The Most Magical Weekend, Well, Sort Of… (Part 2)

Now, let me see, where did I leave you in the story last time? That’s right, she was headed back to Magic Kingdom to finish out the day. All the while hoping and praying that her luggage would show up. Before she left, the manager at the hotel told her there was a good chance the case would show up at ten o’clock when the bus made its second drop off for the night.

She had hope.

As she was dealing with the joys and sorrows of adulthood, she had another issue pop up. Her phone died. Her phone charger was, you guessed it, in her suitcase. Now she was without extra clothes, shoes, toiletries, and her phone. Do I need to remind you how important a phone is to a twenty one year old? And, honestly, she really did need it right then for more than social media. So, she did something we’ve never let our kids do, she called us from the phone in the hotel room. They charge by the second on those things and we never use them; never.

But, this felt like an emergency.

She called to update us once more that her suitcase did not show up with the ten o’clock drop off as hoped and now she had to figure out what to do until the next morning. Let me interrupt myself here and tell you that when she first called my cell phone from the hotel phone, I hung up on her.   In my defense, I didn’t recognize the number and I did not feel like talking to a stranger about a product that I knew nothing about and did not care to buy. I felt so guilty later after she called the house and we realized what I had done. Ooops!! Bad parent award right here.

During all of this drama, I want to tell you a sweet fact that had her feeling like it was all going to be okay. Her friends were on the way. There is just something deeply comforting about the presence of others when we are going through something that feels so hard. Especially when we really like the “others” and they bring us peace and not stress. Not having to deal with it alone makes it all more bearable.

They were travelling by SUV from their college town and my girl was ready for their support and help down in Orlando. The distraction of friends would be great. Sadly, because she had no phone and had gone to the theme park to kill time, she had no way of knowing when they would arrive. After she was completely spent at Magic Kingdom, she headed back to the room. It wasn’t ten minutes until they drove up. Like a cloudless blue sky on a summer day, it felt good to see them.

Friends are the best, aren’t they?

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After exchanging greetings, she borrowed whatever she needed for the night, went to bed and prayed for a better tomorrow. There was still so much she wanted to do and see in this wonderful place. But right then, she would settle for some clean clothes and her own phone charger.

The next morning I woke up feeling so heavy hearted for my daughter and yet so thankful that she was surrounded by people that loved her. I laid in bed and prayed for her, “Lord, please help her to find her luggage. I know you care about every detail about our lives. She has saved and looked forward to this trip for so long, please let one person take up her cause to help track down her missing belongings. Amen.” I felt more at peace after I prayed and I got up and started my day.

Knowing HE was there with her, being an advocate, helped my heart to rest.

When she woke up, she headed straight down to the front desk to check on the progress of her missing piece. And then it happened, the Lord answered my prayer. The day time manager took her, by now, pitiful plea to heart. He promised to track down her case, took her number and promised to call her as soon as he did.

The Lord hears even our smallest pleas, nothing is unimportant to Him.

After being reassured by an angel in the form of a hotel manager, she and her running partners headed to the Expo. That is where you get your race number and basically check in letting the event coordinators know that you are actually there and ready to participate. Of course, Disney makes everything wonderful, so even this task was fun and memorable.

I want to interject here that I am so proud of how my girl tried to make the best of all of this. She was stressed and uncomfortable, but she pressed on and did not allow all of this stop her from enjoying herself. She was wearing an ill-fitted dress that belonged to someone else, no make-up, and the only pair of shoes she had. But, she still set her mind on having a good time.

What a great life lesson. Life isn’t always comfortable, you’ve just got to make the best of it.

I was shopping when I got the call, I could tell right away that there was good news. The luggage was found!! Oh my goodness, the happiness in her voice made me want to jump for joy right there in the middle of the store. The manager who promised to take up her cause had found the delinquent duffle and promised its delivery to her room. And he did not disappoint. The group headed back so she could put on her own clothes and get all dressed up to go out to dinner.

