Hair

We knew it was coming.  It was one of the first side effect discussions.  Sweet ginger hair boy’s ginger hair would be going.  And yesterday was the day.

He had an appointment for labs at Children’s and as we drove into the city, he was yanking out chunks of his ginger locks.  He thought it was amusing.  Grabbing tufts of hair, giving a quick pull & having it all come out in his hand.  “It doesn’t hurt.  It just falls out!”  I asked him if he was ok, ok with his ginger hair falling out.  He said “yeah, it’s no big deal.  It’s just hair, mom.”

Later that evening, after we all gathered for dinner around the table together {a moment I now long for} we headed upstairs to do away with the straggly ginger locks.  Clippers in my hubby’s hand, hair fell to the bathroom floor.  Sweet ginger locks in piles on the tile around sweet ginger hair boy’s feet.  He smirked at the mohawk of long hair that remained.  Then he laughed as he glanced in the mirror at the long, wispy strands that remained in chunks and he chuckled as the final pieces were removed.  He ran his fingers over his newly buzzed head, smiled in the mirror & returned to his room to get some more gaming in.  “You ok?”  I asked again as I sat on the edge of his bed.  “Yes, mom.  It’s just hair.  I’m fine.”

“It’s just hair.”  True words.  And yet, it seems like more than just hair.  True I likely make way too much of his ginger locks – but seriously his hair color…to die for!  But it’s even more than just that.  And as I sat and looked at my boy, with his obnoxiously long ginger locks gone, my emotions all fell out from inside and rolled silently down my cheeks. Stupid Cancer!!  It steals so very, very much.  It slithers its way in & it begins its destructive ways as soon as it can.  It starts taking, taking, taking.

Oh, I know, it’s not really the cancer that’s taking…it’s the chemo.  Do not get me started on alternatives to chemo right now.  Feel free to fight your cancer battle {or your child’s} with whatever essential oil & beet juice concoction you think might do the trick, but we will be using the specific chemo treatment that our oncologists believe will be the best choice to actually defeat the cancer raging inside our boy.  So, yes, chemo is at fault, but if it weren’t for the Cancer, we wouldn’t need the chemo.  {stepping off my soapbox}

One day life is just chugging along.  The biggest thoughts, in reality, are not very big at all.  Worry centers around remodel projects and wardrobe decisions with a side of what’s for dinner.  And then bam!  Out of nowhere a battle.  All the sudden all that stuff is really little, stupid in fact.  Who cares what my kitchen remodel project looks like?  Who cares what my new shoes looks like?  Who cares what’s for dinner?  A real opponent is in the room.  And the opponent fights dirty.  It steals things that are important, things that make you “you”, things that you take for granted.  It requires drugs and blood and time and energy and emotions.  And it steals.  Steals so much…including hair.

Hair is really not the issue.  {although I do already long for when sweet ginger can grow his hair out as long as he wants and do that weird head flip that moves his way-too-long-bangs out of his eyes}  It’s everything that Cancer comes in and destroys.  In one big swoop, it reaches in and takes what it should not.  It causes upheaval and unrest.  And it’s everything that Cancer deposits too.  All the baggage it dumps.  It brings with it real worry and real fear. It removes, rearranges and wreaks havoc.

And yet…even with all it does, all it destroys…there is something bigger.  Something with more power and more beauty.  Someone who fights for me, for us.  Someone who takes great joy in us.  Somewhere I can rest.  A place to throw my anger, disappointment, anxiety & fear.

“The Lord your God is in your midst,
A victorious warrior.
He will exult over you with joy,
He will be quiet in His love,
He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.”  -Zephaniah 3:17

#cancersucks

The New Normal

It’s been quite a while since I’ve been here.  I was taking a break for summer & then just when I was about to get started writing here again, the world got twisted and turned wrong-way-round.

Cancer.

