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Monthly Archives: August 2014

Freeze, or Burn?

So, the other day I finally got fed up with a painful growth at the tip of my middle finger, that, because of it being my tallest finger, ended up bumping into everything with force, no matter how cautious I was about it. I was sure it wasn’t a wart. I didn’t think there had been a splinter or sliver of glass in there, but I also knew it had been there for two months with no improvement, but also no infection. I figured they’d send me to the dermatologist to get it sliced off and studied like so many other parts of me that lived near the equator for a few years. But I was wrong.

I went in early in the AM and had to quell my own laughter about my middle finger going up all of the time to protect it from getting knocked by accident. The PA who helped me was not amused, but I find I have to laugh in moments like these. Maybe it’s a nervous habit, like when the dermatologist is cutting something from somewhere normally clothed for a reason. I have to crack jokes or else I cry from the lack of dignity of the moment, and sadly, there are way too many of these moments. I am a dermatologist’s bread and butter! And I find dermatologists to categorically be a humorless bunch (if you’re a derm peep, I’m probably not talking about you). Maybe I provide some comic relief from staring at skin lesions all day, or maybe they are so narrowly focused, my stand-up comedy show is really unwanted. I’m socially awkward anyway, so I walk out of these situations at least having made myself laugh and completely unaware of the extremity of how awkward I really was.

Anyway, it hurt like a son of a gun every time it was bumped. She really had no clue what it was initially. She sliced off the top of the bump, saw no signs of wart “roots,” and decided it might be a hemangioma. So she said I could have it frozen or cauterized, and it would dry up and fall off, and maybe then the vascular bump at the end of my finger would be no more.

Um, okay.

Given the choice, I thought some medically induced frostbite would be the better way to go. And I’ve never been fond of smelling my own flesh burning with medical welding tools. No thanks. If we were going to go that direction, why not just hot-glue-gun my finger at home without the copay? Not my favorite thing. Since I’m a wimp, I assumed a needle of anesthetic would be presented. Nope. She barely asked me if I was ready (doesn’t she know I’d love an epidural just to have a mole removed?) and blast that arctic burn right at my finger for what felt like a full minute. I’m admittedly a real wimp with pain, so it was about two minutes before I could breathe again. I was so incredulous she wasn’t turning that thing off after 10 seconds. Really. I kept looking at her with complete disbelief in my eyes as if any second now she was going to turn that puppy off. Finally, between choking down some oxygen (told you I was a wimp), I declared: “Okay, then. I think I’m all set.” She was having way too much fun with her freeze-blast tool, and she looked like a superhero being told to go back to her secret identity when her services were proven no longer necessary.

And you know what? I got over it. I claimed a little social media sympathy over my little experience, sucked it up, and moved on. But it got me thinking how I wish my sin, insecurities, relational hurts, feelings of betrayal could all be heroically blasted like that. That a full minute of holding my breath and twinging would make it be over.

Oh, wait.

They already were. Over, that is. Those of us with faith in Christ believe they hung on Jesus for several hours. It wasn’t quick or painless or pretty, but “it is finished.” It is finished indeed!

John 19:30, Apostle John speaking
When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

So when I’m tempted to dwell on those things, I need to remember that I can live in restored, redeemed relationship with Christ, and therefore with others. My thoughts, my fears, my temptations, my hurts…all taken care of on that cross. Grace covering me like a blanket I never have to take off. I need to look at my finger (it’s tall and the middle one, after all, so hard to miss) and remember He took that all on for me so that I don’t have to dwell in a lack of peace. I can dwell in Him. And there’s truly no place I’d rather be.

What does “It is finished” mean to you?

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Facebook: Do We Check to Get Affirmation or to Enter Meaningful Conversation?

Okay. Before we enter into this touchy discussion, let me start by saying I am really qualified to discuss this because I am completely guilty of it. Being a writer, I find Facebook a great place to discuss important issues, test ideas, network, and hone my craft. I try to divide my peeps into different audience lists so they are not inundated with every thought in my head. And we all know those blogs from people (me at times) who post everything we eat, every activity we participate in, and everything brag-worthy in our lives.

I find it hard to draw the line sometimes. I don’t want to brag but to celebrate. I also want to be honest and open about my failures so we all can share the journey and encourage each other. I post honest and blunt posts sometimes, not so much to get a cheerleading squad going for myself but to hopefully bring some encouragement to someone out there also hurting and struggling through a similar day/issue. I realize not everyone knows us on the same level or even reads the written word with the same tone, so I have found Facebook to be a great place (not perfect place) to learn how to communicate better in the written word. It’s not a place to get lost for hours, certainly. And it can quickly become a platform for brag fests that can remind others of their own loss (as an example, Mother’s Day can be a hard one for some folks), love fests that leave others out, passive-aggressive jabs, and insecurity-based posting to catch someone’s attention. I completely understand that. But I also know that the peeps who know me best know my heart’s intentions, and when they think I’m out of line—and occasionally they do—if they take it offline and gently correct me, I can hear them. I can learn to do better.

