Monthly Archives: April 2010

Several years ago at at a retreat, one of the Saturday morning roundtable discussion questions was, “ Where is the most interesting place you’ve lived?” The answers were fascinating. One woman’s parents were missionaries, so she had spent her childhood in Africa. Because her father was in the military, another had lived in four different countries while she was growing up. I wasn’t sure how to answer. Then I remembered a very interesting place I had lived: a fifth wheel camper trailer.

When we moved to Branson years ago we were building a house and needed a place to rent for only six months. Most of the landlords didn’t want tenants with children or pets. Since we had three kids and a big dog, we were turned down repeatedly.

A friend offered his camper trailer. This was a true camper trailer, not one that costs more than some homes. It was too small to sleep all five of us so we parked it next to a cabin that wasn’t winterized. Jim wired up an intercom between the cabin and the trailer so we could at least hear what was going on with the kids. The trailer had a kitchen, a sleeping loft and a primitive bathroom of sorts. The cabin had a bunk bed with a trundle and another bathroom of sorts. I was mortified that my kids were living like this. They, however, thought it was an adventure.

If the bathroom was occupied, it was not a problem for the boys. We lived in the woods! The shower was so small it even hit ten-year-old Jason in the chest. Because the temperatures had dipped into the twenties, when I went to the cabin one morning to wake the kids for school, I found them asleep in their snowsuits! I was certain if anyone found this out, the authorities would be called.

I could barely raise half-hearted sympathy as the women laughed at my story knowing my situation was only temporary and by choice. They did agree it was interesting.

Sitting next to me, Lisa was the last to answer. She, her husband and two boys had moved from another part of the state ten years earlier. She taught second grade and her husband was a nurse at the local hospital.

“I really needed a break and this retreat is way beyond my expectations. The food, the wonderful spa and the heavenly beds are something at one point in my life I only could read and dream about. The most interesting place I have ever lived was in a car with my mother. For two years, when I was in high school, we were homeless. When Dad died Mom and I ended up losing everything,” she said. “I guess a car counts as unusual as well as interesting.”

No one knew what to say. That’s the day I fully realized my reality and someone else’s reality can be worlds apart. I experienced a temporary inconvenience. Lisa had been in a seemingly hopeless situation. I was going to move in to a new home and Lisa had just wanted to move out of her mother’s car.

Even though we live on the same earth, we do see and experience the horizon differently. I want to be more sensitive to that.


“Making the decision to have a child – it’s monumental. It is as to decide forever to have you heart go walking around outside your body.” -Elizabeth Stone

I don’t think anyone ever really explains to about-to-be parents how profoundly their world will be rocked. Certainly no one can describe to them how their life will never, ever be the same on so many levels. Honestly, I don’t think there are adequate words for parenthood, but the Elizabeth Stone quote comes really close.

Right after Jason, Travis and Jill held their first borns, my first question to each of them was, “Do you get it now?” Each one just smiled and nodded. When your kids have kids your rationale about so many things suddenly makes sense to them.

Poor first borns. They’re like a crash test dummy for new parents. I’m a first born and Jason is my first born. He’s a grown man with a wife and three kids, but my mom feelings are still the same. He stepped off a ledge the other day and broke his foot. I think he’s temped to concoct a story about an extreme rescue he made saving someone’e life. Stepping off a ledge just sounds so lame.

I alway told my kids if you are gong to do something, don’t mess around, do it up big. His foot required surgery and a screw. I felt so badly for him. I just wanted to hold him in my lap again. He’s 6 foot 4. That might look a little odd. I talked to Jason a couple of hours after surgery. He said he was fine and wasn’t in pain. Of course he probably couldn’t feel anything anywhere at that point. The day after surgery was another story.

No matter how old your kids get, you don’t want to see them hurting or struggling. There’s not an age they get to where those feeling go away. Your heart strings will forever be tugged on. It’s one of the fine print footnotes in the instructions manual.

