Saturday, December 22, 2007

Anticipation

My kids were trying to pull me out of bed this morning.
(Why is it that on the weekends they are up hours before they are on school days?)

They were not having much success.
When your first conscious thoughts are an assault of all the work you need to do, it causes a delay in your feet hitting the floor.
I better understand how children feel when they're woken up to go to school - who wants to leave rest and ease for work?

I thought this morning of Christ - of the antithesis of anticipation he must have felt before his incarnation.

The God of the universe was going to come to a backwards, ignorant sin -filled world as a baby in order to die a cruel painful death on a cross.
I'd sure be pulling the covers back over my head if I knew that was what was ahead.

But there is the story of Christmas.

Christ's feet "hit the floor"of a barn and walked along dusty roads and up Calvary's hill.

There's a Christmas song sung by Go Fish that says it all:

It’s not just about the manger where the baby lay
It’s not all about the angels who sang for him that day
It’s not just about the shepherds or the bright and shinning star
It’s not all about the wise men who traveled from afar

It’s not just about the presents underneath the tree
It’s not all about the feeling that the season brings to me
It’s not just about coming home to be with those you love
It’s not all about the beauty of the snow I’m dreaming of

It’s about the cross
It’s about my sin
It’s about how Jesus came to be born once so that we could be born again
It’s about the stone that was rolled away so that you and I could have real life someday
It’s about the cross

The beginning of the story is wonderful and great
But it’s the ending that can save you
And that’s why we celebrate

It’s about the cross
It’s about my sin
It’s about how Jesus came to be born once so that we could be born again
It’s about God’s love nailed to the tree
It’s about every drop of blood that flowed from him when it should have been me
It’s about the stone that was rolled away so that you and I could have real life someday
It’s about the cross


So as I enjoy the beauty, family, and nostalgia of the season, I will also recognize that Christ woke up every morning with the realization that His steps were leading to his death. And because he kept getting out of bed and walked to the end of that road, He's given to me a gift of anticipation. Because of his birth, I am now able to join Him in heaven, and that is the greatest gift of Christmas.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

An Epiphany

I have had an epiphany . . . well, that was my first thought, but I had to go and look up epiphany to make sure that was the right term.

Epiphany:
(1) a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something
(2) an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking
(3) a: an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure; b: a revealing scene or moment

Yep, that was it—I had had an epiphany.

I was reviewing something I'd done and realized that it really was good. Now, I'd been politely complimented by the people who knew me and I'd smiled and thanked them, but when I heard it for myself, what I heard wasn't the way it had sounded to me—what I heard was fantastic!

My whole sense of reality is skewed now.
I had thought I knew how it sounded.
I was totally wrong.
What else am I wrong about?

I've written before about how you suddenly get a glimpse of yourself—the reflection in the store window, a photograph, or a video that seems so different from the image you have in your mind—and the image you see typically isn't flattering. But to catch a glimpse of myself that was better than what I thought . . . it's just messing with my mind!

But as I thought about it, I realized that this is probably true of all of us—we are more significant than we think. It's the season of "It's a Wonderful Life," and while we don't have our own personal Clarence to show us our significance, let me be Clarence for you.

I struggle with the fact that life is so daily—the same tasks over and over and over and . . . well, you get the idea. But imagine if you were not in your home, your work place, your world doing the same things over and over. You give both stability and productivity to your world. It may be the same bed you're making, but you bring order, the same job you leave for every morning but your effort provides for the needs of your family, the same book you've read to your children a million times, but you've shown them that there is someone who can be depended on. And what about the person who calls you her friend, for whom you are always there in fun or angst—what would her life be without you?

Need I go on, or will you take it yourself from here?

You matter.
You are doing a good job.
You are significant in this world.
Carry on!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Fall on your knees...

“Fall on your knees….
Oh hear the angel voices….”

Are you kidding? The only falling I’m going to do is on all the ice out here in the mall parking lot. This place is a madhouse. Why aren’t all these people ready for Christmas already? How in the world will I get in and out of this place in an hour?


