Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Mark and I have officially graduated. And to be perfectly honest, we feel a little cheated. We didn’t get a ceremony. We didn’t get the cap and gown, or even the little rolled up piece of paper with the ribbon tied around it.

There were no parties. No big sheet cake with, “Congratulations, Graduate!” There were no gifts. And – this is the worst – there were no cards with money inside them.

And what, pray tell, did we graduate from?

(Heavy sigh.)

We are now, officially, “Mom and Dad.”

Picture Day 102 To be perfectly honest, our daughter has been calling me “Mom” for a while now. But there was still the occasional “Mama,” and every once in a while, “Mommy” would slip in. Mark, on the other hand, has always been “Daddy.” Now, he’s just plain “Dad.”

And it’s killing him.

When did this come about? When did our little girl become a . . . big girl? She’s lived with us her whole life. How could this happen right before our eyes? When did we blink?

It’s more than just the name thing. She has suddenly developed a new hobby. Talking on the phone. And just a short while ago, we could say, “We’re going to Wal-Mart!” and we would actually leave our driveway within a reasonable amount of time. Now, we say, “We’re going to Wal-Mart,” and then we wait. And wait. And wait some more while she changes her clothes three times and fixes her hair and reapplies her tinted lip balm.

But even though the transition is breaking our hearts, we are proud. We are so proud of the young lady who is kind and thoughtful, who is funny and witty and helpful, who makes friends easily and reads everything she can get her hands on, and who, someday, wants to be a missionary to China.

Yes, we are proud. But that doesn’t mean we like it.

Not one bit.

You’d think proud and happy would go together. But that’s not always the case. I can’t help but think of the parents of our military men and women. I know that none of them are happy about having their children shipped off to fight in a foreign country. Proud, yes. Happy, no.

I wish that we could have our cake and eat it too, don’t you? I wish I could keep that little girl who rode around on my hip. But I wouldn’t trade my big girl for anything. I wish we didn’t have to send anybody to fight anywhere. But I’m so grateful that we have young men and women who are willing to step up to the plate and protect our homeland.

There are some transitions in life that we just have to go through. And though we may not be happy about each and every change, we have a choice. We can fight them, kicking and screaming like children, or we can accept those changes with dignity and grace. We can learn and grow and become better people. Or we can continue on without learning a thing. But that doesn’t leave much to be proud of.

So, all in all, I suppose I could learn to like being a graduate. I could learn to like being called “Mom” instead of “Mommy.” After all, I now have a shopping buddy. I have someone to give me fashion advice. I have a friend.

And that makes me both happy and proud.

1 Corinthians 13:11 “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.”

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Standardized Tests

My children – and about a zillion others – are preparing to take their yearly standardized tests. Call me strange, but I used to love those test days when I was a kid. After all, on those days, the teachers were extra nice to us. They didn’t want us to be stressed out. And on those days, we didn’t have to do our regular “work.” At the end of test days, we were rewarded with special snacks and treats.

I’ve been working with both of my children to get them ready for their tests. My son is in the first grade, and I’m happy to say he’s passed all of his practice tests with flying colors. So have I.

My daughter is in the sixth grade. She’s done well on her practice tests, too. I wish I could say the same. My word, I don’t remember ever learning some of the things she’s expected to know!

check it 1

Which size box should be used to mail a package that is more than 130 cubic inches but smaller than 160 cubic inches? Why are they asking me this? Hand me the package. Hand me the box. I’ll see if it fits. That’s my answer.

And why do I need to divide 3.192 by 0.42? I thought that’s what calculators were for.

And where in the world is Kampuchea? I don’t know. I just don’t know.

I seem to do well in the language sections of the tests, though. After all, I was an English major.

You do the math.

It makes me wonder how I’d score if there were a standardized test for adults. Life version. I have no doubt that I’ve been taught, in lesson after lesson, how to get along in this life. Still, there are some sections that I always pass with flying colors, and other sections I fail miserably. Time and again.

For example, give me a deadline, and I’ll meet it. I’m pretty good about owning up to my responsibilities. (Pass.) But then again . . . if I don’t have a deadline, I’ll probably never get it done. (Fail.)

I also do well when I have to meet new people. I know how to smile, shake hands, ask about the other person’s interests . . . (pass). But I have this annoying little need for everyone – and I mean everyone – to like me. When someone doesn’t like me, I tend to spend hours trying to figure out what I did wrong (fail). I can’t seem to learn the lesson that when people don’t like us, quite often it has more to do with them than it does with us. Maybe we look like someone who was unkind to them. Maybe they don’t care for blondes, or women, or humor columnists. Maybe they really do like us, they just don’t know how to express themselves.

Why can’t I just learn to say, “Oh, well,” and move on? That’s a life lesson I’m still learning.

We all succeed at some life lessons, and struggle with others. The good news is that we have a Teacher who is patient and kind. He believes in us, and He will never give up on us. When we have difficulty, all we have to do is go to Him, and He will give us all the help we need.

And with His help, we will always pass with flying colors.

2 Peter 1:3 “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him . . .”

Monday, March 16, 2009

Mercy Me

I looked in the rearview mirror at the police car pulling into the street behind me. Oh, please God, don’t let him be coming after me.

I turned.

He turned.

I pulled into the parking lot.

He pulled into the parking lot.

I parked.

He pulled up behind me and turned on his lights.


Oh, dear God, what have I done now? There’s nothing like a police officer approaching your driver’s window to get your prayer life in order.

I rolled down my window, knowing that within a few short moments, he’d be hauling me off to the slammer.

“Ma’am, may I please see your driver’s license?”

“Well, officer, I . . . uhm . . . I don’t actually have my license with me.”

“Really? Why is that?”