My childhood front yard on Shannon Drive was the flattest on the block. Half of the neighborhood spent hours playing kickball there. One specific section of sidewalk was home plate, the holly bush in front of the house, first base, a shrub dividing our yard from the neighbor’s was second and an enormous pine tree was third. I would close my eyes and winch when I reached first base hoping to not grab stickers on the holly bush. The second base shrub had one bald side from being grabbed so many times and the bark had been peeled off hand high on the pine tree. Sliding in to the concrete home base was not advisable.

In the middle of one close game, the neighborhood trouble maker called the younger of two brothers a slowpoke shrimp. The older brother instantly tore in to the trouble maker. My younger brother tried to break up the fight and one of the neighbor kids got a front tooth knocked out. It was a baby tooth and my dad was a dentist. I’m sure the neighborhood gossip was good that week.

The trouble maker kid learned a very important thing in my front yard. You can call your own brother names, but there is high risk involved in calling someone else’s brother slowpoke shrimp. Brothers stick together that way.

Jim has an older brother, Joe, and a younger brother, Jerry. The Brawner brothers are a tight crew. They took care of each other and, I’m sure, covered for each other when necessary. Joe is several years older than Jim and Jerry and everyone knew not to mess with the younger Brawner boys. Joe is a protective kind of a guy.

Joe has been fighting for a year … not with the neighborhood trouble maker, but with cancer. He knows his little brothers are in the fight with him. If they could, Jim and Jerry would give the bully a black eye and knock out a tooth. That’s just what brothers do.

“Learn to say no and it will do you more good than being able to speak several foreign languages.” -Unknown

Two year olds know how to say no without hesitation. Who teaches them how to do it? No one, they’re simply being honest about what they want and don’t want to do. As we grow up we learn about the rules and regulations of life and what holds trouble at bay, but for some reason we get confused about saying no.

There are huge campaigns and billboards about saying no to drugs and sex so we have a constant reminder. But, what about when it comes to drawing some boundaries with our time and commitments? Most of us are in way over our heads when it comes to the number of things we say yes to.

“Oh, sure I can make 8 dozen cookies for the PTA bake sale fundraiser. Why yes, I’ll keep your three kids while you go to a retreat. It will give my three each a friend to play with. I’d be glad to lend you $500.00. No problem, I’ll take your carpool week,” and on and on we go.

“Well, the homeroom mothers would talk about me it I didn’t bake this year.” Guess what, they’re going to talk if you bake or if you don’t bake. So cut yourself some slack. Everyone can handle different sized loads. The other mothers may all act like they have it all together, but don’t be fooled.

Maybe the first response should be no. Then think about it and if it’s something you really would like to do, call back later and ask if help is still needed. It’s much easier to say no, then say yes the next day, than to say yes and have a panic attack trying to figure out how you are going to follow through.

I remember Mrs. Hen, my junior high English teacher, explaining “no” is a complete sentence. It’s not necessary to fill in all the reasons or explanations for why you say no. We feel obligated to justify the no because, if we don’t have what we feel others would call a really legitimate reason, we feel we’re less than capable.

No is not only a complete sentence, it’s a powerful word. Using it will keep us out of the tall weeds most of the time. Who told us it’s not OK to say no?

I was in Joplin, Missouri over the weekend speaking at a women’s conference. The organizational committee ran the event like a team of elite athletes, they made it look simple. It was the 56th annual and I’m certain they are planning for next year’s event starting today.

Even though I was working, it felt like a break. It’s as if I was able to put all of life’s complexities at the end of my driveway for 48 hours and tend to them from a distance. I had the opportunity to meet interesting, sincere people, listen to new perspectives, and one night I slept eight uninterrupted hours.

As I drove toward Interstate 44 for home, Droid beeped a severe thunderstorm alert. He has so many friends. Not only do I get weather warnings, in one click I can watch Al Roker give the latest update on the Weather Channel.

I stopped at the Kum-n-Go to fill up and Chic-Fil-A for a chicken tender combo, then headed for home and the storm. I don’t like interstates with all the 18 wheelers to start with and I like them even less in a rain storm. I stayed in the right lane and went my speed.

It rained torrents even though I was on the edge of the storm the entire two hour drive. However, as I was gripping the steering wheel, I did remember the rain might give us a break from the choking pollen.