Pure bliss.

All I could think of when she was reunited with her belongings was how many lessons there were to be learned from her unfortunate happenings. Lessons about listening to instructions, having a good attitude in adversity, appreciating others, and much more. Can’t we all relate to situations like this? When things don’t go our way and we are pressed on every side, how we treat others in the midst of the fire is basically what’s in our hearts.

The good, the bad and the ugly.

There’s no perfect person and no perfect way to handle these types of situations. But I would like the Lord to work on me in my stressful times and help me to be kind and trust him to come through for me. That is really hard. Like really hard. But, not impossible. It is something I will probably have to work on for the rest of my days.

But, He promises in his word to work all things for my good, and I believe Him.

Well, the weekend took shape after that. They had a great time together, laughing and making memories. The race, well, that’s a whole other story. Thirteen miles is a long way. She was thrilled to have met her goal and, of course, her outfit was fabulous while doing it!

Because, after all, that’s what’s really important.

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The Most Magical Weekend, Well, Sort Of…

I’d been up since early morning praying and worrying and praying some more. My daughter was on the road headed to the airport at three thirty in the morning. Why do airports need two hours to punch your name into the computer and send you to security? And why does security need so much time to rummage through all of your personal belongings, molest you with a security wand, then flag you through to your gate? And why must you sit at your gate so long you make several new Facebook friends and drink enough coffee to keep you awake for three days?

Rhetorical questions, I know.

But, even a logical answer to all of these questions wouldn’t quiet my mind at that hour of the morning. I would just be thankful when she got there and made it all the way to the gate and was ready to board her flight. As a matter of fact, I would be even more thankful when she reached her destination.

Disney World.

She had been saving and looking forward to this trip for months and finally the day was upon us. It was the Disney Princess Half Marathon and she had bought the cutest outfit just for the occasion. (Because that’s what really matters, you know, the right outfit sets the tone. At least that was her philosophy.) She was flying stand by, thanks to her pilot father. It’s a tricky way to get from point A to point B, but very economical when it works out. So between the early morning hour, my daughter on the road by herself and the unsureness of the flight availability, you can see why a mother might have trouble sleeping.

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“Lord,” I prayed,” keep her safe, keep everyone on the flight safe and help it all to go smoothly. And help me to get some rest.” She’s twenty one, so it’s not like she wasn’t plenty old enough to be going on this journey alone. But, you just hear so much in the news and on social media about people missing and accidents happening, it’s enough to steal your peace.

If you let it.

She finally arrived and, thankfully, everything went just as planned. Well, almost. The plane landed, the Magical Express picked her up, she handed her luggage to the driver who stored it in the large compartment under the bus. She boarded the magical carriage practically bubbling over with excitement.

Is this even real? She thinks.

While on the ride to the Disney hotel, a video is playing letting all the passengers know that their luggage will be delivered to their room. No worries, just get off the bus, stroll to your room and get ready to be treated like a princess. After all, this is Disney World.

At least that’s what she thought the video said.

She climbs off the bus, and begins to look for a place to eat lunch. Nothing to worry about, the luggage would be delivered to her room later.  After a tasty lunch she heads to her room ready to change into comfortable clothes and head to Magic Kingdom. Her stomach is full of butterflies and anticipation grips her heart. It is true, Disney makes you feel like magic really does exist and that happy endings are for everyone.

There’s a reason they call it the happiest place on earth.

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I was getting ready to go to the store when the phone rang and my husband answered it. It was my daughter and she was in tears. She had been sitting in her room for an hour and her luggage still had not shown up. She was on limited time and daylight was wasting while she waited for that suitcase which housed every piece of clothing she brought for the weekend as well as all of her toiletries. Everything. All she had was her purse and the clothes she was wearing.

We assured her that we would pray about it.

Then we discussed what she should do, and after calling the front desk and hearing that it may take another hour or two for her belongings to appear, we advised her to just go on to the Park and enjoy her time. She could come back to the hotel at dinner and change into more comfortable clothing then. We never doubted that the missing suitcase would show up.

