{ No-Complain Campaign}

complain2My son is looking forward to winter ( 😲 ) and he wanted to find out when the nearest ski hill opens.  He scrolled and browsed, and started laughing out loud. Turns out he was reading customer reviews from last year.  One said:

“…lines were too long and too many reserved spots at chalet tables.  Mentioned this to staff but they didn’t care; they already had our money.”

stop complaining accept fate and be positive dont complain and t

It’s never funny when we are the ones complaining.  And, there is definitely a time to speak up and bring grievances effectively to the right people.

But if we could take a step back and see ourselves, our knee-jerk complaints can sound rather whiny.

shiny

In our griping, we often:

  • Assign wicked and evil motives to those who have wronged us in some way
  • Build up small slights into mountain-sized offenses

Looking inward, I see at least one thing about which I have complained over the weekend.

I complained in thought and I complained twice to friends yesterday at church.

(But…I had a smile on my face and did it somewhat creatively so that perhaps it didn’t seem like I was grumbling?)

But I was.

People complain collectively about everything, from the weather to politics to jobs to  whatever. When we make a habit of griping at home, our children catch the wave and join in.

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Fussing, grumbling, and complaining are things we are trying to discourage here at home.

Instead, we are hoping that words like “thank you” become an almost involuntary response.  We would like to foster a daily regimen of gratefulness and promote an anti-moan-&-groan manifesto.

But how can that happen if Mama is (overtly or covertly) whining or moping about circumstances?

Some clear reminders for me today in God’s Word:

  • Do all things without grumbling or disputing. Philippians 2:14
  • Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. James 5:9
  • Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29

Trying this week to advance a “no complain” campaign. Starting with the Mama in the mirror.

 

 

 

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{ The Quintessence of Life}

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“Let’s process some quintessence!” –  The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, 2013

Our lives are packed with sounds, sights, duties and desires.   If you are like me, each day ends with a sense that something didn’t get done. That something may be accomplished tomorrow, pushed off into next week or forgotten forever.

Besides this, the media is shouting at us to focus on the priorities of the current culture. As we consider, we are barraged with more noise.  With all the racket, it’s often easier to escape into our own world of Pinterest or gaming or…?

Have you ever wondered:

  • “Why do I feel like I’m busy all the time, pulled in ten different directions, but I still feel guilty that I’m not getting enough done?”
  • “What is the central, most important thing that I must do?”
  • “Why do I feel empty?”
  • “What is the quintessence* of life?”

I stayed home from church today– on purpose.  At my request, my family left me in an empty house (this is rare) so I could rest and think.  I picked up a Bible and found myself reading these verses:

But this is the one to whom I will look:
he who is humble and contrite in spirit
and trembles at my word. Isaiah 66:2b

Which made me look up a similar passage:

He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8

Reading these verses reminded me to focus on some quintessential essentials:

  • Be humble before God and others.
  • Be contrite in spirit, seeking forgiveness and giving grace to others.
  • Read God’s word and just do it.
  • Let God judge people’s hearts and motives, He doesn’t need my help with this.
  • Be kind, especially when it doesn’t feel natural.
  • And one more time: Be humble before God and others.

If you are a Bible believer and Christ follower, it is easy to get encumbered by extras.  We forget the basics about love and being like Jesus because we clutter it up with fancy works and human additives. We add unnecessary fluff to faith-living, borrowing stuff from others because it looks good on them.

If you are not a Christ-follower, it’s possible that you feel pulled here and there by good things but are not really sure what is the best thing.

Nobody can do even the basic things above by their own grit —  for long.  And doing the things mentioned above don’t make me a Christian, don’t save me and don’t get me to heaven. Only through God’s saving, enabling, restoring power can I do anything spiritually worthwhile.

Tomorrow, I will still wake up and make breakfast.  I will teach school, check off my to-do list and meet family needs.  But it helps to have these words fresh in my heart, reminding me to stay focused on things that matter to God.  It’s a reminder to always return to the quintessence of life by searching for it regularly in God’s Word.

Word Prompt of the Day: Quintessence

*Quintessence: the refined essence or extract of a substance.

The Blueprint for Being Born Again

© Lisa M. Luciano

 

 

 

 

{ When Time Stretches }

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Sometimes, it seems like the universe slows down and allows time to stretch* such as:

  1. When you are caught in traffic and late for an appointment.
  2. When you are waiting in a line with more than one child.
  3. When you are driving on the highway in the middle of nowhere and you have to go to the bathroom.
  4. When everyone is waiting for dinner, forks in hand, and the rice isn’t quite done yet.
  5. When you say something courageous but possibly controversial and your words hang suspended in the quiet air.
  6. When the customer service representative puts you on hold and more than one child is in the room with you and the pot is boiling over on the stove and then someone rings the doorbell.
  7. When you cannot proceed with a plan until you receive a text back from a person and days go by…
  8. When someone is telling you their enthralling, but long and detailed, story and you know you needed to leave 10 minutes ago.
  9. When you are waiting for a bank deposit to land within the reach of your electronic fingertips.
  10. When Mom dashes into the fabric store saying, “I’ll be right back” and she takes 15 minutes longer than she’d planned. (this one was enthusiastically contributed by my 11-year old son.)

