Monday, July 24, 2017


You pour yourself into your children. Sometimes your pour out so much of yourself, so much physical energy and emotion and prayer, that you think there is nothing left inside of you. You feel emptier than the inside of a stale ping-pong ball.

But then...

Those amazing young people turn around and fill you up in return, like water that has rushed out to sea only to return again to the shore in powerful light-flecked waves that fill the tidal pools and smooth the fretted sand.

You pour yourself into your children, and they fill you up in return.
You teach your children, and they teach you in return.
You encourage your children, and they encourage you in return.

Recently, the youngest and I were having a conversation - more than one conversation, actually - about setting goals and achieving goals, about obstacles and disappointment, about pressing through discouragement to complete an arduous task, about not giving up when success proves elusive.

Such valuable life lessons to pass from parent to child

...or from child to parent.

I received a letter this past week. A "Thank you, but no thanks" kind of letter. Not devastating, but disappointing. Truthfully, one of the most gracious and encouraging no-thank-you letters imaginable. Still, when I read the letter, a sad little sinking feeling settled around my heart.

I took a deep breath, read the letter again silently, and then I read the letter aloud to my youngest. Her response? "That is so awesome, Mom! Now you know some specific things you can do to improve. That is so encouraging!"

Awesome? Encouraging? Seriously?


Not the no-thank-you part of the letter, but the here-is-how-you-can-improve part.

Persevering in the face of disappointment was a lesson fresh in my youngest's experience, so she shared the lesson with me.

I am thankful for such a sweet and gracious teacher. And, yes, I am encouraged.

And now...back to work!

Friday, July 21, 2017


Contemplating seasons of life, in this my birth month...old people, I hear, are prone to reflection.

I once was young. Now, I am not-so-young. Some things have changed over the years, but many things have not.

A few things that have NOT changed:

  • Mosquitoes still think I taste delicious. (I would post a picture of my legs as proof, but that would make you itch all over.)
  • The stars on a moonless night still take my breath away.
  • The house I grew up in is still the most beautiful house in the world.
  • I still love Tennessee summertime.
  • Images - as in a movie - still affect me more deeply than they seem to affect lots of other people.
  • I am still inordinately fond of red hair and freckles.
  • I love sitting on the porch swing during a thunderstorm so I can watch the lightning show. Rainbows make me feel giddy, like I live in a world filled with magic.
  • I am still prone to stomp in puddles, or in the creek, or in the fountain in the park.
  • When I cry - even snot-nose, tears-streaming down my face kind of crying - I still do so silently.
  • I still value integrity.
  • I still love the feel and smell of sheets and towels dried outside on the clothesline.
  • I still think my mama's fried chicken is the best, and I still love to hug my daddy.
  • I still believe in Happily Ever After.

A few things that HAVE changed:

  • I have old lady skin - the kind that looks like crepe paper - and the veins stick out on my feet and hands. What's up with that?
  • I think early bedtime is a blessing, not a curse.
  • When I was young, I used to think some babies were not-so-very-pretty. Now, I know there is no such thing as an ugly baby.
  • As a rule, I am not afraid of people, even large groups of people or people who are very different from me. People are wonderful. That's a BIG change from when I started first grade!
  • I do not want to be a veterinarian when I grow up. Maybe a manatee, or Wonder Woman, but definitely not a vet.
  • I used to not like oatmeal, turnips, coffee, beer, green olives, or raw cranberries. Now, I can't think of a single food that I strongly dislike. I LOVE FOOD, and I love trying new kinds of food. (This, perhaps, is not such a good thing!)
  • I used to think people who cussed were probably not very strong Christians. Used to.
  • I do not think it is a good idea for young children to see how far they can leap out of the loft window in the hay barn. (Suzanne and Tom Wright, it is a miracle we survived to adulthood.)
  • I am no longer a fan of "tanning" - I am instead a fan of sunscreen. (BENJAMIN☺)
  • I no longer sleep like a baby. Up every three hours during the night, awake for the day before dawn, crabby when I don't get my afternoon that I think about it, maybe I do sleep like a baby. Well, then, let me say: I no longer sleep like a teenager.
  • I hated piano recitals when I was a girl; now, I love piano recitals. Being a member of the audience instead of a student performer makes all the difference in the world!
  • I have been a Christian for almost as long as I can remember, but, at 53, I have greater brokenness, more solid assurance, and deeper joy in Christ than ever before.
What about YOU? How are you the same? How are you different?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017


