… He’s My Daddy :)

To those who know my dad through his work, he is a professional, talented, and all-around classy estate planning attorney. The business he started more than 20 years ago has grown into a successful and renowned law firm. And as a result, attorneys across the country seek out his advice, he gets interviewed in national magazines, and clients travel from around the Midwest (and sometimes even from further away than that) to meet with him. He’s apparently very good at what he does.

As his daughter, however, I was fairly clueless about my dad’s law success until relatively recently. And when I would meet clients or colleagues who would rave about my father’s professionalism, attention to detail, and general attorney-esque skills, I would silently wonder if they had mistaken him for someone else. Because when I think of my dad, I don’t picture a suit and tie, a fancy website, or a law degree. No, I come up with an entirely different set of associations.

To start, despite all his apparent professionalism, my dad (or Papa, as we call him) is one of the funniest people—if not, the funniest person—I know.

chiclets bop

… I rest my case.

Although that’s a recent picture, my dad’s silliness dates back really far—and even has a competitive streak. This became especially apparent whenever my sisters and I convinced him to play “Pretty, Pretty Princess” with us. In case you’re not familiar with classic children’s board games of the 90s, the goal is to amass the most matching-colored plastic jewelry (minus the evil black ring) and wear the fancy plastic crown. My dad succeeded on a regular basis, becoming the prettiest princess of us all:

chiclets papa

My dad also has a bad habit of making up words… or entire languages. “Krullspeak”, as we’ve come to call it, is an odd conglomeration of grammatically incorrect German, words spoken backwards, and entirely made-up vocabulary. When we joke about creating an unofficial dictionary to help translate for potential spouses or future posterity, we’re actually kind of serious. (For instance, when a friend looked at my family’s group text message thread, she needed my help to decipher it.) The German aspect can be especially dangerous. Poor Rascal, unaware that my dad’s version of German couldn’t be trusted, completely confused (and earned the pity of) her friends in Hamburg while visiting during high school. Apparently, “Flieg” doesn’t really translate to “waffle.”

And as if his linguistic and “pretty, pretty princess” skills aren’t enough, my dad is also incredibly clever. As a kid, I experienced this in many positive—and occasionally less-than-positive—ways. Our rhyming competitions were among the more rewarding. Most days, my dad would drive my sisters and me to school on his way to work. And oftentimes during that twenty-plus minute commute, we would have unofficial rhyming battles to come up with the most rhyming sentences in a row. My quick wit (and terribly cheesy poetry) comes from him.

That said, his cleverness wasn’t always beneficial. For example, when we were younger, my sisters and I were obsessed with 101 Dalmatians (I think I dressed up as Penny for 4 Halloweens in a row). And so we often begged my dad to play with us by pretending to be Cruella DeVille. After he had chased us, shrieking, up the stairs and we had taken refuge in a closet, he would then disappear. We stayed in hiding, waiting for him to find us…. but he never did. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, I snuck downstairs and peeked around the corner, only to see my dad in front of the TV enjoying a beer. Now that’s some clever babysitting.

But more than all his silliness, cleverness, and his “pretty, pretty princess” skills, I appreciate the fact that my dad is, simply put, a wonderful dad. He not only does the fun “dad things”, like teaching us to fish and drive stick shift, but he has taken such wonderful care of us behind the scenes, working long hours, sacrificing his own desires, and putting our needs before his own. A servant-leader in every sense, he has gone above and beyond the call of duty to make sure my sisters and I have education, opportunities, and everything we could need. For instance, although we didn’t have much money when I was a kid and he was busy with work, my dad still made the time to take us each out on “dates”, even if it was only to the grocery store to get a free cookie and to ride the mechanical horse at the entrance. My dad has taught me how to work hard, to treat all people with dignity, and to always give my all. I’m the person I am today because of my Papa, and I love him more than he could ever know.

Which reminds me, today is his birthday. I should probably get him a gift. Hmmm… maybe he’d like a new plastic crown? 😉

date night

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The “Grandest” of Them All :)

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Dear blogosphere, I have a very important announcement to make:

I have the best grandmother in the entire world. And today is her birthday. 🙂

And because it’s her birthday—and because I’m not in Kansas to be able to give her a HUGE hug—I’ve decided to do the next best thing: dedicate this blog post to her. This one is for you, Omi.

