Life isn’t Fair, Broken Balloons, and a Good Father

“Life isn’t fair!” she sobbed from the backseat, holding her broken balloon. “I wanted to show my daddy!”

And in that moment my stifling hot minivan became a place of ministry to both of us.

We were sitting in the van following PWOC, a wonderful military related fellowship and bible study program.

They have fantastic childcare with bible lessons for our children. I’m not sure what part the balloons played in their lesson, but my sweet girl had been SO excited to show me her ‘hugantic’ balloon.

She blew it up all by herself and had the biggest balloon in her class!

What she couldn’t understand was how inflating her balloon to that size had weakened its structure. Sure enough, moments after getting seated, a tiny hole appeared and then another, and the balloon began to deflate before her eyes.

“Why did MY balloon break? The other kids’ balloons didn’t break!” She wailed.

In a way that only a young child’s heart can, it broke with disappointment. Tears poured down her cheeks and she shook with sobs. She held the tiny balloon corpse in her palm as if begging me to resuscitate it.

Despite being unable to perform balloon CPR, I had such compassion for her broken heart. I immediately remembered a post from Minivan Ministries about teaching our children to bring their needs to God in prayer.

So I told her to just start praying. Talk to God like He is right here with us. Tell Him how you feel and ask Him to help you. With her tiny little voice still breaking between shallow breaths and sobs, she prayed.

"Life isn't fair!" she sobbed from the backseat, holding her broken balloon. "I wanted to show my daddy!" And in that moment my minivan became a place of ministry to both of us.

“Dear God, I am really disappointed. I wanted to show my daddy my balloon and it broke. And it isn’t fair. Please help me get my feelings under control. I am so sad.”

A few moments later, “Mom, it didn’t work!” She said, still clearly upset.

Honey, you can’t pray like it’s magic. You have to let God work in your heart. Sometimes, he doesn’t change the situation, but changes us in it.

Prayer doesn't work like magic. Sometimes God doesn't change the situation, but changes us. Click To Tweet
“But life isn’t fair,” she said again.

and I said, “You’re right. It isn’t. And aren’t we so grateful for that?”

What?

All the kids got balloons. Some kids had balloons that were perfectly inflated. A few balloons had already popped explosively. Some kids had sad, little, barely inflated balloons. One tiny girl adorably was still walking around sputtering with all her might into a stubbornly flat balloon. No two were the same.

And I immediately saw myself.

Life isn’t fair! Why don’t I have the perfect house, family, body, life?

We all get balloons, but they aren’t the same because we all make different choices and because God has different plans for each of us.

My imperfect body has taught me humility. I’ve learned find my comfort and identity in Christ alone. My imperfect house has reminded me that my eternal home is the one I need to focus on. My imperfect family has reminded me how much I have still to learn about grace and how to love.

I was reminded how wonderful it is that life isn’t fair.

How wonderful it is that life isn't fair, that God extends His grace and love when we don't deserve them. Click To Tweet

I began the drive home and explained,

Oh, my sweet love, we celebrate that life isn’t fair because Jesus paid our price. God’s grace and forgiveness are things we don’t deserve because of our sin, and yet He gives them freely because of His great love for us.

As we talked, I could hear the tone in her voice change. Her disappointment faded, and she realized that it wasn’t truly the end of the world.

But that wasn’t the end of the story either.

I texted my husband about how disappointed she had been about showing him her HUGE balloon. He was going to be home after she went to bed, and I wanted to share this bittersweet moment with him.

When he did get home, he barely said hello, rushing past me towards her room. A few minutes later, he came out smiling.

“What did you do?” I asked.

“I bought her a jumbo balloon. She just finished blowing it up.”

And it’s ORANGE! she shouted from her room. Orange is her favorite color.

What a good father!

Minutes before closing, after a very long day, he raced into our local store to buy her a balloon.

I cannot tell you how that moment ministered to my heart. I saw God working in her life, giving her back a moment she lost (and a new balloon), answering her minivan prayers through her dad.

Watching my husband love her like that was a gift from my Father for me because I pray over their sweet relationship.

If this is how a human father loves his children, how much more will He have good gifts for us! Click To Tweet

I also heard God reminding me if this is how a human father loves his children, how much more will He have good gifts for us.

Matthew 7:11 ESV / If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

And I’m so grateful that life isn’t fair.

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Memorial Day Grace and Perspective from one Army Wife

Before 2005, Memorial Day wasn’t really on my radar, even coming from a family of servicemen.

It was the beginning of summer, and I could wear white shoes again.

But wasn’t real in a tangible way, until I kissed my young man goodbye and sent him to war.

