Category Archives: Friendship

Tow Truck Date Night

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My husband and I went on a date last week! With little ones at home, we use up most of our “date nights” at required functions for business, school, and church. A night on the town for just the two of us is a rare treat. This night was no exception. We drove through the city, felt the late night urban buzz, and saw the monuments by moonlight. Odd that this evening, like many of the special times he and I have shared, also included a tow truck driver.

Earlier in the day, my husband’s beloved 10 year old Jag overheated. Summers on the East coast are brutal, with the regular forecast being “hazy, hot, and humid.” It’s all a person can do to not melt into a puddle of sweat by 9:00 am. The 100+ degree heat indices take their toll on everyone and everything, including cars. Especially older cars, something for which my guy has a fondness. Like a child who reaches out to wounded animals, he is drawn to cars that need TLC. At least this Jaguar, his “impractical sculpture,” is in far batter condition and looks nice compared to some of the others he has loved.

When we met in college, he parked his old grey Cougar next to my shiny red Honda with its stick shift and bucket seats. He loved to whip around our little university town in his automatic car with the American engineering. I loathed that boat and offered to drive my zippy little Japanese car at every opportunity.

By the time we made the crazy love-fool decision to spend a summer driving cross-country, we “upgraded” to his father’s ’84 Grand Marquis. This twenty-year old monstrosity bore the scars from the acid rain crisis, with peeling grey paint across the hood, roof, and trunk. But it worked and had a cavernous trunk to hold all our belongings for an 8-week adventure. In fact, it worked quite well until we hit the Pacific Coast Highway 40 miles south of Tijuana, Mexico. That’s when it just kind-of stopped along the highway. Well, not kind-of. It stopped. Dead. We flagged down a tow truck driver who, though already burdened with another couple of unprepared gringos, jump-started the “Merc” and suggested we head back north to the US border. We heeded his advice and drove away, laughing at the silly Americans who needed a tow truck in Mexico!

Yes, those silly Americans. Just. Like. Us. We spent a long, terrifying day fighting a dead alternator in a foreign country. Every time we used power in the car, the battery died hard and fast. Turn signals. Power window controls. Brake lights. It all drained the battery, requiring us to throw the car in neutral and rev the engine, hoping to restart the car without requiring a jump. Soon enough, all that revving also drained the gasoline, causing the gas level indicator to light up. Lights, power, dead battery again. After more than 16 kindly folks along the highway jump-started our dead battery, we limped to the US border, but not before the Merc gave one last shudder and died. In Mexico. We literally pushed the car across the border into our homeland where we could call AAA and a tow truck driver.

Fast forward many years (and several more tow trucks) to a Jag on the outskirts of the city, waiting for its own ride. I headed downtown to retrieve my husband from a very long, frustrating day. The tow truck driver didn’t know his way around the city, so we had to meet in a nearby town and lead him back, caravan-style. As he carefully pulled the Jag onto the flatbed, I watched my husband in amazement. Exhausted, disappointed, beaten, but never defeated or cross, he amicably chatted with his new pal, one of dozens over the years. Then he climbed into my trusty Japanese minivan. We drove home from our impromptu date night, laughing and retelling our many car stories. One more adventure under our belts, one more tow truck story for the rosters, one more evening spent with my best friend, learning to face life with grace and laughter. Now that was a great date!

Prayer, Faith, and Fissures

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I have been given the humbling opportunity to pray for a dear friend. She is in her mid-thirties, raising two adorably spunky toddlers, and fighting stage IV melanoma. A stupid mole on her leg got out of control and is trying to steal her life. She is a fighter and so incredibly brave. When she writes about life, her condition, her adoring husband, she is honest, witty, and full of a richness of faith I wish I had.

Last week, I recieved a late night text from our friend-in-common, asking me to pray NOW. Our cancer-fighter was going into an MRI, again, to determine if the disease had infiltrated her brain. The claustrophobia-inducing procedure itself was enough to strike fear into this young woman. But to go in, knowing the results would dictate her life, was beyond what a mother should bear.

Of course I would pray! Pour peace and calm over her. Claim healing. Praise God for His presence. Lift up her husband and family for comfort and renewed faith. Beg God to be merciful and save her life. Down on my knees, I pleaded with the God of the universe to save her, to spare her children the loss of their mother, to rescue this family from death. There was no doubt in my mind He is able. And that night, He did.