Like a train barreling down the tracks at full speed slamming directly into my heart. The words of my 16 year old son’s oncologist {the fact that my son even has an oncologist} stopped my heart, my world, my everything.  And then in the same millisecond it all began to chaotically race in a tumbling out-of-control fashion; swirling and twisting around me, my mind failing to be able to hold together my very being.

Then came the information.  All the information.  Treatment.  Medications.  Side effects.  Blood counts.  Procedures.  I was suddenly being asked to drink from a fire hydrant flowing full force at my face.  “Take it all in!  Quickly!”

Blurry.  Messy.  Fear.  Tears.  Questions.  What-if’s.  Who knows?  All clamoring for my attention, my thoughts, my time, my now.  And in the very next millisecond, decisions are made, papers are signed, treatment begins.  Without time to process, think, ponder, decide.  Hit by a train, flooded with information – GO!

Cancer.

My sweet ginger haired boy was diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma on September 21.  After several weeks of misdiagnosis and “he’s a tough case”, lymphoma was confirmed by lymphoid biopsy and bone marrow biopsy.  Stage 4 Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma – ALCL.

Port went in.  PET scan for baseline done.  Chemo began.

He’s finished one full round of chemo out of a total of six.  Five to go {those are some stellar math skills!}  Five days of chemo on a 22 day cycle.  But as I’ve quickly learned, NOTHING is schedule-able when it comes to Cancer.  Nothing.  Everything that I enjoy being so well thought out and printed neatly on a calendar weeks and weeks in advance is up for complete & total rearrangement at any moment thanks to Cancer.  Crazy, chaotic, unknown is where I currently reside {hopefully temporarily}.  Routine & schedule {two of my favorite friends} have had to sit down and be quiet.  At least for a while.

If you’re interested, we have a Caring Bridge site for Alex.  It’ll be the story of Alex and his cancer treatment.  Updates, hard stuff & {hopefully} plenty of celebratory posts!  Feel free to pop over there.

Here, however, is where I plan to tackle cancer from a mama’s heart.  It’s his cancer story, but it’s “my boy with cancer” story.  Feel free to follow along here.

He gives strength to the weary,
And to him who lacks might He increases power. – Isaiah 40:29

She’s Got Issues

FullSizeRender 77The title seemed like it would absolutely fit me.  Issues.  I’ve got them.  Definitely.  In particular Nicole Unice talks about 5 issues that I would just bet to guess that most women deal with to some degree.  Control. Insecurity. Comparison. Fear. Unforgiveness.  Check, check, check, check & yes, check.  Issues.  Yep.

I’m currently two chapters in.  Nicole is setting up the tone for the entire book.  Because, let’s get real here, this could be depressing & heavy & guilt-ridden and shamed-filled.  It could be yet another reminder of all the things that are wrong in the way I’m doing this life.  All the places where I’m not measuring up.  All the nastiness that sits inside me that needs a thorough scrubbing & reorganizing.  Ugh!  And that all sounds less than delightful.  But that is not her take on these issues. Thank Goodness.

In chapter 2, Nicole talks about a wordless book.  I’ve never heard of such a thing.  I have heard of the salvation bracelet, which is about the same thing.  One summer in junior high, our youth group made a trazillion of these little bracelets with leather straps and colored plastic beads.  Black, red, white,blue, green & yellow.  Sin, Sacrifice, Redemption, Baptism, Growth, Heaven.  We were going to save the world with our bracelets.  We were.

Nicole talks in chapter 2 about the green.  Growth.  Growing day by day with Jesus.  We skip that step sometimes.  I do.  I can go straight from cleansing & redemption & baptism to shiny streets of gold.  Just take me out of here, Jesus.  Take me to paradise. {which reminds me of a Guns & Roses song…but…nevermind}  Growth.  It’s that time while we’re still sitting here on the earth when Jesus is changing us, molding us, teaching us.  He’s making our hearts more like His so that our actions and words and attitudes will be more like his.  He’s changing us to be more like him.  He is changing us.