“Fall on your knees….
Oh hear the angel voices….”


That’s a great idea for someone else, but I am far too busy to be stopping for angel voices. Have you seen the “to do” lists I still have?


“Fall on your knees….
Oh hear the angel voices….”

I am far too important to be falling on my knees. Don’t you know that without me Christmas wouldn’t happen in my household? There’d be no tree, no gifts, no cards, no fresh-baked cookies… (well, there probably won’t be any fresh-baked cookies anyway, I’m so far behind).


“Fall on your knees….
Oh hear the angel voices….”

Gifts bought and wrapped – check.
Food prepared – check.
Tree trimmed – check.
Stockings hung by the chimney with care – check, check, check.

It’s Christmas – I’m ready – Bring it on.


“Fall on your knees….
Oh hear the angel voices….”

Oh, yeah... that.
I’m no longer in a hurry, or too busy, or too caught up in being the Spirit of Christmas …
I’m out of excuses.
Yet, still, here I stand, knees locked.

I've done Christmas: I've bought the gifts, sung the songs, heard the sermons, took the pictures, put money in the red kettle, sent the cards, trimmed the tree, and I've even had moments of nostalgia and goodwill ...

Fall on your knees….
Oh hear the angel voices….”

And what are these angels saying?
"For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2)
A Savior - Christ the Lord.

What other choice is there but to fall on my knees?
I am in need of a Savior.
And I acknowledge that Christ is my Lord.

Friday, December 14, 2007

ICE

I live in Chicago.

I'm dashing out to the car, already late, and discover that Jack Frost has been here, and apparently with ten of his buddies for no delicate design swirls on my windows, but ice that seems to be a solid sheet.

Why do I never remember to leave enough time in my schedule in this the onset of winter for scraping the car windows?

So I start the car and start looking for the ice scraper.
Along the door - no.
Under the front seat - no.
In the back seat - no.
In the trunk - no.
Aargh!

Last year I had three scrapers in my car and now I can't find a single one. Back into the house I go, down to the basement, here, there and everywhere - not an ice scraper to be seen. I don't even want to look at my watch and see how late I am now.

Desperate, I resort to the only tool I have...from my wallet I pull out a store rewards card and away we go - the funny thing is that the card actually works, not because it's a wonderful ice scraper but because the ice has softened.

Look at these verses: "He sends snow like white wool; he scatters frost upon the ground like ashes. He hurls the hail like stones, Who can stand against his freezing cold? Then, at his command, it all melts. He sends his winds, and the ice thaws." Psalms 147: 16-18

I have situations in my life that are impenetrable and I am as well equipped to impact them as I was the ice on my car. I've done what I could with the little I have and gotten nowhere but frustrated.

These verses give me hope; when and if God chooses, the ice will thaw. I will keep faithfully doing what I can, but ultimately God controls the snow, and the ice and the gentle warmth that can melt the ice, so I will wait on Him.

"My soul, wait thou only upon God, for my expectation is from Him." Psalms 62:5

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Portrait

My third grade daughter sat me down. She was going to draw my picture. I was told to pose and smile and she studied my face and studiously put pencil to paper.

She would draw a line then look up at me intently, place a curve, then look up again. Her entire posture reflected her concentration. She was both serious and still. The process continued and now her paper reflected the shape of my face, the sweep of my hair, two eyes and an spot where my mouth had already been erased several times as she was having a hard time with it.

It was one of those proud parent moments as I sat there watching her trying her very best to translate how I look to her paper.

She was focused and intense and kept looking up at me to make sure she was drawing me correctly.

Now no matter how hard she would try, her drawing will be that of an early elementary sort - somewhere between stick people and recognizable characters, but it wasn't her drawing that was bringing me this great pleasure. I was so proud of her because of her efforts.

So as I posed and smiled, I had my own moment of insight.

This is exactly what I try to do.
I am trying to draw a portrait.
I am attempting to draw a picture of God for you who read what I write, to those who hear what I say, to those who watch how I live my life.

And will I capture Him? His image, His essence? Will I present something almost photographic,
or an elementary drawing on lined paper?