The afternoon flew by and my family gathered for dinner. We were laughing and talking when the phone rang. It was my daughter and she was upset because by now she was beginning to realize that her luggage was lost. After talking to the attendant at the front desk, she understood that the video she saw on the bus was meant for people who left their luggage at the airport. Delivery was not for folks who gave their belongings to the driver to load. Those people should’ve have hung around while the bus was being unloaded and gotten their luggage to take to their rooms. She was in the second group, the ones who should’ve hung around.

And now, she had no idea where her luggage was. No one did.

Let me take a moment to remind you that she had nothing, absolutely nothing. Everything she needed was in that bag. The one that was riding around Disney somewhere in a Magical Bus.

What was she going to do now? Well, she had already bought a Magic Kingdom park ticket, so after she talked to everyone she could about her luggage, she decided to head back and finish out the day in the most Magical Place on earth. Still wearing her clothes from earlier, clothes from flying all day, not very comfortable for walking or joyriding she headed out to make the best of it.

But, somehow, in that moment, nothing felt very magical.

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Meanwhile, my husband and I were at home with such heavy hearts keenly feeling the distance that separated our family.  You just want so badly to help your children in every way you can, and yet, sometimes there is nothing to be done.  It is at those times that I feel the most helpless and I rely deeply on my Heavenly Father.  He is a better parent than I am anyway and He is always wherever she is.

That is truly comforting.

To be continued…

I Can’t Believe You’re Seventeen

Today we celebrate a milestone. A day I hoped would take its time. But, time is exactly what brought us to it. Sometimes I can’t decide if time is my enemy or my friend. But, as the old adage goes, it keeps marching on.

Seventeen.

I walked into your room this morning to wake you up for school, I was struck by how you covered the entire bed. Seriously, when did you become the length of your entire bed? It happened last year. Seventeen sure looks different than sixteen.

It came too quickly. Or maybe it went too quickly. I can’t understand how life seems to drag by and then suddenly you’re almost done with a season you thought would never end. It’s such a mystery to me. Weren’t you just five yesterday?

So much behind, so much ahead.

So many changes. This year will be a year of substantial growth for you. Physically you will start to look less like a boy and more like a man.  You’ve already outgrown your dad. Your mind will expand as you begin to think about not just your world, but the world awaiting you. And girls.  Words like college and future will be more and more common and you will be sick to death of taking the ACT.

You’ll lay awake nights with butterflies in your stomach thinking about a college visit the next day. You’ll check the mail every day in hopes of word from the scholarship you applied for months ago, hoping and praying for good news. You’ll mark the days off the calendar and dream about being done with high school.

Time marches on.

There are so many things I want you to know. Like how proud I am of your hard work and how thankful I am that you realize obedience is better than rebellion. That you choose to join your youth group in church week after week without being asked. How you volunteer your time at kids camps because you want to be a good example and in your words, “help some little kid feel good about himself.”

This year feels so much more sacred than last because it will begin the “lasts.” Senior year is right around the corner and seventeen just brings us one step closer. I almost feel like the countdown has begun. I want so much for you to grow and fly and be everything we prayed and raised you to be, but at the same time I want to capture time in a bottle and keep you small and dependent. There’s no rhyme or reason to my thinking, just want the best of both worlds I suppose.

But that’s not how it works.

Because you are my youngest, I know how this works. This isn’t my first rodeo. I understand how quickly the next three hundred and sixty-five days will go by and then you will be considered a legal adult. You’ll be off to live and experience your own life, and your bedroom will sit empty and our hearts will feel that way too.

A lot happens between sixteen and seventeen.

Not long ago you still needed me to drive you to all of your activities, this year you’ve long since started driving yourself. Last year, college was a dream, this year you’ll start receiving mail from all over the country promising you that their school is the best choice.  It will be hard to choose. Last year, you still weren’t sure of your independence, this year you wear it well.