"What do we have that we did not first receive from God? What do we have that we should not be willing to give back to him in worship?" - Thabiti Anyabwile

We are working through Anyabwile's What is a Healthy Church Member? Sunday mornings at Grace. The above quote followed a statement about financial giving, but it applies to so much more: to gifts such as teaching, leadership, and prophecy; to resources such as time, energy, and education; to passions, preferences, and personality.

What do I have that I did not first receive from God? What do you have that you did not first receive from God?

The answer, obviously, is NOTHING.

Everything that we have, we have received from God. Everything.

When I consider that "everything" - the "everything" which I should be willing to give back to God in worship - I tend to think of good things. Positive things. Things that appear valuable and helpful. Things like gifts and abilities and resources.

But considering the above questions Sunday morning - What do I have that I did not first receive from God? What do I have that I should not be willing to give back to him in worship? - I realized: everything means everything. Not just the pretty things or the things others value, but everything.

That means - even the hurt places, the unlovely things, the parts deep inside of me that are broken. Everything.

I have been living in a very broken place for a very long time. I am beginning to realize that brokenness, like everything else in my life, is a gift from God. It, too, is a gift I need to give back to him in worship, for the edification of his body, to the praise of his glorious grace.

It is possible to know sound doctrine, and yet to know nothing of the love of Jesus and to share nothing of the love of Jesus with others. I can prophesy, serve, teach, exhort, give, lead, and show mercy (Romans 12:6-8) - I can do many good things - and still completely miss the gospel.

When I am broken, however, I have no good thing at all with which to sustain myself or to share with my brothers and sisters but Christ.

Even brokenness comes to me from the hand of God. It is a gift. Is brokenness a gift that I will bury, like the foolish servant who buried his one talent in the ground? Or, is brokenness a gift that I will invest for kingdom work?

How can I not give this, too, back to God in worship?

Tuesday, July 11, 2017


I know I can get a little heavy here at the blog. Overthinking things...that's my spiritual gift. I am not generally a person characterized by levity.

Other people have the gift of levity. That's one of the reasons we need each other in the body of Christ: we all bring different gifts to the table. Thinkers, lovers, do-ers, emoters - we help each other grow and stretch in different ways. Clearly, God loves diversity and thinks it is a good and necessary thing!

That said, Madam Heavy has something she wants to share with you other moms out there.

Moms, have you ever had difficulty finding your children when you need them? difficulty getting your children to come to where you are?

Dinner is on the table getting cold - or - you're standing at the door with your car keys, ten minutes late to leave for a doctor's appointment - or - the dog just threw up and the baby is crawling across the floor and you just can't get to both the dog and the baby fast enough - and you yell, "Hey, kids! I need everyone down here NOW!" - but NO ONE COMES.

You wonder if your darlings relocated two states over while you were switching the laundry from the washing machine to the dryer. Were they abducted by space aliens? Where the heck are the precious little dumplings?!

This seasoned-mother-of-seven has learned the secret to getting your children to come to where you are FAST. Today, I want to share with you...


1. Mop your floors. Don't know where the kids are? Sweep and mop your floors. Your kids will swarm into the house like flies into a hog barn. They will probably be wearing muddy boots.

2. Try to use the toilet...alone. Grab a book, lock yourself into the bathroom, and settle comfortably on the porcelain throne. I guarantee that within minutes your children will gather right outside the bathroom door, and they will all be screaming. Your toddler will need to pee NOW!, your six-year-old will have a medical emergency, and your 8-year-old will be yelling something about an explosion in the microwave.