My skill is not what matters.
But the attitude of this artist does.

What matters as I attempt to represent Christ is that I keep looking at Him. That to capture His essence and convey it, that I am taking Him in, referencing Him over and over, after every line, every curve, checking to see that the face of God I am transposing is God's face.

And when I am done, will my creation resemble the Creator?
Will a curve I've drawn spark recognition in you?

I would hope so but even if it doesn't my Father is pleased, because in seeking to portray him, I have been still and have spent time with Him.

Psalms 46:10 "Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."

Monday, December 10, 2007

Why there's No Room...

During this season you will be expected to …

*maintain all your normal work responsibilities.

*redecorate both the inside and outside of your home.

*purchase appropriate and thoughtful gifts for all the significant relationships in your life and gifts of appreciation for those who assist you or your children, then wrap and present these gifts.

*send out cards of greeting to current family and friends and also to those with whom this yearly card has become your last thread of contact. A personal note on each one is a welcomed addition.

*host and/or attend festive dinners and gatherings.

*prepare a variety of baked treats for above said holiday gatherings

*learn and perform a quantity of new music requiring additional evenings of rehearsals.

*participate in or contribute to charitable organizations.

You must accomplish all of this in the next 25 days.
There are no exceptions or excuses.
This must all be done by December 25th.

Is it any wonder that although we know that “Jesus is the reason for the season” we find it difficult to see Him?

That we find our hearts full of stress and not peace?

We are not merry or bright, no holly, not jolly.

We’re tired: of doing, of pleasing, of expectations, of feasting…

And although we would love to be filled with the spirit of Christmas, we seem unable to work it up in ourselves, to feel as we feel we should when one is surrounded by tinsel and lights, friends and family, carols and crooners.

So what is one to do?

Ask.

Ask and it shall be given you, seek and you shall find. (Matthew 7:7,8)

Lord Jesus, as I pause for just a moment to pray, I ask that you will find me in this season. That you will give to me a gift of peace and a renewed sense of awe that you came as a baby so that you could die on a cross to be my savior. I am worn and weary and although surrounded by lights and music my heart is bare. Fill me with the music of the angels. Let me ponder and treasure all these things in my heart. Come to my heart Lord Jesus, there is room in my heart for thee…

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Monday Morning

I've realized that my favorite time of the week is Monday mornings about 7:30 am.

Now don't throw things or stop reading out of exasperation yet - let me explain.

By 7:30 my family is off to work and school. We have found the homework, and the gloves and shoes, packed the lunches and book bags and the door slams and the house is quiet.

I pour a cup of coffee and sit down. It is the time for thinking, time for planning, time for lists.

On a Monday morning there is a whole week of responsibilities and projects stretching out before me but, there is also a whole week's worth of time. As I make my plans and write my lists I have this sense of hope that by next Sunday night many of these things will have been accomplished. (It's an entirely different feeling than let's say on a Friday afternoon when the list still has half of the things on it!)

Today is the first Sunday of Advent and appropriately the candle was that of Hope. There are only 23 days until Christmas but there are twenty-three days until Christmas. Although the list spills over onto a second and third page, there is time.

It was said in church today that we have been observing the anticipation of the coming Christ child every year for as long as we've lived.
We're singing the same songs, making the same shopping lists, pulling on boots and slogging through shopping centers, untangling lights, hanging the same ornaments, baking the traditional cookies...what is it that will make this season significant? stand out? encompass the mystery and wonder of this most amazing event we've become oh so familiar with?

It is this sense of hope.
That although the story is not new the Author of the story still has the ability to speak to our hearts in a way He has not before.
That although the melodies are familiar perhaps we'll glimpse the glory of which the angels sing.
That although we have planned, purchased, hidden and wrapped every gift under that tree that there still may be a gift for us: a gift of wonder, that would make our hearts as wide eyed as a toddler at Christmas, because we have unwrapped a fresh realization of how great a gift we've received in the Christ of Christmas.

