If He Were Rich

Joey told me last night that he thinks his creativity is dead. Sometimes he can be pretty dramatic. So I told him he should write a song or something. I took NyQuil (the Armstrong immune systems are down lately) and drifted off to sleep after a long, fun weekend in Dallas for a fitness conference.

This morning as I was drowsily pulling my hair back into a ponytail for work, Joey came in and told me he’d gotten inspired. And here it is:

If I were rich, I’d have a nice house.

Three bedrooms, two bathrooms;

And it wouldn’t be in Taos.

If I were rich, I’d have a loving wife.

Pretty, graceful;

And she’d never cause me strife.

If I were rich, I’d have a loyal dog.

Happy, black and fat as a hog.

If I were rich, I’d have a little son;

Handsome, smiley, and a barrel of fun.

If I were rich, I’d have a job I liked.

Serving, leading, showing the love of Christ.

If I were rich, hey wait…I might be.

Everything I mentioned is

Right in front of me.

By Joseph Earl Armstrong

Well said, babe.

If I Were Rich

Joey gets home late on Wednesday nights…like 10:30pm. He’s a college minister, and life begins at 10:00 for college students. So sometimes I end up watching senseless TV shows when I probably should be sleeping or reading or doing something productive.

This Wednesday night I passed over Bridezillas and watched Wedding Impossible. It was the endearing wedding story of Robert Irvine (the abrasive, militant chef on Food Network) and his female wrestler bride-to-be, Gail. At one point in the show, Robert reveals Gail’s dream wedding reception of celebrity chefs, designer tablecloths and couture floral arrangements. He says, “This, darling, is the wedding you deserve.”

It made me think, if money weren’t an issue, what would I do for the people I love the most? What would I give to those I think are the most “deserving?”

Well, I’d buy a log cabin for my parents-in-law, replete with a state-of-the-art craft room for Becky and a separate, air-conditioned carpenter’s shop for Terry. With a bed and breakfast in back.

For my parents, I’d buy a custom lake home in Bend, Oregon. It would be within walking distance of wooded running trails for my dad and a lap pool for my mom. I’d get my dad a windmill from an old farm in Minnesota and I would be my mom’s personal trainer.

I’d find Chad the perfect girl. I think she exists, she’s just hiding. And I’d find him the funding to start the leadership ministry he’s always dreamed of. But they must live near us so they can babysit Finn.

I’d buy Leah and Tyler a school. Diverse and creative for bright children who need guidance. Tyler would be the administrator and Leah would be the master teacher. And Everett and Finn would have matching monogrammed Pottery Barn sleeping bags and would fall asleep with chocolate chip cookies smeared across their faces telling ghost stories in their tent.

Our grandparents would be cleared of any outstanding debt, schools built in their name, aches and pains healed and sent on their dream vacations.

Joey gets his own recording studio called, “Earl’s.” He gets weekly deep-tissue massages from a homely but strong middle-aged woman, yearly backpacking trips with his buds, and extravagant vacations with me in which our parents argue over who takes care of Finn.

For Finn, I would find a cure for Spina Bifida and inject it gently in his perfect chubby leg. And since his legs would work and he would no longer need a shunt or have bladder issues or fear a tethered cord, we’d celebrate with all our extended families on a 7-day cruise of his choice. Then I’d buy him an expensive mountain bike and take him to Colorado to teach him how to ride it.

Jersey gets gourmet rawhides, lifetime-membership at Annie’s Ruff House and a weekly pedicure.

This is what I’d do if I were rich.

Eucharisteo

Finn’s deep, congested coughs are breaking my heart. He’s got loads of drainage, glassy red eyes and he’s irritable and clingy. The doc said it’s just a bad cold, so we’ll have to wait it out with the snot sucker and an extra dose of Tylenol and patience.

Despite every reason to be cranky, Finn still flashes that handsome grin and humors us with a chuckle or two. What a doll baby! He’s taught me so much about perseverance and living gratefully.

I think living and breathing thankfulness is the only way to exist. It keeps us from living as though we’re victims. As victims, we develop a defensive attitude, we’re not content, not thankful, and we think someone owes us something.

I’m reading One Thousand Gifts, a book I began about three months ago (one of many books I’ve started and not finished). After a long reading hiatus, I took my lunch break on Monday to lay out in our backyard and soak up some sun and some wisdom from Ann Voskamp. She’s found that the key to joy–to living the full life Jesus says we can have–is eucharisteo. That’s the Greek word for thanksgiving. She keeps a list of a thousand things or more that she’s thankful for each day, and it’s changed her life. It’s a perpetual positive mindset. A life-altering mindset.

Voskamp says, “The first step to eucharisteo’s miracle [is] gratitude for the seemingly insignificant…like the Last Supper…the eating of crumbs, the swallowing down one mouthful. Do not disdain the small. The whole of the life–even the hard–is made up of the minute parts, and if I miss the infinitesimals, I miss the whole.”

The game-changer is to “give thanks for everything” (Eph. 5:20). Everything? “Even the hard?” Even snotty noses? Mosquitoes? Disease? Spilled coffee? Heartache? Yep. I think somehow I’m supposed to find joy in those too. Finn’s my teacher.

Water Gushed Out

Finn’s not feeling well today. Slight fever last night, glassy eyes and lots of drainage. As he naps, I listen to the summer rain beat softly against our back windows; I close my eyes and transport myself to Durango, Colorado. I’m lying in our tent beside Lime Creek. It’s about sixty-five degrees. I snuggle into my down sleeping bag, curl my toes and breathe in the crisp pine air. Joey reads a thick scholarly book on top of his bag next to me.

