Ash Wednesday... Worship on the Throne

I’m not sure why, but some of our most memorable family outings are in the restroom…Hey, don’t judge! When you have three small girls it is all about divide and conquer; so we have a standing reservation in the Family Restroom!

            I have VIVID memories of the five of us in the family restroom at our niece’s cheerleading competition…I was in the stall with one of the twins trying to assist her after she dropped half of her coat in the toilet, while Chuck was helping the other twin at the sink – as she sprayed water all over his face. Meanwhile, Bianca had gotten a hold of our umbrella and was using it as a weapon, whacking Chuck in the shin… All of this happening at once, but seeming to be occurring in slow motion. Chuck was trying to hold it together, while holding a child, and reprimanding another; and he looked over at me to see what I was doing to help the situation…and I was sitting in the bathroom floor laughing uncontrollably – wishing I had a camera crew with me to document this MESS that I call my life.

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Happy New Year!!!!!

Happy New Year!!!.............What?...............

It’s MARCH?!!?............... How the hell did that happen?

     As cliché as they are, I usually really do enjoy writing-out my New Year’s Resolutions (usually before the year is a fourth of the way over.) I actually have a ritual – even a designated notebook – where I write out my three personal and three professional goals for the year – and then I write three steps I’m going to take to make those goals a reality. (Some of my past goals have been running a marathon and pursuing work as a commercial model, so they usually have a fairly high success rate – much more optimistic than saying my New Year’s Resolution is to give-up bread or coffee…which would fail within the first week.)

     But this year, I was in a really weird place as the New Year rolled around – almost an emotional/spiritual purgatory. You see 2014 has begun with me experiencing some of the highest of highs and the lowest of lows…all at the same time.

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A few of my Favorite Things….

I’ve decided… I’m starting a petition to make everyday Thanksgiving Day. I mean, what’s not to love? Turkey and stuffing, napping, and—if you’re a lunatic—the opportunity to literally shop ‘til you drop (or get pepper sprayed by a fellow shopper…. or get arrested….)

But in all seriousness, is there a more fitting holiday than one where we give thanks? And shouldn’t we be giving thanks everyday?

While I’ve really enjoyed reading all of the thankful Facebook posts this month, it’s as if all of my friends are hitting copy and paste on their computers. They are almost all thankful for the same things…. On November 1, God was getting a ton of love. Then the next week included major shout-outs for husbands and wives, children, parents, sisters and brothers, grandparents…

It wasn’t until people got finished giving thanks for their family that things really got interesting, because this is when people really started to look at the little things in their lives that they are thankful for.

I’ve read a lot about how important it is to live a life of gratitude. The basic premise being that as we show thanks and ‘gratitude’ for all of the things we have in our lives – as opposed to fretting over all of the things missing from our lives – we will attract more positive energy

In order to begin living a life of gratitude, one of the first things you are suppose to do is to create a Favorite Things list. This is a list of 100 things you are thankful for. (Believe me, it sounds a lot easier than it really proves to be.)

And while the first inclination is to just go through that laundry list of relatives and loved ones we’re thankful for… that really isn’t the point. I mean, shouldn’t it be obvious that I’m thankful for my husband (most days anyway….)?

No, I’m thankful for coffee! And that doesn’t make me a shallow person. It makes me human. And while in the grand scheme of things coffee is a very small, unimportant, miniscule part of the universe – it brings a little bit of joy to me. It puts a smile on my face, I’d like to believe a little pep in my step, and I know makes me much more bearable to live with.

So…if I can find that much to be thankful for in a small cup of coffee, I should be able to find so much more to appreciate about those obvious parts of my life.

And when I put my head on my pillow each night and begin to thank God for the greatest parts of my day, I no longer generalize by praying, ‘I’m thankful for my kids.’

Instead I pray, ‘I’m thankful that I got to run a 10k with Brennen today. I got to spend an entire, uninterrupted hour with my fifteen-year-old that didn’t involve a single text, tweet or IM.’

OR

‘I’m thankful for the sword fight I got to have with my girls in the yard today – their first experience with the joy of sticks.’

By learning to appreciate the little things in life, we heighten our senses to experience life’s greatest moments using all five senses.