“Clean brain scan!!” was the message we recieved an hour later. He did it! He answered the prayers of hundreds of righteous souls, prayer warriors around the world who claimed healing for one woman.

But … Why was I so surprised? What was this doubt creeping in when I should be celebrating answered prayer? What is it about faith that leaves room for doubt?

faith [noun]: complete trust or confidence in someone or something

Complete? Mine is not. I want it to be. I want to banish that tiny seed of doubt, the whisper of lies that say my prayers are not enough. Not enough to call down the power of the Almighty.

I believe Jesus walked on this earth, healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, and conquered death. I have faith He still heals and performs miracles today, even though we don’t pay much attention. I believe He told us, “…if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move.” (Matthew 17:20). He wants us to bravely perform miracles, too. Through faith in Him. Complete faith.

Yes, I have faith larger than a mustard seed, but I’m afraid there is a crack in it, a fissure as wide as a canyon. How dare I pray for this friend, for others who ask or need it, or even for myself if there is doubt in my faith?? Can I confidently pray for my own cracked faith to be made complete? Can I humbly kneel before God, lay down my imperfections, and ask Him to prove me and my doubts wrong? Despite the fissures, I honestly believe I can and He will. And when He fills that canyon with Truth, it’ll be a mountain of a move.

Routine of Togetherness

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Summer is in full swing! Time to shake off those burdensome, tight schedules. Put on our bright, loose-fitting agenda-free days. School is out, kids’ activities are wrapping up for the season, obligations and meetings will finally give us that much needed break. Hooray, right?

As each last day arrived this year, I found myself feeling drained rather than rejuvenated. Not exhausted-drained. More like my cup was being emptied, like I was no longer able to replenish myself.

The first agenda item to go was my weekly Bible study. It started in September and ran throughout the school year. For two hours each week, I was able to fellowship with other women, pour into the scriptures, and make new, lasting friendships. Together we studied the book of John and learned more about the ministry and legacy of Jesus. The nursery attendants watched my little one grow from a itty baby into a mobile, playful toddler. Most Tuesdays this year, I was blessed to study alongside my sister-in-law, an extra treat before she moves overseas for two years.

In short order, Wednesday evenings also became free when our church children’s choir finished for the summer. On the drive home that fateful Wednesday, my daughter cried, sad that this weekly ritual ended too soon. When I reassured her we could connect with our friends all summer, she responded that she wouldn’t miss the socializing, group dinners, or play time so much. It was the opportunity to be with her friends, singing to God.

Next, the small prayer group from my daughter’s school held its last meeting. Whether I attended or not each month, I had relied on these mothers meeting regularly, powerfully praying over our children, their teachers, and one another’s families. The local chapter of MOPs (Mothers of Preschoolers) wrapped up the same week. Soon thereafter, we said goodbye to church Sunday School classes, our daughter’s weekly Bible class (AWANA), and other obligations.

Finally! We were free! Our schedule was clear and the summer lay before us open, wide open. Almost desolate. Very quickly I found myself longing for something more. I missed my friends, my Sisters, and the inspiration I drew from them.

My daughter, with her 6-year old wisdom, had understood early what would take me several weeks to grasp. When we no longer fellowship with one another, spend time in community, study God’s Word, or pray out loud, we become drained. Dry. Our souls become parched, a place weeds choke out the flowers of truth and living water stops flowing.

Without those school-year routines, how can you and I make time to be together? To encourage one another, like we do the other nine months of the year? To study, learn, and grow through each other’s wisdom? To pray for one another, pour out God’s blessings, speak His promises into each other’s lives?

Can we maintain the routine of togetherness, despite the lack of routine? Can we retain our community without being physically present?

I believe we can! If you’d like to join me, please let me know. I long for communion with you, my friends, my Family.
If you’re local to me, let’s get together a few times this summer to talk about what God has shown us this year, how He is moving in our lives. Let’s pray with one another. How about my house, Sunday evenings at 5:00?
If you’re not local, distance will not keep us apart! Perhaps we’ll read a book of the Bible together? We can email, talk, text, FaceTime, message, whatever.

Let’s find time to be together without the pressure of schedule, agenda, or obligation. Because no amount of summertime freedom is as liberating as simply being together in Christ’s love.

