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Devotions Reflections

Wait, one more thing!

He closed the front door and I started toward the car. My husband said I should have taken a photo of him in the doorway, so I called his cell from the driveway, “Wait, one more thing!”. He indulged his mother and came back to the door. Smile! Click, click. “Thank you! Okay, bye for real now!” Another smile, a wave, and the door closed again. I got all the way into the car, and we drove away. Our son was in his new house, moved completely out of our home. We were making the return trip without him and it was strange. I felt proud and hollow at the same time.

He is not the first of my kids to come of age and move out. I’ve felt this way before, so I knew I’d eventually adjust to the new and different normal. I settled in for the long ride with my husband at the wheel. I opened the Bible app on my phone and read Proverbs chapter 3.

The first two words, “My son”, caught my attention in a unique way, given the circumstances. As I read further, I started forming a series of “Wait, one more thing!” posts, in my heart and head. They are written with my son in mind, but they could be for any of my children. In fact, I’m someone’s child; they are for me. If you’re someone’s child (and I’m certain you are), they may be for you too.

Proverbs 3 was written by King Solomon, who ruled Israel after his father, King David. He is known as the wisest man who ever lived. 2 Chronicles 1:7-12 tells us that when God promised to give Solomon any gift he wanted, he asked for wisdom and knowledge. God was pleased because the request was not for wealth or power, so He granted it all. Proverbs is filled with nuggets of wisdom and chapter 3 is one of many written specifically to posterity.

I told my son, “Wait, one more thing!” and now I am going to say it to him, and me and you, every Monday for a while. I hope you will indulge my sentimentality and allow me to love on you with thoughts from this chapter in Proverbs. I could sure use some solid wisdom these days, especially at the front end of my work week, couldn’t you?

“Wait, One More Thing!”, the series, will be posted to the Back Porch on Mondays and you’re invited! I’m saving a cushioned seat (so to speak) for you!
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Reflections

5 Things About Me that are My Mother’s Fault

“Like all parents, my husband and I just do the best we can, and hold our breath, and hope we’ve set aside enough money to pay for our kids’ therapy.”

Michelle Pfeiffer

Moms seem to be the first ones blamed for the perceived shortcomings of their kids.  Therapists often point to mothers as the reason young people seek counseling.  I’ve heard adult children, who don’t wish to take responsibility for their own decisions, blame their mothers.  Well, I wanted to jump on the “blame it on my mama” bandwagon and let you in on the top 5 things about me that are my mother’s fault.

Organization

There is no question it’s my mother’s fault that I stay organized.  Because of her example, I have a family calendar that I use to communicate dates, times and details to everyone.  I keep files and piles and lists for miles.  I lived through a time when my five children attended five different schools with different schedules as well as church activities, sports obligations, and community commitments.  It’s fair to say that it’s my mother’s fault we survived that season and others like it.

Frugality

If I have an expertise at anything practical, it is that I can be very frugal.  I have mastered the art of menu planning and can stretch a grocery budget to the edge of reasonable.  I enjoy finding creative ways to use things I already have and being content with them until they fall apart. I don’t spend very much money and it’s my mother’s fault. 

Yellow rose: Its's My Mother's Fault
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Nurturing nature

It is my mother’s fault that I want to see everything around me blossom.  I want plans and plants and people to grow into the beauty for which they were created and I’m willing to contribute in any way I can.  If there is a spark of potential, I want to fan the flame.  I’m an encourager; I like to nurture and it’s surely my mother’s fault.

Deference

I’m happy when my family is happy.  It’s my mother’s fault because she’s the same way, but even she wishes I’d be more outspoken about what I want.  Where to go for dinner?  What game to play?  Whatever everyone else decides is fine with me!  I prefer to defer.  What is best for them is best for me and it’s my mother’s fault.

Faith

It’s my mother’s fault that I have a faith that does not waver through thick or thin.  I grew up watching her trust God in times of want and plenty.  I watched her keep her eyes on Jesus, no matter what.  What was taught by her was caught by me.  My most prized and cherished quality is my faith and I have no doubt that it’s my mother’s fault.

