Christmas season is totally here. We are fully committed, no turning back. There are lists being made, schedules being re-arranged to include Christmas shopping, buying Christmas party outfits, organizing teacher gifts, and making all the Pinterest marshmallow snowman crafty crafts. We are baking all the cookies and throwing all the ugly sweater parties. We are restocking our wrapping paper supplies and buying up all the scotch tape. Our date nights have turned into shopping sprees together and we are scouring the web for sales on honey baked hams. We are locked in people, LOCKED. IN.
OK so first of all, I love Jesus, mmkay? Secondly, I have a pretty solid track record of not following through on long term, daily commitments. These two things do not, logistically, go well together. They just don’t. When you love Jesus, The Holy Spirit pulls you, tugs at your heart, knock’s quietly at the door to your soul, woo’s you to make changes in your life in response to what Christ did on the cross for you. One of those changes for me, is follow through on commitments.
There are times, during my parenting life, when I honestly have felt ripped the heck off. Like even though I remember times, multiple times even, when people told me, better yet warned me, that parenting is “hard”, I feel like those exhortations didnt exactly, or even come close to, explaining what I, as a parent, would be experiencing.
Let’s talk tantrum /emotional outburst department.
Sometimes its hard for me to discern what is my conscience and what is the Holy Spirit. Maybe when I grow up, it will be as clear as day, but for now I typically spend 3 hours and 48 minutes daily, trying to figure out who is talking to me. “Is that me, or you, God?” “Okay just say it again…. wait, I’m not ready.” “Okay go, wait, that’s not what you said an hour ago…. wait… is that me or you?!!” “Um hey, I have to go so if it’s you, then tell me the same thing in a hour, cuz then I’ll know its for sure not me, because I will literally forget this entire conversation like in 10 minutes…if its me.”
If you don’t go through this, you’re lying. Again, maybe someday I will “walk in the spirit” full time, like all flowy and cool, but for now, I’m just arguing my way in and out of it, and I’m totally fine with that.
I dread encounters with the holy spirit. Honestly, I do. Its terrifying, I’m sweating, I’m wondering if anyone else is noticing how awkward and nervous I’ve become over the past few minutes.
These occasions are not beautiful to me, in the moment. They are dreadful. Dreadfully promising. Ugh, is that a real thing?
Today we had family pictures. Yes, planned, professional family pictures. First time for all six of us to be in a photo shoot, together.
I could write an entire post about family pictures, but I will narrow it down to this one, factual statement; trying to not have a heart attacking, emotional breakdown in the process of preparing all the things, that lead up to being prepared for family photos, is a real thing.
After the shoot, my daughter was supposed to have soccer practice, but we got an email that it was canceled , so we decided to go out to dinner.
A normal, semi-chaotic dinner was under way, as usual for us Klinges. Some of us argue about kids menus and the others wonder if they should have salad or a double bacon burger… yes we have food issues.
As our order is placed, my attention is drawn to the family who is being seated in the booth directly behind us. It is a husband and wife with their, about 10 year old daughter, and an older women that may be a sister of the husband or wife. They are excessively paying attention to the young girl, and although I cant hear them talking, I am alarmed. I cant stop looking at them and my heart is racing.
Our food comes and I am distracted the entire time. I am awkwardly looking at my husband, I am not engaged with my kids. They are talking and I am not listening.
These thoughts that say “something is wrong, ask them if they need prayer” keep flooding my mind. And mind you, I’m like trying to eat my dinner and just be normal.
My husbands back is to their back, so they have a booth seat in common. We are almost done with our meal and I ask him in a whispered voice “can you hear what they are talking about?” He says no. I’m frustrated because I dont want to talk to these people, honestly. Remember, my heart is racing outside my chest. I just want to pay and go.
I am keenly aware that the The Holy Spirit is not only with me, but with THEM, and hes trying to send THEM a message.
Ugh!! I quickly realize it’s not about me, and my sweaty, awkward, nervousness and comfort.
So what do I do? After we pay, I tell my family to get in the car while I stay behind and fumble to put left overs in a box, in a really long and aggravating way. Yes that’s right, I dont have the guts to say ” I’m having a moment with the holy spirit and I’ll meet you in the car. No, no I’m literally shaking and spilling alfredo sauce all over the to go box.
My kids go to the car. Nows my chance. My chance to what??? To Make a complete fool of myself to these atheists who are loving life and have not a care in the world and are going to laugh at me when I ask them if they need prayer?? These are the dumb thoughts that go through my mind.
