Reflections from the Waiting Room

My wife, Nicole, and I are currently sitting in a surgery center waiting room. Operating RoomOur beautiful daughter, Chandler, who turned 3 six days ago, was just put to sleep for minor surgery.

Our explanation to her consisted of “we’re going to get your teeth fixed so they don’t hurt anymore”. That made sense to her, and she happily followed us back to a room full of metal beds and strangers wearing funny hats. However, when it came to taking a small dose of pink medicine, Nicole had to lay her down, pin her arms and use a syringe to make her swallow it.

All Chandler was aware of at the moment when her own mommy was pinning her down, was that the medicine she was being forced to take tasted “yucky”. She had no idea why she needed the medicine, and if given the explanation, then the option of whether or not to take the medicine, she would have still rejected it.

Chandler turned 3 on February 12 and there is no way that Chandler could understand that her chipped and aching tooth is only what she can see on the surface. The x-rays told a far worse story. All four of her top front teeth were in desperate need of capping, as were some others in the back. If action wasn’t taken very soon, the pain would have only gotten much worse.

I did not want to leave my still conscious 3 year-old princess in the hands of those strange men; knowing they would put a gas mask on her, knock her out, insert an IV, force a breathing tube up her nose and into her lungs, and then grind away at her tiny teeth. I did not want to allow that one bit. But I knew if I didn’t, she would suffer far more pain in the long run.

I have been a father for five and a half years, and I understand now, far better than ever, why the Bible constantly compares God’s relationship with us to ours with our own children. The parallels are seemingly endless.

My princess Chandler, with her Nanny Cee Cee at the beach.
My princess Chandler, with her Nanny Cee Cee at the beach.

God takes no pleasure, whatsoever, in any of the trials or suffering that you or I have to go through. If I enjoyed watching my Chandler suffer, you would call me sick and demented, and rightly so. Why then do we entertain the thought that God might enjoy or even be indifferent to our suffering. Remember, He is not the flawed father. I am.

However, our issue is really not so much that we think He is indifferent to our suffering, but rather that we tend to forget that He places a much higher value on certain areas of growth than we do.

Unfortunately, the currencies of this world often undervalue certain character traits that from heaven’s view are literally priceless.

We were willing to allow Chandler to suffer physically for a short time so she could avoid far greater pain in the future. But there are actually worse things than physical suffering. From God’s perspective, the presence of traits that will have eternal ramifications, such as humility, integrity, holiness, patience, etc. are more important than the absence of physical or psychological pain, which is temporal.

I wanted to cry as I thought of what they were going to do to Chandler, but I didn’t, because I knew it was actually a blessing, albeit a veiled one. Don’t ever forget that it truly breaks God’s heart to see us suffer. But when it comes to the most important things in our lives, our Father does indeed know what is best.

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To My Valentine: So Much More than All Right

Lovely Pasture
Part of the view from our bedroom of the pasture.

As the sun makes its way over the horizon, the dew shimmers in the pasture below. I look beyond the balcony and watch the horses graze and see a couple of deer frolicking in the distance. I then make my way into the bathroom and start brushing my teeth, completely unmoved by what I had just seen.

When you live every day in the presence of something that is exceptional, you grow accustomed to it. Intellectually, you appreciate it, but it ceases to move you as it once did.

It doesn’t have to be the case, though. There is a way to avoid this pitfall, and I use it regularly. And since you and I are pretty tight, I would be more than happy to share with you the trick I employ to ensure that I am regularly entranced…by my wife.

Pretty Nicole Cropped
See! I told you she was pretty! This is pre-kids.

My wife, Nicole, is beautiful. And by beautiful, I mean stunning. She’s the kind of pretty where she can walk into a room full of people and 50% of the guys turn and say to the other 50% of the guys, “Who is THAT?!” Then they sheepishly look over their shoulders to make sure their wives didn’t hear them.

And what’s even more amazing is that after 7 and a half years of marriage and two kids, she continues to get even prettier! I’m not just saying that to be nice, either. It’s the truth. If I was a rapper (and I most definitely am not) I would frequently liken her to fine wine. You know, the whole “better with time” sort of thing.

Do I catch a dubious glint in your eye? “That’s very sweet of you, Brian. It’s Valentine’s Day and you’re supposed to say things like that.”

“Besides, you’re just some tall, lanky guy who stands with his toes pointing outwards, looking kind of goofy. In fact, your high school basketball coach, Coach Jenkins (you remember…the weird muscular one who had 19 inch arms, but insisted on wearing shirts sized to fit a small girl, so he had to cut the sleeves to maintain circulation beyond his shoulders, and everyone said he was a male stripper at the very classy “La-Bare”) used to affectionately call you “String Bean”.”

“How would you ever manage to catch a babe like that?”