3. Whisper. As in, a secret or something confidential. Now, this won't work if you're just whispering for the sake of speaking softly. Whispering - "Kids! I need you here right now!" - won't accomplish a darn thing. You actually have to be whispering something that you absolutely DO NOT want your children to hear. Whisper something confidential, and you kids will pop up around you like whack-a-moles: "What? What was that? What did you say?"

4. Reach for your secret bag of chocolate. You know those dark chocolate baking chips hidden in the back of the freezer? The mini-Snickers on the top shelf of the pantry, pushed back behind the box of oatmeal and the jarred spaghetti sauce? Yeah, that chocolate.

The same children who cannot hear you calling their names at the top of your voice, they develop Spidey senses the minute your fingers touch a package of hidden chocolate. It doesn't matter how quietly you open that bag of chocolate...your kids will hear the faintest crinkle and come running.

5. Make an important phone call. You need to talk to a representative at your insurance company about a claim they denied again - or - you need to give Angie the sad news that the cat she left in your care while she spent the summer in Europe, well, the cat died (maybe you won't tell her the part about the coyote) - or - maybe someone calls you, a friend who is going through a major life crisis, and she needs an ear to cry into before she completely cracks up.

Get into one of these phone conversations, and I promise, your kids will come out of the woodwork. Not only will they be present, but will be ridiculously needy and vocal, too. "Mom, I'm starving!" "Mom, I can't find my favorite bra!" "Mom, I need help NOW!" "Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom!"

Shush!-ing - and - the Can't-you-see-I'm-on-the-phone! death look - and - the I-am-going-to-kill-you-if-you-don't-be-quiet finger across the throat - totally ineffective. You will swear that the Apocalypse has begun right at your elbow. And your noisy kids will not go away: they will stick to you like burrs in dog noisy burrs.

6. Get naked with your husband. The kids are upstairs playing with Legos or outside in the back yard building a fort. Dad comes in from mowing the yard to take a shower. When Mom brings Dad a fresh towel, you both get to thinking - forget the towel: how about a little "afternoon delight" instead?!

Get romantically tangled up with your husband. Before Mom's undies have time to absorb the water on the bathroom floor, everyone under the age of ten who lives in your house will have paraded into the bathroom, and Mom and Dad will both be scrambling for towels. Works like magic.

* * *

Your turn: what tips do you have for finding your children? Please share!

Friday, July 7, 2017


URGENT: Cure discovered for toenail fungus!

Seriously, people, this was in the subject bar of a recent message in my email junk folder. Can someone please explain to me how "toenail fungus" and "urgent" make sense in the same sentence? Maybe if I actually had toenail fungus, I would understand.

When all my kids were still at home, the word "urgent" was reserved for things like asphyxiation, severe head wounds, broken bones, the washing machine going on the blink, or the two-year-old needing to go potty.

My daughter is rather keen these days on getting to the mailbox the minute the mailman arrives. Urgent might be a little bit strong of a word to use in her case, but it's not too far off the mark.

I've had a really bad case of chiggers before, and I've had some miserable poison ivy rashes. Chiggers and poison ivy have a sense of the "urgent" about them - relief can't come fast enough!

As a child, I made it a tradition to stomp a nail into my foot almost every summer. I can testify that a rusty nail in the foot needs urgent attention.

I am 53 years old now. These days, things besides chiggers and puncture wounds set my "urgent" alarm bells ringing:

I know the location of all the best public restrooms in a one-hour radius from my home...because when I need to GO, there ain't no time for dilly-dallying!

That first cup of coffee in the morning? Yep, add that to the list.

Hot flashes: I need a cold shower, an icy beverage, and a high-powered fan, NOW. The beer cave at the local Quick Mart is a paradisaical oasis for a woman in my stage of life. I'm surprised they haven't posted a sign on the door: "WOMEN OVER 50 NOT ALLOWED."

