"Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." Psalm 51:10

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Royal Wedding

For years the petite brown-eyed girl lit up as soon as her daddy walked in the door from the long day at the office. “Are you ready to get married, daddy?” she asked. She’d been waiting all day for this exact moment…Cinderella awaiting her handsome prince to arrive in his white carriage to rescue her. Donned in Cinderella dress-up and daddy in his fine suit, they proceeded with the ceremony with daddy holding two roles, minister and groom. As soon as daddy pronounced them man and wife, Cinderella ran to me announcing that she was now married to my husband.
I recall one particular day in which the princess Maddie announced, “Mommy, I’m afraid I’m in love with your husband.” Of course, I knew that. After all, she had been marrying my husband every single day for weeks! At some point, I don’t recall when, the wedding song, dress-up and man and wife pronouncement stopped. Life is like that, isn’t it? It hums along in the same routine until one day, a person is jarred with the stunning reality that life has changed in some form or fashion. Whether Maddie realizes she can’t marry her daddy because he is already spoken for, or she becomes gripped with how old that man actually is doesn’t really matter. The little princess has grown up and is currently looking for a younger more hip handsome prince.
While Maddie has set her sights on a different goal, she remains a princess at heart. At the risk of being stereotypical, I would imagine that every girl has longed to be a princess. As a young girl, I was fascinated with the royal family in England. I wondered what it would be like to live in the palace, have ladies-in-waiting, wear beautiful dresses and be married to the king. Well, maybe not Henry VIII who threw a few too many of his wives into the Tower of London. As an adult, I’ve read a plethora of historical fiction about the royal family. I can’t quite explain my obsession except that deep in my heart, I’m a princess wannabe. Offer me a book about Brazilian, Greek or Swedish history, and I will cast it aside as easily as a plateful of green peas. But, great reads about Anne Boleyn, Catherine of Aragon or Elizabeth I—I’ll soak up like a day in the sun by the pool.
I don’t believe I’m the only woman on the planet entranced by English royalty. Just look at the magazines at the local grocery. Even the media is encapsulated by the upcoming royal wedding. Newscasters are holding interviews with notables regarding an event with which the entire world is enraptured. Prince William has chosen his princess, Kate. My curious mind wonders if she ever dreamed that she’d be in THE royal family. Probably not in a million years. I ponder if she ever pinches herself thinking she’ll wake up from this reverie to discover herself transported back to regular life without palaces and paparazzi, crown jewels and coronations. Her world has forever changed. Maybe she’ll regret being elevated from an average commoner to a royal princess. After all, she’s trading in a life of anonymity for a life of publicity. Her life is no longer her own. She’ll always be watched and followed. Media will criticize her conversations, clothes and companions. The responsibilities and obligations of royal life have the capability of dampening the thrill of playing the part of the princess. Still, I might trade in regular life for no more vacuuming, toilet cleaning, laundry or cooking.  Surely a princess can’t be seen participating in household duties!
In just a few hours, Kate Middleton will be Princess Kate, and the entire world will be watching the big event. Someday, I might even get to see her as a reigning royal with her hubby—IF I outlive Elizabeth and her son! Yet, as fascinating as English royalty is to me, their reign on this earth is temporary.  In contrast, God’s reign knows no end; no one can oust Him from His throne nor will He ever die. In addition, because God’s word tells me that I am His child, I am as much a princess as anyone on an earthly throne.  “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! (1 John 3:1a) Because I am royalty, I am his heir. “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (Romans 8:16-17)
I don’t reside in a luxurious palace containing hallways lined with magnificent paintings, ballrooms brimming with beauty and grandeur, or pristine gardens manicured to perfection. The only people at my beck and call are my hubby and kids; no butler in service here. Come to think of it, my kitchen crew is pretty puny as well. It’s quite all right, though, because I have a palatial abode being prepared for me, and it’s not temporary—it’s permanent! So, Princess Kate can move into Buckingham or Kensington, and I will be ecstatic. It’s a real-life fairy tale come true. Every little girl’s dream—or at least mine!
And guess what? My King, God, through His son Jesus, paid the price for my own rags to riches, commoner to co-heir, pauper to princess story…for all eternity!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

When You're Not All-Sufficient

No one would believe I’m a perfectionist by looking at my kitchen counter.

