Saturday, September 29, 2018

When Tomorrow Doesn't Follow Yesterday's Plan







“…yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If The Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15


I know I can’t control the universe, or even what the next minute brings. Lord, help me accept the unexpected.

Last Saturday I missed my daughter’s JV tennis match. Again. I read the school schedule: away game in Bellemore, 10:00 AM on Saturday. This was the only game on a Saturday. The rest of Jordan’s games are after school before I get off work. I have tried to make those games, leaving work early, and still missed her play. Saturday was perfect--I could go to her game on the way to my parents’ house. That was my plan. My plan.

Back to James 4: “…yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.” I know, I know, Lord. But why? Why can’t a day go smoothly as planned?

Jordan took the bus to the game at 8:30 with her team.  Since I am not the most punctual person, I got my butt up early, packed my stuff, set Google maps, and made sure I was driving to Bellemore with enough time.

On  this beautiful sunny morning, I looked forward to watching Jordan play my favorite sport, the sport she loves as I drove along the Ocean Parkway and blasted Mandisa’s songs on the radio, singing “You’re an overcomer…!”. I pulled into the parking lot at exactly 10:00 AM next to the soccer field. I had to run around the school to find the tennis courts in the back of the building. Jordan was walking across the courts; I figured they were practicing and about to start the matches. 

I was wrong.

Jordan rushed over to me. “Why are you so late? I just finished.”

“Are you joking? It’s 10:00.” Actually, 10:03 after running around to find the courts. Still—the game should be starting not ending.

“We left the school at 8:30. You should have left then. We start playing as soon as we get here.” She  smiled and said it was okay, but I could see the disappointment in her eyes.

Ugh. My heart sank. Another Mom fail. It was done. Over. And I missed her win a challenging match. 

Okay, apparently, tennis begins when both teams get to the courts. The wonderful schedule on the school website doesn’t say anything about accounting for flexible time. It would be helpful to know they may start an hour early. 

I hate to be disappointed, but I feel worse disappointing my kids. Yes, I know missing a tennis match isn’t the worst thing a parent can do, but I tend to focus on my mistakes. I want to be the perfect parent, but it’s not possible. I can only try and pray they remember the effort. God doesn’t expect us to be perfect either.

“…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

I’m one of those who sweats the small stuff—not just small, but every crumb of life. I need to refocus every day.

“Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14

If you are reading this and reflecting about your own disappointments, no matter how small or how colossal, overwhelming, and discouraging, please join me in refocusing. God loves us; he cares for His children. Jesus came to show us this love to help us through this life.

We can overcome the struggles by turning to the Lord. Praying. Asking what we can learn from a situation. Thanking Him. He wants to give us joy in all circumstances. God understands our emotions and every muddled mood swing.

And “Glory, glory, Hallelujah!” sometimes days go as planned...

I did get another chance to see Jordan play later that week. Owed time from work, I took a half day and drove to that game an hour early. She won that singles match too.

No matter what we go through, God is there, always loving us. 

“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” 
Ephesians 5:1-2


Visit my website at francesjudge.com









Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Free Giveaway for Childhood Cancer Awareness





FREE giveaway for Childhood Cancer Awareness! 3 winners will be randomly chosen at the end of September 2018 to win a free copy of my novel Randi's Steps or a $10 gift card to Barnes and Nobles. 

To win: subscribe to my free monthly newsletter at francysnewmorning.com

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Those Days





Keyra sympathizes 




Ever have one of those days? The kind that makes you wonder if there is a reason for the dark cloud hovering over you; words you don’t usually say out loud dive out in center. “What the?” might slip out, disguised in a cloud of pity. 