Since I’ve already established that my Omi is the best grandmother in the entire world, I should start by telling you why.

Reason #1: My Omi has seen me at my worst and loves me anyway.

And unfortunately, the “worst” has been going on for quite a long time. Starting with the doctor’s visit as an infant when I projectile pooped up my mom’s coat sleeve (yes, that really happened) to when I figured out how to cheat at “Chutes and Ladders” at age 2 ½, my Omi has a knack for witnessing my less-than-stellar moments. And yet despite experiencing the selfish, bratty, and even poopy side of me, she still loves me unconditionally anyway—and not just me, but each of her 11 grandkids. Thanks, Omi.

Reason #2: My Omi makes the BEST food. Seriously.

Yes, I know that all of you think your grandmothers are the best cooks in the world. And while I’m sure they are great, my Omi beats all of them. Don’t believe me? Take a look at these photos:

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<— Christmas Dinner…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

… And dessert! ———–>

Seeing is believing. And trust me; tasting takes away any doubt! Her food is the best! 🙂

Reason #3: …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

There is no #3.

But not because I can’t think of a third reason. On the contrary, I can’t think of a way to fit everything it all into a single statement. Because the truth is, what makes my Omi so incredible can’t be boiled down to a simple blog post. She’s one of the most caring and compassionate people I’ve ever known. She has a huge servant’s heart and would literally do anything for anyone at any time. She loves to work behind the scenes and is so humble that she would never accept praise or recognition. She gives generously without expecting anything in return. She loves everyone she meets–and everyone who meets her loves her. She has a knack for reaching those who are often forgotten or ignored. She has the gift of hospitality, and you can’t help but feel welcome and at home in her house. She is patient, gentle, loving, kind and so much more. I thank God every day for the blessing of calling her my Omi. And I pray that one day I will be even a fraction of how wonderful she is.

I love you so very much, Omi! Thanks for being the best–or “grandest”–grandma out there. Happy birthday! 😀

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For the Birds… and Squirrels

3 Mourning Doves enjoying our Bird Spa... er, Birdbath :)
3 Mourning Doves enjoying our BirdSpa… er, Birdbath 🙂

My family is a bit nutty… which might explain our long-standing obsession with squirrels.

When I was growing up, we lived in a veritable squirrel sanctuary. Our yard had sizable trees, lots of acorns, and plenty of space for squirrels, or “eichs” (short for the German word “Eichhörnchen”) as we call them, to frolic and play. In the space outside our kitchen window, we set up a bird feeder, but we could honestly care less about the birds. Our main goal was to attract as many “eichs” as possible. Like hungry college students, if you feed squirrels, they will come.

But in 2003, my family moved. Our new location was better in all kinds of ways: it was bigger, I had my own bathroom (Yay! No more sharing with the twins!), my dad could work from home, and it was less than a mile from my high school. Our new place was perfect in almost every way. The main problem: it didn’t have squirrels.

You see, squirrels like trees. Big ones. And brand new subdivisions almost never have big trees. Our neighborhood was no exception. Before becoming home to dozens of middle-class houses, it had been a cow pasture, just like most of Kansas. And in case you’ve never been to Kansas, let me point out that cow pastures almost never have trees. Like good citizens and landscapers, my family planted several trees in our yard. But they were just saplings; it would be a long time before they grew into squirrel havens.

Needing to fill our “small-animal void,” my family did the next best thing: we became obsessed with birds too. The vanguard of our original squirrel fetish, my dad has also taken the lead in our bird craze. His office window overlooks a landscaped patch in our front yard (see above photo). This squirrel-less space has become home to not one, not two, but three bird feeders and a bird bath. Whenever my dad has a break between clients or needs a moment to get away, he can be found perched at the window (pardon the pun) watching his birds.

This pastime was enjoyable, especially in the spring, summer, and fall when hungry birds would flock (pun again, sorry) to the little patch in our front yard. But in the winter, the numbers would taper off a bit. We would still get a few sparrows, mourning doves, and the occasional cardinal, but the overall population would dwindle significantly. Until last winter, that is.