I get up and walk over, literally my heart beat is in my throat. And I blurt out “I’m so sorry to interrupt you, but is there anything you need praye for?” Immediately the mom looks all around with tears in her eyes and says “did someone send you over here?” I said “no, no we were eating dinner in the booth behind you and ever since you sat down I felt like God was telling me to come and ask you if you needed prayer.” The adults immediately started to well up with painful tears, and the mom said “our mother just died and her viewing is tomorrow.” The other woman put her hand over her mouth in disbelief. I was welling up.
I’m not sure I can accurately explain to you what is going on in this moment.
You see, there are millions of moments in our days, where the Holy Spirit is not giving you direction. Should I put my pants on first or my shirt? Should I buy Kirkland brand or Bounty?
Millions of undirected moments.
Then there are the times when The Holy Spirit uses you and when you say yes, He takes over.
That is what happened tonight. I looked at the little girl and asked “so it was your grandma who passed away?” Her eyes were filled with tears and I cant even imagine what she was thinking, but her look, her eyes were amazed at me. The mom answered for her, choking back tears with her hands on her daughters shoulders “yes, yes her grandma.” I looked at that little girl and I told her ” God sees you and he is always with you.” I looked at the rest at the table and said ” I’m so sorry for your loss, but God is with you. And I will pray for you.”
They said thank you, maybe a hundred times, and then I left.
I was in tears. They were in tears.
I cannot comprehend the impact that encounter had on those people.
God loves people recklessly. And he does it through super average dorks like me and you.
So my final thoughts? I don’t know man, I’m so undeserved of these encounters. God uses those who are willing. Dorky and willing, that is where its at.
The idea of tradition is so alluring to me. I want my kids to grow up having pride in traditions of their childhood. I want them to pass on traditions they loved from the memories they will never forget. But I have to say, I have some fears about my “tradition game”. My side of the family doesnt really have any traditions, for some reason or another. Reflecting on this truth has made me sad at times. When family life is hard, things like traditions kinda get pushed into the gutter, to be washed away into the storm drains, with the next rain.
Luckily for me, I married into a family who has traditions!
My husbands side of our tribe, has laid a foundation, deeply rooted in family tradition, for the most exciting, most looked forward to, most anticipated, most talked about holiday of all holidays, federal and state combined. This holiday is Thanksgiving. It is filled with generations of grandparents, aunts and uncles, moms and dads, brothers and sisters, in-laws and cousins. Many, many cousins. There is endless hours of music playing, puzzle piecing until our vision is blurred, gaming board games and card games and dress-up games and karaoke and turkey trots. And of course, the food.
This gathering is tradition.
What makes this holiday so heart gladdening, you ask? I’ll name a few of the all-time top ranked reasons, for me at least.
Where most families might anticipate the roasted turkey, maybe a lamb leg or even a prime rib, some of us, on this day of giving thanks, anticipate something far more valuable than rubies.
For it is not just any ham, no, no this ham even far outweighs the infamous HoneyBakednot even merely a honey baked ham. It is Aunt Kelly’s ham. It is a ham sent straight from the love factory of heaven. It is slow roasted in a 7-Up, brown sugar, cherry juice marinade. Did you hear that? Yes, soda, plus sugar, marinade. My perfect piece has an outer shell of glory that once you bite into it, the ham molasses begins to ooze out down your throat and before you swallow one bite, your taste buds are screaming for the next bite of sweet bliss, and maybe for a brief moment I wish I was not a christian and the rapture would be upon us so that I may be left all to myself for one moment with this glorious heaven ham.
Now this ham is not for everyone. I’m not even sure its for me. You literally get a cavity just from passing by it. Yet I look forward to it, every year.
This ham, is a tradition
The gathering usually consists of up to 75 relatives, who travel from all over the western half of the US. They come bearing food. They come bearing and musical instruments. They come bearing suitcases and rental cars. They come, they all come.
Then there is the Klinge Sing. We have printed, song books. The song books contain the lyrics to Christmas carols, oldies but goodies, songs that the youngest generation of teens have suggested, and hymns. From Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer to May the Circle Be Unbroken, there is a song for everyone from child to matriarch. We set aside a special time, that usually lasts for hours, to sing and play music. The song books are passed around, and there are not enough for everyone, so you get close and share with your neighbor. There are shakers and clappers and everyone can sing along, play along, tap along, or just watch if their singing voices should probably not be shared with people who can hear. But no matter what, at any moment during the Klinge Sing, if you pan around the room, you will see, that every single person is smiling.
The Klinge sing, is tradition.
But I have to admit, the whole tradition thing is a bit intimidating. I have some fears about my own “tradition game”. I feel like all the other families have all the great traditions. And I look at me, and I’m like “what have I brought to the tradition potluck?” Nothing. But I dont stay there. I refuse.
I may not have any family traditions that I have brought into our family, but my husband and decided a few years ago that we would be intentional about making new traditions. And so far, we have a few. And they are awesome, for our family.