Yesterday was my turn. After battling with my heavy duty bike lock for five minutes in front of the Doctor’s office, I finally gave up and parked it inside the building under the stairs. (See past blog about bike getting stolen.) Now I regret not listening to my ENT (Ear, Nose & Throat) doctor and having my earwax cleaned out every few months. I let a year go by until they got so clogged I couldn’t hear, like my head was stuffed with a pillow. You might be thinking, “So what? Get the gook suctioned out.” That’s what I thought. The problem was I used eardrops which melted the wax and let it harden again onto my eardrum and ear canal. The pain of ripping it off was worse than going to the dentist and feeling the drill. Doc had to give up before getting it all out or he would rip it off my eardrum which he informed me would hurt more than what I already experienced. Okay, I’m good. I can hear a little better. Get me outta here. 

My bike ride to work was fine. Work was fine—I’m happy as long as I can write during my lunch break and drink coffee—until I experienced the job hazard of working in medical records. I dropped two chart binders on my toes. Wearing comfy thin fabric unfashionable sketchers didn’t help. The more I walked around the building, the more my toes swelled and hurt to touch and bend until I was limping my way home. I could still pedal with my heel, but I needed to walk. We had tickets to a Broadway show the next day. We only do this once a year. Why now? 

Now the guilt. I realize how small my problems are. My sister suffers with chronic back pain, never complains, and I’m whining over a few sausage toes that will heal in less than a week. I should be thankful it’s just “one” of those days and not a month or years. The pain also changed my focus. Before smashing my toes, I was concerned about what to wear to the show. Did I have time to shop for a new outfit and get a haircut? And I really needed new shoes…but all that didn’t matter when I felt pain. My puffy slipper boots felt the best. Style…who cares? I was able to walk ten city blocks and see the show.  

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. God wants us to have joy no matter what kind of day we are having. So let us not be tempted to say “What the?” Every day should be one of those “good” days if we know God loves us and watches over us. 

Please share how you overcome distractions and stay focused on God.

Visit my website here: francesjudge.com

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Onward Team Mom



2004

2017


When asked if I have kids, I answer yes. They are still my kids even if three of them are in their twenties, and two are teenagers. The Mom feelings haven’t changed much since I felt the first fluttering in my belly and began to worry about their wellbeing. Now that they have survived chewing on Legos, climbing monkey bars, and running around the block playing manhunt (teenage tag / hide and seek,) without too many broken bones, I have new worries as they venture out into young adult life. How will they pay their college loans? Will they drive safely? Will they still have faith in God? I have this gnawing feeling that everything is out of my control now. Probably because it is.

When they were young, I could fool myself into thinking I had some control. I shopped for their food, cooked the meals I wanted them to have, and dressed them in the non-designer, hand-me-down outfits I liked. Even at a young age they began wiggling out of my clutches. In my obsessive health food stage, when I wouldn’t give them any sugar or processed food, they wouldn’t eat half of what I prepared for their nutritious meals. Slowly, I started allowing a few cereals that came with a toy in the box. Skippy peanut butter replaced the natural stuff—no one wants to stir the unfortunate layer of oil every day. White bread showed up in our kitchen again. I don’t remember if there was a single day I said, “I give up. You win,” but somehow my little ducklings took the lead in the food department. Dinner always included Trader Joe’s chicken nuggets for the pickiest eaters. “Peanut butter on crackers for lunch?” Okay. “Granola bar for breakfast?” Sure, At least you’re eating. Don’t judge until you’ve tried cooking for five kids who inherited different taste buds.

Back to the control issue…I should have realized this was the beginning of loosening the cords I held wrapped around my knuckles. Actually, I would never loosen them voluntarily—it was more of a tug-of-war battle. I need more faith to see God was helping to pull their side across into the mommy-free zone. Not fair at all, but who am I to argue with the Creator of the world? He will remind me that they are his children who I prayed for and was blessed with the opportunity to raise.  But I’m a mom, the one who applies Band-Aids and instinctively wants to prevent the booboos. Time to let them make their own decisions and learn from their own mistakes.

