Life Lessons On The Monkey Bars

Some life lessons are best caught,
not taught, 

like the ones you learn on the monkey bars.

I grew up in a little town that boasted
a city pool and a large playground.

My mom used to take us for
swimming lessons and play time.

She’d sit on a towel,
slathered in baby oil,
soaking up the rays and
reading a book
while we would splash around in the
freezing cold spring-fed pool.

The playground was comprised of 
equipment that is probably illegal now.

Don’t picture colorful plastic structures
with safety rails and seat belts.

The 14’ slide was a narrow piece of metal
pitched at a (nearly) 90 degree angle.

The swing set shuddered and lifted off the ground
as we built momentum.

The teeter-totter was so long and high that
if you were on it with a mean kid,
you could get launched into next week or
dumped on your keister so hard
it knocked the wind out of you.

We had three different types of metal monkey bars.

We had the traditional one with two ladders and a crossbar.

Another one was shaped like a dome and the
third one resembled a stack of cubes.

We played house in the dome and cubes
while we waited to get big enough
to tackle the traditional monkey bars.

Conquering those monkey bars was a rite of passage.

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Pruning Is Painful Even When The Possibilities Are Positive

Pruning is painful but necessary.

Pruning is a fancy word for the painful extraction
of bad habits,
barren branches
and wonky facial hair!

Do you have hair in places women shouldn’t have hair?
I do, and the older I get,
the furrier I become!

I’m not even talking about my legs
or armpits or
places seen only by Mr. 4-Ever.
I’m talking about the dark thick pokey hairs
on my upper lip,
growing out of my nostrils
and on my chin!

My eyebrows had completely lost their shape.
The natural arch was more like a heavy dash.
Hair was growing up my forehead
and under my brows like ivy on a brick wall.

I tried tweezing, but it took too long.
I tried waxing, but it’s surprisingly unruly and
the wax got into spots
it wasn’t supposed to go
and left me with bald spots
so shiny that no powder could cover them.

What’s a girl to do?

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Do You Know God Is With You?

Do you know God is with you?
I was recently reminded of how good that news is.

Dave and I were eating our banana splits at the local
ice cream shop when a family of four
walked past us looking for a place to sit that was out of the sun.

“Join us!” we called.
“There’s plenty of room at our table.”
“Oh, thank you,” said a woman about 45.
She introduced herself as Lupita.
With her was her mother, Juanita,
daughter Lilly,
and her baby granddaughter, Isabella.

It was about 8:30pm on a hot summer night
and Isabella was done.
She wanted nothing to do the ice cream offered her.
From every lap, she reached for someone else.

Fussing and whimpering,
she went from mama,
to grandma to great-grandma
and back again.

“She’s so tired,” explained Lupita,
as she tried to cuddle a squirmy Isabella.
“Where is her blanket?”
“Here in the diaper bag,” Lilly said
in a tone indicating what a long day this had already been.

She pulled out a remnant of fabric
vaguely resembling a blanket.
Isabella reached for it excitedly.
She wasn’t old enough to talk,
but her face told us everything we needed to know.

That beloved piece of material was
her happy place.

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To Be Known Is To Experience Love

When was the last time you
experienced the love of being known?

Last weekend, I sat in a small town diner
eating breakfast with my mom and dad.
My folks moved to Florida several years ago,
but had come back to Lodi, WI
where they had spent most of their lives,
to visit a long time friend who was sick.

Lodi is where my dad met my mom,
where he’d been a football hero,
served as the local cop
and an off-duty craftsman.
Lodi is where he is recognized
as a horse-shoe champion
and good friend to many.

Our breakfast was interrupted lots of times
by other old men who’d spotted my dad
and wanted to say hello.

He shook hands and gave hugs.
Dad laughed heartily about their retirement activities,
and commiserated about the cost of living.
He shook his head sadly
over the discovery of friends long dead or
currently battling an illness or crisis.

My dad is KNOWN in Lodi, WI.
He is recognized.
He is celebrated for who he is.

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It’s True, God Loves You!

We all long to know
we are worthy of belonging.
To have connection.
To be accepted for who we are.
To be loved.


When my boys were in high school,
one played guitar on the worship team.
The other took up acting.

Every time one of them was on a platform,
you can bet I was front and center.
I had my eyes locked on him until
he did something clever or
performed some especially challenging feat,
at which point,
I would turn to the person on my left,
elbow them to get their attention,
point at the stage and exclaim,
See that one in the blue shirt?
That one’s mine.
Isn’t he wonderful?
Then, I’d turn to the person behind me
and say,
Did you see that?
Did you notice how brilliant that boy is?
He’s mine.
He belongs to me.”

