The Cougar on the Table: My First 3 Thoughts

I don’t watch any sort of animal or vet shows. Ever.  My creature-loving heart cannot handle it. This is common knowledge. In fact, my 5th grade teacher excused me from reading “Ole Yeller,” and my 8th grade teacher told me I could leave the room when we dissected dogfish sharks (FLA y’all). I also don’t do any sort of nature show where the injured/old/baby/vulnerable anything is being stalked. Nope. I can ‘Greys Anatomy” all day long but don’t put a 4-legged patient on the table.

But…

One night I found myself uncharacteristically flipping the channels when I came across a cougar on a table. By the looks of the uniformed crew surrounding the enormous, sedated cat, I had landed on some sort of zoo program.

I was spellbound.

Maybe it was the size of the cougar- her nose the size of the vet’s open hand, her paws even bigger. Maybe it was the eerie way she lay there so quiet and unmoving. Maybe it was the tender way “her” zookeeper kept speaking quietly into her huge ear, and stroking her golden face- taking advantage of her anesthetized state. Or maybe it was the knowing voice and skill of the old doctor attending her.

The cougar on the table looked fine to my untrained eye. No wounds to be seen. No blood. Strong. Healthy. But the vet knew. He had seen the slight swelling of her mouth. He had watched her turn food away.   He had sensed the hidden infection.  And sure enough, when he pulled back her monstrous lips, there was a huge, festering, abscessed blister.

I sat staring, as we do, unable to look away, as he inserted a large knitting needle type tool into the wound and the sickness poured out. He massaged it, un-phased by the gore, the mess, the smell I imagine, until the flesh was clean, pink, and healthy. Then he gingerly stitched it up, confident in his work and the outcome for the cougar on the table.

Y’all, I have not been able to get her out of my mind.

God has had me on a journey over the last couple of years I haven’t even been able to verbalize fully. But when I saw that cougar on the table, as I watched that old doctor lance the wound, as I witnessed the healing that was taking place as she simply slept, I knew it was the picture of these lessons.

I’m the cougar on the table and I bet you are too.

I believe she will be with me for a long time and the lessons she has for me haven’t all surfaced yet. But today can I process 3 thoughts with you?

1.  LANCE THE WOUND. We all have them.  Sometimes they are on display for all to see, gaping and bloody, and sometimes they are hidden.  I have had both.  The longer I live the more I know this is true: my hard and your hard may be different, but we all have hard.  And the hard hurts.  The hard can wound.  So whatever your hard has been- never assume it doesn’t matter, and never assume you’re the only one hurting.  Life blisters us.

When the blisters rub, and the wounds appear- hidden or gaping- what do we do?   I’m a “ignore it and it will go away” kind of girl… except sometimes it doesn’t.  Sometimes it gets infected.  Maybe you’re a “WebMD it and obsess over it” kind of girl…. But all that focus and information just scares you.  It doesn’t heal.   

I’m learning we have to recognize the wound without worshiping it.

Naming the wound is powerful.  The whole body can get sick from one tiny sore.  The whole spirit can feel crushed from one ignored wound.  When we find it, when we name it and lance it, it loses the power to spread.

It’s painful.  It’s gross.  Looking at the junk in your life, the mistakes, the hurts, the insecurities, the lies- it isn’t fun.  But until the infection is lanced in the light of Truth, it can’t heal and we won’t be healthy.

2.  SUCCUMB TO THE STILLNESS.  The team of vets would not have been able to help the cougar had she been awake.    She would have been a danger to herself and everyone around if they came at her wound as she roamed her enclosure, walking wounded. But the stillness would have come for her one way or another.  Sickness causes stillness.  Death causes stillness.  That is not the stillness we want.

We have to succumb to the stillness that heals, before it is too late.  I believe this is the biggest lesson God has been trying to teach me over the last few years- REST.  It’s so counter-cultural that we don’t even know it when we see it.  We think it means a few more hours of sleep, a lazy afternoon binging on the couch, a mind-numbing scroll on Instagram.  But we get up less than restored, more frazzled. Unhealed.

The stillness of Sabbath heals.  We are healed in it and we are healed by it.  It was God’s plan from the beginning and it is His plan now.  The whole earth has a Sabbath rhythm built into it.  Why do we think it is optional?  How do we think we can out work, out hustle, out pace it?  Why do we want to?  

