There Are No Burned Chicken Fries He Can’t Use

lightstock_56068_medium_tamara (1)I was sick last month. Really sick. Like, probably should’ve been in the hospital kind of sick.

I was actually sick in December. I had a cough and some aches and just a tinge of moodiness. Tinge.

But I ignored the sick and then in January I was really sick. Pneumonia kind of sick.

But I started getting a little bit better.

And then I got a little bit worse. And then better again.

And then I lost my voice. Which is really hard for someone who likes to talk as much as I do. My ENT put me on a five day vocal rest to allow my voice to heal and find it’s way back. That was extra hard.

My pastor/boss suggested I take the time of silence to reflect on my heart; to be silent before the Lord. Which is something a pastor/boss should totally say but it doesn’t mean I wasn’t tempted to poke him in the eye when he said it.

I tried to use a white board app for a few days to communicate to Charlie and the kids but they got really tired of how long it took me to write my words. They’d walk away before I finished and I couldn’t yell for them to turn around so I learned to clap to get their attention. That went over really well.

By Day 3 of the rest I was sneaking little words in here and there because I was over the silence.

But on Day 4 I had to stay home to wait on a repairman and so I allowed the silence to envelope me. And in the silence I grew weary. I couldn’t even express where all the weariness was coming from so I just called out to God, “I’m so weary.”

I had a list….

The sickness that wouldn’t go away.

The friend that isn’t in my life so much anymore.

That person who hurt me when they said those words.

That thing I wanted that fell through.

The work that seems too much and too hard.

The decisions that aren’t clear.

The people I want to protect but can’t.

That place I want to go but don’t know how to get there.

I sensed God, like a kind father, sitting there listening as my heart wept. There were no big things – just a pile of minor heartaches; little inconveniences. I felt his hand on my back, rubbing gently, as my tears started to silently flow.

“Lift your head.”

The words came softly across my heart and I knew what they meant.

God loves me on the good days. The ones when I am dancing through the hours with a song of praise on the tip of my tongue. The days I can quote scripture and I carry a slightly glowing aura about me ’cause me and Jesus are BFF’s.

God loves me on the bad days. The ones where I make list of all the ways He has wronged me and disappointed me and not given me what I want. The days I stomp my feet and shout.

He loves me when I’m rational and clear and precise and thankful.

He loves me when I cry over burned chicken fries. (If you leave them in the microwave too long they get hard and my kid won’t eat them and it’s a real problem that deserves at least three tear so don’t judge.)

He loves me when I’m moody, when I’m joyful, when I’m sad, and when I’m ambivalent about the whole freakin’ world.

“Lift your head.”

I just needed to take my eyes off my problems for a second to see the loving mercy and grace he was offering me – that he’s always offering me.

My tearful moment didn’t change the world around me. I was still on vocal rest and still waiting on a repairman. I still wanted the thing that fell through and I still wanted to go to the place I don’t know how to get to.

I was reminded, however, that I’m not alone. God knows what it feels like to be let down by a friend. He knows the ache of disappointment. He experienced physical pain. He knows what it’s like when people don’t get on board. He knows all the things my heart knows and more. He doesn’t condemn me when I feel the feels but instead comes and sits with me on my couch.

I saw a post on Pinterest yesterday that was a picture of a cupcake with the words “When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. When life is bitter, say thank you and grow.” While I was a little resentful of the cupcake temptation I knew the words were true.

I am better, healthier, happier when I acknowledge the crappy days with gratitude. When I quit fighting the muck, settle into it, have a good cry and ask Jesus to just hold me. I know he uses bad for good; that he blesses the struggle. I can hold it all tightly in my fist and grow hard-hearted and bitter or I can open my hands and let him take it all. There is no sorrow, no heartache, no burned chicken fries He can’t use. He just asks me to lift my head.



Cartwheels and Muscle Memory


I’ve only recently heard about a thing called muscle memory. If you are a fitness buff or a weight-lifter then you are probably all to familiar with this term. Basically, and I’m sure I’m going to WAY over-simplify this, muscle memory is when your body learns to do a specific task so well that you don’t have to think about it. Building muscle memory saves time and energy because you simply do the task and don’t have to stop and figure it out. Some examples of using muscle memory might include riding a bike or typing on a keyboard. Fitness people can grow their muscles (and their muscle memory) by lifting similar weight sizes until it’s not a big deal any more. And then they lift more weight. It’s how those P90X people do all those heart-pounding moves and make it look effortless. They’ve done it a million times and now their bodies just do it. And it looks smooth. Where I look like I’m having a seizure.