With the help of a fellow bird-loving friend, my dad discovered the reason for our lack of fine feathered friends: our birdbath was frozen solid. You see, not only does Kansas have a natural squirrel-tree deficiency, but it also gets very, very cold in the winter. Because birdbaths are outside (with the birds, of course), they are exposed to this cold and, due to the properties of water, they freeze. But all is not lost! Thanks to modern technology and the advice of his bird-loving friend, my dad found the perfect solution: a birdbath heater. As his friend explained, birds get really thirsty in the winter, and they fly all over looking for water. But if you water them, they will come. Now our birdbath never freezes over, and our yard is frequented by some of the most spoiled and hydrated birds in the state of Kansas.

So why am I telling you this story? The answer is simple: I think God calls us to be birdbaths.

Yes, I realize that sounds kind of crazy (I do come from a squirrel-obsessed family, after all), but please hear me out.

I’ve been a Christian for a very long time, and as a result, I’ve heard a lot of sermons about evangelism and witnessing and sharing my faith. Most of the time, these messages make me feel guilty and depressed. I’m not a missionary, and God hasn’t called me to far-off places like Africa. How can He possibly use me for His Kingdom? If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, then chances are good that you’ve experienced the discouragement I’m talking about. You’ve heard Jesus’ last instruction to “go and make disciples of all nations,” and you can’t help but wondering how you’re supposed to “go” when you feel stuck in one place. Kind of like a concrete birdbath.

Some scholars translate the words of “Great Commission” not just as “go and make disciples” but instead “as you go, make disciples.” In essence, as you go to church, to work, to school, to the grocery store–as you go about your everyday, ordinary life, make disciples. But what does this look like? Let’s return briefly to the birdbath.

What made my dad’s birdbath successful? I see three key reasons:

-Its design: As a birdbath, it was built to hold water so birds could come drink. In the same way, each of us has been uniquely gifted with talents, skills, and traits to be a blessing to others.

-Its location: My dad placed the birdbath next to three bird feeders and, consequently, a lot of birds. Similarly, God has planted each of us in specific situations at home, at work, on the bus, or wherever we happen to be on a daily basis to reach others with His love.

-Its connection to a heat source. This is extremely important especially during a freezing Kansas winter when water is scarce. Likewise, we need to stay connected constantly with Jesus. He is our Source of life, joy, and strength. If we faithfully maintain this relationship, He will bless others through  us.

Because the birdbath met all of these qualifications, birds came from everywhere to be near it. Even when other birdbaths were frozen over and out of commission, my dad’s birdbath was up and running.

The same goes for us. If we embrace the way God has made us, if we are faithful and available where He has planted us, and if we remain closely connected to Christ, our Source of life, we will be effective for His Kingdom. So whatever you do– as a butcher, a baker, or a candle-stick-making birdwatcher–be about His business. People will notice, word will get out, and the seeking and thirsty “birds” of the world will come. It may take awhile, and you might have to wait for winter, but I promise they will. And when they do, they’ll “see your good deeds and praise your Father who is in heaven.” So in the meantime, be the best “birdbath” you can be, in whichever “yard” God has placed you. He will use you.

Who knows? You might even meet a few squirrels too. 😉

Baby Squirrel

Cotton Bowling

When I was growing up, my family took our share of road trips. Most of these were to visit family in St. Louis or to enjoy Silver Dollar City, our favorite 1880s-themed amusement park in Branson, Missouri. A handful were to more exotic places like Colorado, Virginia, or the Grand Canyon, but the vast majority were short and within easy driving distance of home. Overall, though, my family tends to be “home bodies,” especially during Christmas break. We enjoy lounging in our lounge pants, eating far too much chocolate, and watching the entire previous season of shows like Lost or Once Upon a Time. So when my mom told me at the beginning of December that we would be going to a bowl game, I was more than a little bit surprised; I was borderline flabbergasted!

If you’ve been reading my blog for any extended period of time (or you know me personally), then you are aware that I am a proud graduate of Oklahoma State University. What you may not know, though, is that my younger sisters followed me to OSU. They are currently seniors (crazy!) and will graduate in May. Although my parents both went to KU and remain loyal Jayhawk basketball fans, they have definitely discovered their inner orange. (In fact, they might even own more orange clothing than I do!)

