son, not me), and Jud helped me see that grounding him from ever driving a car  and dating again went a little too far.  Rationality had returned to me and the moment had passed.

Until my daughter woke up.

She asked Jud if he knew anything about the night before.  Thankfully, Jud could say he knew and she didn’t blindside him with her version of my insanity.  Her final comment tossed over her shoulder to him as she breezed out the door about what she learned from this incident:  NEVER MAKE MOM MAD!!!

Have you had ‘psycho parenting’ moments?  What have you learned about yourself in those times? 

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Faithful Friend–Gone But Not Forgotten

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Sometime back in the 1990s (it’s been at least 15 years), I developed a relationship that I thought would last forever.  We’ve had our ups and downs–sometimes I wanted to throw in the towel and see if I could find a better, more progressive friend; but all in all, I’d like to think the relationship has been beneficial.

Today, that relationship I thought indestructible, ended.  Somehow, I will mourn the loss and move on.  I will develop another relationship, but will never forget all the years with that special one–my first one.

My kids have thought I needed a new friend for a long time.  My friend didn’t keep up with the times and continued to lag behind most.  I didn’t mind and defended our relationship fiercely.

My friend, you served me well, and I will cherish the memories.

Goodbye dear old flip-top cell phone.

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