The storm was just a sprinkle by the time I turned in to my neighborhood. I made it! I looked in the rear view mirror and there it was, a gigantic rainbow. It slowly disappeared as I went down the hill to my house. A perfectly timed reminder; after you make it through a storm there’s always a chance for a rainbow.

Sadly, statistics show those born after 1980 are leaving the church in droves, not a specific church, but churches in general. It’s not because there aren’t plenty of high tech power point presentations, contemporary music, casual dress and coffee, or a lack of small groups to address every issue that can be struggled with. The reason they’re leaving is not because they have given up on their faith, they’ve given up on the church. Not the programs, but the people.

I asked someone in that age group recently, “Why do you think surveys are reporting so many people your age are choosing to not be involved with church?” The answer was truthful, but biting.

“I suppose they’re tired of hearing one thing and seeing another. It’s real discouraging and somewhat confusing to watch people who have been in church for years, who can recite volumes of Scripture, who serve on several church committees and boards, but outside church they are mean, stingy, and unethical. I think my generation is basically fed up with fake. I think those who are leaving are more interested in spending their time with people who are honest and authentic. They may have a better understanding of what it means to be a Christian than those who profess one thing and live another,” she said.

Wow. She wasn’t angry or frustrated, but had a sadness in her tone. It made me sad, too, because I knew how she felt. Not long ago I ran into a churchgoing committee serving person who was pit bull mean. I had to hold my tongue, listen, and after a few minutes politely say I had to go. People who are hurting tend to hurt others. I guess since they’re unhappy, they think everyone else should be too, so they try their best to make it happen.

I saw a man in the Super Center in the frozen food department who’s tee shirt said: I DON’T LIKE MEAN PEOPLE. He and my young friend must know some of the same people. How sad it is we let other people ruin things for us.

I told my friend about something I read once that helped me when I was discouraged about all the say-one-thing-do-another people in church. It said, “I don’t follow those who say they follow Jesus. I follow Jesus.”

That’s simple and straight to the point. People are people and they will let us down. Jesus won’t.

“… and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”
1 Corinthians 13:2

There’s an ad for an upcoming episode of a new TV show that caused me to pause as I was flipping through channels the other night. A mom walked in the bathroom of the family home to catch her daughter in the shower with her boyfriend. I don’t know who was more shocked, the mother or the teens or me. There was a lot of confusion and yelling then the boy left the house and the daughter went to her room.

The frazzled mom walked into her daughter’s bedroom, plopped down on the bed and asked what every mother would ask, “What were you thinking?”

Then the fireworks began. “But I love him,” the daughter whined. She sounded like a four year old who wanted a puppy. I was fascinated with her rationale. She had violated every rule of common sense and a dozen mom-set rules and her I-love-him answer was supposed to make her mom say,” Oh, OK.”

“You just don’t understand,” the daughter said, like her mom had just skipped being a teenager when she was growing up.

The mom explained, “Oh, honey I do understand. I love you and I just don’t want you to make the same mistake I made.”

Then in a half scream half cry the daughter said. “So, I’m your mistake. I can’t believe you said that. Please leave. I don’t want to talk to you now.”

At that point I didn’t care who was right or wrong, I changed the channel because I felt horrible for everyone. Knowing she had blown it, the daughter felt like no one understood and that she was her mother’s “mistake”. The mother was trying to convince her daughter she did understand how she was feeling. She was only trying to protect her from unnecessary pain. But the daughter turned the whole incident back around on her mother. What a mess!

Since I’m used to watching Big Bird and Oscar calmly problem solve on Sesame Street with the grandkids, this situation was a bit unsettling. However, things like this happen in real life that giant yellow birds and red monsters don’t have to deal with. It really caused me to think about the way we phrase things. Well-meaning words can be misunderstood, twisted and backfire.

Have you ever had someone say to you, “You look so much better.” I know it’s meant as a compliment, but it makes me wonder how badly things looked before. The TV mom’s intentions were to protect her daughter from the heartache she experienced as a teen mom. But all the girl heard her mom saying was she was only a bad mistake.

How we say things can leave deep wounds and long-lasting scars. We need to be keenly aware of the impact of our words. Maybe it will be a Bert and Ernie discussion on an upcoming episode.