Paper piles of important notices and special offers, graded homework, statements and other items that need attention permeate the landscape like the dandelions multiplying in my yard. Procrastination reigns as I continue to stack paper atop paper until one of two things happens: I'm unable to cook dinner due to lack of counter space or I’m expecting a guest whom I wish to impress with my clean countertops. In any case, I focus on the task of paper sorting and end up purging most of it because deadlines have passed and I missed the party, function or special buy on that nifty item I knew I needed.  If it takes me five or 10 minutes to discard that mess, why do I avoid the process? I’ll tell you why.  As a frustrated perfectionist, if I can’t do it right, I won’t even begin the project.
I know this about myself; my kids know it; my husband knows it. They claim I like things done a certain way…my way!  I’ve attempted to disguise it, but apparently, this trait has leaked out anyway. I suppose they experienced some sort of epiphany like I did recently. I was driving one morning, praying out loud in my typical fashion, bemoaning my poor spiritual influence as a parent. “I’m not a good enough role model for my kids. I’m missing teaching moments. I should create more spiritual moments. I’m not all sufficient.”  The moment I breathed that last sentence, God switched the light on inside my brain. Annette, you’re not supposed to be all-sufficient. I’m the All-Sufficient One. Oh yeah. Sigh. Relief. What in the world have I been doing, trying to take God’s place?  Trying to be everything for my kids? I’ve put so much pressure on myself for their spiritual well-being that I’ve neglected to trust God with my failings, my utter lack, my incapability to be their All.  
I want God to be their Everything. He is the only One capable of being present at all times, in all ways, in all situations. He has all the answers; I don’t. Why am I trying to fill God’s slot in their lives? Is it the perfectionist in me that seeks my will for their lives? Doesn’t God know them better than I do since He created them?  My heart knows that, but I sure don’t parent that way. Most of the time, I assume I know best and spend time instructing God on the matter. I want to clue Him in on the plan I’ve concocted for their spiritual growth.
My plan doesn’t include pain, suffering or hardship. It includes nonrebellious living, no major sins and following God wholeheartedly. This would be laughable except that I really have prayed and hoped God would follow my will. Praying the alternative is not much fun…His will for them, not mine. I desire that my kids take the high road instead of the hard road. Taking the path of sin and moving away from God for years is not the life I would choose for them. Suffering through relationship pain, physical pain or emotional pain is not on my top ten list of things for them to experience.
I ponder my own road…salvation, growth, immaturity, love, marriage, hurt, heartbreak, suffering, pain, divorce, second chance, love, marriage, growth, maturity…How can I exempt my children from the ups and downs of life and their choices, when I myself faced pain and loss? That hurt and heartbreak forged my growth in Jesus and caused me to lean and trust in His sufficiency. I hope my story will lead them to Christ without having to experience willful living. But, maybe their story will include things I don’t wish for them in a million years. God alone knows what each of my children will experience in order to follow Him with their entire hearts. Still, I’m hesitant to pray His will for them because of the fear of the unknown. When Jesus prayed for God’s will, it cost His life.
This is the point in which my all-sufficiency takes over. Perhaps I can rig my own plan for their lives, one that doesn’t cost them anything. I recall that I’ve been attempting that for years now and keep failing. Even with my perfectionistic tendencies, I can’t be a perfect enough parent, role model, teacher. My children will make mistakes, choose poorly, experience pain, endure hardship, and I must trust and point them to the All-Sufficient One. His plan is perfect; His will be done…  

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Lying Out of Love

I’ve been lying profusely for the last 6 months. Deceit and duplicity have been my modus operandi, and it’s about killed me. Still, the end does justify the means occasionally, right? And, in this case, my siblings and I collaborated together in an effort to conceal a surprise 50th anniversary party for my parents. We felt compelled to go to confession for our sin, only we aren’t Catholic.
Since October, we’ve been consorting for this big day, hoping that our parents would remain clueless until the event. Though the official anniversary date is March 24, we planned the party for April knowing they’d never expect it. Sure enough, disappointment donned for mom as she realized that ‘alas, no one was planning a family thing.’ She was a trooper, however, and attempted to sound happy with a short trip to Victoria, Canada with the love of her life for 50 years. But, we knew better. We knew she really desired a shindig with friends and family, party favors and program, catering and cake. After all, her picture is in the dictionary under the word “party.”
So, we planned, plotted and prepared via email, text and voice over a distance of 2250 miles. Since none of us live in Olympia, Washington where my parents live, we schemed with a close friend of the family who became our liaison and partner in crime. Somehow in all the scurrying and sneaking, no one slipped the surprise occasion, which is a miracle itself.
In order to insure our parents would be at the right place at the right time, my brother-in-law faked a “repair” trip to work on some coffee machines in Olympia and asked them to meet for lunch on party day. The day before the event, I flew from Bloomington to Seattle, staying at my brother’s house an hour from party central.  The morning of, we descended on the room in full force, transforming it with glittering ribbon, white tablecloths and golden balloons.
Unfortunately, the elegance of the room would be discounted by the entertainment prepared for the event. We elected to perform in typical Weston fashion, which involved a homemade skit and songs poking fun in the nicest of ways. After all, this is what we Weston’s do. An occasion of any kind is fodder for us to roast our family members like a pig over a spit. Thus, one must be thick-skinned and hard-shelled, like an army vehicle. Anyone who marries into the family must practically sign a pre-nup agreeing “to endure skits and/or songs on various momentous occasions which poke fun, laugh at or ridicule your personality.” It sounds more horrifying than it is. In my dad’s case, it usually involves mile high boxes of Kleenex razzing his sentimental weepy side during Hallmark movies or Little House on the Prairie.  In my situation, it normally involves some sort of reference to my multitude of blond moments. However, our performances are produced in love, and in our sick Weston humor, we understand this.  
As the clock ticked closer to the marked time, excitement grew like birds clamoring around a feeder. A few guests arrived, and then…the guests of honor arrived.  Ten minutes early.  Unwelcome early. And, this too is typical for mom and dad. We should have known they would arrive unfashionably early. Yet, even though most of the guests arrived after they did, they were stunned, surprised, shocked. They finally noticed me, daughter from Indiana, from more than halfway across the United States standing in front of them, and they were almost speechless. “How did you get here?” they asked.
“Plane, you know. Yesterday.” I had purposely called mom the day before, giving her my phony plans for the weekend, throwing her off track, just in case. Now, I was standing in front of my parents, thankful their hearts seemed to be healthy. Today’s surprise wasn’t going to necessitate a trip to the E.R. for heart attacks.
Mom and dad’s faces conveyed the adage “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Their faces truly said it all…joy, smiles, love. I’m not sure that I’ve ever anticipated an event so much in my life thus far. The excitement of going to Disneyland can’t begin to compare to the anticipation of this gift of honoring my parents for 50 years of marriage they’ve worked desperately hard to grow with prayer, commitment and love. To give back to two people who have given everything to their children and grandchildren, who have left a legacy of commitment through all kinds of circumstances, was worth the months of secrecy and sneakiness. I guess you could say I lied out of love…