At sixteen you needed me close by, everything, all the new privileges, still felt unsure yet inviting.  Like far off  horizons that had yet to be conquered.  At seventeen I watch  as you come and go, confident in the person you have become.   You’re exploring and conquering those horizons one at a time.  You’ve begun to discover your wings. And you’ve realized that you can fly on your own.  Just exactly like we prayed you would.  There is beauty and sadness in it all.

But mostly beauty.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, there’s no stopping the clock. No bargaining with time. Let this year begin with a celebration of your life. There’s not another seventeen year old on the planet that I would choose over you. You have brought joy and silly humor to our home, and as long as you are here, we will laugh.

There’ll be plenty of time to cry later.

Happy Seventeenth!

Small Church Life

My whole life has been steeped in small church life. The kind where everybody knows everybody else. You laugh at inside jokes and notice when Sister Sue or Brother John is missing. The same few people are elected to the church board and dinner on the ground is a familiar term. The pastor shakes hands with everyone who attends. Maybe more than once if they hang around long enough.

There’s just something special about a small church.

The church I attend is in the next town over. Although you would never really know it was the next town over seeing as how the towns practically run together. Literally, only a bridge separate the two. You can give directions to my church by saying “go over the bridge, past the Piggly Wiggly then turn left at the Shell Station. It’s on your left.”

You can’t miss it.

In our church we still sing hymns some Sunday mornings and invite anyone who would like to come forward to the alter during prayer time. Not all of the ushers wear suits on Sunday and everyone sits in the same pew from week to week, have for years.

The church building is not new, but still looks nice. The pews are comfortable enough, each one housing a few hymnals and at least one King James Bible. Stray Kleenex boxes line up on the floor underneath different ones for the soul that is moved to tears. And stained glass windows allow the sun to peek in different colors on an especially sunny day.

Our fellowship hall, the gathering place for fellowship, is old and in need of updating. But that doesn’t stop us from showing up, casserole in hand, to sit and laugh together on a Sunday morning after worship. The Sunday School wing, although newer, has been duly initiated by the hands of many children. It’s seen its share of wear. In this building there are colorful classrooms with cut out art adorning the walls. Enough crayons to supply a small elementary school. Scissors of all shapes and sizes and glue sticks that work part of the time. Small tables with tiny chairs in some rooms and bigger adult sized chairs in others. Something for everyone, or at least that’s the goal.

A lot of learning about Jesus has gone on in this place.

We park in the grass, walk through dirt and cross a small road to get to the front door. But no one seems to mind. We sing and praise and raise our hands to the Lord. It’s just how we do it where I attend. Some of us volunteer to greet those arriving and it wouldn’t feel like church without the trusty old bulletin. And, of course, everyone gets one. It’s good for fanning when the pastor forgets to turn on the air-conditioner early enough to cool down the sanctuary on a hot summer Sunday.

Oh, and for the announcements.

The attendance board hangs proudly in the foyer showcasing how much money was given in Sunday School and how many attended last Sunday morning. A few dedicated ladies change the flowers each season and some holidays so that the front of the sanctuary looks festive and appropriate.

If you walked into our service on any given Sunday, you would see white and grey hair peppered throughout the pews. Seasoned old saints who could tell us a story or two about this life. If we’d only listen. Or you might see the middle aged couple who are working multiple jobs to keep their kids in school and college. Their eyes are tired but they smile anyway, God has been good, after all. There could be a baby or two crying on occasion, I’m always thankful that that young momma got up and beat the odds to make it to Sunday morning worship.   Who knows what she really faced to sit in church and allow her children to hear the Word of God. Seeds are being planted.

Church attendance is a commitment.   Especially in these busy times with so many other activities pulling, practically begging for our attention. It’s almost heroic for a family to make it week after week.