I am reading the fascinating book “Sacred Rest” by Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith M.D.  In it she describes the 7 ways we become tired, and explains that rest (or restoration) will look different in each area.  We tend to think that sleep is the answer but that may only be true when we are physically drained.  Sleep does nothing to restore life-giving relationships when we are socially depleted, and it can’t fill the void when we are spiritually exhausted, etc.  To rest well we will actually have to pay attention to our lives and intentionally go after what we need for restoration and healing.

And it will take stillness to hear- from our surgeon and from our soul.  Like that cougar, we are dangerous when we are walking wounded.  And like the cougar, stillness is coming for us one way or the other.  Succumbing to stillness is the only path to healing.

3.  TRUST THE SURGEON.  When I come to the doctor with my wound do I trust Him for healing or have I already written my own prescription?  When I allow for stillness and come to God, do I come with my own agenda or can I simply trust His presence to heal?  Do I sprinkle a little “Amen” on top of a bunch of self-help and wonder what is taking so long?

We have to trust our Great Healer for healing.  His path may look different than the spiritual formation plan we have for ourselves.  While we are asleep on His table, we have no control of how he dresses our wounds.  Is His presence enough?  Without the books and studies and plans?  Can He heal simply with His hands and His love?  Do we trust Him?  Do I?

So I’m giving some time to recognizing my wounds- old and new.  I’m doing the work of lancing them through prayer and hard conversations when needed.  I am succumbing to the stillness of Sabbath to listen to the Holy Spirit and my own soul.  And I am trying to trust in the simple capacity of my Surgeon.  His presence is the foundation of all healing.

Those are some pretty deep lessons from 10 minutes of a zoo show.  You just never know where and when God will show up.  I am eternally grateful for the Cougar on the Table.

 

Why We Bought Another Trampoline- Honoring Their Childhood

Trampoline

My kids got another trampoline for Christmas.

Not another as in, now they have two, but another as in a replacement for the one that had fallen apart. And to be fair, we got our money’s worth over the last decade of jumping… Jumping with friends, jumping with the hose on, jumping with balls, jumping during the day, jumping in the middle of the night, jumping like a ninja, jumping like a tiger.

And not just jumping… reading, playing, fort-making. sleeping.

Lots of trampoline sleepovers happen on the Ranchito. It’s an easy yes. Snacks packed, sleeping bags fetched, usually Dad’s electric lantern in tow, and they all pile on for night under the stars. Sometimes they’re cold, sometimes they’re hot, sometimes they’re a little scared, but they’re always happy.

And honestly, it’s what I pray they remember the most.

Honoring the childhoods’ of my sons and daughters is a pillar in my mothering that becomes all the more load-bearing as they get older.

Do you feel it too? The overwhelming crush to reduce motherhood to management... Manage the schedules of the small adults the world is trying to steal from us? From childhood? From play? From the land of trampolines and imagination? Manage their activities, and meal plans, and grades, and friendships, and every single second of their entire lives?

I have preached it before and I will preach it again… Not on my watch!

And let me be clear… as of last week 1/2 of my four children are officially teenagers. I’m not talking about Blues Clues (is that even a thing anymore?) and Cheerios.. I’m talking about wrestling matches, and punching bags. I’m talking about I-don’t-even-want-to-know-how-much-$ in Legos and Nerf guns. I’m talking about Go-Karts and “yes the cross-country team can walk over after practice and jump in the freezing pool.”

I’m talking about laughter.

You may have heard that “LAUGHTER” is my Word of the Year. I wasn’t happy about it at first. It felt less than inspiring and spiritual. It felt… well, it felt childish.

HA! Okay God, I see you.

As my children get older, I realize that laughter will be glue for our family. It’s what they value. It’s what they want to participate in. It’s what draws them and their friends in and what keeps them around a dinner table. And laughter simply needs space to live.

As Christians, we like to tout joy as holy- and it is. But I’m just saying that joy no one can see or hear isn’t all that powerful or convincing. Joy out loud is laughter and it will live here this year.

So I’ll watch the animal videos again. I’ll try to understand the Vines and the inside jokes they still want to tell me about. I’ll participate in the GIF wars and sit through the Will Ferrel movies.

