A Balloon Story on a Windy Day

Once there was a young 10 year old English girl named Laura Buxton who had an idea. One day she wrote her name and address upon a small piece of paper, rolled it up, tucked it into a pink balloon and filled it with helium. Then she waited for the most perfect windy day. When the day came she walked onto her driveway and released her pink balloon.

Some time and distance passed. Nearly 140 miles away in a remote countryside village another young English girl discovered the pink balloon and penned Miss Laura Buxton a note.

Upon receiving the note, Laura Buxton was shocked to discover that the recipient of her balloon was the exact same age as herself, and, most awesomely, shared the exact same name, Laura Buxton! The two became fast friends. When they eventually met they were amazed, yet again, at their similarities; both of the girls looked so much alike. And also, they discovered that they each owned pet Guinea Pigs, which, you guessed it, shared similar markings.

The marvel of this story is how a single pink balloon could bring two people together and create such a profound sense of awe and wonder and inspiration. A single balloon: carrying a simple girl’s idea. Imagine the loss of friendship and all the wonder Laura Buxton would have missed if she never released her idea into the world.

Many of you are walking around with a balloon in our pocket. You’ve tucked it away. One day, some day, you’ll be brave enough to do the work of blowing it up and letting it go. But first you need a circumstance to change or life to settle down or that winning lottery ticket.

May I encourage you with a thought: I believe the pink (or any color for that matter) balloon you are holding was one sent to you by God; a transcendent idea, released into the metaphorical sky, which has landed upon the soil of your heart. The purpose, of course, is to grow a deep and lasting friendship between the Creator and it’s Recipient, but too, I believe, the goal is to take the balloon He’s given you and do the thing He’s purposefully placed in your path.

In essence: all you need to do is be obedient.

“Obedience is an unpopular word nowadays, but the artist must be obedient to the work, whether it be a symphony, a painting, or a story for a small child. I believe that each work of art, whether it is a work of great genius or something very small, comes to the artist and says, “Here I am. Enflesh me. Give birth to me.” – Madeleine L’ Engle

 

Obedience: It’s the only thing your balloon (your calling, your art) requires of you, to be faithfully obedient to it…and usually that means doing the work of blowing it up, tying it tight and letting it go.

Note: It’s the most beautiful, perfect windy day. The timing sure feels right.



A Lesson in Smallness {Audio Story}

This Story of Hope has been recorded for your listening merriment. Click & Enjoy. Trolls may read the story therein below.

 

It’s B2S time and you know what that means…those joyous math assignments have returned. And not just for the kids. This past week I had an assignment too; it involved compiling numbers and stats and submitting reports. When I finished I looked down upon my desk at a bunch of skinny numbers; trim and stubborn. The sum total was oh-so-small. Laughable. The crying laughable kind. I felt discouragement prick my arm and a vile of self-worth extracted.

Discouragement and numbers like two clasped swinging hands. Numbers: They become the result, the measure of success, or the value of something. Bigger is better. It’s what culture tells us (Rule: waist and weight reverse the order). And we believe it because numbers don’t lie.

When you’re taller you can ride the ride.

When you’re older you can drink the drink.

When your smarter…prettier… healthier…

There is a basis for all things.

All this measuring and counting and mathematics: I am not a fan. It’s Back to School time and that means I’m relearning a few things too.

So, that day, the number crunching one; I finished my project, sent off the reports, and picked my sunken self up to hurry off to my son’s first football game. As I jumped out of the car I nearly crushed a sprouted mushroom under my foot. It made me stop and smile. Of all things; a small mushroom. I began walking across the open football field and the sunshine warmed my face. Suddenly, I felt this very small voice seem to whisper small is the new big. What a thought, huh?

I made my way and huddled near the team of parents who were cheering their kids on from the sidelines. Midway through the game one of the mothers began lamenting to me about…you guessed it…her son’s size. “He’s so small…” she said. And I could tell, mother-to-mother, there was a little worry in her voice. But do you know what happened next? That small boy got the ball and he ran and he ran and he ran that ball straight into the end zone. Yep, that small boy put some big points on the board.

True story.

May I encourage your thoughts today towards embracing the measure of staying small.

Smallness gives us space. Freedom to think, breathe, learn, and grow. Too big? It gets a little crowded. And quite honestly big is hefty load. That’s my story of hope for today.

Small is the new big.



When Suffering Makes No Sense *Giveaway: Invisible Wounds Book*

I recently went for a long run with my sister-in-law. It’s one of our favorite things to do. And since we’re both training for a half marathon we figure we’re better together. During our run we talked about many things, but one newsworthy topic paved the way: Jacob Wetterling.

You know the story. The way it changed a generation of kids, and parents too. There was no more riding my bike to the candy store, alone, among many other things. I was a tween when Jacob was abducted. In fact, Jacob was my exact age. Dad worked for the newspaper in St. Cloud, Minnesota, close to the Wetterling home. And one day he came home with a handful of buttons: JACOB’S HOPE  written in bold, arched the famous, smiling boy’s picture. Jacob’s face covered every mind and every newsstand in America. I took the pins, handed them out to friends, and stuck one on my jean jacket. It was a constant reminder of Jacob, yes, but also, something deeper…a statement of belief in good and justice and impossible trust.

when-suffering-makes-no-senseI didn’t understand a lot about Hope back in the day. But I felt the collective ache, the longing for a happy ending.