Deep, contented sigh. I’m so thankful I have these beautiful moments in time to relocate my mind. I’m so thankful today for the rain that blew in on indigo clouds and lasted for hours. The kind of rain that makes our grass smile and birds come out to play.

Beautiful, restorative rain.

Drink this in:

Isaiah 48:21 “They did not thirst when he led them through the deserts; he made water flow for them from the rock; he split the rock and water gushed out.”

Amen.

Team Finn

So I signed up for the Tie-Dye Triathlon this morning, joining Joey and Dustin and several other friends.

I admit this as one who’s taken about four months of convincing. But this morning I ran two miles without my knee hurting for the first time in over five years and it gave me the confidence to think maybe I could finish. That’s the goal: finish. I’ll be doped up on Ibuprofen, but I think it’s possible. If not, I’ll hang up my dream of one day being a seventy-five year old triathlete with ripped muscles.

We thought we’d be more motivated if we ran for something. So we created a Spina Bifida team (Team Finn) and have opened it up to donations. This money is tax-deductible and will go toward the research and services of the Spina Bifida Association. NO pressure to give, but if you feel compelled, see the Sidebar link called “Donate to Team Finn.”

Discussing possible team names…

…Team Finn it is.

Thanks for your support (donation or no donation)!

Greatness

It’s 10:30pm and Joey and I have a difficult decision to make: do we go to bed or do we watch our recorded Olympic highlights? Watch the Olympics.

I’ve been a sappy mess since the games began. All the American Dream vignettes choke me up, especially the Somalian refugee marathoner. Then there’s the Kenyan woman who runs to basically feed her family, the South African double amputee with the humble heart of gold and the South African girl who endured a humiliating gender controversy.

The commercials are just as gut-wrenching! Nike’s Find Your Greatness campaign was stellar. Have you seen the one of the sweaty, overweight kid running toward the camera?

Nike’s voice: “Somehow we’ve come to believe that greatness is only for the chosen few; for the superstars. The truth is, greatness is for all of us. This isn’t about lowering expectations; it’s about raising them for every last one of us. “

Ugh! Tears were streaming down my face the first (and fourth) time I saw this commercial and others like it. I believe this precept. I preach it. My clients know it. Finn will know it well. We are all called to do great things with what we’re given. Whether that’s legs that work or legs that don’t. Wealth or poverty.

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize” (1 Cor. 9:24).

“Whatever you do [teach, write, run, play, parent, sell, minister, coach, create, speak, manage…], work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Col. 3:23).

We all have greatness within us, especially as believers. He’s given us all we need; all the potential to accomplish great things. The Olympic athletes have taught me to be the best version of myself.

To find my greatness.

Though I’m sad the Olympics is reaching its finish line, I am looking forward to a couple more hours of sleep.

Bow Your Head

I’ve had a few conversations lately about the purpose of prayer. Though I have yet to find the answer, I’m certain it’s important. I get uncomfortable when we (I’m guilty) talk about prayer as though it’s a magical way to get what we want. I’ve experienced fervent, prolonged, faith-filled prayers go seemingly unanswered…for a young girl in India plagued by chronic seizures, for Finn’s Spina Bifida, for jobs, for friends’ moms who battled cancer and lost, for broken marriages, for newborn and unborn babies fighting to live, for renewed faith of friends, for single friends and family members to find their soul-mate, etc. But I’ve also experienced countless more prayers answered–big prayers actualized in very specific ways.

When we first found out about Finn’s diagnosis, we didn’t tell many people. And when others found out later, many wished they had known sooner so they could have been praying. We often heard, “the more people are praying for Finn, the better.” I was tempted to try tip the scales of prayer in our favor…sort of proving to God that see, Finn should not be disabled after all. Everyone agrees.

But I wonder if God only answers prayer when it’s requested by a large group of people? Or maybe we must send up, say, 1,543 prayers before they are heard?…and only if the motivation is right. I like to think that if only I prayed for Finn’s healing, God would answer. I know He heard my desperate, face-to-the-nursery carpet, tearful prayers. I felt His presence with me in the dark room. Yet Finn was still born with this defect…and many, many other children are still born with debilitating diseases that are much worse. And parents and spouses still pass away. And injustices still occur for the downtrodden. And friends still lose faith. And Paul’s “thorn” remained in his flesh. And Jesus still endured the suffering of the cross. And all these not for lack of prayer or faith or fervor.

So, why pray?

I experience relationship with God when I talk to Him, just like I would anyone else. I interact with Him in prayer in a way that is very personal and intimate. I love what Jesus says about prayer in Matthew 6:5-13:

(warning: my own flawed paraphrase) Don’t pray like the hypocrites who stand outside the church to draw attention to themselves. Their reward ends on earth; they get no eternal blessing. But when you pray you should go somewhere alone, shut your door and pray to the Father you can’t see. And when He sees what you’ve done in secret, He will answer you. Don’t pray with many meaningless, cliche words like hypocrites do. You won’t be heard more because of all your lofty phrases. God knows what you need before you ask Him. So if you need guidance on how to pray, pray the Lord’s Prayer.

I think our prayers for others are especially powerful (see my “Fourteen Thousand Sheep” post from April). We’ve felt the effects of your prayers for Finn and our family as we navigate this difficult obstacle in our lives. Your prayers let us know we’re not alone and we feel supported. I count it a privilege to pray for you when you are hurting or afraid. The search for prayer’s purpose will continue throughout my life, and I’m sure I will change my mind many times over the years. But for now, I think prayer may not be to transform my circumstances; maybe it’s to transform me.