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

Proverbs 22:6

There is a long list of things about me that I should blame on my mama, but these are the top five that my children and I came up with.  In a day when so much brokenness is attributed to a mother’s efforts, or lack thereof, I wanted to encourage you, my Back Porch friend, that you are unique and talented and created by God for a purpose.  Your mother, for better or for worse, had a hand in shaping you to fit the shoes in which you were meant to walk.  No mother is perfect, but one that showed up for you – biological or not – deserves more credit than blame because the likeable in you is probably more her fault than the rest.

It’s my mother’s fault that I turned out as I did, and God bless her for it!  I am grateful to her (and my father, but that is another post for another time) for so many successes in my life. What is it about you that would you say is your mother’s fault?

To my mother, and all the mothers reading, thank you for all that you give, for all that you mean, for all that you do. 

Every guest is always welcome on the Back Porch, but if you’re missing a mother’s presence in your life, the gate is open especially wide for you. This blog was created to give a dose of maternal love to those who need and want it most. See this site’s Introduction Page for more information.

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Reflections

Forthright about Fortnite

Are you a gamer? I know and love many gamers, but I am not one. I don’t play, watch videos about play, or appreciate verbal replay. And I admit to a special weariness toward Fortnite, which is why it’s so ironic that God recently used a reference to the game to minister directly and emphatically to my heart. If you missed that story, you can read it here: God Used Fortnite. In that post, I promised to provide more background to explain why I felt loved by His gesture, so here I am to be forthright about Fortnite. My main gripes are simple.

It is a long game with no pause button.

Everybody in my house, except me, plays Fortnite. Oftentimes, they all collaborate, on different devices, as a team together. (Ok, in full disclosure, I have a daughter who doesn’t play, but she didn’t live in my house at the height of my family’s Fortnite craze.) This game can take a long time and there is no pause button. So, what happens when dinner is ready? I have the choice to eat a lonely hot meal or to wait for my loved ones to join me for a cool and crusty one when they can finally break away.

It is a game where sounds are clues.

Because Fortnite requires an awareness of one’s surroundings, a player needs to be able to hear what is happening. Noises like phones, timers, and my voice can be distracting, so my gamers wear noise-cancelling headsets. These allow them to hear every little cyber sound, but no real-world racket. I have perfected the skill of touching someone to get their attention; but even then, I can only expect half an ear uncovered. (Admittedly, there are some perks to this one. If done right, a wispy brush across the back of their necks, when they had no idea I was approaching, can make them convulse in some very entertaining ways!)

It is a game of high emotion.

The headsets worn by the gamers in my family have microphones attached so they can dialog as they play together. When emotions run high, and they need to be heard above the cacophony in their ears, I am treated to a hoopin’ and hollerin’ like nobody’s business, and sometimes from all corners of our home at once! I have actually contemplated getting my own noise cancelling headphones or building myself a separate wing of the house. I jest. Or do I?

It is an addicting game.

We went on vacation soon after my family started playing Fortnite. We rented a nice house near the beach and we had more activities to enjoy than we had time to embrace them. But not a day went by when I didn’t hear someone lament that they weren’t home playing Fortnite. Seriously? Hmmm… they might just get their wish next time!

I joke a bit. A tiny bit. I haven’t exaggerated much. But truthfully, the gaming in my household is not as extensive as it was six months ago and certainly not as intense as a year ago. I like the direction this trend is going because it is a lonesome thing to be the only non-gamer in a Fortnite Family. It is hard not to be bitter about the time and money being spent to play. It is a bummer to be the odd woman out and to feel like the sole resonator of reason.

That is why, when God used a Fortnite reference as a means by which to minister something special to my heart, it felt like salve on a wound. I felt seen in my loneliness and challenged in my frustration and, in a way, made whole on the sore subject of Fortnite.