Well, here we are, we have an ending…or so it seems. It didn’t turn out the way anyone hoped. Far worse. It’s the stuff nightmares are made of. The great, black, terrible. The earthquaking stuff that causes cracks in faith.

Why pain?

Why suffering?

Why death?

Why, God, why?

“Sometimes our pain is the the result of living in a broken, fallen world. This isn’t how He intended life to be. Yet God allows tragedy or suffering in our lives for some reason or reasons we can’t always grasp.” – Melinda Means, Invisible Wounds

There is no applaudable application here. I mean there is nothing we ‘ought to do in order to set it right. To solemnly embrace our loss (and the pain of others near and dear) is to sit and hold it and feel and question and grieve. Sure, there are a host of theological answers. I’ve got a few sorted and stowed. But that’s not the purpose of this post. The purpose is to point to the future. 

Remember the button’s bold, overarching typeface: Jacob’s Hope.

Hope.

It’s a wonder.

I’ve talked about this subject a lot over the years. I’ve wrote about the difference between small (h) hope and big (H) Hope.  I love the phrase that says, “Hope: Look to the future and trust God with all of it.” I believe in it so much that I renamed my blog to Stories of Hope. I believe in it so much because, for me, when uncertainty shakes the ground I walk on I know I can depend on a Certain hiding place: It’s my house full of promises, a place called Hope.

Hope is much like a bunker house. It’s deep, hidden from the elements of the outside world. The construct is made up of an underground tunnel system. God’s promises remove barriers and clear the dark path into this vast space that is host to a starry spectacle of awe. It’s a wonder. It’s a place few find.

“God is confirmed in our experience – when He meets us powerfully and sweetly in the midst of our suffering.” -Melinda Means, Invisible Wounds

Those God confirmed experiences develop the impossible trust believers need so survive the chaos.  That His promises are good and true. Who holds all the answers? Who will stand up for true and lasting justice once and for all? Only one. So, when we wonder why He continues to allow the pain and suffering of this world to grope for us in the night we grab ahold of this great futuristic promise:

“Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever… Look, I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:3-5)

The relief from suffering is coming – soon. Our happy ending will come, if not here and now, it is our destiny. Let us hold the promise as we stand under the stars…and wait.

**GIVEAWAY**

TODAY I AM GIVING AWAY A HARD COPY OF INVISIBLE WOUNDS BY MELINDA MEANS. TO ENTER TO WIN: SIGN UP HERE.

ONE RANDOM WINNER WILL BE CHOSEN & ANNOUNCED ON WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 14TH.

Wipe Your “But” & Say Your Prayers

Two nights ago I awoke in the middle of the night and couldn’t fall back to sleep. This is not unusual. As I laid there, I had a waterbed moment. You remember the waterbed, right? Fall into one and it’s delightful, at first. Then, strangely, it transforms, and the fluffy rolling turns thick and heavy, like quick sand. The more you squirm the more it pulls you down. When you determine you want to get out, prepare to fight. It’s a strenuous exercise. That’s how my mind works on nights like these. It rolls over a thought, fine at first, but soon the thought is replaced by a worry and whoosh, waterbed moment.

I’ll be candid. I was worrying about my oldest chickling. It’s a regular thing for us parents; to worry, to obsess, to fight fears with swords. But something happened this past year that sent this mama’s worrymometer skyrocketing into the red zone. And ever since, sleeplessness is my pal. Here’s the scoop: the chickling spread her wings and flew the coop. This is great, you might say, the natural order of things. Except, it wasn’t that great for me. She left before I hoped. All the things I dreamed we would share during her final year at home were suddenly gone. She left before the smoke dissipated from the candles on her 18th birthday cake. That was 10 months ago.

All year long I’ve been peeking between two fingers at parents of chicklings ruffling their feathers. I’ve watched them prepping to reach the blessed Day of Pinnacle and send their precious cherubs into the world. I’ve watched many put their basket (baby) in the water and send them off. Although I hoped to put my basket in at the same time, that’s not how it worked out.

This is a tiny glimpse of my story this year. I wonder about your story this year. At some point, now or later, our hopes get dashed. Although my deferred hope might look different than yours I’m certain the feeling is pretty mutual. It hurts. Maybe you’ve found yourself peeking between two fingers too.  We all have unfulfilled longings:

The happy marriage

The healthy body.

The successful business.

The popular person.

The beautiful new baby.

The privileged countryman.

We tend to peek at the world through our lens of hope. We desire. We dream. We pray. And when our hearts ache with longing we peek with wonder as we wait for the passing, the healing, the fulfillment.

Perhaps someday I’ll draft a fancy blog post title like Five Lessons I Learned on Parenting a Prodigal. Maybe not. All I really know, for today, is that this little midnight story is one I should share.