The lists are long.
The calendar has more ink on it this month than any other but there is hope that somewhere in all the familiar, God will come to us.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Lack of a Corkscrew

I held a beautiful blue long necked bottle of Riesling, finally.

I brought in all the groceries and all the stuff and was going to open the bottle and have a glass.

Off came the wrapper revealing the cork. Hmm, I need a corkscrew...

I riffled through the silverware drawer, nothing.

Went through the misc. kitchen tools drawer: chopsticks, lemon zester, apple corer, turkey lifters, birthday candles...everything else in the world...

Onto the Swiss army knives, they have corkscrews, I never understood why you'd need a corkscrew out in the wilderness but...

Found two knives, neither had a corkscrew.

It's now been twenty minutes.

Got a steak knife. No use.

Went online: "How to remove a cork without a corkscrew"

Watched a video of how to do it with a screw, screwdriver and hammer: couldn't find that stuff either.

Finally put the bottle in the fridge and sat down and admitted what was really happening:

God was here in my kitchen.

He was playing hide and seek with my corkscrew.

He knew what I was finally ready to admit to myself.
This bottle had little to do with reacquainting myself with the taste as I had been telling myself.
This bottle was a hope to numb the pain. That I could drink enough to feel better or, if not to feel better, to just cease feeling.

I hurt and kept on hurting. I'd talked to people, I'd cried and prayed, I'd tried to feel better, but I didn't and I just wanted the pain to stop and this was my solution.

Apparently God had something else in mind - He was not going to let me start down a path that lead to more pain.

He prevented me from saying to Him by my actions "You're not enough for me because I still hurt and I'm turning to something else now."

In the past God has rescued me from trouble, this time he prevented me from starting.

I spent that time in honest evaluation instead of pleasurable drinking. I talked to a friend about where I'd found myself. Although my intent was to make things hazy, instead I saw more clearly.

Today, I found a corkscrew and ironically enough I found it on a swiss army knife in a box of my mom's stuff. The loss of my mom and the cause of the pain was the very place I found the instrument I'd lacked to numb it's effects.

There's a reason I found it today and not the day I was looking for it.

I'd stopped looking for a corkscrew and had looked to someone else to take care of me.

And because of that, now it's just a corkscrew.

How grateful I am that the Maker of my heart is still taking care of it.

That God stepped down from heaven and into my kitchen.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

What matters to you...

I'd gotten myself in a situation entirely of my own doing and now I was trying to figure out what to do. I had a decision to make.

Throughout my years in churches I've heard thousands of prayer requests: I'd like to ask for prayer about this but I also knew that this really wasn't appropriate prayer material.

There is great understanding and empathy for prayer regarding sickness or sorrow, difficulty or destitution, hardship or heartbreak.

This was none of the above.

It would be frivolous to request wisdom in making this decision.
It didn't merit prayer.
I was on my own.

But there is a simple biblical truth and this truth encouraged me to bring it before the throne of grace - although my need was trivial,and even though it was a situation I'd gotten into that was totally because I'd messed up, I realized that...

What matters to you

...matters to God.

"Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about what happens to you" I Peter 5:7
"Don't worry about anything.;instead pray about everything.
Tell God about what you need and thank Him for all He is going to do." Philippians 4:6

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

An Empty Echo

I packed up a life today, very unlike mine which is stuffed with every supply for every endeavor I've begun and lots of things I still think I might need, just in case. I'm still in, but hopefully beginning to grow out of, the gathering stage; with plans to do this and go here and make that...

Mom was in the remembering phase. What mementos she had remaining were not there by default, but because they had meaning. She didn't keep what she didn't want - so what was there, was desired.

A few things I recognized from my past, and a few from her younger years; a bowling towel from leagues played for years with her sisters, an ice cream scoop and tall sundae spoons left from the Tastee Freeze she and her husband owned...

There was still glassware and china tea cups and lots of cut glass bowls and platters for entertaining. I wonder why? Because they were just pretty?

All the jello molds were there with their histories of special molds for certain holidays and the old Tupperware marked in black permanent marker, V.F., because it had been used to carry things to pot lucks and church dinners. There were a bunch of mugs that said things about World's Greatest Mom and all the Bears and Bulls glasses we'd collected week by week from the grocery store or was it the gas station?