Email spammers have it all wrong. Toenail fungus, hair loss, and the latest scoop on Hillary Clinton are not matters of urgency. That recipe my sister-in-law shared for a beer-Kahlua-chocolate-ice cream float, on the other hand...

* * *

What about you? What makes your "urgent" list?

Wednesday, July 5, 2017


I have written here recently about Reginald-the-Lamb's ornery refusal to behave when my daughter works with him each day. I wrote Saturday about Reginald's star performance in the ring: you could not have found a better-behaved lamb!

Guess what? Sunday, back at home, Reginald popped right back into his familiar ornery belligerence. I was shocked. After his fabulous performance on Saturday, I thought Reginald had moved past such naughtiness. I expected him to behave nicely-ever-after. Boy, was I wrong!

I know people like Reginald - people who speak and behave one way in a particular setting, then speak and act a totally different way in the "show ring" church or among peers or in front of coworkers.

Then, there are those people who have a "self" inside their heads and another "self" that engages with the world in which they live. This duality is something I struggle with myself - I know my intentions; never mind what my actual actions say about me!

Why am I writing today about these Many Me-s (both my own, and those of others with whom I relate)?

First, because I do not want my good intentions - the Me inside my head - to anesthetize me to the self-deception I practice when I consistently fail to act on those good intentions. My actions testify to what I truly believe. My actions expose who I am, as opposed to who I think I am. Sadly, the ideal me living inside my head often proves to be a fantasy, an illusion.

I once heard a theologian describe shalom as a kind of integrity: things are what they appear to be. No deception, no duplicity, no confusion. On an individual level, shalom-ness is integrity of person - it is being the same inside and out, in our thoughts and in our practice, in private and in public.

I want my desiring and my doing to demonstrate that kind of personal integrity. Oh, how I long for shalom!

Second, I am writing because - there really are Reginalds in the world. Reginald A, a model lamb in the show ring - is the very same lamb as - Reginald B, who will knock you down and trample you for sport.

I have learned that the Susie I know and the Susie you know may be two completely different people. And when you are crying because Susie broke your heart, I do not need to tell you how wonderful Susie is...I do not need to explain to you how you've got Susie figured out all wrong...I do not need to tell you, "Well, if you would just do [fill in the blank], Susie would be a better friend."

Instead, I need to listen, to grieve with you, and to pray that God will help us all to love more like Christ.

But he looks so sweet and cuddly!

Saturday, July 1, 2017


In Thursday's post - Yet More Lessons Learned from a Lamb - I shared a few of the challenges my daughter has faced as she has labored to train her ebullient lamb, Reginald. (Ebullient is euphemistic for You're not the boss of me - I'll do whatever I want/I am bigger than you, so I think I'll just drag you half-way across the yard.)

Helen and Reginald had their first show today, so you are due an update.

Honestly, we were concerned that Reginald might go all "ebullient" in the ring today. "What am I going to do if Reggie acts up and I can't control him?!" Reggie is a good deal bigger than Helen. Lambs don't wear halters/leads in the show ring, and Helen wondered how she would keep him under control if he started acting up. What if he got loose?

Helen has invested sore muscles, sweat, and more-than-a-few tears in this lamb. She has worked very hard with Reginald, but even as recently as yesterday morning, there seemed little to show for all her effort.

But today, when Helen and Reggie stepped into the ring, this ornery lamb behaved like a prince:

As a follow up to Thursday's post, I want to say:

I am so proud of this young lady for the phenomenal patience and perseverance she has demonstrated as she has worked with her lamb. I am impressed by her hard work and by her determination to maintain a good attitude despite moments of discouragement. Well done, Helen. You are an inspiration to your mom.

I am so thankful for a God who hears and answers our prayers. I am thankful that God is well-acquainted with sheep. I am thankful that He condescends to meet us in our need...even if that means meeting us in the show ring of a hot, dusty arena. Is there anywhere we can go to escape the presence and the love of our heavenly Father? No. Nowhere. God is so awesome!