Kindness and Trust

Foundations worth standing for

Growing up, I lived a couple of houses down from a red headed boy named Bradley. In the picture my memory conjures of him, his face is sprinkled with a handful of freckles and his ear-to-ear smile is missing some of its Chiclet-like teeth. He was older than me, but I was bigger and stronger. I was the boss of him. Once, in an effort to bolster my superior position I bit Bradley – hard. My mom, who was ironing nearby, contemplated stepping in but instead waited and pretended not to see. She knew I needed to respect his humanity and he deserved the chance to earn that respect. And boy did he. He drew back his flaming red head and bit me with such force that the power struggle came to an abrupt and mutually respectful end. We played very nicely together after that and she was able to finish her ironing.

My kids are getting older and as much as I try to control their outward behavior, it is becoming utterly clear that I cannot control their inward motivations. As such, they occasionally fight over whether they should watch Pokémon or American Ninja Warriors and other such uber-important issues. Words like, “I promise that if you both treat each other kindly and in a way that earns the other persons trust, you will not be disappointed and I won’t have to lecture you anymore and the only consequences you will face will be positive ones,” are often floating around in our house. Kindness and trust are foundational elements. I long for my children to understand that if our choices are “trust builders” rather than “trust destroyers” and if those choices exhibit kindness, there’s a pretty good chance we will make wise choices.

Stepping back from stories like these, comparing them with how I treat those I’m in relationship with today, I marvel at God’s brilliant design. The very best of his creation was humankind. He ordered our lives. He set us up in families and then called himself Father. He gave us brothers and sisters with whom we had to share a room or sit next to in the backseat of the car on a ten-hour road trip to visit Aunt Betty. Then he called those of us who believe in him brothers and sisters in Christ.

My Dad’s Sweet, Strong Heart

I was recently asked, “Where do you get your understanding of God?” Because I desire everything in my life: my worldview, my relationships, my actions and reactions, even what I think about myself to be based on who I understand God to be, this is an important question. While both my own study of the Bible and sound teaching from others have shaped my awareness of God, my immediate answer was, “from my father.” I am by nature a picture person and things come to life when I see them. My dad was a picture of a good father. I see God as a Good Father and everything I read and hear about Him verifies that picture.

Before and especially since my dad passed away on August 2, 2013 my thoughts have lingered on this question and my answer. My earthly father gave me the gift of understanding what it’s like to be in relationship with my Heavenly Father. Because of who my dad was and how he treated me, I rest in the unconditional and gracious love of God. I know that’s not the case for everyone. There are some fathers who have abused and/or abandoned their children causing them to feel ashamed, unworthy, and insecure. For you dear ones, I am sorry and I long to help. Hopefully, sharing a bit about my dad will help paint a better picture of a good father and more importantly the Good Father.

One Drawer At A Time Sweet Jesus

Leslie croppedOne day, only a few short weeks ago, I had the strangest thing happen. I found myself with nothing pressing to do. The kids were at school and wouldn’t be home for hours. The house was clean enough. There was left over lasagna for dinner. The dog was bathed. My family was healthy. I was planning on a bike ride with the kids later so I didn’t need to exercise. I’d been to the grocery store and Target the day before. I’d finished my laundry before the sun rose. I had even given my hair a color tweak so the bothersome greys were history! What to do, what to do….

With the question of how to spend the day before me, it only took a few seconds to feel the weight of what I should do. The schoolroom and office closet was a mess. I should clean it out. The front door needed a coat of paint. I should paint it. The garage had several stacks of things to be sorted. I should sort them. I should work in the yard, pull weeds, and re-pot plants. I should call a friend I haven’t talked to in ages. On and on and on… I started “shoulding” on myself. I couldn’t handle the burden so I decided instead to clean out a drawer. This I could handle. One small drawer. In about an hour a drawer that began the day so full it could neither be opened nor closed became orderly and functional. The best part however, was finding long forgotten trinkets and treasures I gave to my kids when they got home. It was like Christmas! Those other things I should have done, the truly important ones, were still there the next day.

Forever. For Always and No Matter What.

Leslie croppedOn the morning of January 3rd, 1998 I repeated the prayer that had been mine for nine months for the very last time. I woke up early and began getting ready for what I knew would be a full day. I needed to be dressed and at the church by 7:30a.m. for pictures. It was my wedding day. I was 31 years old and knew that the fulfillment of this day’s plan would change my life on this earth.