Monday, April 4, 2011


Maddie climbs into the car, slams the door and plops her book bag on the floor. "Is everything okay?" I ask.

"No, I don't feel good. My throat hurts."

"When did that start?" I drive away from the school hoping that the sore throat doesn't progress into something more serious that may keep her home from school the next day. 

"After lunch, it began to hurt." Silence prevails as we head for home until Maddie bursts out, "Well, aren't you going to ask me the usual question?" 

I rack my brain searching for the right answer but return empty-headed. "What is that, Maddie?"

"You know--how was my school day?" Uh oh, I think I know where we're headed with this conversation.

"Oh, uh, how was your school day today?"

"It was HORRIBLE. Gretchen is done with me!"

Her sore throat seems to have paled in comparison to the drama at hand. Her choice of words is always interesting and yet again, I stifle a smile. "What happened, honey?"

Maddie begins the long saga of what led up to the dissolution of a 4-year friendship. At the conclusion of the story, I conclude that two tired, cranky girls fought over silly stuff. Reconciliation is hopeful, but right now, Maddie is crying and just needs some hugs and a little love and tenderness. At home, we sit in the comfy chair and discuss how friendships can be difficult and occasionally misunderstandings and miscommunication can occur. "Late night gymnastics meets and early mornings at school can contribute to little girls being impatient and unkind," I say. "Maybe you need to ask Gretchen if you said anything that hurt her feelings. I bet she still wants to be your friend."

Feeling a little better, she bounces off my lap to get ready for gymnastics. Life doesn't appear quite so bleak. She plans to talk to Gretchen and get to the bottom of the situation. 

The next day, Maddie cheerfully hops into the car--nodding her head at me. "Yep, Gretchen and I are friends again. I told her I was sorry and she did too. You were right, mom." 

Ahhhh, I wonder how much longer I'll hear those sweet-sounding words...  

Friday, April 1, 2011

April Fool's Day Fun

This morning I roused the 10 year old out of bed with an attention-grabber. "Hey, you'll never guess what I saw in the backyard this morning."

"What?" she asks.

"You won't believe it!"

She sits up in bed fully awake. "What did you see?"

"A mountain lion!"

"REALLY?!" She's going for it lock, stock and barrel.

"Remember a few weeks ago when a mountain lion was sighted in some of the neighborhoods?  Well, it was in our backyard. It was so scary!"

"Why didn't you get me up? I would have wanted to see it!" Maddie is fully engaged.

"April Fools!" I exclaim, bursting her bubble.

"Ohhhh! That's mean!" She plops back down into bed, pulling the covers over her.

Since I was a small girl, April Fools Day has been a big day in our house. My mom was the master of making jokes, putting baggies of dry dog food in our lunch and even making cardboard frosted sheet cakes for my dad to share with his co-workers. I like to think that I carry on the tradition in our house with my own children joining in the fun. Two years ago, my son Nick put saran wrap underneath the cap of my shampoo bottle and mixed flour and water to make it look like milk in his sister's cereal bowl. Then, Maddie switched the cereal in the boxes, so that when the other kids poured out Fruity Pebbles, they received Reese's Puffs instead.

What's the best April Fool's Day joke or prank you've pulled or how has someone fooled you?!