But the bigger question right now that I ask myself, as a debut author, introvert drawn to intense introspection, and someone still very vulnerable in my craft: Do I check Facebook to see my “like” stats and receive affirmation? To measure who is neglecting me? Who is touching in? Or do I check it with a healthy amount of distance to enter a conversation as appropriate in measured amounts? Do I rely on this as my social interaction? Am I needing it as a fix? And is the motivation to post something to inform, be helpful, and encourage, or is there another agenda? While there will always be someone who may find disagreement with it, can what I’m typing in any way polarize, make someone feel less than, come across too harsh or arrogant?

These are the questions I feel we should each have by our sides when we log on. It sorts out so much of what we have to say and is a great opportunity for self-reflection.

Social media is no longer new. Our learning curve is over. We should now know how to navigate it and avoid the pitfalls. There’s no excuse for me not to be diligent and thoughtful about it. If I need to get on for any of those negative reasons or check incessantly, it’s time for a coffee date with a few friends, a ride on the bike, a walk with the dog, a phone call to a dear one, a good read.

And there are some for whom Facebook and other social media are just too sensitive right now: times of loss, frustrated goals, disappointments, relational struggles, depression. If popping onto the newsfeed brings an instant rise in blood pressure, then by all means, jump off! The challenge is not to judge others for wanting to interact now and again that way because they may be in a good season of life right now, but avoid setting yourself up for unrealistic and irrational comparisons to your own life. It’s not the time to read how awesome the rest of the world is doing (or pretending to be doing). It’s time to engage in meaningful conversation, seek the help you need if you need it, and hang with the people in your life who are your natural cheerleaders through the trials. Social media may have a good meme and thought once in a while, but if you have a hard time filtering out the negative stuff, it’s not worth it. Consider logging off for a while.

I enjoy it like so many other people, but social media is certainly not our savior, not our substitute for anything really, and definitely not a place to gauge our own lives. True that?

I look to the Bible (which I consider the inspired Word of God from start to finish) for my guide to daily discernment, and this verse cried out to me. The Apostle Paul wrote this epistle during his imprisonment in Rome. I think he had a lot of time to think and pray about worthy things on which to focus his attention. Like Paul, I only want to “approve the things that are excellent” when I spend my time on the latest cultural fad/fixation. Social media is not wrong. Like anything else, it just requires healthy boundaries, and Paul spells those out pretty well in his epistles. I think the end goal is the same, I hope, for any of us: “that your love may abound still more and more.” I want me more of that on any given day. How about you?

Philippians 1:9-11, Apostle Paul speaking

And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

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Posted by on August 20, 2014 in Renewing Our Minds

 

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“Fart Buckets”

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If the word “fart” in the title has already turned you off, no worries. I get it. But for those of you intrigued enough to read more, you are about to learn what “fart buckets” are.

I used to have a few favorite bad words. I wasn’t always public with them. Sometimes I’d only share them with a few friends who could handle it. I was selective with my usage, like a bad word snob. After all, words are everything to me, so even my choice of a zinger now and then was carefully thought out and expertly delivered, sometimes even in the heat of anger. Every once in a while the mouth still tries to overpower my self-discipline of cleaning up my vocabulary and leading an exemplary verbal life in front of my children, and even in private. But “fart buckets” became, somewhat unconsciously, a combination of my desire to clean up my act but still hang onto the potty humor that I admit I really have a hard time severing myself from. And we like to laugh a lot in my house about the raw stuff of life. Humor gets us through so many darker, heavier moments. And so to lighten things up, “fart buckets” became my standby exclamation of surprise, although I really didn’t realize how frequently until—well, until Mother’s Day 2014.

Upon going through the weekend paperwork of my youngest son’s (8 year old) homework/take-home folder—which in and of itself I should get a paycheck for, times 3 kids—I discovered what was meant to be a surprise for me for Mother’s Day. I was certainly surprised by it, but lacking self-control in this department, I took a quick glimpse. Oh, it was a surprise all right! It read like this:

My mom always says: “fart buckets.”

My mom looks pretty when she cooks dinner.

My mom likes to cook pumpkin muffins.

My mom makes me laugh when she says, “fart buckets.”

