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Beware the Auto-Pilot

I was excited for this particular dinner I was planning. This particular dinner. I confess that planning meals whip up my anxiety, because I tend to go with quick and easy meals. Planning meals comes with so many “what ifs” Will the kids eat it? Will it re-heat well? Will there be enough time between dance class, basketball practice and church? Not only was this meal different and was sure to break our dinnertime rut, it was going to provide lunches for my husband and the leftovers would lead to another meal for the week. Unfortunately, I prepared it, stuck it in the oven and 40 minutes later I realized that I hadn’t even pre-heated the oven. Beware the auto-pilot.

Auto-pilot makes us forget what we have. I have a musical background. I love to sing, but one day during Sunday morning worship, I realized that I wasn’t even thinking about the notes and I wasn’t really trying to express musicality. I know that a joyful noise to the Lord pleases Him no matter what, but it was as if I was singing with a mental monotone voice, like when I’m reading a book. A subtle joy, maybe, but if I am so distracted, that the ” thanksgiving” I offer resembles more of an “Ok, I suppose I am happy,” really, it is disguising a luke-warm heart. Doesn’t our Lord deserve better? At least enough attention to focus on the beauty that is musical worship?

My heart is confident in you, O God; no wonder I can sing your praises with all my heart!
Psalms 108:1 NLT

For the despondant, every day brings trouble; for a happy heart, life is a continual feast. Proverbs 15:15

Make a joyful noise into the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing Psalms 100: 1-2 KJV

I realized that I stopped singing at bedtime also. Singing was the norm when my children were babies, whether it was to calm them down, or just to smile at them while having a song in my heart. I looked into my son’s 5-year-old face, and it was like gazing at a young man. How had all this time gone by? I sang at bedtime for the first time in months. I could see the surprise in my children’s eyes as I sang. I was deviating from the routine that auto-pilot fixed into reality, night after night after night. Becky looked at me like it was Christmas morning and sang back to me. In that moment I knew that I was a slave to hurrying through the day and I vowed (at least for the present week) to continue the loving gesture that is the “Good Night Song”. We are meant to use our gifts and have joy in our gifts. Beware the Auto-Pilot that keeps you distracted. Every day we may be moving forward, which is good, and can be admirable if our daily duties are difficult, but the auto-pilot has the power to make us resemble a cyborg; bereft of emotion and staying the course without realizing the therapy that we need. Analysis, Mr. Data: I let my guard down and forgot how powerful and important music is to my life. I forgot what worship means. I forgot about an amazing God whose love lasts further than the farthest galaxies.

He will rejoice over you with joyful songs. Zepheniah 3:17. NLT

Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good; celebrate his lovely name with music. Psalms 135:3 NLT

Momercise: Autumn Surprise

I had every intention of titling this blog “Steady as She Goes.” The blog was going to be a generic message about not giving up and inspirational anecdotes. It was going to be my way of not sharing anything specific so as not to destroy any credibility, (if I have any at all). So here is the truth: My goals are not anywhere near completion. “SHE” has definitely not been steady since my last post. The calorie-filled holiday season is on the horizon, so the “why bother?” thoughts are looming. I am so ready to surrender to the joy of concealing my body under sweatshirts and lean into the seductive whispers of procrastination. I still have a positive note to share, though. Don’t worry, I won’t bombard you with “Accentuate the Positive clichés and the long list of ways Mom Life has kept me from exercising. This week I was given a 15 lb turkey as a gift from the in-laws. I never knew how to cook a turkey, so I quickly texted my mom for help. The task was so daunting in my head, believe me, I considered just begging my mother to take it and save it for Thanksgiving. To my surprise, it was way easier than the hyperbolic turkey wrestling match in my head. It dawned on me, that this new challenge was something positive to inspire me on a mental standpoint, even if my physical goals are still lacking. And what’s even more rewarding, is that it really impressed and elated my husband. He brought leftovers to work and has informed me that he will brag and brag and brag. Sure, turkey, mashed potatoes and fried okra…not the best meal if you’re trying to be healthy, but at least I can now stare Thanksgiving in the face and say…”I can help with the turkey. Let’s do this!” A goal is a goal, even if it’s one you didn’t know you had.

Bad Luck Cat

“We saw people who loved their neighbours and were kind to man and beast, we might know that was God’s mark, for ‘God is love.'” –Black Beauty

Last year on Halloween day, I was picking up my kids from school. A lady was bending under her car, trying to coax a tiny black kitten to come out. I could tell the lady was in a hurry, so I offered to take responsibility for it. I had heard rumors that some terrible things happen to black cats on Halloween. I knew I couldn’t leave it. Thankfully, the owner’s information was on her collar and she got safely home. I have researched that black cats rarely get adopted because of silly stereotypes, so I wrote a short story about a cat who is sad over the bad luck myths and just wants to be loved. At the beginning a little boy tries to keep his sister away. The next part is the poor cat wishing she was anything other than a black cat. Finally the little sister comes back at the end of the story to save the day. Today, I share the story with you all and encourage you to consider adopting a black cat today. Be a light in a poor black cat’s dark world.