And that got me thinking…

I have been in the adventure of straightening my teeth for 7 months now.  I skipped the braces-right-of-passage in adolescence & decided that instead 40 seemed like a great time to awkwardly shift my teeth into a straighter, more uniform arrangement.  I chose Invisalign for the job.  Molds were made & a computer came up with the exact motions that my teeth needed to make for success.  Then 31 {yes, 31!} different plastic trays were made that would ever-so-slowly, yet not-very-gently move my teeth into the straight smile I desired.  Every two weeks I put in a fresh set of the trays and every two weeks my teeth shift a little bit.  After 7 months {halfway there!} my teeth have definitely been moved, but there is still a lot of shifting left to do for them to be aligned properly.

I wish that I could just get in there and straighten them all in an instant.  Just magic wand it and make them perfectly straight.  I would love to be able to just push on them with all my strength & arrange them to fit in an orderly fashion.  Instantly.  But that won’t work {perhaps I’ve tried that, perhaps not.}  Instead, the only way that this will work well is if I allow those plastic trays to do their job at a snails pace.  They do all the work.  They have the strength to move my stubborn, don’t-want-to-move teeth.  My responsibility is to simply make sure I wear them.  They will do the rest.

I’ve decided to approach this book and, more importantly, my issues with this same strategy.  I don’t want this to just be another book that generates a to-do-list for changing me.  A book that generates enough guilt & shame in me that I try to change in order to ease those feelings.  I don’t want to read this book and be determined to pull myself up by my bootstraps and make myself better of my own power and might.  Because, he’s the deal, I can’t.  You can’t.  Just like I can’t rearrange my teeth simply using my own strength, I can’t change my heart out of my own power either.  Heavens knows I’ve tried.

I’m determined to use the green bead!  To grow.  Maybe slowly.  Maybe not always so gently.  But by using his strength and power and might.  Not mine.  My responsibility?  Just like my teeth.  For the Invisalign trays to work, I have to wear them.  For the Spirit to grow me I must ‘wear’ it.  In the Word, listening, talking to God, asking for help.  I’ll fill up with Him and He’ll take care of the outward reflection of what’s going on between us.

“God isn’t working in our issues to make us need him less.  He’s interested in moving through our issues so we can understand just how desperate we are for a constant inflow of his love into our hearts.  This isn’t about perfection, about being better, it’s about being changed-reborn, remade every single day into the likeness of Christ.” – Nicole Unice

Thank You Gifts

It’s that time of year again.  As the weather warms up, things begin to wind down.  And as activities & school winds down, the need for thank you gifts surges upward.  And I tend to be at a loss as to what to give.

Gift giving is a quality that many people possess.  I am not one of them.  I have the hardest time buying gifts.  So what does one do when they just don’t know what to do?  Pinterest.  She is everyone’s friend.

easy spring thank yous

I searched thank you gifts.  Do you know what I saw?  A bazillion amazingly crafty ideas that might take me the next two – four years to complete.  I didn’t have that kind of time.  I needed easy-peasy and pleasant-thoughtful done in less than an hour.  That search turned nothing up. So “easy DIY thank yous” was my plea.  And Pinterest, as she always does, delivered beautifully.

These are SO ridiculously easy.  But I think they’re beautiful.

You’ll need:

  • 4″ pots of thyme &/or mint
  • brown paper lunch sacks
  • yarn, ribbon, twine
  • card stock { I used 65 lb. Kraft card stock}
  • zip-lock sandwich bags
  • FREE printable tags

Also helpful:

  • quality papercutter
  • tag punch

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Here’s what you do:

  1. Place the potted plant in a sandwich size zip-loc bag, to keep your paper bag from getting soggy.
  2. Roll down the top of your brown paper lunch sack.  I used the regular sized ones and rolled about 4 times.
  3. Place potted plant in the sack.
  4. Tie ribbon, twine, string, yarn around the rolled down part on the bag.
  5. Print the free printable on your own printer using card stock.
  6. Using whatever tools you have {scissors or cutter and punch} cut out the words into tags.
  7. Secure the tag to the ribbon, twine, string, yarn.
  8. Give away with frivolousness.