I’m lucky that when I gave my heart to a soldier, he came home to me.

Not every military spouse, child, sister, parent, or friend is as lucky as I have been, and I cannot speak for them.

I can only speak for my heart on this issue.

Starting a few days ago, posts began circulating on social media about knowing the difference between Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Armed Forces Day.

Spreading knowledge is admirable, but the tone of some posts was almost hostile.

“Don’t thank my husband on Memorial Day.”

“If you wear the uniform, Memorial Day isn’t about you.”

I can only imagine the grief that spurred those posts, but they missed the real point of honoring military service.

Absolutely, Memorial Day is about those who gave all.

It honors those who won’t ever come home: Dads, daughters, sons, mothers who sacrificed everything to stand for our nation.

Absolutely, Memorial Day honors those who gave all, but all gave some. Don't miss a chance to thank them. Click To Tweet

The depth of that sacrifice is too great to quantify. Boys left home and never returned to marry waiting sweethearts. Men left pregnant wives never meeting their child. Mothers kissed babies goodbye and will never kiss them goodnight again. Sons graduated, but never had the chance to live the lives they imagined.

It’s too heavy to grasp unless you’ve lost someone.

Not sure what to say on Memorial Day? or if you should say Thank you? Here's some Memorial Day Grace from one Army Wife's perspective

But I look at those white crosses lining green fields and see people who will never hear another heartfelt, “thank you for your service” and my husband who came home but will never be the same.

And I think, who cares if you get it wrong and thank a living soldier on Memorial Day? or an active service member on Veteran’s Day?

Gold Star families who lost someone might answer differently, but I imagine if they could say thank you or invite you to thank their loved one one more time, they would.

So I want everyone to know why we celebrate Memorial Day, to recognize and honor those who paid the ultimate price. We stop to pay homage because if we don’t honor those who sacrificed all, the next generations won’t understand how valuable their freedom is.

But if you also thank a living veteran or active soldier, GOOD.

Because All gave Some, too. No one came home the same. No one serves without risking it all.

Take every chance to say thank you while they are alive.

Memorial Day is also remembering those, like my husband, who went willing to make that sacrifice, and knowing he lived things that haunt his nightmares so I can sleep in peace.

Not sure what to say on Memorial Day? or if you should say Thank you? Here's some Memorial Day Grace from one Army Wife's perspective

As a military spouse, I want to invite you to understand this military life, its costs and sacrifices as well as its joys and adventures; but there is a price, and I don’t think we can honor those who pay it too often.

Last week, my husband didn’t stand when they honored all service members at his son’s graduation, because he doesn’t consider himself a hero.

I love his humility, but later, I held his hand and reminded him that he stands not for himself, but for those around him: so his family recognizes that his service matters to our country, that what we all lost carries weight, and so that those around him can connect a face to the sacrifice of those who serve.

Memorial Day may be about those who’ve died, but it’s for the living, for us to remember the cost of our freedom. And there is no wrong way to do that.

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Divorce him for the Dishes by the Sink?

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Divorce? He leaves dishes by the sink occasionally. Sometimes, he doesn’t pick up his dirty underwear and believes dusting is a waste of time. He rolls his eyes when I disinfect the kitchen. He gives it a lick and a polish when I would use bleach and a flamethrower.

And my personal pet peeve – If I give him a ‘to do’ list, my husband will find the one thing he’s been meaning to do that is NOT on my list, and do that.

These things can drive me crazy or hurt my feelings. Sometimes, I feel disrespected and ignored . . .

but divorce him?

Not even kind of.

Can I unpack this viral post written by a man whose wife was apparently driven to divorce by dishes by the sink? In the end he understood how he could have better loved his wife, but I was left wondering if she ever learned how to better love him?

He leaves dishes by the sink sometimes and doesn't pick up his dirty underwear. He thinks dusting is a waste of time. Should I divorce him for that?

I have had many days my heart was broken over something he said or did. I’ve said goodnight in a huff wondering how I could be married to this selfish man for the rest of my life. I’ve cried myself to sleep.

But truth really is often about perspective.

Those same nights, he went to bed defeated, wondering why he married me, feeling disrespected and unloved. He wondered if I could ever think he was good enough just the way he is, if I really loved him or just the man I wanted him to be?

Ladies, I get it.

I see those dishes and underwear on my ‘to do’ list that never gets done. I’m child rearing, blogging, homeschooling, homemaking, friendship building, small group leading, Bible reading, part-time working. I need three of me on our slowest days.

When he adds to my list, it is the mic-dropping-straw on the proverbial camel’s back.