These combined factors—our love of Cowboy football, my sisters’ impending graduation, and the preponderance of orange in our house—prompted my family to venture outside of our chocolate-filled, lounge-pantsed, Christmas break norm. We bought tickets to the Cotton Bowl! Bright and early on January 2nd, we left in our rented SUV and headed south for Dallas. Our four-day adventure included exciting highlights such as the following:

-cheering on the OSU football team as they walked out of their meeting room and through the Gaylord Hotel (according to the Alumni Association flyer, they were supposed to board buses and leave for dinner. Instead they just reached the end of the hallway and turned around, which was a bit anticlimactic. Oh well).

-seeing a Christmas tree made entirely out of cowboy boots. #onlyinTexas

-buying discounted child-sized OSU jerseys… and having them actually fit!

-designing and creating the most clever sign in the stadium (although I’m afraid that “What does the Fox say?” may be stuck permanently in my head now. Haha, whoops.)

-meeting former OSU Heisman candidate and pro-running back Thurman Thomas. He was really nice and very amused by my sisters’ twinnyness (Yes, that is now a word, haha).

-and, of course, watching the Cowboys play their hearts out in the Cotton Bowl.

Unfortunately, though, the Cowboys did not win. While they played incredibly well and “left it all on the field,” they came up short, losing to Missouri with a final score of 41-31. I don’t want to rehash the game (as tempting as it is to decry the official review that ruled our interception for a touchdown as a pass interference), but I would like to share a few thoughts.

You see, I love Cowboy football. I’m not as avid a fan as many of my friends, but when the Pokes are playing (and I have access to cable TV), I get really into the game. The Cotton Bowl last Friday was no exception. I wanted them to win so badly that I lost my voice from cheering and was moderately sick for the next three days. But they didn’t. Whether due to poor officiating or poor playing (we may never know and I don’t care to speculate), they lost. And that loss was very disappointing.

I know that football is not the be-all-end-all-of-all, and I realize that the Cotton Bowl was just a game. A big game, yes, but still just a game. Life goes on. A year from now almost no one will remember who played, let alone who won or lost. Yet while sports aren’t that important in the grand scheme of things, I also believe that God can use anything—including football—to teach us about Him.

Right before I started graduate school, a dear friend of mine gave me the book A Diary of Private Prayer by John Baillie. This little-known text contains a prayer for morning and evening for every day of the month. After the Cowboys lost, a portion of one of these prayers came to mind:

“Teach me, O God, so to use all the circumstances of my life today that they may bring forth in me the fruits of holiness rather than the fruits of sin. Let me use disappointment as material for patience. Let me use success as material for thankfulness. Let me use suspense as material for perseverance…”

Looking back on that game (and on the other heartbreaking losses in Cowboy football history—we’ve had plenty), I have found myself thinking a lot about disappointment. Life doesn’t always go our way. You can “give it all you’ve got” and still come up short. How do we deal with that? Do we curl up in a ball and cry? Do we give up? Do we complain and blame? Or do we “use disappointment as material for patience”, as Baillie so aptly prayed?

As much as I hate to admit it, I don’t usually handle disappointment in healthy, God-honoring ways. I tend to complain or blame (or after the pass-interference call, I’m ashamed to say that I even booed). Instead of seeing things from God’s perspective, I get caught up in my own, and I become very discouraged. I need to lift my eyes, as the psalmist says, and look to the Lord. In our lowest moments, this seems all but impossible. But when we ask Him, He helps us. Only by giving our disappointment to Him can we find peace, hope, and the courage to move forward.

Fortunately, the rest of our family road trip was far from disappointing. We reconnected with old friends, visited my collegiate stomping grounds in Stillwater, and we even stopped at Pop’s, the famous soda joint on Route 66. (I can officially check that off my bucket list. Yay!). But now that we’re back, I think I’ll change back into my lounge pants and call it a day. Can you pass the chocolate? 🙂

Like Mama, Like Daughter

Excuse me. Attention, please. Could everyone listen up? Please stop whatever you are doing and redirect your focus here because I have a very important announcement to make:

I have the best mom in the entire world. And today is her birthday.

In honor of my amazing Mama, I would like to dedicate this post to her. Mama, you are incredible, and I could not be more thankful that you were born.

Yes, I realize that I have a vested interest in my mother’s birth because, obviously, if she hadn’t been born, I wouldn’t be here. But all that biological necessity aside, I am genuinely thankful that my Mama is here.

