Choosing the Necklace

hands2Crocodile tears, these were not.

These were leaky eyes. Panicked eyes. The visit to the dentist for this little one had not gone as planned.

It first involved x-rays that mama bear had to put an end to. Then the scraping. And the electric tooth brushing. It tickled, in that uncomfortable way. I felt his pain as I held his sweaty, stressed-out, clenched hands in mine.

All this and finally clean teeth.

But there was hope in the goodie bag. The prize: a gold token. In the hand of this babe, he looked like a gambling man upon seeing the Vegas strip for the very first time.

The prize machine held so many choices. He popped in the token and out dropped a necklace. (to be continued…)

**I am honored to be guest posting over at (in)courage today! Click here to continue reading.**



photo credit: Lhopfan via photopin cc

photo credit: Lhopfan via photopin cc

Today. Sharing space with my Soul Sister on her birthday. Her friendship and words are a gift to me and I know she is to many others as well. Help me wish her a blessed day?

But first, a note from her: Recently my husband and I moved our family halfway around the world. Now I’m trying to figure out what being a wife and mom looks like in this new culture. Learning a new language, hearing life stories and sharing tea with women are privileges that make up my new life. I am so humbled to share my stories and experiences here at Operation: Leap of Faith and thankful to my sister at heart, Katie, for giving me the page as often as she does. -SS

It’s confirmed. We’re a mess. A total and complete mess.

A mess that I’d really rather keep hidden from curious, watching eyes. But that doesn’t seem to be possible.

We share a house with another family, and while we have our own space–the entire bottom floor–we share a yard. And we live a good bit of our life in the yard. For some reason, our faults and cracks are revealed in this yard.

I love our yard. It’s a beautiful haven in a very broken, scary place. It provides respite and protection for us. And most of the time, enjoyment for both families’ children. However, the other day, it all seemed to be unraveling. And the more I pulled at the ball of string to try to contain the mess, the faster it unraveled.

Our daughter has a mind of her own. She is very assured of herself and uses words confidently. It was a battle of wills between her and the adults God unwisely put her in the care of. Unfortunately, she picked the moments that we were on
display to assert her longing for independence. As any parent, I wanted to hide the ugly conflict from an audience. But sometimes, life goes on display. A little more of the string comes undone.

As we left to walk to a friend’s house for dinner, she continued her diatribe about how long it would take to walk, tears streaming down her face. The guards that stand at the gate next door were fascinated. Yes, thank you, this is our family. Take a good look. We’re messy.

I had a crisis of heart, right there in the middle of the muddy road. I really wanted to escape. Pretend that I wasn’t fighting for the moral integrity of my family. Have you ever wanted to leave a crying, arguing, fussing child in the middle of a road and walk away? Well, that was me.

But for some reason I continued to hold her hand and put one foot in front of the other. Isn’t that how it is sometimes? We push through, because really, at the end of the day, we know that bedtime is coming and tomorrow will start new.

I feel sometimes like standing in a circle of friends and raising my hand and saying, “my name is Soul Sister. I am a mess. My children are messes. If you want to be my friend you must be comfortable with less than perfect. And love us anyway.”

Who might need your love this week because they are desperately trying to hang onto an unraveling string? Is it you? If so, embrace the pile of string around you and know you are not alone. Your mess, my mess, shows that we are redeemed sinners.

We cannot do this without a rescuer. It gives hope to those watching, that do not yet know. When we continue walking, striving, seeking, accepting, loving one another, and living in the yard, we show that He is able to make something worthwhile out of our unraveled ball of string.

Uneven Fields

photo credit: PhillipJackson via photopin cc

photo credit: PhillipJackson via photopin cc

The middle one told me about recess one day, how they play soccer between a few trees and on uneven ground. Kids are good like that, making fields in the midst of a mess. A stadium from a few sticks and woodchips.

They run their little hearts out from start to finish, sucking the marrow out of each precious second of a too-short recess in a too-long day.

He also told me about the teams. They’re unfair. You see, kids–even young ones–have leaders and followers. And this particular group of leaders (like playgrounds the world over, I’m sure) divide the teams. Into unfair ones, mostly. The talented kids band together. The lesser ones form a team by default.

We’ve dealt with this issue all year with the older boy and football at recess. They do the same thing even as they get older, wiser. They do not divide into what is reasonable or fair. The strong clasp hands with the strong. The weaker ones feel happy just to be included. Our older boy deals with this from the perspective of the disadvantaged team. They always lose. Always. There’s no chance for a different outcome.

With the middle boy, it’s a different story. He’s on the stacked team. The leaders put him there. When I talked to him about it, how it wasn’t a fairly matched game, he agreed. “But they don’t listen to me, Mom.”

I shook my head and struggled. There are some playground lessons you have to let them figure out on their own. But there are others, othersthat seem to scream with a lesson. Grab this moment, it yells, and teach.

Just because they won’t listen, I said, does not mean that it’s right. He nodded.

And then I lowered my voice to a whisper and he leaned in close. I told him about teams and imbalance and how the brother he looks up to in so many ways, faces that stacked team EVERY DAY. From the wrong side. And it feels terrible.

His eyes, wide. They were already open to something not feeling right. But they were opened to the humanity of it in the form of his brother. At that moment, I think he realized recess was filled not just with random kids but with brothers and sisters as well.

He looked at me. I looked at him. But I was stumped. I honestly don’t know how you can fix this, I said. This teacher–his mama–was out of answers.

With confidence, he looked at me. The boy, the student said, “Well, I can always just play for the other team.”

It was at that moment in my kitchen, amidst crumbs on the table and laundry piled high, that I felt pure awe. The boy. In front of me. Acting like Jesus.

Sacrifice. Service. In the form of a simple soccer game on an uneven field.

I hadn’t even thought about that, I exclaimed. That’s brilliant! You could play for the other team–give them a chance. Be a champion. Make waves!

He shrugged his shoulders as if it were no big thing, sacrificing a sure win for the sake of these kids. I grinned at him and told him it was a darn big thing.

A darn big thing.

So he came home the next day–lots to say about plenty. He finally got around to talking about the game and I waited, anxious, to hear about whether he had made waves.

He had.

They were incredulous that he would want to switch teams. We’ll win so easily if you stay, they had cried. He shrugged his shoulders–it’s not fair, he had said. And that’s that.

He played goalie for the other team and he blocked that goal with his whole heart.

What happened, what happened? I begged. Oh, please, God, let this story end well.

“We tied.”

You tied! You helped them tie the game?!

“We didn’t win but at least we tied.” Something that has never happened. Ever.

We shared high fives and I told him I was proud. The boy did something great, in a long lifetime of choices between doing the right thing and doing the easy, feel-good thing.

It was only a simple game of soccer, yes. But it was a sacrifice left on an uneven altar that God honors.