Easy as that.  They are beautiful.  They are easy!  It gets no better than that.

Click on the picture below to access the free printable.

thank you tags

Thank you to A Night Owl Blog for the inspiration!  

 

Shut Up! I-Do-Love-Kale Salad

Spring is finally here in the upper midwest.  At least in my little dot.  And that means recipes are changing from warm and cozy to light and summery!  Grilling and salads and fresh fruits!  Delicious season has arrived!

Last night we had grilled skirt steak.  Plain jane.  Just salt & pepper and hit that hot grill.  Nothing fancy.  All delicious. And on the side I tried a new salad.  I had made my way to Costco yesterday & stocked up on berries, berries and more berries.  So many berries.  This new salad was sure to make great use of them.

One minor problem…main ingredient in said salad…KALE.  Kale.  It’s good for us.  And really we should love it.  But…let’s be honest.  Who really, really, really likes kale?  {crickets}  But the rest of the salad sounded so good & the reviews were well within my acceptable to try range.

I mixed it all up, massaged it {yes, you read that right} and let it sit until dinner.

I placed the salad in a fancy “company” bowl because if it’s in the company bowl, it must be good, right?  and set it on the table.  Looks of “what is this?” began surfacing around the table.  As we all dished up, the kids all tried to pass on the salad.  But, being the absolutely unreasonable parents that we are, we said they had to take some and try.  “Try”.  You know “try”?  In other words, take the smallest bite of the least disgusting part of the item and call it good.  But I am a mean-mean mama.  “Try some of the green”, I added.

Eye rolling. “Is that kale?  I hate kale.”

More eye rolling.  “Yeah I hate kale too.”

Faux bites taken, followed by a reminder, and real bites were taken.  {anyone else know this game?}

To my astonishment one of my children looked up & proclaimed, “Shut Up!  I do love kale!”

And thus the Shut Up! I Do Love Kale salad recipe was born.

My only tip…make sure and massage the dressing into the kale.  I put on disposable cooking gloves that I wear when dealing with raw meat and literally massaged the dressing all into the kale, making sure it covered all leaves thoroughly.  I think this is why it was so delicious.  Then add the other ingredients.  It really is great!   Shut Up! I do love kale Salad

Print Recipe

Shut Up! I Do Love Kale Salad

Source: www.thebalancedberry.com

Course: Salad

Cuisine: American

Prep Time: 10 min

Total Time: 10 min

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • Salad:
  • 1 Bunch Kale Finely Chopped (~ 4-5 Cups; I used Lacinato but Curly Kale also works)
  • 1 Cup Strawberries Sliced
  • 1 Cup Blackberries
  • 1 Diced Peach
  • 12 Cup Blueberries
  • 12 Cup Rasperries
  • 12 Cup Diced Mango
  • 3 Tablespoons Dried Cranberries
  • 14 Cup Almonds
  • 14 Cup Walnuts
  • Dressing:
  • 3 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons Dijon Mustard
  • 2 Tablespoons Honey (sub agave if vegan)
  • 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together apple cider vinegar, mustard, honey, salt and pepper until combined. Slowly stream in olive oil while whisking until emulsified.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the kale and dressing. Massage the dressing into the kale until coated and place in the fridge to marinate for a few minutes (this is a great time to chop the fruit).
  3. Before serving, add the diced fruit, dried cranberries and nuts to the kale and toss until evenly combined.