Well, now you’re getting plain rude! And thanks a lot for reminding me about Coach Jenkins! Eeeesh!

Truth be told, I have no idea. But evidently she saw something in me that made her think she was “landing the big tuna”. (I just learned that phrase yesterday and figured if I didn’t use it now, I’d never get to.)

This past Christmas, looking as pretty as ever, she is sporting her white elephant spoils.
This past Christmas, looking as pretty as ever, she is sporting her white elephant spoils.

She even says that after dating me for only 2 weeks, she knew she was going to marry me. They say love is blind, so maybe that played into the equation.

But I don’t spend too much time wondering how I got her. I’m just thrilled that I did! Oh yeah, I was going to teach you my little trick.

When we get to go out in public together, which happens pretty rarely now since we have two young kids, this is what I do. It works really well at malls or large department stores.

When she goes off to look at something on her own, I know she is most likely going to eventually return. Assuming that, as I am looking at clothes, or other wares, I keep looking out for her in the distance, among the other people in the store.

I then perform some sort of odd mental gymnastics and put myself in someone else’s shoes. I am then some stranger, who happens to be shopping at that place and time.

As I lift my head and look in the distance, I catch a glimpse of blonde hair, slightly above the heads of the others in the women’s shoe section.

“That’s pretty hair,” I think. I then follow some very complex logic only a male would be capable of and deduce that pretty, blonde hair is typically on top of a pretty lady. So naturally, I continue following the hair with my eyes.

She continues walking perpendicularly to me, blocked from my view. At the end of the display, she turns, comes into full view and BAM! “Who is THAT?!” I whisper. And she knocks me off my feet all over again.

This trick may or may not work for you. But it’s worth a shot. If you have someone as spectacular as I do, anything that helps you continually appreciate him or her is priceless.

So here’s to my beautiful Valentine: Happy Valentine’s Day, Nicole! Thank you for being the best wife, mom, business partner, and companion I could have ever asked for. I love you like crazy and hope that you always feel loved by me. And did I mention….you sure are pretty!

P.S. This is the song that inspired the title, and it pretty accurately conveys how blessed I feel.

How are you going to make your Valentine feel special today?

Sometimes too Much of a Good Thing is…Simply Delicious!

It’s confession time, and boy do I have something to confess.

Last week, my good friend Jeff and I sat down and did something that we immediately regretted afterwards.

I’ve tried to forget about it; pretend it never happened. I’ve used desperate psychological techniques to attempt to force it into the far recesses of my psyche, where it will only come out when my subconscious comes to life at night and I wake up in a cold sweat.

Nothing has worked, however, and I still have to feel the bitter pangs of regret Chick Fil A Buildingevery single Friday, when we go to Chick Fil-A. (It’s called “Chick Fil-A Friday” for a reason, my friends!)

I like to eat healthy, most of the time…during the weekdays, but not on Friday night. (That’s when my wife, Nicole, and I get Papa Murphy’s Pizza, Cheddar’s, or some other very high calorie meal.)

But starting Monday, up through, and including lunch on Friday, my diet is pretty strictly regimented…or so I thought!

“So what did you do?!” you ask.

Okay, I’ll come clean. Jeff and I sat down together, with an iPhone, to determine exactly how healthy our Chick Fil-A Friday outings were. The results were devastating!

Allow me to walk you through it. We’ll just pretend I’m ordering.

“I would like a spicy chicken sandwich please (490 calories)…deluxe, that is (+80 calories).”Chick Fil A Spicey Chicken

“Would you like fries sir?”

“Well, since you asked, yes. (400 calories) Oh, and why don’t we make it a large. I’m famished!” (+120 calories)

“And to drink, Brian?”

“I would like half Sprite and half diet lemonade, please.” (95 calories)  This drink they now affectionately call a “Brian Palmer”, which gives you an idea of how frequently I go there.

“Why don’t we make that a large.” (+50 calories)

“That’ll be $7.65, sir.” (Yes, that’s exactly how much it costs.)

I know what you’re thinking. “Brian, that’s not too bad. Plenty of people eat lunches that total one thousand, two hundred and thirty five calories!”

Thank you very much for your reassurance. But unfortunately, I’m not done. It’s the next question that really gets me.

“Would you like sauce with that?”

“I appreciate you asking, kind lady. I sure would! May I have three tiny Chick Fil-A sauces and three, seemingly innocuous BBQ sauces, please.”

“My pleasure,” she says, as she passes a 6-inch stack of sauces across the counter. (That stack of sauces just added another 555 calories to my otherwise “light and healthy” lunch. A small price to pay for so much deliciousness, though.)

Prior to this fateful day, I would then sit down and blissfully enjoy my meal. Little did I know, by the time I walked out the door, and ordered one refill for the road, (+145 calories) I would have consumed a total of 1885 calories.