When the nurse first handed me my eight pound squirming, screaming, perfect baby, she should have warned me the little peanut would grow up and slip out of my arms. So I’m thankful for the days of homeschooling, the days of playing street soccer and stickball, the countless hours of driving kids to sports and sitting on cold benches, and summer days of applying layers of sunblock, smelling like coconuts mixed with cherry ices, and walking home from the beach with a cup of sand stuck to our legs. And nothing compared to snuggling with my freshly bathed, Ivory Soap kids and reading stacks of picture books. Our house was never as clean or quiet as I’d like, but it was never boring, and I went to bed knowing all my kids were safe.

If I worry about all the things that could possibly happen to my kids as they leave for college and travel and commute to jobs and become adults, I won’t be able to think. I’m better off remembering how God encouraged Joshua: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

Maybe when they officially move out and live on their own, or at least pick up their dirty socks, I’ll stop calling them kids, but I’ll still be Mom who needs a hug now and then.


Check out Francy's books at:
www.francesjudge.com 

Monday, May 29, 2017

Pomp and Circumstance along the Highway


Stephen walking the highway procession to graduation

The Graduate!

The Graduate with mom and sister

The Graduate with Dad

Stephen, age one, just beginning his life's adventure


Yesterday our firstborn graduated from college. Imagine the band playing “Pomp and Circumstance,” taking pictures outdoors with the sun shining on our son’s cap and gown and smelling the fresh cut grass which brings to mind new growth and new beginnings as our graduate enters the next chapter in his young adult life. Okay, now erase that picture because that’s someone else’s graduation.  

Since FIT is in Manhattan, Stephen told us the graduation was going to be at Radio City Music Hall, where it was when I graduated from the same school. We were all set to take the train in and celebrate Stephen’s special day by going out to a nice restaurant after the ceremony. Not sure how or when plans changed, but three days before his graduation, Stephen informed us it was being held at the Arthur Ashe Stadium, next to Citi Field. That changed everything. 

He had to be there by nine o’clock, so we left early to allow for the usual rush hour traffic. Who picked this time? Three blocks away from our house, I prayed for a safe drive in the rain. I think God whispered, “The rain is the least of your worries. You forgot the tickets to graduation.” That was a “Phew!” moment. We only wasted ten minutes turning around and still had plenty of time to get him there early. 

But traffic. And more traffic. By the time we reached the exit, the line of traffic stopped moving. Thirty minutes passed and we hadn’t moved an inch. We saw one graduate hop out of a car and start walking along the highway…then another…and another. Stephen threw on his robe and joined the procession. In pouring rain, young ladies dressed in high heels walked in mud. Stephen couldn’t find his dress shoes that morning, so he wore sneakers—which he decided to tie in the rain. 

From the time Stephen got out to walk, another hour passed before we were able to park. And from this long-awaited parking spot, we had to walk twenty minutes in the rain to get to the stadium. Stephen had my only umbrella, but we had hoods. Even though we were over an hour late, we didn’t miss anything. Thank God they delayed the ceremony, or they’d have had a lot of empty seats among the graduates. 

In all the craziness of the drive there, I forgot to get emotional. My thoughts were more like: “I wish Stephen decorated his cap so I could find him among the sea of blue squares. How many more names do they have to call? Where are we going to eat? I’m hungry.” All sentimental feelings would trail behind until basic needs were met. 

I didn’t think of the day he was born, or his first steps; our homeschool days, or watching him play sports; his high school years of learning to play the guitar and trying to become a rock star, or his first two years majoring in classical music before discovering his love for art and computer animation… and all the experiences in between the years. I didn’t think about the infinite number of times I prayed for him since I first cradled his newborn body in my arms. I didn’t think about how blessed we’ve been all these years.

Okay, now I’m ready to cry. I am also excited to see Stephen’s passion to do what he loves.

Just as my husband and I trusted God to help us raise our son, we have to trust Him to guide his future. One down, four to go.






 

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Proverbs 22:6











Visit my website: francesjudge.com

Sunday, March 26, 2017

I Can Do All Things . . . with some help









If you have ever tried to create a website, and are a newbie like me, you will understand why I want to celebrate. After two weeks of pulling my hair out, I finished it. At least it’s functional…could use some fancy improvements, but for now I’m happy.