But, I’m the one reading into those choices. Dirty dishes by the sink really say I’m too tired to do one more thing. The dirty underwear shoved into the corner screams it’s 3 a.m. and I haven’t had my coffee.

His Army job is long and hard, but he comes home to me everyday. He kisses me goodnight even when we’ve been snippy. He brushes our daughter’s hair and flies her around the house, even when she is getting too big, even on his bad shoulder.

I can choose to see it his way. If it only takes 4 seconds to move that dish to the sink, can’t I just do it? Even if I hate folding his stupid Army socks, better to be folding them than wearing them 16 hours a day.

Because he just wants my respect and love and to make me happy, even if he sometimes has no idea why things are important to me, even when I don’t really either, but really, really just like it my way.

I’ve learned that if I really don’t have the energy to wash the dishes by the sink, they’ll wait until one of us makes it a priority.

In fact, when I stop trying to keep every spinning plate spinning and some drop, he sees my need and picks up the slack. When instead of nagging, I just said, “I can’t, I’ve got nuthin’ left,” he’ll get out paper plates and frozen pizza.

Again, humility and broken realness win.

When I said, “I know it’s just a cup, but I work so hard to keep the house nice. I would feel so loved if you would just put it away.”

He replied, “I’ll try. But it’s just a cup. I’ll forget.” I said, “Thank you for trying. If you forget, it’s ok.”

Then he didn’t forget often because I made it about being a team against the chaos, not me versus him.

I am really saddened to see Christian women sharing this viral post because it doesn’t take a faith-based view of marriage at all.

I vowed for better or worse in a rose-colored fog, but that was the promise: for worse.

“WORSE” was this vague undefined something like a tragic accident that might happen to other people, but probably not to us. I didn’t picture dirty underwear, empty toilet paper rolls, arguments about dishes and countertops, parenting squabbles – the boring mundane worses that make marriage hard.

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I read the entire post, I know he was exaggerating to demonstrate how he hadn’t really respected her and his callousness pushed her further away. But oh, how I wish I could interject into every woman letting these little molehills become mountains.

Don’t let dishes by the sink destroy your marriage!

My marriage isn’t perfect, but we’ve come a long way since I stopped seeing everything from the world’s perspective. Marriage is part of the refining fire that makes us more like Christ.

Mark 8:34 ESV /  And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Deny myself. Deny the human parts of me that say, “I deserve.” Deny that I deserve anything except to serve God with all that I am everyday. With ALL that I am.

Jesus carried a cross. I can pick up dirty dishes by the sink. Real marriage takes grace. Click To Tweet

God gives me grace and forgiveness when I fall down. When I yell at the kids or gossip or ignore His directions. Over and over.

Forgiven people forgive people. We don’t say divorce.

It isn’t easy, but that means when I’m tired or sick, I try to do one more thing, take one extra second to think before I speak, to honor my husband by respecting what he does and thanking him for everything he gets right and the hearty attempts, and choosing carefully when, how, or IF I approach those things I wish were different.

Learning how to talk with him is a work in progress. We are learning a common vocabulary of patience and grace. And divorce isn’t in it.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness….” 2 Corinthians 12:9

I’ll be honest, sometimes the chaos wins these days, but happiness does too. The house is dustier but the laughter is louder. Because I quit seeing dishes by the sink as a failure of his love and just there waiting for one of us to clean them .  .  .  eventually.

Communication is a work in progress. We are learning a common vocabulary of patience and grace. Click To Tweet

There is a difference between ignoring dirty dishes and abuse. If you're being abused, get help.

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Handling Hard in Friendship: Just Show Up

It starts with a phone call, a knock on the door, a doctor’s test result and out of nowhere, hard just showed up.

Suddenly, life becomes divided into before/after.

What do you do when the news isn’t yours? How do you just show up when a friend goes through HARD?

Saturday, I started reading Just Show Up; The Dance of Walking Through Suffering Together by Kara Tippetts and Jill Lynn Buteyn. Within three sentences, I was devouring the pages.

Warm words and gentleness invite us to know the authors and the excruciating, miraculous ways God built this community of friends and taught them how to deal with Kara’s hard and strengthen their relationships.

God put this book in my path because I’ve always known how to care for others in my heart, sometimes too much, but I haven’t always known how to just show up and love people when hurt feelings or insecurities or intensely hard circumstances just show up on our doorsteps.

When life is busy, friendships that balance grace and kindness challenge most of us, but these women dance through this long goodbye with a beauty that only God could have created out of gut-wrenching painful circumstances.

