Lacking as a Shepherd

Give a shepherd’s care to the flock of God that is entrusted to you: watch over it, not simply as a duty but gladly, as God wants… Do not lord it over the group which is in your charge, but be an example for the flock. 1 Peter 5:2-3

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The Friday before February school vacation was a sunup to sundown day of packing for me. We were headed to Florida for the week. My husband had gone ahead to spend more time with his parents who snowbird there. I was left behind to prep our house for our absence, and pack for my three kids and me. Looming over it all was the 4 a.m., scheduled wake-up the next day to make our flight.

As all moms know, packing is overwhelming, especially if you’re a control freak like me. I tend to pack everything but the kitchen sink. I feel compelled to anticipate everyone’s needs, and have all the necessaries on hand to be the hero saving the day. But being a super-hero packer is endless work, and pretty much a thankless job. By evening, I was growing resentful.

So I called a Family Meeting that night, under the guise of reviewing the plan for the next day.

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The First Move

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This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:10

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I’m not quite sure what’s going on with me lately, but my kids have been hurting my feelings a lot.

I don’t think it’s them. Their behavior hasn’t really changed much. They are teens and a tween, after all. Obviously, they lash out as an attempt to separate from me, and to grow more independent. Throw in the sarcastic culture of our family, and the stinging comments and sharp barbs are almost common place. I do draw a hard line at disrespect, though, and they haven’t been crossing that.

I think the problem lies with me. Maybe it’s all this time spent together as a family due to the pandemic. Even wonderful things can get old when there’s not enough variety.

In my hyper-sensitive state, I find myself regressing. I’m becoming a moody teenager myself: holding grudges, withdrawing into myself, wallowing in the muck of feeling misunderstood and under-appreciated.

The response that grows out of this isn’t very Christ-like at all: I want to knock my kids’ heads together, and storm out the door. What I wouldn’t give to get in my car, drive to the airport, and fly away to some tropical resort

Then there’s 1 John 4:10 to put me in my place.

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The Only Way

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“The Son of Man must… be killed and on the third day be raised.” Luke 9:22

When we had our first child, my husband and I refused to give up our old life. It was too fun and exciting. Instead, we’d load up the diaper bag and drag our infant to bars and parties, as if nothing had changed. It didn’t take long for reality to hit: Everything had changed, and there was no going back.

So began the life of declining social invitations, and adjusting to the chaos of parenthood. No matter how we tried to plan our days, they got hijacked and derailed by exploding diapers, naptime changes, and countless other unexpecteds.

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Wall or Walkway?

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:17

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During the Super Bowl on Sunday, my husband had us all play a betting game where we claimed numbered squares on a grid. At the end of each quarter, the person whose square came closest to the score at that time, won a treat. That inspired my son, Mason, to want to bet money on the entire outcome of the game. When his brother, Zack, declined, my husband took him up on it.

Along with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, we all ended up winning something, either treat or money, except for Zack. He lamented, “I never win! If I had bet on the Buccaneers, they would have lost because that’s how it works with me. I always lose.”

It was all in fun, but it got me thinking.

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Keep on Looking

The Lord is with you when you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you. 2 Chronicles 15:2

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Years ago, I bought five little mailboxes that I put out on the first of February when I decorate for Valentine’s Day. Every couple of days, I put sweet treats in them for my husband and kids. Wanting to develop healthy habits for myself, I asked my kids not to put any candy in mine. I told them it would mean more to me if they left me notes of love instead.

In her usual style, Jocelyn took that suggestions up a notch, and created a “Love Note Scavenger Hunt.” The first paper heart she left in my mailbox recounted one reason why she loves me, and then listed a clue that led me to the next heart. The second heart had another thing she loves about me, and another clue, and so on.

Her words warmed my heart, but her clues raised the beat of it as she had me searching up and down two flights of stairs, over and over again. I’d already done yoga and Zumba that day, and hadn’t had dinner yet. My tank was on empty as I dragged myself around.

Although I wanted to be grateful, I was too darned drained to dig up the emotion. As I mumbled a thoughtless complaint under my breath, Jocelyn rebutted, “That’s what a scavenger hunt is: You look in one place and then another, and you keep on going until you find what you’re supposed to.” Even in my depleted state, I knew her words could be applied to prayer.

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Refilling Our Well

“Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” Mark 6:31

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Not having access to public water in our area, our home relies on our private well. If you’re lucky enough to be the first one in the shower in the morning, the water pressure is great. The well is full, making the spray forceful and strong. But as the day goes on, and I run the washing machine and dishwasher, so many things are drawing from the same source, the pressure loses strength.

Our hope and energy levels are no different.

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A Complete Guarantee

“For no word from God will ever fail.” Luke 1:37

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As a freshman in high school, my son, Mason, is in an advanced Spanish class. It’s proving to be more difficult than he expected. Despite practicing with him, he still lacked confidence the night before his quiz. My advice was: “If you review your flashcards at breakfast tomorrow morning, again after first period, and then again right before the quiz, I promise you you’ll get at least a B, if not an A.”

As he went up to bed, I wondered if I should have made that promise.

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The Gift of True Satisfaction

That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. Ecclesiastes 3:13

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I recently got a contract to be a regular contributor to a daily devotional called Living Faith. It’s been a major goal of mine, one I’ve been pursuing for over six years. All the other contributors are my writing heroes: Kristin Armstrong, Sr. Bridget Haase, Sr. Melanie Svoboda, Melanie Rigney, Fr. Kenneth Grabner, Amy Welborn. The list goes on. I am truly honored and humbled to have my work appear in the same publication as theirs.

When I announced the big news to my kids at dinner that night, I explained that this contract, along with my book contract, were my long-time goals. I told them how blessed and deeply satisfied I felt to have achieved both. After congratulating me, Zack said, “Now you’ll have to make bigger goals.” Mason and Jocelyn agreed. I was so surprised by their response!

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A Never-Ending Supply

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You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance. Psalm 65:11

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Prior to the pandemic, we all took toilet paper for granted. The minute it was unavailable, though, we began to obsess, rationing it like drill sergeants, fearful we’d run out.

Looking at toilet paper from this new perspective of hyper-vigilance and appreciation, I realize we can all feel like TP sometimes.

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Carrying Us Through

Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. Isaiah 46:4

I recently took our bunny, Oreo, to the vet for his usual nail trim. Although it’s necessary for his own health, he doesn’t like it at all. Worse yet, he hates the mode of travel. The minute he goes into the pet carrier, he defaults to stress mode.

Knowing this, Jocelyn put his favorite treats into the carrier to console him. He completely overlooked them. It seems his fear blinded him to what typically brings him joy.

I think the real root of Oreo’s fear is a lack of control. When he gets zipped up inside the carrier he feels trapped, with no say as to where we take him.

That pet carrier is a lot like 2020.

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