Bad Luck Cat

Bad luck cat, Bad luck cat

I warn you. Stay away from that!

Look at her black and matted fur.

Look at her evil eyes.

She’s going to cast a spell on you.

She hisses and she flies.

Don’t let her cross your path, look out!

She is nothing but bad luck

She dances with all her creepy friends

On the hour midnight is struck.

So, come back home with me little sis

Hurry or she’ll spit a curse.

A black cat for our pet?!

I can think of nothing worse.

Bad luck cat, Bad luck cat?

Why do they keep saying that?

I’m tired of this nonsense

Cast a spell? I don’t know how

But if I could, a tuna melt

You’d surely be by now.

This superstition that I’m bad luck

It has gone too far indeed.

No one would be afraid of me

if I were another breed.

If I were a slinky Siamese

With piercing, sapphire eyes

A poised and elegant feline

How could they despise?

How I wish I were a Persian,

I’d be glamorous and white

A perfect, preening powder-puff

On velvet pillows every night.

A tabby cat would be some fun

I’d frolic in haylofts on a farm

I’d have fresh cow’s milk every day

And add to the country charm.

Maybe a Manx, without a tail

But I’d jump as high as a tree

No rocking chairs to stress my nerves

What an athlete I would be

A calico cat would be just fine

With a coat of many colors

A fuzzy patchwork kitty

Not like all the others

Egyptian Mau or Bengal

Those pure, expensive breeds

If I were just like them

I would get the respect I need

Or perhaps a bigger cat instead

A tiger or ocelot

A wild lion, a cheetah?

Hmmm….maybe not

Forget it! I am all alone

This curse will never end

Maybe I’d rather be a dog

After all, they’re man’s best friend.

Oh fluff and whiskers!

I think I’ve lost my mind!

No, a loyal cat I’ll stay

I can’t turn on my own kind.

Bad luck cat, Bad luck cat

I really don’t believe that

Look at your beautiful emerald eyes

Your soft and shiny fur

Almost like a baby panther

Aw, what a happy and calming purr

You aren’t bad luck at all

Mysterious, yes, but kind

You’re the perfect cat for me

I won’t leave you behind

Bad luck cat, bad luck cat?

Well, that is the end of that.

“If a black cat crosses your path, it signifies that the animal is going somewhere.” –Groucho Marx

Moms of Faith

Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.
Proverbs 22:6 NLT

I know that I am not the only mother who worries daily about her children. Their future keeps me up at night. Sometimes the worry will just cripple me mid-day without warning while I clean up their rooms. This world is powerfully persuasive and can be dangerous. How can we have faith that our children will be safe? How can we have confidence that we are raising them right?

Hannah wanted a child so badly that she promised to dedicate Samuel’s whole life to the Lord. The Bible tells us that Eli, the priest’s sons stole the best parts of the sacrifices from the people of Jerusalem and had intimate date nights within the tabernacle. Hannah made a promise to God and kept it, even though she was most likely aware of Eli’s despicable sons. She could have gone back on her word in the name of keeping her son safe from the world. She was well-off and her home life was obviously more comfortable than in a tent in a hot desert climate. Upon reading about Hannah’s second meeting with Eli, I couldn’t help but read her words in a mama bear tone.

And she said, Oh my Lord, as thy soul “liveth, my Lord, I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying unto the Lord . For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him”
1 Samuel 1:26‭-‬27 KJV

Was their hidden subtext in the phrase that would hint, “I am trusting the Lord with my boy and I am trusting you, and I know what your sons are doing.” Hannah had faith in the Lord.

Mary was a mom. Did she have the same anxieties we do? Did she leave Jesus in Jerusalem for two days because of mom brain? The King James version quotes Mary as saying “Your father and I sought thee sorrowing.” Mary had faith, but one forboding incident was enough to make her erupt with worry. Did she know where Jesus was going when it was time for the devil to tempt him in the desert? “Wait…you are going where? With who? No way am I letting you go through that!” Did she scold him afterward. “Good grief! Have you eaten anything?” Did she ever show disapproval of who he was hanging out with? Smelly fishermen? Tax collectors?! A prostitute?! The Bible says she pondered all in her heart, but what about when he was dying on the cross. Had it been pondered before? When she was watching her beloved son die, what bravery that must have taken. There wasn’t anything she could do. After going through pregnancy, going through childbirth, after raising him for 30 years…there was nothing she could do. When Jesus’ birth was foretold, the angel Gabriel told Mary “The Lord is with you…: and that her future son’s “kingdom will never end.”