To all of you who do not have the pleasure of knowing my mother, I guess I should tell you about her. As I’ve already noted, she is absolutely amazing. And as you can probably tell from the picture, she has brown hair and brown eyes (I get mine from her). But these demographic details don’t do my mother justice. So let’s dig a little deeper.

First of all, my Mama is a really great mom. Yes, she’s done more than her fair share of cooking and cleaning and sock-matching, but her motherly skills don’t stop there. She takes every opportunity to go above and beyond the call of duty. Take, for instance, her public service announcements. When you watch a movie with her, expect to hear comments such as (A Cinderella Story) “If you’re ever in an earthquake, don’t stand under the doorway” or (in response to the booby traps in Home Alone 3) “They’d be dead right now,“ and my personal favorite (from the opening scene in A Walk to Remember),”If you ever jump off a platform into shallow water in the middle of the night, I will kill you.”

But her concerned commentary isn’t limited to movie watching. It permeates every aspect of daily life. From my mother, I learned such useful lessons as, “Say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and blow your nose in a Kleenex” and “Never walk under the hanging TVs in Wal-Mart; they might fall on you” and, of course, the cardinal rule of everything: “If Mama’s hungry, ain’t nobody happy.”

While these comments are humorous, my mom can also be serious…. About chickens and snowmen. At Christmas, Frosty and his friends camp out in our downstairs bathroom. It boggles my mind how many snowmen she fits into that small space. Every time I come home on a break, our decorative chicken population has multiplied exponentially. In fact, I can expect a tour of our newest chicken additions, along with how much she paid for them at the garage sales.

Speaking of garage sales, my mom is an expert “saler” (The rest of us have only achieved “junior saler” status). On an average weekend, she can find anywhere between 10 and 15 items for less than $3… total. And I’m not talking about cheap, junky things; I mean nice, quality things. An almost brand-new ice cream maker for 50 cents. The Lord of the Rings deluxe edition DVD set for $1. And, of course, lots and lots of chickens.

My mom may be a little quirky at times (as she often reminds me, “Everyone is normal until you get to know them”), but I couldn’t love her more for it. My Mama is incredible, and I don’t know what I would do without her. Over the years, she’s been my diaper changer, softball coach and catcher, chauffeur, hug giver, stage mom, sounding board, advice-source, role model, friend… and so much more. As I’ve already said, she’s the best Mama a girl could ask for, and I am immeasurably blessed to call her mine.

Mama, I wish I could be there to give you a huge hug and wish you happy birthday in person, but since I can’t, I guess this blog will have to do. Thank you for loving me unconditionally, for listening to me without judging me, for sharing your wisdom with me, for serving everyone unselfishly and—most of all—for showing me what it means to follow Jesus. I love you dearly, and I am so thankful for you. I hope your day has been so very special and I hope that one day I’m half as wonderful as you…

Like mother Mama, like daughter. 😉

Double the Fun

I can’t believe it. I really and truly can’t believe it. Today, my baby sisters turn 42.

Okay, okay, they aren’t actually 42. But together, their age adds up to 42. That’s right, my little twin sisters are now officially 21 years old.

So. Weird.

I remember it like yesterday… Or rather, like two decades ago yesterday. (The memory is a wee bit fuzzy). One moment, I’d been shipped off to my grandparents’ house to spend the night, and the next—bam!—suddenly there were two tiny, wrinkled, identical aliens that were supposedly my sisters.

So. Weird.

Here I need to pause to clarify: I’m not being mean; they were very, very wrinkled and very funny-looking. Even my parents will attest to this. But their odd appearance didn’t change the fact that I loved them and they were, quite literally, my baby sisters. Even now, 21 years later, I still think of them as my “kiddos,” and I love them dearly.

However, growing up with twin siblings wasn’t exactly a walk in the park. In fact, walks in the park usually presented the most problems. My mom would be pushing them in their 90’s lime green double stroller, and complete strangers would appear out of nowhere and bombard us with questions. “Oh my goodness, are they TWINS?! How old are they? What are their names? They are sooooooooooo cute!” Invariably, their voices would climb to obnoxiously high pitches and volumes as they expressed their excitement. “Can I hold one???” And with that, my adorable little bundles of attention-stealing joy would capture the heart of yet another innocent bystander. Which left me as the awkward older sister. Bummer. To make matters worse, at age 2 they even were cast in a real, bona fide movie. So while they were hanging out with Martin Sheen, Patty Duke, and Jason London, I was watching The Brave Little Toaster. Double bummer.