I’ll never say, “Aren’t you a little old for that?”

My 9 year old asked for a wagon for Christmas and I watched her bravely stand by her request as adults and children alike questioned her on it over and over.

“A wagon? What are you going to do with a wagon?”

“Like a little red wagon?”

“Aren’t you a little old for a wagon?”

Not on my watch.

She loves the wagon. (It’s a big purple wagon by the way). She hauls stuff all over the Ranchito. She helps with the groceries and chicken feed. She gives her dogs and her little brother rides. She takes the sleeping bags and snacks out to the trampoline for the sleep over.

Long live wagons and trampolines.

So some of my kids do really well in school and some struggle. Some of my kids are EXTREMELY COMMITTED to their “sports” and some can take it or leave it. Some of my kids never miss an opportunity to socialize and some need a little encouragement (AHEM) to participate. Some are self-starters and some are great at sleeping in. Some are a bit moody these days and some are hysterical. And it is my joy and job to honor the childhoods of each. It takes attention and intention. It takes flexibility as that charge changes daily. And I’m thinking it’s going to take a lot of laughter.

My peace and quiet, my tidy house, are ransomed at it’s cost most days and I figure there will be years to come for that.

Around here we love shark movies and ballet. We love Pirates of the Caribbean and Guardians of the Galaxy. We love family fondue nights and road trips. We love to rescue animals and to grow plants. We love Michael Jackson and Bethel Worship. We love John Christ and Taylor Swift. We still dress up to go out in public most days and a light saber is never out of reach. We drink a lot of hot chocolate (from scratch of course) and eat a lot of popcorn. We fight sometimes but we laugh too.

Long live childhood. Not just historically or generically. Let it live long in your home. Let it linger into the teenage years. Don’t rush it. Don’t let the “hurry sickness” of the world rob your kids. Be a mother, not a manager. Be the gatekeeper for childhood. Guard it and participate in it. Laugh like it is warfare, because I believe it is. Anyone can manage… only you can mother.

I pulled in the other day, on my son’s 13th birthday, and he and his buddy were jumping on the trampoline like the kids they are. Give them space and they’ll remember that they’re not too cool to play.

So if you need permission to buy another trampoline for your teenagers, here it is. If your big kids want a wagon, get it. If you need to push pause on all the activities to have a dance party to Vanilla Ice in your kitchen, do it. Don’t shush the laughter in the name of peace and order. Don’t get sucked into the lie that it’s your job to manage them.

Childhood is hallowed ground. Laughter is holy work. Let it be part of your legacy, the Land You Leave. The magic of it will live long after the years pass if we honor it today.

The Land We Leave- A Story of Legacy Part 2

Today we shift our gaze from the past to the future; from the Spiritual Family Farm we have inherited and the legacy we were given, to the one we are leaving behind. We had no choice in the land we were left; whether there were weeds or fruit, but we CAN choose what we will sow for the next generation. As the old saying goes, “When you know better, you do better.”

What if “legacy” wasn’t relegated to finances and death, but emerged as an intention for 2019? An item on our to-do list? Something we could grow and cultivate today? A filter we used as we walked into every relationship? A story we told with our lives now?

We get to sow into the fruitfulness of those God puts into our lives and that just may be the most important work of all.

We can sow seeds into our children if we are mothers. We can influence the lives of our students if we are teachers. We can pour into our friends, into our community, into our co-workers. They will feast on the fruit that is being produced in our lives or starve from the lack of it.

What’s it going to be this year?

I am humbled and blessed to tell you (again) that my own mother is a mighty woman of God. She sowed a deeply rooted love for the Word into my life in childhood. I watched her study and teach. I saw the books on prayer by her chair. I heard her say no to many things so she could say yes to pouring into an ever-growing group of women on Wednesday mornings- FOR DECADES. That is my Spiritual Family Farm and I will never take it for granted.

I couldn’t inherit Jesus from her, just like our children, friends, the next generation will not inherit a relationship with Jesus from us. They will have to choose for themselves. But we can sow the seeds and they will matter.

The most important tool my mom left me in the gardening shed on the Family Farm was Bible Study. In fact, it saved my life. It saved my marriage, my mind, and our legacy. After I got married and moved thousands of miles away from all I had ever known, my life began to unravel. I was betrayed by my own unrealistic and sinful expectations of marriage and put too much of my happiness and identity on my very young husband.