“Last night, I went to visit my parents. They live about fifteen minutes from here. And, well, you see . . . it’s the funniest thing. I left my purse at their house.”

He didn’t seem amused. “May I see your proof of insurance?”

Oh God, please let it be in there, I prayed while digging through my glove compartment. Bingo!

I triumphantly pulled out the card and handed it to the man.

“Ma’am, this expired over a year ago.”

“Oh! I’m sorry. Let me see . . . I know the current one is here somewhere . . . Aha! Here it is!” I handed him the new card.

“Ma’am, this one expired last week.”

I picked up my cell phone and began dialing.

“Ma’am, who are you calling?”

“My husband. I’m hoping he can tell me where the current insurance card is.”

“Put the phone down, ma’am.”

I obeyed. A picture of myself in bold, black and white horizontal stripes flashed through my mind. I look terrible in horizontal stripes.

“I’m so sorry, sir. Could you please tell me what I did wrong?” I couldn’t believe my own ears. What did I do wrong? What didn’t I do wrong? “I mean . . . why did you pull me over?”

The man shifted from his right foot to his left. I’m not sure he knew exactly what to do with me. “Ma’am, you were going several miles over the speed limit. Right in front of the police station, I might add.”

“I’m sorry,” I told him. Why do I keep apologizing?

I knew my life was in his hands. He had every right to throw the book at me.

But then, he did something amazing. “Ma’am, I can verify your insurance with this card. I can also verify whether or not your license is current. If your license isn’t current, I’ll have to give you a ticket. Same with your insurance. If they’re both current, I’ll give you a written warning. Please stay in the car.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. Had he really just said what I thought he said? I knew my license was current. I knew my insurance was current. And yes, I knew I had probably been speeding. Was he really going to show mercy?

He was gone a loooooooooong time. Finally, he approached my window and handed me the expired card. “Everything checked out. I’m going to let you off with a warning.”

A warning? A warning?!?

I wanted to leap from the car and hug the officer. But I was afraid he might change his mind. Or charge me with assault.

“Thank you so, so much, officer,” I gushed.

“Do you have any questions?” he asked. He really was nice. It reminded me, once again, that our police officers are the good guys.

They protect us from the bad guys, and they protect us from ourselves. Their job is to keep us safe. And most of them really do care about the people they protect.

He had no reason to show mercy that day, but he did.

And it reminded me of another Good Guy. God knows everything I’ve ever done. He has every right to throw the book at me, to lock me up and throw away the key. But He doesn’t want to do that.

Oh, He loves justice. He doesn’t look kindly on evil. But He also knows that sometimes, we just mess up. We forget our purses, or we forget to put our current insurance cards in the car. We accidentally say the wrong things. We break His laws.

He also sees our hearts. And when He sees that we’re genuinely sorry for our mistakes, He forgives us. Though we don’t deserve forgiveness, He gives it. He shows mercy.

And I, for one, am really glad He does.

Joel 2:13 “Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.”

Monday, March 9, 2009

Getting Laid Off

My dear husband is doing what a lot of people are doing these days. He’s praying he doesn’t lose his job. Over the past several weeks, he has watched many of his dear friends and colleagues become victims of a poor economy. Our hearts break for them, even as we pray it doesn’t happen to our family.

Believe it or not, though, there are some good things about getting laid off. Sure, they may take a little while to notice. When faced with mountains of bills and no money to pay them, our first response will nearly always be panic. But after we take a few moments to breathe into a paper bag or scream at an empty room or worse, we may just find a few things to be thankful for:

1. These days, everyone is getting laid off. We can find camaraderie with people from all walks of life – doctors, lawyers and Indian chiefs find common ground. It’s like an exclusive club.

2. When we get laid off, we get to be cheap, and no one thinks any less of us. We can buy discount gifts, clip coupons, and take advantage of the Kids Eat Free nights at restaurants. Everyone will think we are thrifty and wise.

3. We don’t have to go to work for a while! Many people have been trudging along at a job they hate, just so they can pay the bills. A lay-off gives a perfect opportunity to pursue that dream job. Why not? What have we got to lose?

4. We get to tap into our creative sides. Instead of going to the movies, try filming a home movie. Instead of going out to eat, try to cook like Emeril or Paula Deen.

5. We’ll have time to pursue that hobby we’ve secretly wanted to pursue. Write a novel. Paint a mural. Set a new weight-lifting record. Go on. You know you wanna.

6. Quite possibly for the first time in a long time, we’ll be forced to focus on relationships, not stuff. And that’s always a good thing. Go to the park with your honey. Fly a kite with your kids. Take time to sip tea with your grandma.

7. Our money will stretch further than it did before. When we have plenty of money, we tend to toss it around on any old thing that catches our eyes. When we have less money, we become pickier about what we buy. We tend to look for more bang for our bucks, and spend our money on things that will last.

8. We are forced to examine ourselves. Without jobs and extra money, we learn to define ourselves by our character, instead of by our titles and the size of our bank accounts. Good character is more valuable than silver and gold, and will take us a lot further in life.

9. We get to become better people. Let’s face it. A little competition is always a good thing. Rather than settling for mediocrity, the fierce job market forces us to hone our skills. We must learn to offer the best products and the most prompt, reliable service. We must have the best people skills. We are required to speak better, dress better, and be more pleasant. And those are all good things.

10. We become more grateful. Despite how grim things may seem, most of us still have more than many in this world. Most of us have clothes to wear and food to eat. We live in a country that allows us to speak freely, that holds compassion as a high ideal, and that always tries to take care of its own. And we have a God who loves us and who will never forsake us. That’s a lot to be thankful for.

Getting laid off might seem like the pits. But if you look hard enough, you may find a few cherries in the bowl.

Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”