So, it’s the middle of the night and I’m laying in bed worrying. I’m talking to God. This is not unusual. It’s conversational. I keep rewording my worry in new and different ways. It feels as though I’m shouting into the Grand Canyon and I can hear my voice echo, reverberating against the Rock. It’s not very quiet in my head. And I find myself responding to each echo with “But what if…”

But what if…

But what if…

But what if…

I’ve created a chorus in the canyon. A crescendo. Then clear as a Sunday morning church bell I hear God say, “Wipe your but.”

Huh?

I stop thrashing in my waterbed. Everything stills. Wipe: Get rid of, remove it, cleanse and dispose.

Oh.

I roll over in bed. The bathroom’s night light filters into my room through the darkness. I stare at the particles of light that fall like dust upon the fixtures in my room. Everything looks different, darkly. I see my shadowy lamp and the light transforms the image…these birds…and the Voice reminds me,

“Look at the birds, see how I take care of them…you’re worth way more!” 

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The reminder is a promise. And I think I understand what I’m supposed to do. Stop worrying. Keep praying. Recycle each and every “But what if…” with a promise. It’s an exchange, of sorts. As I lay there I begin to think of other promises:

For I know the plans I have for your chickling, plans to prosper and not to harm, plans of hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11 paraphrased)

Seek God first and then he will give you everything you need. (Matthew 6:33 paraphrased)

You are chosen and belong. (1 Peter 2:9 paraphrased)

This I know: I am not a daughter with out hope. My God sees all, knows all, and loves more fully than I can comprehend. Heart sickness may hurt for a while. But “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” I believe it. Do you?

So, for today: Relinquish the worry. Replace with a promise. Wipe your “but” & say your prayers.



Stop fighting. Be happy. #thehappinessdare

I made tomato soup for my son. It was the only thing he could eat since acquiring a shiny new smile. Aka: braces. As he sat with his belly pressed up to the kitchen counter, dunking one Saltine after another, we started talking about the school year ahead. I can hardly believe he is a 7th grader. A teenager: who still thinks his mom is worth listening to. (Man, I’m grateful.) During our lunch together I shared a story, telling him about a few poor choices I made during my teenage years. The story evolved. He didn’t blink much. I captivated him. Finally, silence.  He concluded, “So…it’s like you were in a tug of war,” I watch as he takes his stubby finger and draws an imaginary line across the counter. “You wanted to go one way, but we’re pulled another direction.” My son flashes a smile. I feel my heart leap. He gets it! And I am so happy.

I wonder about these teeny-tiny life moments that spark happiness. I wonder because at times it seems like the eye-popping, heart pounding fireworks show, brilliant with glorious happy, poofs into thin air before taking our next breath. Next: My mouth feels dry and I wonder why.

I have a confession: I’m not always happy.

In fact, I’ve really wrestled over the years with a deep, inner-seed of angst or irritability (sometimes it feels like anger). It’s true. And it doesn’t make sense. I have all the things. My health. My kids. My marriage. My dream job. I find myself fighting in my mind over the have nots, the rejection, and all the uncontrolled chaos. Tell me I’m not the only one. I am happy, truly-truly, most of the time. I suppose you might see that happy person, in me. Someone always smiling, always passionate, and always pursuing….and while, in fact, this is the real me, you need to know that so often I wake to a much different reality. A tug of war. A fight to find some peace from the Eeyore within.

This week my respected friend, Jennifer Dukes Lee is launching her new book called The Happiness Dare. To be honest, I’ve resisted opening the cover. Not because I don’t want to be happy. Duh. It’s in our DNA. Who doesn’t want to be happy? We’ll maybe the old lady in the pink house down the street. But seriously. Anywho, I did it anyway. I opened the cover, devoured the first several chapters, and there it was, in words as plain as butter on toast…

“We are highly suspicious of happiness. We really do want to be happy – secretly of course – but we’ll tell everyone else it’s joy we want. Because isn’t joy the holier aim? Isn’t happiness against the rules? … Yes, you read that right: happiness. Not the reverse of joy. Not the opposite of holiness. But authentic happiness, found in Jesus.”

This I know: the presence of Jesus lives in me through the power of the Holy Spirit. Because of this reality I have the favor of God. Period.

I’m learning that the real problem isn’t my unhappiness, but rather my resistance towards the favor of God to become more filled with the fruits of the Spirit – those gifts that inhibit the happy factor. The truth I need to remember is that God is joyfully making war on all my negativity.

“Jesus first miracle wasn’t at a gravesite. It was at a party… Jesus gladdened a wedding. Jesus was the life of the party, and if you belong to Jesus, the life of the party lives in you.” -Jennifer Dukes Lee

Now more than ever we need to equip ourselves with happiness. Stop fighting and be happy. Why? Because, as the world around us continues to darken, it will be our shining smile to light the way. I’m taking the #HappinessDare. Will you join me? This is an invitation to revolutionize your inner world, so that, together we can revolutionize the world around us. Imagine I’m drawing a line across the counter. It’s like tug of war, indeed. Let’s do this happy thing.

To pre-order Jennifer’s book (releasing August 2nd) click here. 

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