So That …

On March 17th, I attended the 2012 Hearts at Home Conference in Normal, Illinois. The fist speakers of the day were reality TV stars Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar. As I listened to the famous couple talk about the circumstances that led up to their series, “19 Kids and Counting,” two words came up so frequently in their conversation that I felt compelled to make them the cornerstone—and title—of mine as I learned how:

  • God told Jim Bob to run for a seat on the US Senate so that …
  • a photographer could take his family’s picture when they showed up at the polls so that
  • the New York Times would buy the photo and write about the large family from Arkansas who supported their father on election day.

Sometimes you have to let go of something good to make room for something great. Jim Bob had to lose his race for US Senate so that he could say “yes” to a documentary and the television series that followed. It’s a lesson that inspired me to create my latest (and shortest) parenting rhyme as I concluded that every “drat” has a “so that.”

It’s hard to understand in our darkest moments that God’s hand will one day be removed to let in the light, but it does happen when we lean on verses like Romans 8:28 and Isaiah 43:19.

I’ve had a lot of “so that’s” in my life. One of the most memorable occurred in 2010 when:

  • my ovaries stopped producing estrogen so that …
  • my digestive system would slow to a crawl so that
  • the doctor would schedule a colonoscopy ten years before my first one would normally be due so that
  • the silent killer known as colon cancer could be discovered before it had time to spread.

Hind sight is not just 20/20. It’s a 10-4 that God is at work in our lives. The disciples realized this first hand when:

  • God sent his son to die on a cross for our sins so that …
  • all who believe in him will have eternal life so that …
  • we are free to serve God, not out of obligation, but in celebration of what Jesus did to save our lives.

This wasn’t what the apostles had asked for. They were looking for someone to save them from the Romans, not themselves.

I read once that the purpose of prayer is not to tell God what we want from Him, but to teach us about what He requires of us. Jim Bob knew this when, on the heels of defeat, He prayed for insight into what God would have him do next with his life. Our challenge is the same as we ask, not for our will to be done, but to understand His and trust that when things don’t turn out the way we hoped they would, God can use bad for good.

See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.

(Isaiah 43:19)

Bad Ingredients

“I’m on the train,” Bill said when I answered the phone. “I should be home by 7:30.”

“Sure beats getting home at 1:30 a.m. like you did last night,” I replied.

My husband puts in some crazy hours during his busy season; and every year, there’s a two-week window when I wonder how long he can keep up the pace. During this stressful time, I try to be like the woman from Proverbs 31 where her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value because she brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.

Part of the good that I bring—literally—to the table during busy season is a freshly made dessert in case Bill wants a late night snack before going to bed. Although my family might tell you otherwise, I’m not a terrible baker. As long as I follow the directions on the box or bag, nothing gets burned and nobody usually gets hurt by eating it.

Still, I known for my kitchen mishaps. Probably because the ones that I do have overshadow even my best laid plans. Like when Bill came home to find a pan of rice crispy bars waiting for him. I made them after noticing a forgotten box of cereal in the back of a cupboard earlier that day. Although the contents didn’t expire for several months, the holiday packaging should have been my clue that the outcome would not be worth my effort. What it was worth was a laugh when Bill took a bite out of one and said: “Call the Blackhawks to see if they want their hockey pucks back.”

“They’re not that bad,” I protested.

“I’m lucky I didn’t break a tooth,” he exclaimed before good-naturedly adding, “It’s good to be home.”

This type of banter is common in our household. As a firm believer in the saying “If you want to fight, keep it light”, I rarely take jabs seriously, whether poked in fun or out of frustration. According to John Gottman, this is a good thing because defensiveness is one of what he calls the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse because “defensiveness is really a way of blaming your partner.” (The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work, p. 31)

Hearing that this trait—when mixed with unhealthy doses of criticism, contempt, and stonewalling—can push even the strongest marriage toward an undesirable end makes me even more determined to admit my weaknesses before anybody else does.

Why?

Because awareness paves the way for acceptance and the knowledge that, whether my family has something to laugh about or something to eat, it will nourish them either way. In the case of my rice crispy bars it was the former when Bill went upstairs and, before turning in, made a reservation to take me out to dinner that Friday night.

As soon as I received the invitation in my inbox, I replied: “Should we order dessert at the restaurant or have some when we get home?

“I have a dentist appointment on Saturday morning so I guess either is fine,” he said before shutting down his computer.

Unlike my treats (which I threw in the trash before heading upstairs), my evening couldn’t have turned out better. Bad ingredients don’t make for a good dessert, but they do strengthen a relationship if you don’t take yourself—or your cooking—too seriously and trust that with a  little humor, even the worst mistake will turn out fine.

If you want to fight, keep it light and all will be well at the end of the night.

Five of My Favorite iPhone Apps

I’m always on the lookout for ways to put my iPhone to better use. Below are five applications that I downloaded from the App Store and use regularly, if not every day:

  1. Evernote – This is my most used and favorite free app. It’s almost like a mini-filing system that I can access from an iPad, Mac, or any PC.
  2. TurboScan – I blogged about this software in my other March 4th post and, like Evernote, use it several times a day.
  3. Flixster – This is my favorite app to check movie showtimes, read reviews, and watch trailers. It has saved me on countless occasions from going to mediocre movies that I would otherwise regret paying to see.
  4. Twitter – I use this micro-blog to store my favorite quotes. It’s almost like a mini-journal that my daughters can look back on one day.
  5. Beat the Traffic – If you live in a high traffic area, this app is great because it allows you to see which roads are congested and take an alternate route. In many areas, there are cameras posted which allows users to look at the roads themselves and make real-time decisions. How cool is that?

Although I am a techie at heart, these apps are so easy to learn that even a novice could use them. I know because more times than I can count, that novice has been me. And with every mastered experience, I reached the same conclusion: When the person who is standing in the way of progress is you (or me), maybe it’s time to move; because when we step outside our comfort zone for long enough, we’ll see that we belong there.

Keeping Track of Receipts and Other Documents

Organizing your paper files is the type of project that goes better with a little help from friends … and a lot of user-friendly technology. For years, we used a product called NeatReceipts to create and file a digital copy of receipts and other important documents. When I migrated from my PC to a Mac computer, I decided that it was time to re-look at our options and see if a better solution existed. What I found was an iPhone application called TurboScan that scans receipts and multiple-page documents.

The software is much easier to use than our old solution and just $1.99 to download from the App Store on iTunes. My favorite feature is the ability to e-mail a PDF or JPG version of receipts directly to a folder in Evernote, which is a free web application that seamlessly synchronizes medical records, class notes, travel information and anything else I need access to. Because it works across all the devices and platforms—including Evernote for Mac, Evernote Web, and Evernote for Windows—Bill can see my scanned receipts seconds after I upload them and record the amounts in Quicken (which is another program that has worked well for our family for years).

I’ve said many times that when we make the most of what we have, God blesses us with more. In the case of putting technology to use, the gift is less clutter and more time to do the things we really want to do. What I want is to share what I know so that others can grow because your progress is my passion. And one of the best investments I will ever make is the time that I spend serving you.