I’ve been asked why, if my family all plays, don’t I learn to like it too? My answer is always that if I also played, nobody would cook or clean or keep everybody alive. I don’t know if that is entirely true, but it has certainly felt that way at times. Also, I don’t relish the idea of wasting hours on end. I recognize that we all have our vices, and it’s easy to call out the ones that aren’t ours. That could explain why it is natural for me to be jaded and sarcastic and forthright about Fortnite.

Can you relate to my Fortnite experience at all? Is there a hobby you have which tends to be enjoyed at the expense of time with your loved ones? What makes you feel left out in a crowd? Has God been ministering to your heart about any of these things?

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Reflections

How I finally found the answer to the question: Is Benevolence Love?

The other day my husband was reading to me from our morning devotion and the author asked something like “Why is it that we show more benevolence to people on the street than to the people in our own homes?” My head immediately answered, ‘because I don’t care as much about the people on the street’.

Timeout: I know this sounds crass, so let me elaborate by way of an example. If I saw someone, who had profanity tattooed across their forehead, walking their dog on the street, I could genuinely smile at them, pet their dog and wish them a good day. Their tattoo wouldn’t matter to me. But if one of my kids came to me, in all seriousness, and stated that they had decided to get such a tattoo, I would agonize over it. Why? Because I love my children deeply and would quickly get tangled in the cause and effect of such a choice in their life.

Photo by Askar Abayev on Pexels.com

The author’s conclusion was the opposite of what I was thinking. He said that we show more benevolence to strangers because we expect grace from people close to us. His point was that our behavior toward the stranger was preferable. It made me stop and think because this is an area in which I have felt incredibly misunderstood for years. Love can be messy and complex, while benevolence is simple. But is benevolence love?

What is the correct term for the compassion I feel for strangers?

I have been told by well-meaning people that if I don’t love the lady behind me in the checkout line, or the guy sitting next to me in the waiting room, then I might not really be a Christian. I can, and often do, feel benevolence toward them, but I don’t view love as something I could possibly give to someone I casually pass by. Love is enduring. Love is committed.

Love requires a comprehensive understanding of the depths of someone and a willingness to get down in there to boost them up.

I am willing to give just about anything to see the people in my circle achieve God’s best for their lives, and it often requires significant sacrifice. Because of that, my sphere is small. It can include anyone, but it cannot include everyone. If I am bound by the constraints of time and energy, I can’t substantially love many people at once, the way I define it.

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com
Love is an investment.

Are you familiar with the story of the Good Samaritan? He was the example Jesus gave as someone who ‘loved his neighbor’, as the Bible commands. He found a man who had been beaten and left for dead. He cleaned his wounds, put the man on his donkey and walked the rest of the journey to the nearest town. He took the man, who could not repay him, to an inn and left money for his stay and care until he could return to check on the healing and cover any further expense.

Benevolence is a quick deposit.

I can smile and compliment and wish well on everyone, but I call that benevolence. I can put a couple bucks in someone’s overturned cap and help a small child who dropped a shoe; again, benevolence. I can let the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness etc. that God pours into me to splash out on those nearby, but is that really loving my neighbor? Is benevolence love?

I recently heard an explanation of my responsibility that put everything into perspective for me. If God 1) shows me a need, and 2) causes me to feel the pain of it, and 3) has given me the resources to meet it, then He expects me to act on His behalf in full sacrificial love. Beyond that, allowing His Spirit to shine through me and onto those around me is enough, as long as I stay alert and available. I’d love to hear your thoughts. How big is the circle of people you genuinely love? In your perception, is benevolence love?

Related posts: Love Uncomplicated, SuperPower Sunday: Compassion
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Emotions Reflections

Anxiety Rochambeau

Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.

Proverbs 12:25

I grew up in the last quarter of the twentieth century and I don’t remember anxiety being much of a topic. Looking back, I’m certain I experienced it, but it was referred to in different terms and explained in different ways. Today, we all know the word ‘Anxiety’ and most of us use it to describe a range of symptoms from which we suffer. We are occupied in a game of Anxiety Rochambeau which is being played in our minds. Let’s talk strategy.