Visiting My Sunroom

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I hate meeting new people. There, I said it. Meeting people terrifies me. Networking is my husband’s idea of a good time; the very mention of it gives me a headache! He actually signs up for this stuff, gets all giddy at the opportunity to meet-n-greet. (Shudder) Sometimes, he takes me along to meet his connections and friends. Just the idea of going is usually enough to start me whining, complaining (loudly), and bickering (louder). It’s rather embarrassing, really, the level of discord I create when my inner self is screaming “I don’t wanna go!” Grow up, Leslie.

Ironically, I actually love getting to know people. I thrive on finding connections and building relationships. It just takes me a while. But when I do, watch out! If I make a friend at any given event, I can chat with that one person – and not have to meet anyone else, hooray! – all evening. I’m looking for Real. Someone who is willing to set aside their plastic networking smile, squint their eyes just so, and crack the door to their soul, where Real lives.

One of my favorite rooms in a person’s Real self is the space they reserve for church. In most of us, church usually isn’t front and center. More like a sunroom, a pretty little room tucked in the back. Guests don’t get to see it upon arrival, but only after visiting other spaces: the family room, the homey kitchen, perhaps even the messy playroom. Then they see Church. What a delightful addition to an already beautiful space.

Where the fun lies isn’t just in discovering we both attend church, and where, and how long. Real gets real when we open the cabinet and display WHY we go to church. No, I don’t actually ask that of anyone. Honestly, I’ve not really asked it of myself much, until a recent hiatus from my own church left me feeling down, isolated, and without direction. Several weeks passed before I recognized my feelings and, subsequently, the source. To be honest, I rather enjoyed those first few weekends of productivity and long, luxurious mornings with my family. But as I began longing to return to our Sunday morning routine, I examined my motivation for attending church.

God: The most obvious. If I am going to follow His commands, I cannot pick and choose which I will follow. I will share His message of love, I will raise my children to know and respect Him, I will offer Him my gifts, I will keep His day holy by reserving time for worship.

Community: Christ said where two or more are gathered in His name, He would be present with us. He prayed for all future believers, that we would be unified in His name. In other words, God gave us to each other. Time and again, I am blessed and encouraged after spending time in fellowship with other believers.

Free childcare: Nursery, Sunday School, other adults guiding our children to think about others, to be quiet and respectful, to love one another. My oldest daughter cried when children’s choir ended for the year. “It’s my favorite activity all week,” she lamented. Not because she socializes and eats dinner with her friends, but because she loves singing about God. Her soul has found freedom and joy in learning words to praise her creator. I pray our children always have such a strong desire to be embraced by the church.

Quiet: If we allow it, a peaceful sanctuary can be just that to our bodies, our souls. Like Jesus calming the storm, His house can quiet the everpresent noises of our lives and calm even the busiest hamster-on-the-wheel. Sometimes, I sit in the pew, look at the pastel-colored windows, and simply breathe in His presence. It is in that space He restores my soul.

Family: For better or worse, we are assigned our biological families. We have a little more choice in our church family, but the members often serve similar roles, for better or worse. And, like with our relations, we can choose to grow in love despite our imperfections. We can also bless one another abundantly in that love. The ties that bind us together are strengthened when a fellow church member voluntarily steps into a supportive role typically reserved for related-family. A meal when we are ill, a ride when we cannot drive, a baby shower when no family lives close, a simple hug when our mother is not near. Family cannot be replaced, but the holes can be filled to overflowing by the love of a church family.

Service: I love to be needed; I need it. To that end, the world has needs! One of Christ’s last commands while He walked the earth was to go out into all the world, sharing His love. No simple task for an individual. But standing side by side with our church family, we are able to further His kingdom here on earth. Make meals for the homeless, teach the children, provide supplies for the needy, build homes for orphans. What blessing we receive when we give of ourselves to bless others!

So, why do I go to church? Sure, my husband gets to meet new people and I get to build relationships. But that isn’t what gets us out the door Sunday morning or to committee meetings and events throughout the week. Initially, my husband and I wanted to be with God, to walk with Him in our lives and our marriage. We sought a place of quiet refuge from our busy lives. We had children who we chose to raise in the Christian faith. We became part of a family who never lets us go. We started to serve and found joy came from the work of it. We discovered that the more we learned of God, the more real He became in our lives. The more we gave of ourselves, the more freedom we had to truly live. The more we spoke of His love, the more we loved all of those around us.

Church. That small room kept off to the side of our Real, visiting only on Sundays, at best. Perhaps it’s time to renovate, to rearrange it, or even move it to the front room of our Real selves.