I acted in a passion play as Mary, the mother of Jesus. I was escorted by Mary Magdalene and John. I tripped over to the cross and in true method acting form, I imagined my first child. The child that I never got to hold. The child that died at 8 weeks. I remembered the pain of not having any power over my baby returning to the kingdom of heaven, but the Scripture says that “Mary was standing at the cross.” When Jesus said that she was John’s mother now. When that word mother was the last time she heard it from his lips, was she no longer standing? Did she falter? Did she weep? Was she meditating on the words the angel spoke to her? Mary was a mom of faith.

I have gladiolus in my garden. Even though they only last for two weeks in the spring, I look forward to the tall, vibrant stalks to illuminate my back window. They attract hummingbirds and it is a treat to catch their majestic flight while I sip my morning coffee. (Picture above) Many times the gladiolus bloom for one day, but the weight of the flower makes the thin stems collapse. All that work and toil. Digging, pulling, watering and for what? A fleeting moment of picturesque scenery gone before the first day of April. Mark 4:26 says “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how.” We planted the seed, our children grow and grow and sometimes we cannot fathom the process of how they grow up so fast. Just like enjoying my 2-3 days of proud, standing gladiolus, it is another reminder to enjoy the present and not to let the future cause you anxiety. We don’t know what is in store for our children, much like I’m not sure if some of my annual garden flowers have enough resources to return year after year. Our faith is built on the same principle. We can’t fathom the homes that are waiting for us in heaven. We don’t know the entirety of God’s plan. There are still so many unanswered questions in spite of our faith. We just hope and anticipate a beautiful eternity where we can enjoy the view, reunite with loved ones and give glory to God.

But the love of the Lord remains forever with those who fear him. His salvation extends to the children’s children
Psalms 103:17 NLT

This is what the Lord says: “Do not act like the other nations, who try to read their future in the stars. Do not be afraid…
Jeremiah 10:2 NLT

And they will never die again. In this respect they will be like angels. They are children of God and children of the resurrection.
Luke 20:36 NLT

Two Lions

Deep in the valley, there was a lion. It was badly hurt. Thorns covered his body. He writhed and howled as the brambled bushes continued to overtake him. The lioness stood above the valley. From the edge, she peered at him, longing to help, but she was encircled by another lion. His sleek and shiny fur constantly rubbing against her ear. Every step she took, the second lion would roar threateningly or block her path. After a few nips taken at her heel, the lioness allowed him to lead her away from the valley. She could still hear the poor, trapped creature, his anguish echoing through the plains. She yearned to turn back, but the magnificent lion bade her to relax in the cool of the trees. The beast’s enormous teeth were terrifying, yet he spoke sweetly. Surely she had made the right choice. It was unbearably hot and she was tired. Why choose weakness, when she had pleasure to look forward to? She rolled in the cool dirt over and over, then buried her face in the wet mud. Suddenly, she saw a set of paws in front of her. Huge thorns embedded deep in the center of them. She looked up. There he was, free from the valley, towering over her, smiling with a playful face. He was strong. She put her paw on the hem of his and bent down to dig the thorn out, but the other lion returned with a monstrous snarl and pounce. He was encircling her again, now pushing her back toward the valley. “No!” She thought frantically. “Not back there! I’m not strong enough.” She was sliding backwards towards the twisting, threatening thicket. He gnashed at her wildly, he pushed her, closer and closer. At the edge of the thicket he prowled and purred, as he motioned his head toward the trees and then to the looming danger of a thorny grave. “Yield to him. Or perish.” she thought. She tried hard to plant herself into the ground. She resisted his brute force, but she was frightened. Suddenly, a thunderous roar deafened the savannah. It was followed by multiple roars, as if a pride was all around her circling her for protection. She found her voice. She roared in turn, and the strong lion was there, beside her, pushing with her against the prowler. The lioness fought against her fatigue and despair. In the second lion’s eyes she saw her weakness and her doubt. She hung her head, trying to forget the reflections of those evil and horrible yellow eyes. The lion, still by her side nudged her to fight. There was hope in his kind face. With one last push, their advesary vanished in a wisp of smoke. The lioness collapsed into the dirt. It was more cool and refreshing than before. She glanced at her friend, her rescuer. No longer was he adorned with thorns. Thankful and relieved, she rested her head on his paw. The orange painted sky deepened into violet twilight. The lioness looked toward a single twinkling star and overcome with joy, she fell into a peaceful sleep.

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.
1 Peter 5:8

Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne, has won the victory.
Revelation 5:5 NLT

You will trample upon lions and cobras; you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet! The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name.
Psalms 91:13‭-‬14 NLT