Today I sat in on a high school assembly. This may be an obvious point, but can we take a moment to thank God we're not in high school any more? Unless, of course, you are in high school. Then, hey--don't worry, it'll be over soon. But this is not my point. Tomorrow evening is the homecoming football game and this was part of the week-long festivities. A thousand awkward teenagers (with a dozen or so freakishly attractive adolescents mixed in just to make everyone else feel the weight of their inferiority) were jammed onto the gym bleachers. There was a drum line, perky cheerleaders, a balloon arch and the necessary grunting football players standing off to the side. They would have their time, but event began with the speeches from the homecoming king and queen candidates.
Which is why I was sitting in this hormone laboratory in the first place. Our son, Cade, is one of these candidates. Yep. I'm a proud mom. This kid, who moved from Arizona in the middle of his freshman year has done the difficult work of acclimating to a new culture while remaining true to who he is through arguably, some of the most confusing years of life. This is no small feat and I'm taking this moment to soak in the reality that as his childhood and adolescence winds down, he's entering adulthood having already weathered some character building seasons.
I remember my counselor telling me how hard it is to develop faith in our kids because it requires that we allow them to be in situations that build faith. It's much easier to rescue and protect our kids than to entrust them to God or allow them to fall and fail. I'm not talking about negligence or laziness (although I probably over-spiritualized my refusal to assist on science fair projects). I mean the disciplined, soul-wrenching work of learning when to intervene and when to let them fall. And then trusting something good can come out of your mistakes.
That's what I saw today. A man who is growing in character and faith. A man who is learning to be gracious in adversity and affirmation. The young man (and I use that term loosely) who gave his speech before Cade apparently mistook the assignment as a roast of all the other candidates and, I have to admit, my mama feathers were riled when he took a verbal jab at my son. When I asked Cade about it after school he just laughed. He hadn't been offended at all. Which is the problem with kids growing up--sometimes they're better at being adults than we are.
This afternoon, the votes are being counted and tomorrow night the announcement will be made and the 2014 Homecoming King and Queen will be crowned. Cade may or may not win, but both of us will be fine no matter the outcome. I have so much respect for him and I couldn't be prouder. Of course, I have an advantage over him. I know that in the scheme of life, homecoming court successes fade quickly. But Cade is teaching me that perseverance in the ups and downs of the daily grind will always be rewarded. Maybe not in being king for a day, but in the kind of life that matters.
I know it's impossible to add more hours into a day, but I really thought I'd figured out a way to beat the system earlier this week.
In fact, it seemed so simple I felt embarrassed for not having thought of it sooner. My no-fail solution?
Get up earlier. Like, way earlier.
I'm currently experiencing a season of unusual busyness. Crazy busyness. So busy that my mother has told me she will not be visiting me in the mental hospital because I've done this to myself. She's right, of course. But I know that if I can make it through May, I'll be okay. And I was up for the task. I'm more disciplined, focused and productive than I've ever been and many of the tasks I'm engaged in are life-giving. The ones that aren't I get done early in the day and I've added more time for exercise, prayer and Sabbath to help me survive.
And then my carefully crafted Jenga pile collapsed. On Tuesday we received a notice to vacate our rental property by the end of May. Nothing we did, its just that the Catholic Church needs it back so a priest can move in. It's their house. They can do what they want with it. But that little letter put me over the edge.
That's the thing with seasons of high activity and low margin--it doesn't take much to throw you over the edge.
I was in shock for the first couple of hours, reminding myself that God was in control and I would be okay. I had lots of very spiritual thoughts and believed I was handling it quite nicely.
Until night came. What is it about evening that makes everything seem worse?
It took me a while to get to sleep. My mind was racing. And then I was up at 4:30 a.m. The worst time of morning. I knew it would take me at least 30 minutes to get back to sleep and then I'd have under an hour before I had to get up for the day.
And then it hit me...I should just get up now. In fact--this will be my new start time for the day. Brilliant! I add an hour and a half to my day. That's nearly eight hours in my week! I'll use it to look for houses and pack and organize stuff. See. I'm a problem solver.
I was so productive in that pre-dawn period that I had a hard time reigning it in when it was time to get started with my actual day. By 7:30 a.m. I was out the door with Madison and already three hours into my work day. After dropping her off, I headed to a breakfast meeting--fueled with caffeine--and then off to Oakland for another meeting. Also fueled with caffeine. By this time it was lunch and I'd been up for eight hours. I usually fast on Wednesdays, but today I needed food. I inhaled a quesadilla from Chipotle and stopped at Starbucks for another shot. My brother was in San Francisco for business so I headed across the bridge to see him for a few minutes. I noticed I was feeling shaky and tired and emotionally exhausted.
After spending a few minutes with my brother I headed back home via Highway 1. This section of Pacific Coast Highway is one of the most beautiful and it takes me almost directly to my front door. And, in spite of this awe-inspiring scenery and gorgeous weather my mood continued to plummet. By the time I got home I was in the tank. Tired, nauseous and weepy.
I was beginning to think this new wake-up time would not be sustainable.