A life of gratitude truly is…something to be thankful for.

I went looking through an old journal yesterday and found my original list. Here it is….

 

Family (I began my original list writing each family member’s name. By the time I got to twenty, I knew I had to generalize) – friends – photography – writing – books (actual books, with paper pages) – the camera I have – the camera I want – our house that we live in – the house that I want to build one day – my car (even though it’s a lemon) – heat – air conditioning – comfortable shoes – cute shoes – my computer – the guys at the Mac store who help me with my computer – coffee!!!!! – Snow – snow skiing – snow ball fights with my kids (my husband being the biggest kid of all) – marshmallows in hot chocolate – marshmallows for s’mores – the chicken burrito at Moe’s (I think this is what I was eating for lunch as I made this list.) – Internet – disposable diapers – automatic car washes – carpet cleaners (ON A TOTALLY SEPARATE NOTE – REREADING THIS LIST IS SHOWING ME JUST HOW SPHIZOPHRENIC MY THOUGHTS ACTUALLY ARE…WHO THINKS BURRITO, INTERNET, DISPOSABLE DIAPERS….) Disney World – fireworks – flowers – horses – the smell of fresh-cut grass – hiking at Red River Gorge – running – the running playlist on my iPod – Asics running shoes – yoga – Pilates – The Grove Park Inn – TiVo – books on my iPad – cook books – phone calls to the women in my family when I don’t understand a cook book – peanut butter smoothies – hugs and kisses – my conversations with God – my church family – the power of prayer – music – theatre – memories – date night (which now usually involves Dominos and Red Box) – Dominos – Red Box – mindless TV – dancing with my daughters – dancing with my girlfriends – Pull Ups – fashion – salons & spas – hot stone massages – letters in the mail – my coffee maker – the view out my kitchen window – dreams – doctors & nurses –service men & women (this is huge being a police officer’s wife) – democracy – freedom of speech – my tax guy – watching my daughter at gymnastics – hearing my kids laugh – smelling good food – Crested Butte, Colorado – Roatan, Honduras – the hammocks at CoCo View Resort in Roatan – Jonathan Creek on Kentucky Lake – Scuba diving – planes to travel – Xanax to get me on planes to travel – wine – passion – work ethic – coupons – hope – faith – texting –actual phone calls – sewing with my mom, sister and aunt – books on tape (or discs or my iPod) – XM radio – news – debating issues with my husband – staying up all night just talking at my sister’s house – game night – summer days at the pool – old photo albums & journals (that I can show to my daughter) –planning for the future – living for today - ME

Jesus and the Easter Bunny Really are Related

It was quiet in my house Saturday night…finally. I’d finally gotten Bianca to fall asleep despite her lingering sugar high from the afternoon’s egg hunt and anticipation about the Easter Bunny hopping to our home.

I tipped my toes (as Bianca calls tiptoeing) downstairs to the basement to collect the goodies hidden in our storage room. Chuck was distracted by the TV, but watching me pull a giant Tupperware bin out of the closet caught his eye.

“Is all of that for Easter?” he asked a little annoyed. “What happened to keeping things small?”

“Well, the baskets are taking up a lot of the room,” I justified creeping back up the stairs.

The Easter Bunny had a successful delivery at the Dills house, and Bianca didn’t even notice all of her goodies on the kitchen table when she woke-up in the middle of the night and crawled in bed with us.

I awoke at 7:30 the next morning to a quiet, peaceful house. I was about to take the opportunity to enjoy a cup of coffee in solitude when I remembered we had to have a toddler, two babies and ourselves sugared-up, showered and out the door for church no later than 10:30. Against my better judgment, I decided to wake the beast to get the ball rolling.

While both Bianca and Chuck’s eyes were a little leery of the early morning wake-up call at first, they both perked-up at the mention of the Easter Bunny. Bianca stumbled out of bed – only pausing briefly to let Chuck get ahead of her – and headed in to see what had been left for her.

She seemed a little confused at first, as most children do on little sleep with sensory overload, so I guided her to find the My Little Pony train set tucked behind her basket.

“What’s this?” I asked.

Bianca’s eyes widened. “That’s the train set I’ve been wanting!” she exclaimed.