As if their ascent to “stardom” wasn’t enough, at age six they became obsessed with Mary-Kate and Ashley, especially their mystery movies. My doting parents indulged them and bought them “real” spy gear, including fingerprinting kits, lock pickers and, my least favorite, the eavesdropping device. This translucent dish and headphones allowed them to listen in on conversations in other rooms. And, of course, my room became their most frequent target.

Don’t worry, though; I managed to leave my mark on them too. In fact, the mark remains to this day. When choosing names for my sisters, my parents spent long hours picking out the best, most beautiful names they could find. They avoided rhymes (like Hallie and Callie) and alliteration (like Susie and Sallie) and opted instead for exotic names, uncommon names, names as beautiful as the European countries from which they came: Kirsten (pronounced “Keer-sten”) and Anneliese (pronounced “On-uh-lee-zuh” ). Charming, memorable, elegant, and altogether lovely.

What my parents didn’t consider was that their other child was 2 ½ . Which meant that she couldn’t say words like Anneliese and Kirsten. So what happened? Anneliese became Anne-uh-weezuh, which quickly devolved into Weasel. And Kirsten simply became Rascal.

Anneliese and Kirsten… Weasel and Rascal…. Oops.

They still go by their nicknames today…. Double oops.

Despite my accidental passive aggression,  I really do love my little sisters. They make it super easy because, honestly, they are the best younger sisters a girl could ask for. They’re caring, they’re kind, they give me back massages (Rascal had to take a sports massage class for her athletic training/premed major; she’s awesome!). They listen to me, they forgive me even when I mess up big time, and they love me unconditionally. They are always there for me, and I know that, night or day, rain or shine, no matter what, I can count on them. We laugh together, cry together, and laugh together until we cry. I love them more than a silly blog post could ever say, and I consider myself so, so, so immeasurably blessed to call them my sisters. I thank God for them daily, and I could not be prouder of who they are—and who they are becoming. And I pray that, Lord-willing, the next 21 years will be full of even more inside jokes, impromptu dance parties, deep conversations, and incredible memories.

And so, Weasel and Rascal, I wish you the best 42nd birthday in the entire world! Rascal, don’t catch you hair on fire; Weasel don’t spit on the cake; and both of you, don’t faint from blowing out all those candles. 😉

Daddy’s Girl

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At four years old, I had found my life’s goal. I knew my calling. I wanted to be just like my Papa.

Now at that point, I had no idea what my Papa actually did, so my attempts at emulating didn’t include his career path or interactions with the outside world. Rather, I developed the classic “monkey see, monkey do” mentality, doing my utmost best to observe and imitate his every move.

For instance, my Papa shaved his face, so I wanted to shave my face. And like the good Papa he was (and still is), he gave me a fake bronze razor and unlimited (until he learned a lesson and made it limited) access to his Barbasol shaving cream. Papa made coffee every morning, so I helped him make coffee in the morning (I became the official pusher of the “on” button, which I intelligently deemed the “pretty light”). Papa read the newspaper in our orange-and-brown flowered (yay 1970’s!) easy chair, so I read the newspaper in the orange-and-brown flowered easy chair. There was just one tiny problem, though:

I couldn’t read.

Now, to the four-year-old me, that was no big deal. After a minute or two, I got bored and moved onto more exciting things… like ponies. And luckily, my illiteracy didn’t last much longer. While homeschooling the now five-year-old version of me, my saintly mother taught me to read. And after finally conquering the difficult words like “was” and “though” (who decided to make the “s” sound like a “z”? and what imbecile decided to make the “ugh” silent even though it makes up half of the word?), I could read. Granted, my skill wasn’t advanced enough to tackle the Kansas City Star quite yet, but I was well on my way.

For some reason, that memory of the newspaper and the flowered chair has stuck with me over the years. In fact, it has even become one of my more vivid childhood memories. Occasionally, I find myself pondering it. What was I thinking as I looked at that newspaper? And how did the words look before I could understand what they said? Try as I might, I couldn’t transport my mind back to that time and place. I couldn’t remember my impressions. But then, I had an epiphany.  