On my not-new-enough laptop, the program for creating the website was so glitchy. Sometimes I could swear the screen had hiccups. It often cooperated like a two year old in the middle of a temper tantrum. Whenever I tried to drag words, they went too far one way then too far the other way…until I screamed for my son to help. In ten seconds, Elijah typed some numbers and moved my words exactly where I wanted them. My thirteen year-old daughter helped with the slide show of my illustrations. I had pictures disappear then reappear and sometimes hide behind an invisible wall. Just when I thought I got rid of an extra picture, the crazy wall would open and let the twin drawings say hello. Thank God for computer savvy kids.

A scripture comes to mind: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 Creating a website may not be seem like a big deal to most—I realize this is not finding a cure for a disease or helping the environment—but it was a goal I set, something I wanted to accomplish without a clue of how to get it done. I like goals, and it’s okay to ask for help. And when those larger problems arise, the problems that seem impossible to overcome, the Lord wants us to know He is there to give us the help we need. He is world savvy.
So now I have a website.  Frances Judge / Inspirational Author & Illustrator

Now what? Try skydiving? Climb Mount Everest? Maybe I'll write with God's help.


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Just A Line




Drawing by my son, Elijah Judge


I had plans to become a famous artist. If I didn’t achieve instant recognition, I would teach at Harvard University until galleries began requesting my paintings. But here I am…after four years of art school, I stand on an alphabet rug and attempt to gain the attention of fifteen pairs of eyes. 


Instead of demonstrating the importance of the subtle variations in line thickness as the artist feels the edge of his subject through his medium, whether charcoal or paintbrush, I draw a line with chalk. “Can anyone tell me what I drew?” 


Many hands wiggle in the air, so I call on the last hand raised, belonging to Anniah with large eyes and braids to her waist. “It looks like my shoelace before my mommy ties it into a bow.” 


I need to change the subject before tears well as the class misses mom and wants to go home. “Well, it could be a shoelace. Does anyone else have an idea?” 


I point to Liam who bounces on his seat. “Is it silly string?” 


“Could be. Let’s start at the beginning and call this a line. Everything begins with a line. With a line we can form shapes…and with shapes we can form objects we see or something we imagine.” 


“What’s imujin?” 


“You imagine all the time. Does anyone like to build with Legos?”  


“Me! Me! I do!”  


“When you first get your box of Legos, you probably follow the directions to build the car on the box, but what do you do when it falls apart?” 


“I throw the pieces.” 


“Okay. That might hurt someone. Maybe you can build something else that you imagine. A spaceship or a monster.” 


I hand out the favorite medium for kindergarteners—crayons. “First draw a straight line. Then draw a squiggly line that looks like it’s dancing. Next draw an angry line. Now take your favorite color and draw a happy line.” As I suggest ideas, I stroll around the tables admiring the abstract designs they’ve created. My heart smiles. 


Ryan looks up at me and says, “Look…I made music with my lines. It’s Mozart.”  


“Are you sure you’re only five-years-old?”


When they appear to drift into thoughts of playtime and lunch, I call them to the front of the classroom. “Does anyone want to draw outside?” 


“Me! Me! Me!” 


I hand each student a clipboard with paper and a pencil, and we march outside. Two by two. “I’d like everyone to draw the lines they see around this courtyard. Some lines will be straight. Others will be bumpy.” 


It’s refreshing to hear birds singing and smell lilacs and fresh cut grass. I feel like starting a painting after school. The children are quiet as they scratch away at their paper. Maybe a few in the class will blossom into future artists.  


At the end of the class, the students hand me their paper and pencils. Anniah turns back to me and says, “You are the best teacher in the world!” She hugs me and skips out the door with the rest of the class. 


I remember praying that God would guide my future. Of course I meant future as an artist. He had a better plan for me.  Even though I won’t be teaching advanced courses here. I never had so much fun with a line.



*****




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