When I was a little girl I was not very graceful. It took me forever to learn to ride a bike because my balance was slightly off and my fear base was more than slightly off. When all my friends were doing cartwheels on the playground I stood by pretending to be the judge, giving them all perfect 10’s. When I was in about third grade my mom suggested I take a gymnastics class so that I wouldn’t feel so out of place with the other girls and maybe, as a bonus, I could gain a bit of gracefulness.

I learned to do a cartwheel right away because that was really all I cared about. Anybody can do a forward roll and only the girls with grand visions of cheerleading needed to learn the fancier flips. I needed a cartwheel so I learned a cartwheel.

A lot of thought goes into learning a cartwheel. At least I required a lot of thought. It didn’t feel natural to fling myself towards the ground. Being upside down felt wrong. But the more cartwheels I did the better I got at cartwheels. They became smooth and dare I say, pretty. I could do them fast, whipping my legs over my head. I could do them slow, with ballerina type precision. I could do a long string of them across my yard, becoming dizzy and falling into the grass. Cartwheels were my jam.

I’m not sure when I did my last cartwheel. I’d imagine it was some time in high school, but maybe after. I never mad a decision to stop. There was no proclamation stating, “Today is the day I stop cartwheeling!” I suppose there just stopped being opportunity or need. My experience has shown that adulting rarely requires cartwheels, which is a little sad if you think about it. Maybe your experience is different. Maybe you do cartwheels every morning. I’m not sure I could do a cartwheel today if I tried. If I stood in my office right now and put some serious thought into it…maybe. But my fear base of cartwheeling is great again – like it was when I was little. What if I fall? Or pull something? Falling is less of a deal when you are 7 than 38. I feel pretty sure the injury would be greater and then I’d have to go to work and explain that I’m in a sling or a cast because I failed at cartwheeling. I can only imagine Pastor Al’s face. While I have a touch of sadness that cartwheels will most likely only exist in my past, I’m also mostly okay with that fact.

I recently lost my assistant. She’s not hiding somewhere. I know where she is and she’s still my friend, so it’s cool. She just doesn’t assist me anymore. Her family supposedly needed her more than I do – which I believe I could have argued if they had just come to my office. Family is the most important thing though so I sent her off with my blessing. I was sad, but I still blessed. I quickly realized, however, that I had lost some muscle memory for a few things. Actually a lot of things. Okay, all the things. My personality lends to more dreaming, visioning, casting of ideas. The details of how to make those things happen can easily overwhelm and paralyze me. Last week was spent making lists and notes in the hopes that I could get a handle on things before they tumbled down hill. I still have the vision but now I need to make the copies to pass out. I managed but in a wild haired, frothing at the mouth, drinking too much coffee sort of way.

Yesterday I woke up and put my big girl panties on. January was crazy enough (I had pneumonia) and February is going to be better. It has to be. I need to build back some muscle memory for organization, list making, and task busting. I worked for a thousand years without an assistant so I know I can make it work again…for a little while. I’m still totally looking for a new assistant. But in the meantime I’m looking fear in the face and saying, “Bring it, Sucka!” I’ve got my planner open, I’m making notes, I’m moving forward.

Moving forward is the key, whether it’s in cartwheels or life. Fear wants to creep in and tell us that there’s no way. Fear wants us to stop, dig a hole, and climb in. But that’s not God’s plan for us. He has created us to be over-comers. The same God who overcame death is living inside of me right now; He’s inside of you. We all get knocked down but He is there beside us saying, “Give me your hand. I’ve got this.” What has knocked you down recently? I know some of you have been pummeled by some pretty huge things.  I’m praying for you this morning. Let’s get up together, find a soft hill, and start with some forward rolls, shall we? And when we get comfortable with the feeling of being upside down again maybe we kick up our heels and do a cartwheel. And maybe, just maybe, on our way over, when our feet are flying through the air with the greatest of ease, we kick fear right in the throat and tell it to back off. What do you say?