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*thoughts prompted by a homeschool lesson on Albert Einstein!

© Lisa M. Luciano

 

 

{ You can’t cover junior high pain with lip gloss. }

fruit punch

It was the 1980’s and I was in Junior High.

Wearing a jumbo Bonne Bell Lip Smacker around my neck,  I tucked bubble gum Kissing Potion into the back pocket of my Gloria Vanderbilt jeans.

kissing potion

If you peeked into my purple LeSac purse, you’d most likely find a tin of green apple Lip Licker balm as well.

village lip lickers

 

Everyone has their personal struggles at that age.  One of my grievances was that I had embarrassingly large lips in a decade when thin lips were “in.”

When my sister and I would whine about our inflated-tire-styled lips, my mom would say, “You have beautiful, rosebud lips.”

What we didn’t know then: our big lips were 20 years ahead of trendy.

So in history class, I sat –hunched and quiet– behind popular Beth, who had perfect hair and a coveted, slim lipline.

She also wore teeny-tiny gold hoop earrings to match her teeny-thin body.

Note: I was not allowed to wear hoop earrings. 

After history class, I’d skulk over to my locker while smearing on an ounce or two of Bonne Bell. Mr. Marc’s writing class was next; an oasis in a desert of adolescent angst. Mr. Marc was a cool, kind and energetic teacher. On weekends he played in a 50’s band and he always wielded a dashing sense of humor.

I had a crush on him of course.

When the bell rang, students herded along the hallways, smelling like fruit (all that lip gloss) and hairspray. (The hairspray also smelled like fruit.)

There was a constant social stream ominously buzzing past, as I darted in and out of classes.

School lunchtime offered awkward social interaction, as well as limp rectangles of pizza. I walked slowly to gym class. Junior High co-ed swimming should be outlawed. Like everyone else, I was required to wear a school-issued drab green swimsuit. Mine had seen its share of chlorine over the years. The swimming segment of physical education lasted two weeks.  Sometimes I’d forget to hang up the swimsuit, and it would stay balled up overnight in a smelly locker.

The next day, putting the wet swimsuit back on was like squeezing into a cold, wet plastic bag.

Fast forward to the 21st century. Even though I now call it “lip balm”, I am never without a tube or two in my purse. And I now wear hoop earrings every single day.

Does this have its roots in junior-high-hoop-deprivation?

village lip lickers

Thanks, Sara for the Lip Lickers photo!

{ This Week in Pictures }

 

Bowls cover breakfast eggs, lovingly scrambled by a repentant Mama. (She had barked at her little boy when he asked her three times if she remembered her promise to make him an egg in the morning.)

Ms. Road Construction looked so fetching in her hat and trousers that I had to snap a photo.  What else was there to do for ten minutes while we waited in line?

My dear daughter is celebrating her 23rd birthday tomorrow. “Where has the time gone?”

We invited some dear little people to play with us last week while their Mama went out to lunch.  Back when I had my babies, I didn’t have such an awkward time getting up & down off the floor. Back then, I didn’t have to grab my reading glasses to see what the puzzle looks like. I have missed these little happy little folks who give you the opportunity to get down on the floor and make animal noises.

 

{ Summer Thoughts & Quotes }

Summer, in essence, is gone and it was packed with whimsy, struggle and adventure.

Road construction started on the very first day of swimming lessons on the very road we needed to take to get there.  We reached our destination through other dusty byways.  We met a family, made new friends and the young swimmers learned how not to sink in deep water.

Our power went out only once.

My older son discovered fishing and it became his new addiction hobby.

We didn’t go to the State Fair.

We were poor this summer and it was good. We found cheap food and visited the library, where you can always feel rich.

God sent work.  And He sent helpers, like people we know from college that are now employed in an appliance store and they are willing to give you free advice and discounted parts to fix your 10-year-old dryer so you don’t have to hire a handyman.

Gifts like these were real and we were grateful.

A daily summer job meant the boys made their own lunches every night, left in the early morning and sometimes forgot to tell Mama they had plans for the evening.  Dinner sat smoldering and so did Mama’s countenance as we plowed through these and other minor challenges.

We talked, we compared calendars, we conquered.

The growing of adults and the path to maturity doesn’t happen in one, exhilarating swoop. It happens in all the teeny tiny day-to-day ways.

It helps to have the attitude of love and patience toward one another. When I look back over my lifetime, I hope I will see a steady — if sometimes detoured — path of growth, maturity and the stripping away of petty, unimportant expectations of others.

As a parent, I can’t make everyone do right all the time.

But I can, by God’s grace, make it a goal to be a good example and ask forgiveness when I’m not one.

Beyond that, I just need to pray for my growing ones. As God poured patience on me in my young adulthood, so He will with my young adult progeny, who are pilgrims on their own pathway.

A few quotes from Summer 2018:

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“I like to smell the runners as they go by.”

– Jonny said it at the August 2018 half-marathon in St. Paul

 

corn field

“All this corn everywhere….it’s so depressing.”