Girlfriend,
it didn’t matter what they were doing.
On the stage or loafing on the sofa,
showing off or crashing the car,
my eyes are always on my boys,
loving them.

They weren’t perfect.
They aren’t perfect.
Sometimes, they weren’t even very good.

Their performance never affected
the way I love my children.

I love them because they belong to me.
They are part of me.

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Do You Believe God Has Good Gifts Waiting For You?

Do you believe God has good gifts waiting for you?

 

From the time my children were born,
I planned to give them lots of great stuff. 
I intended to shower them with opportunities that would delight them. 
I was determined to give them things that would make
their life easier or better or richer or set them up for success.

It was always my intention that they would
swim in an ocean,
ride a bike,
drive a car,
have a girlfriend.
I always had plans to
send them college,
mow the lawn with the big tractor,
use the chainsaw and
manage money.

However, I couldn’t dump every good thing
I had in my storehouse on them at once!
I didn’t want them to become
overwhelmed
or spoiled
or entitled.

I didn’t want to set my boys up to fail or get hurt.
Did you notice that most of the good gifts I had for them
required some training to appreciate and
some maturity to manage?

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How To Boss Your Fear

Have you ever wished
you could
Boss Your Fear?

I took my teenage boys to an amusement park
and reluctantly agreed to accompany them
on a roller coaster ride.
It was one of those big, old, wooden monstrosities.
The kind of rollercoaster that
shakes and tosses you around inside the cart
until your sunglasses fly off your face and
most of the contents of your purse
fall into the abyss below the tracks.
As the roller coaster thrashed us about,
fear crawled up the back of my throat.
I thought,
Why did I ever agree to come on this ride?
I’ll probably die and my children will be orphans!

This is terrifying!” I shrieked to my son.
“I hate this. How do I make it stop!”

“You can’t stop it, Mama.
You just gotta do it scared!”
my son yelled back.

There was nothing to do but hang on and ride it out.

Rationally, I knew that millions of people
had survived the ride,
but at that moment it didn’t feel like
I was going to.

Maybe that’s how you feel now.
Like you’re being rattled and shaken and
tossed about and that
you’re not going to make it.

Fear creeps up on you and
your mind is filled with
Why’s and What if’s?

That’s the ugly, scary part of fear.
The powerful unknown.

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Not Too Late For A Big Dream

It’s Not Too Late For YOUR Big Dream!

I spend a lot of my days doing
Ordinary stuff.
Boring stuff.
Familiar stuff.

Cleaning bathrooms.
Washing clothes.
Fixing meals.

You, too, right?

There’s a little verse in Zechariah 4:10 that says,
“Do not despise these small beginnings,
for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin..”

As an author and speaker
I have BIG DREAMS
to see thousands surrender to Jesus.
I have BIG DREAMS
of women breaking free of stinkin’ thinkin’.
I have BIG DREAMS of
infusing hope to the bowed down.

Sometimes my big dreams get lost
in the day to day drudgery of life.

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The Season Is Not Summer, It’s Menopause!

 “Honey, it’s summer! 
Isn’t it time to change out the flannel sheets
for something lighter?” 
Mr. 4-Ever asked innocently.

In theory I agree,
but in reality,
the season isn’t summer,
it’s menopause. 

In the season of life called menopause,
my body randomly flashes nuclear.

I thought women were kidding about melting,
but no, it’s true.   

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Focus On What You’ve Got, Rather Than What You’ve Not!

Before I learned to focus on what I’ve got,
rather than what I’ve not,
I used to dread the Monday
following Mother’s Day.

As if the cascade of perfect FB posts on
Mother’s Day weren’t enough to create
a case of the covets,
every conversation on Mother’s Day Monday
was about
being showered
with attention and gifts.

 Mr. 4-Ever is a great husband.

If I could, I would clone him and
give him away as Christmas presents
to women who want
a Godly man with impeccable character.

But the clone would have to come with a disclaimer.
This is a good man.
He is kind, gentle, loving, fun,
hard-working, generous, and patient.
He is creative and calm in all situations.
He is a great kisser.
but …
a Harlequin Romance novel hero … 
He. Is. Not.

Rarely do flowers or chocolates show up
on my desk.
Good behavior gifts and
just because “I love you” texts
do not happen.

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