I lost my way.

For the first time in my life I found myself actually NEEDING the Jesus that I had committed my life to all those years before. And I knew where to find Him. I knew where to look. My mom had shown me the way.

Listen to me, If I had started from scratch with God in those desperate days and years, my story may have turned out differently. What my mother had sown into my life, both in her words and deeds changed my life, my future, our legacy.

So now it is my turn. This is what I desire to pass on to my own four children. If nothing else, they will see their mother’s nose in her Bible every morning when they wake up. Every. Single. Morning. They may feel a little sting of sacrifice as she commits to teaching the Word she loves. They will be challenged from an early age to spend their own time reading their Bible daily. I’m okay with it being merely a checkbox during these early years. It was for me too and I trust God with those seeds. What I do know is that it is my responsibility to pass on the legacy that was left to me- to my own children and to those that are in my sphere of influence. I will make sure that the Spiritual Family Farm is intact when I hand it over.

Prayer, church membership, social justice, evangelism, worship, giving… these can all be a part of the legacy you leave. The hard reality of this world is that we usually reap exactly what we sow, but on the Spiritual Family Farm we have the privlege to provide for others what they didn’t have to work for, for themselves. We can give them a leg up.

I believe a stunning example of a legacy left is found in I Chronicles 28. In my parallel Bible, with several versions side by side, I see a slightly different heading above this chapter in each; “David’s Instruction to Solomon,” “David’s Plans for the Temple,” and “Solomon Instructed to Build the Temple.”   In just comparing the headings, we know that there are two key players in this passage with one objective; David, his son Solomon, and building the Temple.

Here we read the story of King David summoning all the officials of Israel to Jerusalem to let them in on some important plans and an important change in plans! I Chronicles 28: 2-3 says,

“King David rose to his feet and said; ‘Listen to me, my fellow Israelites, my people.  I had it in my heart to build a house as a place of rest for the ark of the covenant of the Lord, for the footstool of our God, and I made plans to build it.  But God said to me, ‘You are not to build a house for my Name,  because you are a warrior and have shed blood.”

King David had his heart set on building the temple as a permanent dwelling place for the ark of the covenant and the glory of God. Not only that, he had even begun the process by making plans to build it. David had a dream. A good, God-honoring dream. He had plans for this fruitful endeavor in his life.

God had other plans.

In Verse 6, God says,

“Solomon your son is the one who will build my house and my courts, for  I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father.”

I Chronicles 28: 11-18 goes on to list all the plans, instructions, and materials that David passed down to Solomon concerning the temple. He literally passed down the dream of his heart to his son.

But was it just his dream? After all, God basically said that David was unqualified to to build the temple.. that his resume didn’t line up with that kind of work. Where did the dream, the plans, come from in the first place?

Verse 12 screams of legacy when it says,

He (David) gave him (Solomon) the plans of all the Spirit had put in his  (David’s) mind for the courts of the temple of the Lord and all the  surrounding rooms, for the treasuries of the temple of God and for the  treasuries for the dedicated things.”

It seems that it was God’s plan all along for David to receive the instructions, and for Solomon to carry them out. It was a multi-generational kind of harvest. It was literally a temple of legacy!

We may not have physical blueprints from God for something we are to pass along to the next generation or to those we are allowed influence over, but all of us will leave a spiritual legacy behind. What will it be? We get to choose.

As 2019 begins, my prayer is that we will always have a view of our Spiritual Family Farm in front of us… that we will take some time here at the beginning of the year to plow those fields as well. In I Chronicles 28:19 David says, “All of this I have in writing as a result of the Lord’s hand on me and He  enabled me to understand all the details of the plan.”  What if we pushed pause on the “tyranny of the urgent” and wrote down a plan for our legacy as well? If we are not intentional about putting some thought and prayer into what we want it to be, we may miss important opportunities to sow into others.

What is the “asparagus” you can plant today that someone else will gain nutrition from in years to come? Pray to provide some of those “large flourishing cities (they) did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things (they) did not provide, wells (they) did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves (they) did not plant” (Deut. 6:10-11) for someone in 2019.

After all, legacy is a story where we will never read, “The End.”