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New Adventures :: Show Pigs

PIG ADVENTURE

When we moved to our little slice of land close to town, I knew that chickens would be making a home with us.  I never would have imagined pigs.  But, friends, strange and unexpected things happen.  You see, a great family moved in across the street from us & they just happen to be pig people.  Champion show pig raisers to be exact.  They know their pig stuff.  We hit it off & especially our girls hit it off & that leads me to this::  I spent all day Saturday at a pig auction.  A. Pig. Auction.  Twelve months ago, I didn’t even know there were pig auction.  True words.  And yesterday I found myself examining pigs & bidding on pigs & bringing two little piggies home.  Two pigs are now a part of Weed Acres.

The auction was something.  All kinds {and I do mean ALL kinds} were present and accounted for.  It was like a mini state fair except with free food and no mini donuts-sad face.  They started with sheep and goats, which I’m happy to report we resisted.  That there is an act of will power.  Those little things are adorable!!  One of the goats went for nearly $3,000.  Yes, I have no words.  At that point I became incredibly nervous, but am happy to report the pigs didn’t go for anywhere near that price.  Hallelujah.

IMG_3328

Do I have any idea at all what I’m doing?  Not really.  But lucky for me, neighbors {did I mention they’re champions} & 4-H are willing to teach us.  Technically the pigs are Baby Girl’s pigs, but let’s be honest, mama needs to know what the heck is going on.  {Good thing one of my top 5 Strengths Finders is Learner.}  Pinterest and Google are my best friend in this adventure so far & having a board called Swine Time is both exciting and ridiculous.

IMG_3336
Paprika – Hereford gilt
IMG_3335
Winchester – Cross Breed barrow
IMG_3329
Winchester & Paprika – chowing

So, what do you do with pigs?  Excellent question.  We plan to show them.  And because 9 months ago I had no idea what that meant, let me share my limited knowledge of what that entails.  We attempted to pick pigs with the proper structure that is desirable.  So far, I think that mostly has to do with the pig’s butts.  With some back, legs and length thrown in.  We will feed our pigs a food designed to get them to their desirable show weight with muscles in all the right places and fat in the right spots {we are talking about ham and bacon after all}.  Then with the help of our local county 4-H, Baby Girl will take the pigs to the County Fair in July and show them.  She showed one of our neighbor’s pigs last year & loved it.  And with any luck, she’ll win a ribbon.  Then the two pigs will likely head to another auction where they will be purchased and most likely be prepared for eating.  I know…it’s the harsh reality of raising animals for meat.  But let’s be honest.  Most of us are eating meat & I can guarantee that these pigs will have been given the very best life they could get while living & they will meet their end in a humane and sensitive way.  That cannot be said for all the meat we find in our refrigerators today.  True words.

The auction was super exciting.  We spent a good hour walking around looking at all the available pigs trying to determine what we were looking for.  Thankfully our neighbors were there to help guide us.  We circled our favorites & tried to maintain a budget. And we were successful.  We purchased both pigs for less than we had set as our top budget amount.  Not bad.  We purchased a Hereford gilt {girl} and a cross breed barrow {boy}.  We got them home and settled and we are all surviving.

A new adventure.  I love a good adventure!

Playing in the Dirt – Spring Gardening!

Hooray, hooray, hooray.  Spring is nearly here.  Even as I type I see the weather forecast for these parts includes some snowflakes still, but I am optimistic that eventually this weather will turn and spring will be upon us.  And you know what that means?  Summer is right around the corner.  Oh, how I love summer!  The weather of summer is my favorite…it really never can be too hot.  Impossible.  My second favorite thing about summer is my garden.  Oh, how much I love my garden!  Fresh produce by the bucket full!  Tomatoes and peppers and beans and zucchini and…and…and…

In order to ensure that my garden will be overflowing with all the things we love, planning is super important.  I learned the hard way that this upper midwest growing season is pretty darn short.  In order reap most things before the frost hits, it’s important to start things inside.  Last year, I didn’t pay too close attention to what I started in those cute little divided trays {read :: I forgot to water & everything died} and I ended up paying a small fortune at the garden center for tomato and pepper plants.  But, friends, not this year.  This year I will succeed at starting plants from seeds.  I am again optimistic!