So whether you have old traditions or new traditions, just keep doing fun stuff. Fun stuff is fun stuff and if you keep doing the fun stuff, then fun stuff becomes the tradition, right?
As our traditions are to be continued, I hope yours are as well!
This past week, 2 of my 4 children, have been at each others throats. To the death. To their own deaths, to my death and to all the deaths. All the veins are popping. All the teeth are gnashing. All the fists are clenching. The feet are stomping and the tempers are full tempering. All the rage is raging, what ever was fair, is now forever unfair. They want returns on all their purchases, they are filing all the lawsuits, they are rocking their own votes and they demand the rewriting of every law, as it is their own civil right, and they demand their justice be served from the highest most supremiest court. They are exhausted from all the debating and proving.
And they yell to me,
as if I care, as if I am in control or withholding all of their freedoms from them. Literally screaming my name, as the sweat drips off their brow, as if I will come to their rescue with the key to the cell and FINALLY put this, this, whoever this supposed person claiming to be their sibling is, in jail. For the eternity. Then, and only then will they finally be freed, from the one who’s fault truly lies at the root every wrong choice they have ever made, and they can freely live the perfect life they were honestly meant to live, in complete harmony and bliss.
I guess one of the perks being a Christ follower who has been blessed with children, is that if we are humble enough, we get to see a direct, perfect, intentional image of our own iniquities, reflected in their behavior. The bummer for us is that we are called to yield to Gods spirit before we speak to them, when their iniquities are raging. I say this is a bummer, because it is hard. No, hard is not the right word. Ambitious. Arduous. Burdensome. Challenging. Crucial. Demanding. Laborious. Onerous. Painful. Problematic. Severe. Strenuous. Yes, these words might better describe this calling.
For me, I now know, that the hard stuff is what God uses to strengthen His people, and to draw people who do not know Him, near to Him. I have spent a lot of time in my life fighting against, raging against, blaming everyone, using excuses, doing whatever it takes to shift or delay myself from actually having to go through the “hard stuff”.
We are all born with this deep desire to serve ourselves. The desire is so deep rooted that we view it as a freedom, if you will. Because we are all born with this freedom, it is the foundation for everything we do. It is what drives our ability to find food and shelter, to protect ourselves from danger, to learn more, to succeed more, to gain knowledge. We grow up learning to do everything we can to control our environment so that our selves are comfortable, successful. The problem is that this self serving lifestyle, is in fact a lie.
You see, fighting for ourselves is not a freedom at all, it is in fact a disease. Websters dictionary defines a disease as “any harmful, depraved, or morbid condition, as of the mind or society”. This “disease of self” can be very dangerous once it senses an attack. There is a “natural” uprising. We “naturally” revolt. We “naturally” defend. We “naturally” rebel, because we dont want anyone or anything to take this “freedom” of serving our selves away from us. I deserve. I eanred it. It’s mine. We believe freedom is a state of being able to do whatever I want whenever I want. We have literally convinced ourselves that freedom is being able to do whatever we want, whenever we want. We have convinced ourselves that as long as I am not “harming” anyone, then I should be free to do what I want. As if this life, here on Earth, is the only thing at risk.
I lived more than half my life doing whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. And for a while it did feel like freedom, until the lie started to unravel my life. I remember thinking my life was a prison. I was stuck, with me. There was no escaping me. My upbringing was what defined me, my past would always foreshadow me. It is a dark place to live, in that prison. I have met a lot of other fellow “cell mates”.
Enter Christ. Where do I start about Christ? To be honest, I don’t ever know where to start, about Christ. Testimony, sure. The Bridge Illustration, Okay. An invite to church, why not.
Here’s what I know; There were empty rooms in my life, that before I knew that God created me on purpose, would have remained forever empty. Those rooms were filled with pains, scars, irreversible consequences. Filled with bitterness, denial, rage, unforgiveness, hatred, fear, embarrassment. I had convinced myself that, that was it. These rooms will forever be this way. I will take them to my grave.
Now that I know God, those rooms have been filled with grace, forgiveness, humility, joy, love, peace, affirmation, purpose, hope, value, worth, light. But most of all, true freedom.
You see when my kids are at each others throats, I don’t have to argue them into believing that they, on their own, should be good. They are not good. They are sinners. As am I.
But God has given us the gift of freedom, we are no longer slaves to sin, in Him. We are free to yield to His voice, in our heart, to direct our words and our behavior towards them. We are free to teach them that on their own, they can do nothing apart from Christ, John 15:5. We can listen to them argue and know that our God is desperate to hear them reconcile. We can choose to teach them that Christ gives them the power to put themselves aside, and that serving their enemies and humbling themselves is true freedom.
This is why its hard. Nobody likes to learn the hard way.