That means that in less than half an hour, I ate 115 calories less than what the FDA recommends I consume in a total of 24 hours. But what do they know?! Pyramid, schmeeramid!!

Sometimes, I will get the Cobb Salad (which keeps me at around 700 calories). But this is still my big treat of the week. The service there is amazing, the employees are kind, and the food is always delicious.

Who’s up for some Chick Fil-A? See you Friday!

 

 

 

The Uninvited Guest

She knew exactly what she was…and hated herself for it.Middle Eastern Woman 2

Most people slip up sometimes and do things they regret. Her life was centered around enticing men at their lowest to go even lower. Few, after spending time with her, could sleep soundly at night. Instead, they toss and turn, wondering if others will find out.

She had some regulars, but most of her clients were complete strangers. Shame was her only consistent companion.

Last week, she was walking the streets in the afternoon and came upon a crowd. They were all looking in the same direction. She could hear gasps and see wide eyes. Typically, she avoided crowds, but her curiosity drew her closer.

She neared the crowd, then began pushing  her way through. As soon as people saw her, they grimaced and sneered. The crowd parted as she walked on, to avoid contact with someone so vile. That used to bother her; she would feel hurt. Now she was just numb.Middle eastern woman

Silence swept through the crowd as she approached the spectacle. Then she saw Him. He looked over his shoulder and into her eyes…into her soul…and smiled.

It was an innocent, loving, and kind smile. A smile unlike any she had seen in years. It was so unexpected that she didn’t even notice what He was doing.

His arm was outstretched towards the one person in town who was treated worse than she was. Now it was her time to gasp, as she realized His hand was actually touching the leper!

But the leper didn’t look like a leper anymore. He looked…normal!

Her thoughts were reeling. “I have seen that leper since I was an innocent child and have no idea what his name is. Nobody does. Nobody cared. Until now.”

She stumbled as she tried to take it all in. The crowd was soon left behind her as she walked the streets for the rest of the day; not looking for work, but trying to make sense of what she had seen. But she just couldn’t.

“He possessed the power to heal a leper, and the mercy to touch him. And…he smiled at me.”

She didn’t work that night, or the night after that. How could she?

If only she could see him again; tell him thank you; honor him the way he deserved to be honored; say “I’m sorry”.

She didn’t know why, but for some reason she felt like every bad thing she had done, every temptation yielded to, every one in some way dishonored Him…wounded Him, even.

After another restless night’s sleep, she started roaming the town again and heard rumors…Jesus was coming! Without the ability to engage people directly, she had to eavesdrop around town to get more details.

He was coming to Simon the Pharisee’s house, tomorrow!

Excitement filled her heart, but it was immediately replaced by panic.

“I have to see Him, but there is no way they will let me in to a gathering of such holy people. What will I say?!”

But she was determined! No matter what it took, she would see Jesus.

Sleep evaded her that night as she tried to think of the right words. Somehow, nothing seemed appropriate. She had to say something!

“I know! I will give him a gift!”

She searched her small home and spotted her most prized possession…an alabaster jar full of ointment. It was the only thing she owned that was worthy of Him.

The morning finally came, and she dressed herself more modestly than usual. As the time for the meeting drew near, she was almost running through the city streets towards Simon’s house.

It loomed large and imposing in the distance, in a part of town she had rarely seen.As she got close, she could see that the courtyard was still open!

Her nerves caused her to stop just outside of Simon’s house. But she closed her eyes tight to build up the nerve to barge into the house of someone who would be furious at her intrusion.

As she walked in, everybody in the room turned and looked at her with scorn. Everyone, except Jesus.

He looked at her and everything else was instantly drowned out. He looked into her eyes. He knew…everything. How?! She had no idea. But it was true.

He was looking at every single page of her life…all the horrible, lurid details. She kept expecting Him to turn away in disgust. He did the exact opposite. He forgave her! He hadn’t said a word, but she could see it in his eyes.

She instantly knew no words would be appropriate as she knelt at His feet and began weeping. As each tear fell, she could feel her load lifting. A burden she had been carrying for decades was being taken from her.

She started wiping His feet with her hair, smearing the tears in the dust. Then she brought out her most prized possession and began pouring it on His feet. She had no idea that anyone was speaking around her, much less that they were talking about her. It wouldn’t have mattered.

Then she heard Him speak for the first time…only four words, but four words that would completely change her life. “Your sins are forgiven.”

Now it was her turn to gasp as her burden was completely lifted from her.

“Your faith has saved you; go in peace”

She stood up to leave and could feel a difference. She no longer stooped with the weight of her past. She felt lighter. There was something that she felt, as well…something new.

“This must be…joy.”

She slowly walked away, and those outside did not recognize the new woman who walked out of Simon’s house.