How do you handle HARD when it lands on your friend's doorstep? Just Show UP. Click To Tweet

I found tremendous beauty in the way each friend’s gifting served a purpose for Kara and their group. God knit together these friends.

Kara and Jill both write with eloquence and gentleness. I was living this story with them. Maybe because I’ve had some similar hard in my life and close friends that I’ve asked to mother my children if something ever happened to me, but some is just their writing ability and openness.

Jill and Kara take turns writing in each chapter, but they both write stunningly, like water gliding softly over river stones. I caught myself feeling the weight of their emotions so dramatically I couldn’t catch my breath.

Jill discusses the delicate origami art of folding their feelings in and out of the circle of pain to support Kara and her family, caring for each other’s friendships with Kara as she struggled to be herself.How do you do friendship in the hard places of life and make every moment count? Just show up, an incredible story of faith and friendship and grace. You won't put it down.

They showed up intentionally for Kara and each other through casseroles and funeral plans. Or ordered pizzas for us non-cooking introverts who are not spiritually gifted in the meal providing. Thank heavens for Little Caesars.

One page, I would be almost physically ill hurting and crying with them and the next my heart would soar with how God worked through that moment.

Each chapter ends with asking just two questions to help us be better friends and better receivers if we’re the friend on the hard side of things.

Bible verses and Godly perspectives pepper this book with more than just how to help a friend deal with a terminal illness, but also practical ways to be a help when sometimes we don’t know what to do or say.

Just Show Up reminds us that platitudes can be worse than silence and hugs are currency for hard.

Any friendship could benefit from learning how to be honest, gracefully forgive weaknesses, and find ways to bless each other through the tough parts of life, even when that doesn’t mean cancer.

I want to buy this book for every woman I know. Offering grace to our friends doesn’t always come naturally, and this book shows how faith and belief, even when tested to the core, can bring us to the door with banana pudding and open arms when we say yes and just show up.

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My Best New Years Resolution

How do you decide what New Years Resolution to make? Do you give it tons of thought? choose a bad habit you’ve been meaning to quit? or decide to try something new? This year, I was kind of at a loss.

Maybe, I’m taking life more seriously as I get older, but I’m tired of shallow resolutions that don’t become life changes.

Every year, I make the same New Years Resolution – to lose weight. I’m not a whole lot skinnier this year, but at least I’m not going the wrong direction, I suppose.

I don't want to make just any resolution this year. I want to make my best New Years Resolution. Click To Tweet

And I’m healthier for the choices I’ve made. I eat more vegetables and try to be more active. It’s biblical to live healthier.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

But I wonder if God is pleased with the time and focus I’ve put into my outward appearance for the past 20 years, time that could have been spent growing in true beauty instead, building my faith.

Rather than consider what New Years Resolution I want to make this year, I asked God what He wanted me to change.

The prayer was barely out of my mouth before I had an answer.

Proverbs 16:9 ESV  “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”

My family has been watching Little House on the Prairie on the INSP Network. Watching the blind characters deal with race and appearance has made me wonder how I would look if no one could see.

If we couldn’t see:

  • how clean the house is
  • how my hair looks
  • what size I am
  • how nicely I’ve decorated
  • my make-up
  • wrinkles
  • how cute my daughter is

Would you see Christ in me if you couldn’t see me? Would I be beautiful if no one could see me? What is the first thing people would see if they couldn’t see me?

I make the same resolution every year. But I don't want to make just any resolution this year. I want to make my BEST New Years Resolution

My best New Years Resolution would be to live and sound more like Christ.

My BEST New Years Resolution is to live more like Christ in every way. Click To Tweet

And God put on my heart that I need to change my heart to soften my tone of voice. I sound stressed and harsh and irritated way too often.

Matthew 12:34b  ESV  “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”

I know I’ve come a long way in this area, (we have a lot less yelling in my house) but in some ways the change to my attitude and behavior makes the shrill frustration or exhausted irritation more obvious in contrast.

I hear it in my stepson’s voice with his brother and sister. I hear it in my daughter’s voice when she answers back or yells at the cat.

It makes me so sad that I’ve used this aggravated tone so often, the children mimic it.

So even though I plan to keep my children, pets, and husband 😉 , I’m going to let God soften my heart, exploring His word for healing of the hurts in my past, giving him control over my agenda for each day and as a wife, mother, friend, mentor.

God took a stuttering murderer and made him the leader of a nation, a mighty man of God. If God can change and use Moses, He can change and use me to reach my family for Him, by becoming the soft voice of His gentle love calling to them through me.

If I let God direct my steps, this new year will be what He makes it.