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This is part of an ongoing series of devotionals for writers posted every other Tuesday.

They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them… Nehemiah 9:17

Though the God of the Old Testament frequently displays anger, it is stated over and over that God is “slow to anger.” Even when we refuse to listen or remember the blessings we are given, God still waits patiently for us to come back to him.

Anger can become a force itself in our lives. We allow it to control our behavior and then often regret harsh words or actions once the heat of the moment is past. As believers, we should be striving towards the image of Christ, who was compassionate, loving, and slow to anger. When we give ourselves over to anger and allow it to control our actions, we move farther from the purpose God has given to each of us which to bring glory to him by loving Him and loving others.

The more we conform to Him, by loving others, the more our lives will be a testament to the transformative power of His influence and love. By remembering blessings and being thankful, we can steer our anger to more productive emotions.

For you: Is there an area of anger you need to release to God? Is there a person or situation in your life to which you could show more compassion and less anger?

For your characters: What is the one thing which sets them off faster than anything else? What does this short fuse area reveal about them? Does their anger bother them or others around them? Do they make an effort to control their reactions?

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It’s A Big Day

Today was Gideon’s first day of Kindergarten. He was excited about his new teacher, new class, and new school.

Gideon Kindergarten

I am not worried about him in his big new pond. He is a great swimmer.

It amused me that the PTA hosted a “BooHoo Breakfast” for the Kindergarten parents. Some of my friends are very sad and filled with anxiety over this milestone, but my feelings boil down to, “Praise Jesus.”

I am happy and excited for Gideon and for me. We will both be venturing into new territory. He will be in real school where he will learn all kinds of things I wish he did not,  how mean kids can be, and things I do not have the patience to teach him, Math.

I will be down one kid every day and, with Wash in preschool three half days, I will have actual kid-free time on a regular basis. I already have multiple ways to fill this time, of course I do!

I want to grab all those sad parents by the shoulders and shake them. This is not a day to be sad. This is a day to rejoice. This is a day our children start their journey to being a useful member of society. I know, I know. Laying the groundwork when they are young is essential. I know. I did that, but now their real journey starts.

How can I be anything but joyful on this day when the whole world is open to him? There are so few moments in your life when the possibilities are as vast as they are when you start school. Kindergarten. Starting college. Beginning a new career. Getting married.

This is one of those rare opportunities to treasure. It should be a day when the zing in your step and your mind are so great you leave rainbows and songs in your wake, not tears.

I hope he has so many great things to tell me that he does not shut up for the rest of the day. If his first day was less than stellar, we will pick ourselves up and try again tomorrow, because it is all part of life and the learning process.

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Writing a Bio

I have been serving in different teaching capacities at our church for a few years now. For the fall, Ries and I are both stepping into new leadership roles. Because of this, I was asked to provide a bio for the church’s website. (update: They are in the midst of revamping and simplifying the site, so the bios are on hold.)

What would I include in a bio for church?

I have standard bios, of varying lengths, I use for writing and training, but they are appropriately focused on those areas. As I sat in front of a blank screen yesterday, all I could come up with was this:

Michelle spends her time reading, writing, brewing beer, and praying for no zombies tonight.

I do not think that is what my, albeit liberal, Baptist church has in mind. All the other bios on the page talk about how much passion they have for sharing Christ (I have that), and how much they love teaching or helping others (I love those things too), what kind of family they have (I’ve got that too!), and a favorite verse (boy, do I have one of those). How do I merge the quirky and sometimes inappropriate me with the more gentle me?

I have gentled in the past few years, especially since leaving the regular workforce and having kids. Nothing humbles a person like having a baby poop on your favorite shirt, never being able to go to the bathroom alone, or really do almost anything you used to do at your own leisure again. (For example, while writing this one post, I was interrupted for lunch; multiple bathroom breaks, not mine; copious crying, also not mine; and putting the youngest down for a nap, sadly not my nap.)

I was in desperate need of humbling when I left work. I thought more of myself than anything else. At the time, I thought I was staying home for my family because God asked me to.

Now, I know God asked me to stay home for me. In His mercy, He has made me see what I could have become and led me to be someone else instead. Still me, but better. Less prideful (most of the time) and more empathetic (usually). Do I still struggle with all my faults? How much time do you have for me to tell you about all the ways I have screwed up lately?

Each day I learn something new about the world, myself, and God and I grow. If I write a personal bio, not the kind for professional use, I want it to reflect the way I have grown and how much the discovery process as I go means to me and my journey to God.

If I wrote a bio for my church website, it might say something like this:

Michelle came to know Jesus at a young age, but never understood what it meant to be a precious child of God until she was much older. She is passionate about teaching and discovering the wonder of God’s love and provision. Michelle serves with her husband, Ries, in the youth ministry and they have two small boys of their own. Michelle is many things depending on who you ask: a writer, a reader, a technology guru, a baker, a geek, or someone to laugh with.  No matter her role in the moment, she strives to love others as Jesus asked. Her life verse is Psalm 27, the ending of which implores we, “Wait for the Lord; Be strong, and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.”