We need to see in our children, the opportunity for us to teach them the truth about who they are, who they dont have to pretend to be, and who they are in Christ.
So the next time your kids are at each others throats, dont do what’s easy. Dont run and hide in your closet with a bottle of wine. Don’t jump in the ring like some has been WWE wrestler, trying to make a come back. Just take a minute to remember the grace, the undeserved grace that Christ poured out on you out of desperation to be with you for eternity. And show mercy and grace to your kids. They are dirty rotten little sinners, just their mom and dad. It’s not their fault. Direct them well, as your Father directs you, Pointing them to scripture and the grace and mercy of Christ.
Elections are upon us. People are at each others throats. There is fear. There is anxiety. There is doubt. There is anger. There is division. There are sides to pick. There are things to stand for. There are things to stand against. There is ignorance. There is passion. There are stickers and signs. There are billboards and commercials. There are rallies and marches. There are phone calls and flyers. There are texts and T-shirts. There are Instagram posts and Facebook groups.
I literally have no idea what is real anymore. But apparently everyone else is EXTREMELY confident in what they perceive is reality. Everyone appears to be very confident in their knowledge that their vote will make all the difference, and if we can just change these few things, or maintain these other things, and if we can get enough people to agree with us and we all vote the same way, THEN everything will be ……
What? Then everything will be what? That is my question. The answer certainly isn’t, then everything will be better. I think actual answer is everything will be … the exact same. I think we are a highly distracted people right now.
As Christians our hope can not be in the result of a vote. Yes, we vote, but our hope is not in our government. Therefore our despair is also not in our government. Our hope is in the end result of what Christ did on the cross. The result of Christ’s death is eternal victory. Let that sink in for a minute. We walk around talking about how outrageous it is that the President, fill in the blank. We walk around talking about how outrageous the Democratic or Republican party is. You want to know what is outrageous? Millions of Christians have not shared with anyone, their testimony about how Christ radically changed their lives. Keeping the power of Christ a literal secret. You want to know what is outrageous? Millions of Christians in America did not sit down with their kids today to read their Bibles with them, before sending them off into our culture for the day. You want to talk about outrageous? Millions of Christians are not meeting regularly outside of church to check in with each other on real life struggles like pornography and gambling and addiction and unforgiveness and infertility and loneliness and depression and biblical parenting and death and cancer and all the other life things that are actually effecting our daily everything. Millions of Christian American parents did not sit with their kids today and pray that God would guide their choices, before they went to school and work. I specify American because we live in a country where we are free to do these things with our kids, and we take FULL ADVANTAGE of that freedom, by ignoring it and treating it as if its the same choice as making it a combo at Mc Donald’s, ” You wanna Bible with your day today? Nah… I’m good!” And guess what? I am one of them. Are we so numb and so distracted that we don’t even flinch at this? Are we so blinded by what WE are doing, and what is on OUR schedule that we don’t even notice that we have abandoned the relationship part of our faith? Am I so self absorbed that I reserve the “act” of reading my bible for Sunday church? Yes. The answer is yes. Ugh. Why am I so lame? Why are we all so lame? If you are thinking “I’m not lame, she’s lame.” Well you’re wrong, you really are lame. Welcome, glad to have you. Don’t worry, you’ll be ok. So why are we so lame?
Because sin. I will never overcome it. We will never overcome it guys. Our own depravity and refusal to allow Christ to be the entire center of our whole lives, will destroy us if we are not intentional about relationships. It will. Destroy us. We have to get off the roller coaster. Paul writes to the church in Corinth, who is struggling with many of the same issues our culture struggles with today, saying “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” Such a simple statement. We have to get back on board with this. Like immediately. Stop talking about politics. Go vote, let’s get our stupid vote sticker and zip it. Like arguing with people about their views literally has absolutely no eternal value at all. We have to be relationally focused guys. (relationally? is that even a word?I don’t think it is, but you know what I’m saying.) We have to start to encourage each other to read our bibles again. We have to call each other and ask each other about what we are reading in our bibles and what we are learning about God. We have to. We have to act as if our lives depend on it, but act like it every day. We have to invite our neighbors over for dinner and ask how their moms are doing. We have to make stupid jokes in elevators with strangers to get that one laugh out before continuing on our path to wherever. We have to return shopping carts on purpose for people for no reason. We have to. We have to ask our waitresses if they need prayer for anything before we pray for our own meals, guys.
We dont want to have a right or left wing agenda. We do have a faith agenda, and that is and should always be, to love the crap out of each other in the name of Christ. Like extreme, out of control loving. Not the way we think somebody needs to be loved, but the way Christ loves. Not all judgey and weird, and only if they agree with you on stuff, just plain old unjustified, undeserved love.
So go on Christian, go love the crap out of everyone today. I dare you.