A few months back I placed my seed order for all the wonderful things I wanted to eat, errrr grow this year.  I used Seed Savers.  Their selection is amazing and they are conservationist at their core.  They specialize in organic and heirloom varieties and are committed to making sure that non GMO seeds remain in our seed supply for those that want to grow “vintage” varieties of fruits and veggies.  {I am not making a statement for or against GMO’s.  But for my garden, I’m trying to go old school sometimes for no other reason than they look really cool.}  I know that there are other companies out there selling similar seeds, so shop around.  Or go to the Burpee’s section at your local garden center and pick seeds up there.  Whateverworksforyou.

My little packets of wonderfulness arrived shortly there after.  It was snowing outside, but I was looking way past that to the spring that was coming. I looked at those little packets nearly everyday, read the back and dreamed of the deliciousness they would produce.  And then I began to worry.  When do I plant them?  Should I start them inside?  Wait till the last freeze and put them straight in the ground?  What if I let them die again in those indoor starter containers?  How do I know what to do?

little packets of goodness

Introducing Zukeeni.  This is quite simply the best online gardening resource I have ever found.  Ever.  I made a free account {because free is important to me}.  I entered the names of every seed I purchased.  Some of them were weird, but Zukeeni had them in their database.  And then,like some sort of magic, Zukeeni produced a detailed plan for me and my garden.  What?  In a great week-by-week list form, it showed me what to plant when…so for example the week of March 15 it told me to start my tomato and pepper plants inside.  How cool is that?  And when I completed that task, I clicked it as complete on the screen & Zukeeni calculated when it would be time to transplant those same plants based on when I started them.  I don’t have to think or know anything about gardening to know what to do.  They think for me.  Amazing!!!

A couple of weekends ago I spent the morning getting my hands dirty.  I bought two starter trays from my local garden center and some starter soil {organic}.  Reading the instruction on the packets of how deep to bury those little seeds, I got to work.  To make sure that I knew what was growing {because although I think I will be able to remember what I planted where, I know that I in fact will not}  I used some cocktail toothpicks to indicate what was in each little square.  I used  a sharpie, so it wouldn’t run when I watered {these are lessons learned the hard way}.  Everything looked so great, if I do say so myself.  I put the greenhouse tops on my trays and placed them where Zukeeni told me to.  And slowly watched the miracle of growth begin.  It really is amazing!

garden starting 2016cocktail toothpicks!

So here I sit on this sunny April morning with two trays of spouting wonder.  I decided to locate the starter trays this year in my “office” so I’ll see them and hopefully remember to give them some water {smirk} and keep an eye on their progress.  They are actually growing.

Look at 'em Grow! I see the potential of what is to come…the hope of the veggies that will grace our summer dinner table, beginning to emerge.  It is a beautiful thing.

Stop Trying So Hard

Wed in the WordI finished up with the book of Mark while on vacation last week.  I enjoyed reading a book of Scripture through from start to finish one chapter a day.  Thanks to Courtney over at Good Morning Girls for walking us through the Bible that way.  Next she is starting Deuteronomy.  I would love to say that I’m over-the-moon excited for that Old Testament gem, but… I haven’t decided if I’ll be tagging along when it starts or venturing off on my own.


