Birthday Wishes

Per our family’s tradition, I asked our soon-to-be 7-year old son where/what he wanted to eat for his birthday. With our other kids, they’ve picked special home cooked meals with elaborate desserts or Chinese buffets followed up with frozen yogurt sundaes. It’s their once-a-year chance to make the family’s dinner plans without any input from siblings. (Disclaimer: Our daughters have actually made their choice together. It’s one of the unfortunate side effects of being twins.)

 

So I asked our youngest what he would pick. He thought for a moment and said, “Where is the place we eat in the morning when we drive to Mimi’s house (Knoxville)?”

 

“McDonald’s?”

 

“Yes. That is what I want for breakfast.”

 

“Okay.”

 

“And where is the place where you can walk up to get a hamburger? It is close to church.”

 

“Burger King?”

 

“Yes. You never take me there. I want to eat there for lunch.”

 

“Okay. I bet you have a plan for supper. What do you think?”

 

“I want to eat at the taco place.”

 

Now we’re talking, I think. Please pick Chuy’s. Please pick Chuy’s. Please pick Chuy’s.

 

But he further explained, “The taco place with the bell on the sign. You never take me there either.”

 

“Taco Bell?”

 

“Yes!” He answered excitedly, “That is where I want to eat supper!”

 

It promises to be a day full of indigestion! I thought.

 

His choices reveal a limited understanding. Picking three fast food meals when we’ve offered him all that’s available seems foolish. I know part of the appeal of his choices is that they appear somehow forbidden. These are the places mom refuses to bring him so they must be something extra special. I’m assuming that one day he’ll understand there’s food more remarkable than Egg McMuffins, Whoppers, and Taco Bell Grandes.

 

I wonder if this is sometimes how it looks to God when we pray. We have no idea the glorious riches He wants to offer us. When Jesus instructed his disciples how to pray, He reminded them that “your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!”

 

As a part of my New Year’s resolution to pray more, I’m going to try to remember to leave room for God’s plan in my petitions. I’m going to ask Him to meet my needs and consider my wants, but I’m going to add a default clause that goes something like this: “But You, Lord, are wiser and know better than me, so feel free to alter anything I just said.” Amen.

Light-up shoes

When my daughter was around 4-years old, I got her a pair of light-up shoes. They were brown leather Mary-Janes with Velcro straps and pink stitching. Hidden lights embedded in the rubbed soles would flash each time her foot made contact with the floor. She loved them but, over time, I noticed that she never wore them.

One day, I asked her, “Why aren’t you wearing your new shoes?” as I pointed to the shoes on the floor of her closet.

“I don’t want to run down the battery,” she answered.

I told her, “Oh, honey, I don’t think you have to worry about that.”

But my words didn’t seem to make a difference. She still wouldn’t put them on. I was too busy running after her twin sister and baby brother to remind her to wear them so the inevitable happened—she outgrew the shoes.

I’m fairly certain that Jesus never had to teach about the perils of buying light-up shoes for slightly OCD 4-year olds, but he did preach this:

“And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you.” (NLT)

Though I’m trying to do better, I confess that I am a frequent worrier. You could probably even call me a Worrier Warrior. When Jesus goes on to say: “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’” I am convicted of my weakness in this area but I’m also a bit defensive.

I want to ask Jesus, “If I don’t worry about it, then who will?” When my husband and I divide up the duties for our family, it falls to me to be sure we have food to eat and clean clothes to wear. It’s my job to take care of this, right?

To back up my defense, I scan my memory for an instance when Jesus seemed worried or stressed-out. Others around Him might have lost their cool, but He seemed to stay focused on His mission and on the present moment.

When He was in the garden just hours before His arrest and eventual crucifixion, Jesus had plenty of reasons to be stressed out. Instead, He took His concerns to His Father. He asked if it was possible to prevent the imminent suffering and death but was willing to follow His Father’s Master Plan, regardless. Then came the betrayer and the crowds and the soldiers. Jesus calmly followed.

So here’s my new plan: Take it to the Garden. Lay it out. Pray it out. Ask, seek, knock. Then calmly follow God’s Will.

I won’t always follow my own advice—in fact I know I’ll frequently forget the plan—but I’ll attempt to have faith that all of the pieces will fall into place. I’ll try to heed Jesus’ advice: “Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Because it’s possible that all of that worrying will make me miss out on something fantastic, like the coolest light-up shoes ever.

Be Still

Since he was four years old, my son has suffered from migraine headaches. When he has an episode, the sequence of events is usually the same: He comes into our room around 3:00 a.m. He sidles up to my side of the bed and tells me his head hurts. I try to shake the fuzziness from my sleepy brain and focus on his dark silhouette and whispered words. After a minute, I get up and walk him to the kitchen where I dispense a dose of Motrin despite the fact that he will vomit it and everything else an hour or so later.

 

Early on, we took him to specialists. He was tested and scanned and given a clean bill of health. Nothing to worry about but nothing much we can do for him.

 

His headaches have decreased in the last year, and for this we are grateful. But when he does get one, my number one priority—in fact my only purpose for being awake in the wee hours of the morning—is to help him sleep. I know if I can only get him to fall asleep he will feel better. Two hours of uninterrupted, shut-eye is the best medicine for his headache to go from a pulsing, puking nightmare to a dull thud.

 

So I make his room as dark as possible. I adjust his ceiling fan and blankets to be sure he’s not too hot and not too cold. I try to create the most relaxing environment possible but, in the end, he has to will himself to sleep. He must choose to breathe deeply, stop grinding his teeth, and relax his scrunched up eyes and clenched fists. I can’t do it for him.

 

His distress reminds me of my own misery. Mine isn’t usually the physical kind, but it often involves fist-clenching and teeth-grinding, and if it goes on too long, some eye-twitching. My affliction is stress. I take on too much and bottle it up, owning the deadlines and commitments and failures until they wind me up like a tightly coiled spring—until they own me.

 

But I have a Heavenly Father who sits alongside me as I stew over my to-do list (and my shouldn’t-do list and my what-if list and my do-better list). He brushes the stray hairs from my face and rubs his thumb along my wrinkled forehead. Then he whispers, “Be still. I’m God, not you. I’m your ever-present help in times of trouble. Even if the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, I’ll still be here. So just be still.”

 

When I finally listen, I can feel his presence. My playlist of “Self-Reproach and Impending Disaster: Volume 101” stops repeating in my head. Well, let’s be honest, the words are still there but they move (maybe temporarily) into the background. Then I breathe deeply of His Spirit, and I unclench my fists so my hands are ready to accept His offerings of peace. I relax my scrunched up eyes so I can rest, so I can at last be still.