I love my mom because she’s nice.

So, several of those lines are just plain lovely. Really quite sweet. But twice? Twice on the “fart buckets,” Little Man? Seriously? I took in my breath for a minute upon reading this. It said a lot about me. It said a lot about him. It said a lot about our relationship.

And I loved every minute of it.

So, I secretly rushed it over to my husband and laughed raucously until I cried. Tears poured out of my eyes. Because I make Little Man laugh. Because he sees me as human and not on some ethereal pedestal that he can’t reach. Because I’m real to him. Because he chose those words to reflect me. And because laughter and playfulness had recently returned to him after a dry spell of worry, I celebrated this. I wore it with pride. I smeared it all over my personal social media account. I framed it and drew an arrow to point to it.

And I thought of a teacher who was a bit more on the reserved, hold-it-all-in side, and it made me giggle because when she saw this, she asked him: “Does your mom really say that?”

And he proudly said: “Yes.”

And she said: “Okay, then, as long as she really does.” [Points for her for not shutting this moment down.]

He had perfect spelling and punctuation, which also delighted me.

And that just put the biggest smile on my face that he could be that free. And when he asked me if that bothered me (which did not seem to be his goal), I was so happy to be able to say: “No, Little Man, it doesn’t. I think it’s awesome.”

And that’s not my ornery side talking. It’s just me celebrating his freedom and this amazing level of being comfortable with each other. And for this reason, I’m pretty certain that “fart buckets” will not ever leave my vocabulary completely.

Not ever.

 

 

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Give Me a Cape, ‘Cause I’m a Super Pooper Scooper!

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(Mattel)

This Barbie inspired me. Truly. The fact that Mattel would market a Barbie that scooped dog logs off the yard has fascinated me for years. In my humble opinion, all she is missing is a cape. And maybe some hand sanitizer. Because the truth is, we adults pretty much live like this Barbie. If we’re a parent, we not only clean a baby’s bottom, but we scour his/her character for years on end. If we have pets, we daily scoop up yard deposits.

Don’t we more or less moment by moment sort out in life what is true and throw out what is not. We scoop out the false and lay hold of what is true. Whether we’re a stay-home parent sorting out the argument between siblings with two very different viewpoints, a writer cutting out unnecessary or misused words, or the scientist testing a hypothesis, we are constantly sorting out and cleaning up. There are very few moments in the day when we aren’t questioning what is around us.

So, while I’m not exactly the picture of a blonde, plastic, somewhat inflexible-but-very-tan, long-legged Barbie doll, and I often head out to my yard in sweats and a coffee-themed t-shirt, with wiry hair frizzing out all around me, Barbie and I share a mission. She shares it with you as well. We are daily cleaning up: laundry, dishes, the toys in the living room, the resident bookworm’s books strewn all over the floor, endless mismatches of socks. We clean our desktops of too many downloads, our cars of too many crumbs and sticky sippy cups, our office drawers of broken pencils and old scribbled notes to ourselves, our iPod song lists of least favored tunes, etc.

We also, I hope, clean our minds. They daily navigate what to dwell on and what not to. And somedays I do this well, while on other days, I get stuck on insecurities, relational hurts or disappointments, bitterness, and frustrations. On those days, I can’t move on. I’m tired of untruths and negative thoughts fogging up my daily vision. How about you?

As I go out with my scooper in hand each morning, I like to pray that God would clear my mind and heart for the day just as I clear my yard. I don’t always remember to do this, but my day has much more peace and grace in it when I do. I see the ugly things that cloud my mind and heart as stinky logs that can be cleared. There’s a solution. I don’t have to think muddied and distracted all day. My heart can be wiped clean for love. And when I take this approach, I feel like Super Pooper-Scooper Barbie with a cape on! I soar to the heights God created me for, and on those days—she’s got nothing on me! She just looks cute in a plastic box, posing for good intentions. I get to act on them. How about you? What can be tossed out of your yard—or mind or heart—to make room for more productive, healthy, positive, peaceful living?

Philippians 4:8-9, Apostle Paul speaking

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

 

 

 

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“…And You Will Find Rest for Your Souls.” — Jesus Christ

“Espressos of Faith” is observing Sabbath rest but will return with new postings tomorrow. Today, may you know the deep rest and peace He offers, whether this is your work day, a family day, or a day to catch up.

Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus speaking

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

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Far-Sighted Savior, Short-Sighted Me

Sometimes something stops us completely in our tracks, shutting out all other sound around us, demanding our focus and blurring everything else from our sight. Sometimes those moments define everything from that point forward, setting a new timeline, somehow starting a new chapter we never intended to write—or even read. And then weeks, months, a season or two later, we look back and see the road we went down in that moment that brought both panic and fear as well as blessings. We might even be able to finally bring into focus the things that were blurred for a while, mourning what we missed along the way as a “new normal” invaded our lives. I didn’t want our “new normal,” as I’m sure others didn’t always want theirs, whatever trial stopped them in their tracks. I would rather wake back up to September 2013 and restart, beating against the anxiety/OCD battle that was coming against one of our children. But while we walk this road, not only is there a Savior walking it with us, but He has eyes to see the other side of it. He can see us adapted, adjusted, accepting, dealing, coping, persevering in this new chapter. He can see the fog cleared on the other side: the answers, the new people we are shaped into from being tested in the trials of life. I trust His eyes because mine can’t see that far. How about you? His power is made perfect in our weakness. If you find yourself mourning an old chapter today, wanting the new one to disappear, this verse is also for you today and always, if you place trust in Him. Your Savior deeply loves you— enough to die on a cross for you and me.

2 Corinthians 12:9, Apostle Paul speaking of Jesus

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

 

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Elliptical Spins

Elliptical SpinsI have two Shih Tzus, about 10 months old, from the same litter. Sweetest and dumbest things ever at the same time. Actually, the girl is pretty cunning. The boy is happy-go-lucky but not high on intellect or training abilities. But we adore their different personalities, because, just like the kids in our house, they each bring something different to the table. We named them Samson and Delilah. She is very lap-seeking and intense. He is very carefree and low-maintenance, overall.

One fine day I was sitting on the couch with Delilah on my lap enjoying a good Shih Tzu massage, and SAM-ssss* (our nickname for him with emphasis on the first syllable) was perseverating on the plastic wheel of my elliptical (the wheel used to move it from room to room). He was having the most fascinating time spinning that thing. Really, who was I to interrupt this mindless, drone-like activity? And, yet, it fascinated me because Samson loves to run around, chomp on a chew stick, and show us his belly, hoping it’s a nice hint to rub it. Spinning a plastic wheel was a new trick. I almost associated that kind of behavior more with Type-A Delilah. 

And I thought about how profound that is because we humans resent when we spin without getting anywhere. The few times you even find me on an elliptical (usually after a week of unhealthy eating when I am attempting to compensate with one workout on the machine), I want to get somewhere. I obsessively check the distance “travelled,” time spent, calories burnt. We don’t feel like we can take a minute to stop at a long traffic light without checking our texts. Our society is spinning endless wheels like Samson, only we are frustrated when multitasking all at once doesn’t propel us somewhere. 

So I found myself admiring my tiny-brained dog for being content in the moment, with only one thing going, and not pursuing endless distractions at once. And also that spinning that thing took him nowhere but relaxing and burning energy. Unlike Delilah, who usually exploits those moments when Samson is distracted to grab his chew stick or pull one of his favorite toys into her crate, Samson could focus. On one thing. And not have to get or be anywhere but in that moment. It made me wish for a few moments I could lay on the floor right next to him and bat at that wheel.

An excellent book for how to stop being so busy is:

DeYoung, Kevin. Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book About a (Really) Big Problem. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013.

*We also have been known to call him Samsonite or Samsonian. 

Bonnie Lyn Smith's two 3/4 Shih Tzu, 1/4 Brussels Griffon dogs

Samson & Delilah

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2014 in Shih Tzu Shenanigans

 

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Welcome to Espressos of Faith!

27903_10201899085821421_1316934774_nThere are so many discussions I regularly have on social media on a full range of important (and some just-for-fun) topics. I decided to move some of that conversation over here to Espressos of Faith. My sister and I dream about opening up an espresso shop on the New Jersey Shore when we retire someday; I’d love to serve espresso drinks and offer prayer all day. For now, this is the word version of a future dream. This web site is where anyone interested can follow my publication journey. But it’s also a place to join me in conversation about great reads, parenting in the trenches, how faith in Christ informs our family’s decisions about how to handle the everyday, the challenges and amazing blessings of a child in special education, life with two Shih Tzus, raising teens and tweens (daughter and sons), food allergy experiences, mental health advocacy, more-than-occasional coffee talk, and absolutely much ado about grace.

Blessings!

Bonnie Lyn Smith, Author of Not Just on Sundays

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(Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references throughout the blog site are from the New International Version.)

All contents of this blog are copyrighted and may only be shared via a link back to this blog. Please do not share photos and/or content without linking back to Espressos of Faith. Thank you for visiting the site!

 

 
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Posted by on August 3, 2014 in General Website Posts

 

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