 

For today though, I find myself stuck in a great place.  Luke.  With Easter still firmly in my front thought {that may be like forethought} you know, the thought that is just right there waiting to be turned over & over in your mind until you’ve examined every single angle it holds and played with it until it sinks deep into your soul.  Please say you do this too.  I don’t want to be the weird one.  Again.  ha ha.  so…

Luke 23:39-43

39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed [or blasphemed] at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

I very much find myself believing that those two who hung on crosses on either side of Jesus represent the whole of humanity.  You’ve got the one who is hanging there, likely beaten and bloody and dying, hurling abuse at Jesus in the midst of his their horrific situation.  And in the next breath, while meant to be sarcastic in tone most likely, he is suggesting that Jesus prove himself by getting them all out of this predicament.  “If you are really who you say you are, which by the way is why you find yourself hanging here dying, then prove it and save yourself…and me too.  Then I will believe”

On the other side of Jesus you see another likely bruised and beaten and dying fellow.  This man has clearly lived a life with less than excellent choices.  He admits that he has wronged and deserves the punishment for which he finds himself.  But in this moment, he sees Jesus.  He recognizes who Jesus is.  He understands that Jesus will reign over a kingdom.  He doesn’t ask Jesus to prove himself, he doesn’t question why the King of kings would find himself dying on a cross.  He simply believes.  And he asks him only to remember him. “I believe you are the King & I ask you to simply remember me when you are in your Kingdom.”

Such contrast.  The one who mocks Jesus and will not believe He is the King of kings unless He has proof.  The one who sees Jesus and without any proof at all believes that He is the King and will reign in His Kingdom forever.  Pride versus humility.  Proof versus faith.

We don’t know if Jesus took the time to respond to the disbeliever – it isn’t recorded in the passage.  But we do hear {read} Jesus’ words to the thief who had faith.  “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

This is the part that really gets me.  Whispers to me deep in my heart past where my thinking & logic can reach.  This man, sentenced to die for his crimes which he agrees he committed {read:: has not made great life choices}, has likely not been to church {synagog} in maybe forever, has likely not tithed or served or ever done a random act of kindness {you know, paying for the persons meal behind him at Starbucks}.  He is moments away from death, so it’s unlikely he’ll have time to join a Bible study or attend a conference or even be baptized.  He has no time to do anything other than call out in complete belief to Jesus.

If Christianity was based on weighing the “good” things against the “bad” things and hoping that the scale leaned more to the “good” side, this thief would be in bad, sorry shape.  But Jesus has no concern.  He didn’t say, “Look, I will remember you, but unfortunately I won’t be seeing you.  You see you didn’t do anything to earn your way into my Kingdom.  Not a single thing.  And look at the really awful things you did that were against my teachings.  And, by the way, I was everywhere teaching in this area, so I know you’ve heard of me before today and could have followed me sooner.  It’s unfortunate.  My Kingdom’s pretty amazing.  Paradise, actually.”  Instead, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

He didn’t do a single thing.  Not one.  No baptism, no meal delivery, no volunteering in the church nursery.  Nothing.  Nada.  Zip.  He believed Jesus was who He said He was.  Reminds me of an Old Testament guy Abram.  {Genesis 15:6}  He believed the Lord for the absurd & it was counted to him as righteousness.  This man, hanging next to Jesus believed the absurd too – that Jesus was the Son of God with a Kingdom that would never end and it too was counted to him as righteousness.  His belief alone.

I find myself trying too hard sometimes.  A lot of the time.  I may say with my mouth, “I am saved by grace, not by works” but do I live that?  Not that I shouldn’t be tithing & serving & being kind – I should.  But I should do that as an overflow of my faith rather than a stepping stool to achieve it.  How do I know the difference in the two?  I suppose it’s all about the heart.  Do I serve with joy?  Do I give with a cheerful heart?  Do I love with grace & kindness the way that Jesus loved?  Is my “doing” out of humility?  Or do I go-go-go-go trying to prove something?  Am I wanting to win the approval of others?  Am I striving to be “better” than someone else, do more, earn more “heaven-points” {like gold stars on a chore chart}?  This “doing” is powered by pride.

It’s a battle us humans all face.  It’s in our nature.  But it’s so clear that Jesus & His Kingdom don’t operate that way.  He invited the man hanging beside Him to join Him.  Even though that man could do nothing but believe before his final breath.  Believing was enough.  Believing is enough.  Good enough.

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