For a person to be faithful requires pushing through dry seasons, where you feel like you’re not getting a thing out of being there. Blasting past times when your children argue and don’t want to go. It’s boring they tell you. (You know what I say to that? “Tough, just tough. Your job will one day be boring too, you still have to go. Your marriage will have boring times, you still have to stay. Life will have boring seasons, but it’s still worth living. It’s the right thing to do, and one day you’ll see it was worth it. Now, get in the car.”) Ignoring what feels like common sense at times when you are just plain tired and there’s so much you could accomplish with some rest and a day at home.

You have to make up your mind.

And then you have to go. Set all of the excuses aside, set the alarm clock and just go! Pray for direction and discernment about the church you feel would best fit your family and then show up on a Sunday morning. Once you find a “fit,” get to know the people and commit to the programs and make it a priority.

You won’t regret it.

We recently had a Valentines Banquet at our little church. I knew everyone there and we laughed and broke bread together. It was a nice evening. I went home feeling full, loved and thankful for this little family of mine that I see a few times a week. We love God together, encourage and pray for one another.

It’s a refuge in this difficult world.

I still struggle some Sundays, the blankets are so warm and I don’t want to get up. But, I have decided that it matters too much to neglect. As long as I have breath and can get dressed, I will be there. I hope you’ll make that decision too.

Maybe I’ll see you on Sunday.

“Let us not stay away from church meetings. Some people are doing this all the time. Comfort each other as you see the day of His return coming near.” Hebrews 10:25 NLT

Ninety Seconds of Light: The Power of Example

I was sitting in Sunday School last week when a discussion started about our words. More specifically, the words we use when we share with others what we believe. Our class has been dissecting the book of Romans and it’s been very enlightening and sometimes painstaking to analyze such a powerful and complicated book. We are to the end of it now and as we were wrapping up the conversation, the topic of “speaking up” was introduced.

What does it mean to speak up?

If you’ve read any of Paul’s works, you know that he was very opinionated and full of words. He constantly spoke up for what he felt was true. His mouth got him in trouble a lot. (Can anybody else out there relate to that?) But, what made him believable, what gave his words credibility were his actions. He doesn’t just tell people how they should live and then hold them to a higher standard than he was willing to live up to himself. He lived what he said he believed.

I don’t know about any of you, but I dread all the political ads that will besiege television this year. Election year is upon us. I get so weary of one ad after another telling me that they are the logical choice. One candidate after another declaring that they are the only ones telling the “real” truth. The bantering that takes place on the tube basically feels like a free for all happening in my own living room.   The saddest part is that I don’t believe half of what any of them are saying. I have been disillusioned more than once and now their words don’t carry any weight.

Sad but true.

People really do watch how we live our lives. If we are speaking out with a good message but our actions don’t match up with what we say, we are no different than many of those empty campaign ads.

I’ve done my share of hypocritical living, opened my mouth and said things that should never have been said, and then tried to justify all of it. That only left me empty and tired. It’s exhausting to live a charade. It’s interesting though, people do see through all the hype. They see the truth for what it really is. They see our actions and those actions deliver the message that we’re trying so hard to capture with words.

Actions speak louder than words. Our actions become our example.

Which is exactly what we decided in Sunday School. All of our words are meaningless unless we back them with a good example. Unless we live them out and have no duplicity. Unless we hold ourselves to the same standard to which we hold others. If we are genuine and authentic when we speak, folks will listen and believe what we say. And isn’t that the whole point?

One day when I get to heaven I’m going to look for Paul. I have a few questions about what he said here and there throughout the books he wrote in the Bible. But, they aren’t questions about credibility, just clarification.

I believe everything he said, because his life backed it up.

 

Prayer: Father, so many times my actions have not matched up with my words. Please work in my heart and bring me to a place of total authenticity. Don’t allow me to be a hindrance to the very Good News that I am so desperate to share with those around me. Show me areas in my heart that need to be changed and then empower me to be different. When others speak of me, may their words be gracious because they see genuine joy and effort in my relationship with you. May it be so, Lord. In Jesus Name, Amen.

“And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching.” Titus 2:7 NLT