Right here, I want to say that I have no expertise in mental health. When it comes to matters of panic and anxiety, I can only speak from my own experience and limited research. I broadly understand the major difference between a panic attack and an anxiety attack to be the way in which they build. A panic attack comes on suddenly and severely, where an anxiety attack usually begins slowly and climbs to a crescendo over time. Anxiety is not the source of our fear, it is our body’s reaction to that thing (or things) and it can be crippling.

Anxiety is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.

Arthur Somers Roche

I like how Mr. Roche put that. And right here, I want to quote Proverbs again:

Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.

Proverbs 12:25

I know that when I am in the throes of an anxiety or panic attack, I begin to operate out of desperation; my words become short and temperamental, and people run away. My family doesn’t want to argue, admirably, so they leave. I’ve often wished that someone would have the courage to stay, show me kindness, and pray over me. I know that is what I really need and feel it would allay the ugly stuff much faster than leaving me to ‘calm down’ on my own. I am convinced that my anxiety has a spiritual aspect to it and having someone willing to battle with and for me in prayer, especially when I’m vulnerable, would make all the difference.

It is safe to assume almost everybody I know is anxious about something. Statistically, it is probable that you, my Back Porch friend, suffer symptoms of anxiety. I want to be supportive without deepening your bondage to that stream of fear. My plan is to throw kindness around like I’m watering parched grass on a summer day, allowing refreshment to fall everywhere and to seep into any and every open crack. If I soothe a fear before it cuts a channel to be anxious about, maybe I can make a real and lasting difference.

Would you share your thoughts with me? How would you like to be supported when anxiety takes hold? What sort of practical kindness would alleviate the burden for you? I would be honored to have your back in prayer. If that would help you, let me know in the comments. Leave any insight you’d like to convey. Let’s help others understand how to come to our assistance. Lets determine to be a lifeline for those around us. In this game of Anxiety Rochambeau, kindness wins!

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Devotions

Flourish

Real talk: What label would you put on me if I did any (or all) of the following:

  • Often fed my dog a candy bar for dinner
  • Drove dangerously with my babies in the car
  • Made promises to my husband with little regard to whether or not I kept them
  • Told my sister daily that she is ugly and unworthy
  • Constantly reminded my brother that he didn’t deserve good things because he’s stupid
  • Spent my mom’s hard-earned money on spontaneous and unnecessary things
  • Spoiled my dad’s reputation by my sassy lack of self-control

Would you say I was mean? Inconsiderate? Awful? And why would you say that? Because I put others at risk? I didn’t respect their feelings or their property? I failed to show concern for their well-being?

I’d be willing to bet the above does not describe you. Hopefully, it doesn’t depict me either. But what if I take other people out of it and I:

  • Often feed myself a candy bar for dinner
  • Drive dangerously in the car
  • Make promises to myself with little regard to whether or not I keep them
  • Tell myself daily that I am ugly and unworthy
  • Constantly remind myself that I don’t deserve good things because I’m stupid
  • Spend my hard-earned money on spontaneous and unnecessary things
  • Spoil my reputation by my sassy lack of self-control

All of a sudden, this hits closer to home. Am I any less mean or inconsiderate or awful if I am the one I disrespect, disregard and put at risk?

Friends, let’s start being kinder to ourselves. Let’s follow through on our aspirations. Let’s make better choices with our time and money and lets protect the preciousness of our health and wellbeing. Let’s speak constructively to ourselves and build reputations we’re proud of.

We’ve been doing it backwards. If we’re going to truly esteem those around us, we have to value ourselves. Afterall, the way we love ourselves is the standard for how well we love our neighbors. We must pick ourselves up in order to lay ourselves down. We can authentically help others to bloom once we allow ourselves to genuinely flourish.

For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

Galations 5:14

“My command is this: love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

John 15:12, 13