– Gino said it on a late summer drive through Wisconsin

tofu

 

Hanna, my vegan daughter, said: “Where’s my other tofu?  I know I bought two.”

I said:  “Keep looking – it’s there.  Nobody would snitch that.”

 

Photo Credits:

Runners:Mārtiņš Zemlickis

 

 

{ Fork in Road & Forgiveness }

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Have you ever disappointed someone when you changed your mind?

Have you ever known the shame of a damaged reputation?

If so, you have something in common with John Mark – the bringer of good news; the writer of the gospel of Mark.

John Mark traveled as an assistant to Paul and Barnabas, when they embarked on their missionary journey.  Halfway through, he opted out and returned home before they were officially finished.  No one knows exactly why:

  • Sickness?
  • Fear?
  • Exhaustion?
  • Spiritual failure?

Whatever the reason, John Mark’s abrupt exit bothered Paul.  It caused a rift between Paul and Barnabas.

Later, Barnabas (whose name means “son of encouragement”) wanted to give John Mark a second chance.

Paul wouldn’t have it.

So, Barnabas took John Mark one way, and Paul went another way with Silas.

In later years, Paul accepted John Mark as a worthy helper; he not only forgave him but praised him in the pages of scripture.

I would love to know what happened between the volatile rift and the complete forgiveness.

  • What’s the rest of the story?
  • Did John Mark have to prove himself?
  • What role did Barnabas the encourager play?

I think God used Barnabas to turn things around for John Mark with his encouraging:

 You still have worth! I believe in you!  Let’s go!

His support must have been life-changing — without it, John Mark would have just returned home.

With that encouragement, John Mark is down in history as being:

  • “Like a son” to Peter (1 Peter 5:13)
  • “Useful in ministry” to Paul (2 Timothy 4:11)
  • Author of the efficiently written gospel of Mark

 

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 

Correction does much, but encouragement does more. ~ Goethe

In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity. ~ Albert Einstein

Photo credit:Jens Lelie

{ 7-Green Summer }

IMG_20180830_145116Summer was dewy mornings and mossy smells and strident cicada songs. Its scenery was a scrim of seven different greens.

Hot and slow days became beach days. We sifted sand through content toes, then raced into the lake again.

Steamy, sweaty work and walks alternated with trips inside chilly stores and brain-freezing smoothies.

Now, tomato plants are curled up in the fetal position, but the zinnias are gaudy in their prime.

Their tiered blooms offer fast-food to uninhibited hummingbird moths.  I watch their straw-tongues sip, then zip! They are gone.

Weedy tree-fruits tangle together and creeping vines shroud the trees.

The sun sinks into a humid horizon and crickets lullabye summer to sleep.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. ~ Ecclesiastes 3:11

Photo by Gino Luciano

{ What is an Adventure? }

lime donuts

What is an adventure?

An adventure is a little trip that twists unexpectedly, making life more intriguing or educational than just staying home.

It’s like heading to Hinckley because someone on Craigslist wants to buy your antique chair.  Along the way, you run into tangled traffic and a surprising amount of snow.  And when you are almost there, the chair customer calls and says she is not interested after all.

So, the tears and loud expressions of regret you yell aloud in an empty car make you realize that you are still pretty rough around the edges and God has more work to do on you.

Life is an adventure that is filled with mini adventures.  Just when you think you are going to the store for potatoes, you run out of gas and meet an angel on County Road #1. And when you arrive home without the forgotten potatoes, you are faced with the truth you should have known all along:  everyone wanted pancakes, anyway.

An adventure is a journey of corners. As you peek around each one, you may find a nest of  naked, newborn field mice, or a key lime donut with chocolate sprinkles.  You never know. A true adventure is usually not 100% bad or 100% good – it’s a little of both.

Unplanned, unexpected and possibly unwelcome, an adventure makes you richer because, after all the field mice and donuts, you have a true and unique story to tell.

 

© Lisa M. Luciano

1. This came into my brain at 3:00 a.m. this morning when I awoke, being bothered by my 3-day-old bee sting.

2. My apologies for using the words mice & donuts in the same sentence.

3. I’m going back to bed now.

 

 

{ Real Thoughts }

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I’m reading a book called “Wordsmithy: Hot Tips for the Writing Life” by Douglas Wilson. My daughter gave it to me for my birthday.  It’s funny, inspiring, and short enough to read in a few hours.

In one sitting, I read all the way to section six, which advises:

“Live an actual life out there, a full life, the kind that will generate a surplus of stories.”

So it got me thinking:

Am I living a full, actual life?

Or, do I lose sight of purpose between shuffling laundry loads and racing to town to grab groceries and the discount latte of the day?

(These duties are needful, of course.  Especially the latte.)

I grudgingly left my book and walked out to the garden.

This reassured me that I must be living a real life– a busy life that keeps me from tending weeds and overripe cucumbers wasting away under dry, tangled vines.

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And just then —  with one foot, I stepped on a thistle, while my other foot stepped on a bee, who had been sucking on the clover that grew from an unmowed lawn.

Suddenly, I felt fully alive.

© Lisa M. Luciano

Photo credits:

Laundry — Nik MacMillan

Cucumbers —Markus Spiske