“How did the Easter Bunny know that’s what you wanted?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she said. “It must be magic.”

Chuck answered honestly, “It must be, because I didn’t even know that’s what you wanted.”

At that moment I realized the importance of our obviously-trivial rituals and traditions like the Easter Bunny and Santa Clause.

While I undoubtedly know Christmas and Easter are about Jesus’ birth and resurrection – I also know that as a mother it’s important for me to be in tune with my children.

Bianca never asked the Easter Bunny to bring her anything, and she would have been completely happy with a chocolate bunny and a few eggs. But I’d been watching her play with her My Little Pony figures, and I’d heard her ooh and ahh at the commercials for the train set.

I am not the kind of mother to buy my children toys at the drop of the hat – so much so that when Bianca does ask for toys she sees on TV I tell her she needs to put them on her Christmas list – which is getting rather long by the way.

But I knew it was something she wanted, and I knew she’d been a nice, sweet girl – helping me with her sisters, learning to pick-up her toys, and working hard in school (Gosh, I’m making her sound 13, not three!) So I wanted to surprise her with her My Little Pony train set she thought she would have to wait until her birthday or Christmas to get.

And isn’t that what Jesus does for us? He’s in tune to our every want and desire (our every thought actually, which is sometimes kind of scary.) He knows what we need and when we need it. Sometimes things come when we want them to, other times we never get what we want (because it turns out it wasn’t ever good for us in the first place), and then there are those most special of moments when we get a pleasant surprise – like a My Little Pony train set on Easter morning.

I hope everyone had a blessed Easter!

God Wants Us to Be...

I always love the ten minutes Bianca and I share between Preschool and Daycare. It’s like Forrest Gump’s proverbial Box of Chocolates – I never know what I’m going to get.

Some days she’s jovial and talkative – a Little Miss Chatterbox telling me all about her day. “We had pretzels for snack, we read a story about a bear…”

Other days she wants to be left alone – “Can I watch my movie?” she asks from the backseat.

Other days she’s combative – insisting she learned nothing, ate nothing…”I didn’t do NUFFIN’ at school!” (It’s these days I realize her Sassy Like My Mommy pajamas are right on the money.)

Other days, like Wednesday, our time together is extremely insightful – which can be a bit overwhelming for me as a mother. It’s in these moments I realize there’s a much larger force or power governing and shaping my child’s life.

We were having a normal conversation – so normal that now I don’t even remember what we were talking about. But Bianca made a remarkable statement, so I responded the way I normally do and asked her “Bianca, how are you so smart?”

“Because God tells me to be smart,” she answered.

 

Wow! Out of the Mouth of Babes.

 

Too often in our faith, we focus on being kind, and loving, and compassionate…. and loyal, and all of those other amazingly, important things good Christians, or Muslims or Jews are taught to be. Help those less fortunate. Give to those in need. Serve the Lord (insert religious figure here.)

But too often, we forget that God wants us to be smart.

Recently conservative, Christian pastor Joel Osteen has been criticized for his teachings & sermons on wealth. Love him or Hate him – I agree with what Osteen said on a recent episode of Piers Morgan:

“There is a religious – I call it a spirit or something that says we have to be poor and broke and defeated and sad to show people that we're really humble, and that we really love God. And I don't believe that. I believe God wants us to be examples of what it means to live for him. And that our money is to be a blessing to others.” Joel Osteen

 

I firmly believe God wants us to be ‘smart’ about every aspect of our lives. He wants us to be smart about our finances, the way we raise our children, they way we spend our time and the way we educate ourselves.

 

It’s like the old medical joke about the patient who refused treatment – instead putting his faith in the Lord to cure his disease. When the man passes away and arrives in heaven he asks, “God, why didn’t you heal me?”

The Lord replies, “I gave you a wonderful hospital, great doctors and medicine…but you didn’t utilize any of it.”

(Obviously, illness and death is no laughing matter. But the message it true. Too often we wait for God to act on us when we should be paying attention to how he is acting around us.)

 

How much of your daily, spiritual journey is focused on being ‘smart’? Remember, God wants us to be smart just as much as he wants us to be loving and kind.