I tried doing some homework but it was no use. I headed to bed and immediately fell asleep for 2 hours. So much for the hours I added to my day. And when I awoke I was even more depressed. And hungry. I ate junk and became more and more irritable. My family gave me a wide berth. It was really ugly.
The world seemed to be collapsing. Maybe not today, but I could feel it coming. I wasn't sure how long I'd be able to keep up this pace. And to stop now would be to drop a lot of very fragile plates. Loud and messy.
I did get on the elliptical machine in our garage for a quick workout and that helped keep me from sinking further, but after stretching I went directly back to bed. Beside myself with panic but a little wiser about what I truly needed.
And, it isn't more hours in the day. It is continuing to trust God as I keep moving forward. One day at a time. One foot in front of the other. One breath prayer at a time.
I may still get up a bit earlier in the coming weeks. But in the end, I don't want to be more productive--I want to be more God-honoring. More loving. More responsive to God's movement in my life and a more vibrant part of the community of faith.
So, I will faithfully walk and wait on God. Of course, it may involve dropping a plate or two. But it's not really about me. Its about the God who loves me and whom I desire to honor with my life.
Katy Perry's song Roar hit the airwaves en force last month. Since then it has become an anthem for discouraged, seemingly-defeated-but-resilient people everywhere. Just yesterday Richard showed me a YouTube video with kids in a children's hospital lip-syncing to this song. There's no way around it--I'm inspired.
Given my 'no love' stance toward Taylor Swift, you might assume Katy Perry was on my 'do not listen' list as well. But you'd be wrong. If I were interviewing nannies, I would go with Taylor, but otherwise--Katy's my girl. I can't help it. She has talent and soul. And, every once in a while I see remnants of holy in her.
With the release of her new album, Prism, this week she's been widely interviewed about the inspiration for her songs. It doesn't take a degree in poetry to gather that she's writing about a time of difficulty in her life. In her interviews she confirms that she went through a period that took a toll on her self esteem. But it was out of that darkness that Roar was birthed. (Apparently hyper-sexuality was also part of the healing process, but I'll leave that alone for now.)
As a woman who has a daughter and who works with women leaders to help them find their voice, Roar should be my theme song. You can't hold me down! I'm a fighter! You hear my voice...like thunder, gonna shake the ground! I'm a champion! Roar!
But I tell you...
There's only one problem. God isn't asking me to roar. I'm not saying that having some fight isn't often what's called for, I'm simply observing that the way of Jesus is, more often than not, a much quieter path.
Today I wanted to roar. I'm physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted. As I meditated and prayed this morning I secretly hoped I would emerge from this time feeling energetic and ready to take on the world. After all, isn't that how the agreement works? I plug into the power source of the Holy Spirit and, just like my iPhone in the morning, I leave fully charged and ready for another day of productive activity?
I'm currently taking a class on the Disciplines of the Spirit and one of our textbooks is a favorite of mine...The Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Calhoun. This week we completed a brief assessment designed to surface where God might desire to shape us. I faithfully completed the assessment and moved on to the reflection questions. What I hoped would come out in my reflection was a sense of deep rest and encouragement. I found myself drawn to the disciplines of Sabbath and listening to God.
Inwardly I crouched, waiting for my time to roar.
And then, he spoke.
"Kelli, ask a friend to show you your blind spots."
"Kelli, you've wounded another friend. Ask for forgiveness."
So, let me clarify. I feel tired and vulnerable and God wants me to invite someone to point out areas of weakness of which I'm blissfully unaware. And then he wants me to admit to another that I've neglected our friendship.
Just what I was hoping for.
This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:
After accepting his invitation I am more amazed at God's faithfulness and grace. But I do not feel like roaring. On the contrary, I feel more dependent, quieter, still tender.
I love Katy Perry, but, for now, she'll have to roar without me.
I just returned from my first funeral in Santa Cruz. Amazing how much you can grow to admire a person in just a year. Jim went to be with Jesus after 85 years on this planet and the overwhelming consensus was that his was a life well-lived.
Reminded me of my maternal grandmother's life. I want to be sure her legacy continues so I thought I'd share my remarks from her funeral.
14 “For it is like a man going on a journey, who summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey.
My maternal grandmother was not a five talent servant.
Limited financial resources.
Limited education or vocational skill.
No influence or power to speak of.
But a faithful servant makes it grow.
With her few financial resources she was frugal, creative and joy-filled.
Her skill was a heart for service that she invested in "the least of these"--the marginalized and overlooked. She became a professional caregiver.
Her only influence was with her children and she used it to introduce them to Jesus.
But in God's economy all it takes is one good investment. And this was a good one. My mother is one of those children. She has been given more talents than her mother, but she too invested wisely. Also introducing her children to Jesus. All of us (her children) have been entrusted with more--not because of anything we've done and largely because our grandmother was faithful with little.
My grandmother's life went unnoticed by most. But not by the One who mattered most--her Savior and the lover of her soul. I can hear her happy cry as Jesus smiles at her and says--
"Well done my good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness."
Kelli is a writer, speaker and consultant equipping leaders for a deepening intimacy with Christ, greater impact in ministry and more effective intentionality in all of life.
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