Jetzt muss ich ein Bisschen auf Deutsch schreiben. Und ein Bisschen mehr… und ein Bisschen mehr… Ja, das ist genug.

Chances are, you probably didn’t understand that at all. Maybe you caught a word or two (or thought you caught a word or two), but unless you copied and pasted it into an online translator (or happen to have studied German, which is highly unlikely), you were clueless. You may have known it was German, but you had no idea what it said.

*LIGHTBULB!!! That’s how English looks (with fewer capital letters) when you don’t know how to read! It’s like a foreign language! Suddenly my lifelong (minus 4 years) question had been answered. And naturally, I was super excited, or should I say, “total aufgeregt”? 😉

Now that I knew what English looked like to illiterate people, I had a new musing: What does English sound like if you can’t understand it? Fortunately, I happened to pose this question to my friend John Box who had an immediate answer. True to his super smart, full-of-random-yet-useful-knowledge form, he sent me a video of an Italian TV show episode. On this show, the actors sing and dance to an “English” song, which is actually not English at all. Instead, it’s gibberish words strung together to sound just like English. It’s bizarre. You have to watch it (first without subtitles, then with them). Anyway, after viewing the video (and sharing it with multiple people), I had my answer; I had experienced English as a non-English speaker. Can you say, “Mama Mia!”? 😉

So why am I sharing this with you? That, my friend, is a very good question. But don’t worry; I think I have at least a decently good answer. And if I don’t, feel free to whack me with a newspaper (but please let me read it when you’re done). Okay, here goes…

Our relationship with God is a lot like learning to understand or read a new language. Yeah, I know that sounds kind of weird, but hear me out. Have you ever read the Bible? If so, have you ever felt like it was just a bunch of holy gibberish full of funny names (my personal favorite: Dodo) or impossible-to-pronounce places (like ”Adramyttium”? Or have you flipped to one of the Gospels and thought, “What in the Hades is Jesus saying?” Well, if you have, you’re not alone. I have definitely been there and, to be honest, I still find myself there often. But just like my mom so kindly taught me to read, I’m not permanently lost in the land of endless “begats”. And who is this tutor? I’m so glad you asked! He’s immortal; He’s invisible; He’s none other than…

The Holy Spirit.

That’s right; this often-forgotten, easily overlooked, frequently misunderstood Third Person of the Trinity is here to help you out. In fact, Jesus even called the Holy Spirit “the Helper” when He promised His coming to the disciples. In John 14:26, Jesus tells the disciples not to worry because “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” And that’s exactly what He does… and so much more.

The Holy Spirit doesn’t just help us understand what Jesus says and how to follow Him; He empowers us to live as God’s children. He gives us the strength to overcome temptation, He corrects our course when we start to veer off track into sin, and He empowers us to live the way Christ calls us to live. And unlike a human tutor or personal trainer, He doesn’t just leave us at the end of the lesson. No, on the contrary, He lives inside of us. That’s right; if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, the SPIRIT OF GOD HIMSELF lives INSIDE OF YOU (Ezekiel 36:25-27). If that doesn’t blow your mind, it should! He is constantly working in you, molding you, and transforming you more and more to look like Jesus (Romans 8:29).

But that’s not all. The Holy Spirit is a Person, not just an impersonal force that Luke Skywalker hears from Hans Solo should be with him. The Holy Spirit has emotions just like you and I do, and He cares about you. It breaks His heart when we choose not to follow what He knows is best for us. When we pick our own way, we bring Him sorrow. Not because He wants us to live boring, prudish lives without any fun, but He understands what true freedom—true life—looks like, and He desperately wants us to have it. But He doesn’t stop there. No, He helps us to achieve it! He makes the Bible come to life as He reveals its meaning to us; He opens our hearts to the things of God and shows us what to do, and He helps us live He’s our heavenly tutor, our supernatural “Hooked on Phonics”, and He lives inside us, teaching, prompting, and perfecting us. Gradually, day-by-day and in His perfect timing, He transforms us to be more and more like our heavenly Daddy… But don’t worry; you won’t have to learn to shave.  😉