Long before I started dating Alan, I made a mental list of what I wanted in a spouse. My list was short. It didn’t include the things I was attracted to but rather those qualities I thought important in the man I’d share my life with. As a believer in God I knew I would be attracted to another believer. As a person who loves to laugh, I knew I would be attracted to someone who was at least fun if not funny. As someone who is average looking, I didn’t expect to get anyone who was more than average looking. There were only two things I wanted from my husband.

  1. I wanted him to like me first.
  2. I wanted him to be someone who could tell me “no.”

In other words, I wanted him to be interested in and pursue me first. I wanted him to see me, to know me, to want me, and to love me. I didn’t want to be responsible for pursuing him or catching him. I didn’t want to change his mind. I wanted us to be his idea! As a person who has some strength of opinion, I also wanted someone I could follow. I wanted someone I could trust to not only lead me to where I wanted to go, but more importantly to places I didn’t want to go.

Alan is the only person to ever meet those two qualifications. Subsequently on our first date, when he leaned over the table and looked me straight in the eye and asked, “So when are we getting married?” without reservation or hesitation I answered, “January 3rd is a Saturday.” That was March 10th, 1997, the day I began my 9-month prayer. With as much honesty as I could muster, I acknowledged that I loved Alan and thought that marrying him was the purpose God was leading me towards. I admitted I could be wrong and asked God to please interfere if He knew better. On our wedding day, as I put on my make-up I asked God to stop the whole thing if I had missed the mark. I thought it would have to be a sizeable obstruction at that point, like some horrible car accident, but I was willing. Because the day proceeded with only minor hiccups (like our hired Roles Royce not showing up to take us from the church to the reception and a lit candle flying out of a candelabra), I married Alan and have never doubted whether it was the right thing to do. I trusted God and my relationship with God.

After a year of wedded bliss, I had another lesson to learn. Alan and I got into a bit of a squabble. Nothing earth shattering. It was simply about money. So typical. After a short exchange of unpleasant words, Alan left to run errands and I was left vacuuming. In my heart I heard a gentle whisper that could have only been God. “Do you trust ME?” I answered, “Yes.” He asked a second time and I responded the same. He asked a third time. I turned off the vacuum and sat down and said, “Of course I trust You.” “Then trust the ME that is in Alan.”

It was a new level of trust. I trusted Alan and wouldn’t have married him if I hadn’t. The reality is though that humans make mistakes and disappoint people. I needed to trust the God in Alan and their relationship even more than I trusted Alan himself. In that moment I learned to rest. It isn’t my job to be his accountability or his teacher or his savior in any way, neither are those jobs his to perform for me. I run the same risk of being wrong as he does. Only in God’s hands are we secure enough to be trustworthy. Only in His hands can we rest securely, peacefully, and thoroughly.

In the New Testament of the Bible, we are shown a picture of Jesus as our bridegroom. Those who believe in Him are called His bride. I am so thankful that He liked me first. He saw me, knew me, wanted me, loved me, and made a way for me to be in relationship with Him and His Good Father. I did nothing to make Him love me. He pursued me. He keeps me. I am so thankful that He is my guide and counselor and friend. He leads me to where He wants me to go whether it is beside still waters or through the valley of the shadow of death. I can and do follow Him.

One last thought, as a bride of Christ, we get so much more than we think or imagine we deserve. It’s like me ending up spending my life with someone who is incredibly handsome (especially with the beard, rrr!), exhaustingly funny, and who not only believes but also lives his faith.

Forever. For Always and No Matter What.

‘Twas The Night Before, The Night Before Christmas

Crahing Christmas Tree 2013

‘Twas the night before, the night before Christmas

When all through the house, not a creature was stirring

I’m not sure what we’d do if we found a mouse,

The stockings were hung on the dresser with care

Because in Florida, there aren’t many chimneys anywhere.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of Super Mario Bros. and My Little Pony danced in their heads.

I don’t have a kerchief and Alan doesn’t wear a cap,

But we had settled down for a long winters nap.

When out in the living room there arose such a clatter,

We sprang from our bed to see what was the matter.

We ran to the room and were there in a flash,

The poor dog was petrified from the sound of a crash.

There was no moon, only rain clouds in the sky.

Hopefully with this cold front, we can kiss the 80’s good-bye. (That’s 27 for our world

wide friends.)

When, what to our wondering eyes should appear,

Our sad fallen Christmas tree, OH DEAR!!!