What would your bio say?

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As you can imagine, reading is something we do quite a bit at our house. We read all kinds of things with the boys: board books, picture books, graphic novels, short stories, and, more recently, middle grade and YA novels.

We have completed the Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini, some of the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis, and a handful of others. We are currently on the fourth book in the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. 

Reading the longer novels has given us the opportunity to practice reading comprehension and encounter new vocabulary terms with Gideon. Wash is still to young to be still and listen to an entire chapter, but he is in the room for the family reading time. It has been, and continues to be a wonderful experience for our family and it is a time I look forward to every day.

This current rereading of the Harry Potter series will mark my third journey through the books. My perspective is different, I have motherhood under my umbrella of experiences now, but the humor and characters are as wonderful as the first time I read them, sometimes, often times, late into the night.

While we read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the third in the series, my mind was already ahead on what Harry, Ron, and Hermione would face in the coming years and something gripped my heart. The third book is the last time I can point to the narrative and easily see the innocence of the characters. They know there is bad stuff out there. They fight it off at some point in each book, but at the end of the plot of the first three, their innocence is still intact in some fashion. They are still kids. After the third book, the dangers they face are darker and they come out more and more scarred in each book.

As I listened to Ries read HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban, I grieved for the characters in this book who still have so much to face, so many fears and dangers, in the coming books. It is a testament, both to the characters and to Rowling’s crafting of them, that they are people that stick with us. How many of us have longed for a sweater from Mrs. Weasley for Christmas or wanted to be included on that magical clock in the Weasley’s kitchen?

I look at my own boys, still so young, with so many adventures of their own ahead of them and I know their innocence will be peeled away by life. Slowly, each layer will be left behind as they learn and grow. I do not wish them to remain innocent forever, but I do want to remember them as they are now so when they have grown wiser in the ways of the world, I can see their journey and be proud. I want to remember these days, before they become the men they are destined to be, so I can remind them of their journey.

For now, we will read Harry Potter and I will relish hearing the story again with my family by my side.

 

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This is the time of year we all start moaning about how much we still have left to do, buy, clean, and get ready for the holidays. Monday morning, I was facing a To Do list that was threatening to topple onto me like a stack of “treasure” in a hoarder’s house. The Grinch had conspired with my To Do list to kill me.

In a singular moment of adult clarity (it will probably never happen again), I realized my focus was in all the wrong places.I was irritated at the laundry, the kitchen, the presents to wrap, and the floors to clean.

Instead, I resolved to be thankful. I am thankful to have nice clothes to wash, dry, and hang up in my closet. I am thankful to have a large kitchen filled with food and utensils. I am thankful that I have presents to give my children for Christmas. I am thankful to live in a house, dust bunnies and all.

I hope I remember tomorrow, and the next day, and the next to be thankful for my blessings, but more than that. I pray that I will be content with my blessings so I do not forget to be thankful in the first place.

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Indecision, It’s a Disease

Nothing says genetic dysfunction like watching your kids grow and seeing yourself in them. Gideon obviously has a personality similar to mine and, while I find it funny at times, it often drives me bonkers. Tear out my hair somebody get me a drink bonkers. Even better than seeing yourself, is recognizing your spouse in your child. Washington has already shown some traits that aresimilar to Ries.

My husband, bless his heart, is good at making big decisions. If it is what kind of car to buy, whether to take a different job, or some other large, life altering choice, he makes charts, considers carefully, and decides. He is the decider. No problem.

However, if it is what to eat for lunch, what toppings he should have on his pizza, or what shirt to wear (he has them organized in the closet so he just chooses the next in line), he is paralyzed by indecision. He agonizes over things that make no difference in the grand scheme of life and often will either choose not to choose or I just pick for him. Ries would point out here that choosing not to choose is actually a choice. Noted, but not accepted.

This morning, I watched as Washington was paralyzed by indecision while eating pancakes. Washington held the fork in his chubby hand and considered his plate. The fork wavered over one piece, then another. He circled the fork in the air, trying to choose which pancake square to choose. His frown went down with his eyebrows followed suit. I almost laughed because I knew what was next.

After about 30 seconds of fork wavering, unable to choose which bite of succulent blueberry pancake to eat, Washington looked up from his plate at me and cried in frustration. I solved the problem by walking to his side, stabbing a piece of pancake, and shoving it in his mouth.

Viola! Mom does all the things.

I foresee the future and it is Gideon and I making all the mundane decisions for our family while the other two bite their fingernails and worry over whether our pizza should include mushrooms (the answer is almost always, yes it should).

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I have the best in-laws on the planet because when they returned from their latest trip, this is what they brought me:

Jewelry and Scotch

I asked my mother-in-law for a handsome Scottish man with a brogue and a kilt, but I do not think Gerard Butler would have fit in their luggage.  My parents are on a trip to the Greek isles at this moment and I have to say, the bar is pretty high. I suggested they bring us a bottle of Ouzo.

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