This is what I found left from a woman who had already pared down her life.

It was okay at first, then a bit overwhelming when I started going through it all and pulling it out, and then, in less than three hours with four sets of hands it was packed and all loaded in the back of my suburban - a car load representing a lifetime.

Then we were at the resale shop and in less than five minutes the boxes were off loaded and it was done and I thought, "so that's it" and it hung there poised between a question and a statement.

That's it.

And now, if I go back to the shop next week and look I'll find her things: the mom mugs, the Tupperware marked V.F., the china cups, all for a dollar or fifty cents - and that's it - the things saved by a woman into her 70's now for sale in a resale shop, pieces of what she treasured, for quarters.

Yes, I know that life is not about the stuff and that my mom's life and legacy go far beyond the things we packed in boxes today and that even the pittance gathered from her belongings will go to great use it will buy Bibles for missionaries so they can tell other's about Jesus and His love, I mean how cool is that? My mom would have loved that....

but my heart still sadly echoes, "so that's it....?......"

Saturday, September 8, 2007

So close...

You know what I long for Lord;
you hear my every sigh.
Psalms 38:9

A sigh isn’t a prayer – it hasn’t even enough energy to be a plea -
it is an honest ragged exhale of emotion;
frustration, desire, sorrow, exhaustion.
There are many verses that say that the Almighty God
of the Universe hears my every prayer but this comforts
me in that my God is so attuned to me that he hears my
unspoken longings and catches every sigh.

Friday, August 24, 2007

"Have a Nice Day!"

I was walking out of Caribou Coffee with my Heath Bar Frappaccino , and the girl said, “Have a nice day!”

I couldn’t help but recognize the irony. I’d just come from meeting with the pastor to plan my mom’s funeral service and was on my way home to finish up the last things before heading over to the visitation. So when she said this common pleasantry, it made me wonder: What would you say if I told you what I was doing today? And if you knew, would you still wish me a nice day?

But then I thought, what makes a day a “nice” day? Is it a day that is easy? Pleasurable? Happy? Trouble-free?

What constitutes a “nice day”?
If a day is filled with love and laughter and peace, would that make it a nice day?

This day has been filled with love as family and friends have come to share their sympathy for us and their admiration for my mom, and many tears have glistened in the eyes of those who will miss her, because she was loved.

There has been laughter as stories have flowed about good times people have shared with my mom, and there has been lots of laughter looking at the old photographs and all those strange clothes and hairstyles.

There has been peace: There is the peace that comes from knowing she is now home with her Lord in heaven and reunited with her husband. There is the peace seen in her life as she followed God and as she trusted God to always watch out for her, and He always did. There is peace for her children, who know that her sudden illness was not random, but just one of all the moments God had laid out for her before she ever took her first breath (Ps. 139:16), and we know that she had finished the work He’d appointed for her to do.

So, you know what? This wasn’t the greatest day and it was filled with moments of sorrow and loneliness and grief, but the blessing of family and friends who have come to comfort us and the blessing of knowing Mom and remembering and seeing how she touched so many because she just loved whoever she came into contact with really has made this a nice day.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Loss

I found out today that a friend is moving - soon and far away: far enough way that any contact will be electronically and probably eventually reduced to the exchanging of Christmas cards.

Loss is numbing - I guess that's the beauty of shock, it allows you to go on doing all that your day demands as your heart assimilates little by little what has happened.

As this fact cuts into my heart, I've started thinking about the ramifications of this to my future as I recall how important what is now lost, has been to my past.

Clinically there are stages of grief - I've read them, worked through them with the deaths of in - laws and a parent. This isn't death but it's still grief. Like the loss of a job, or health, or a house to fire, or a car in an accident, or all the things we just assume will never change, it shakes us when suddenly what has been the norm, isn't.

I'm remembering occasions that I didn't know it would be the last time, and consequently planning to fully invest myself in the time there is remaining - which is a valuable gift - knowing that good-bye is coming but there is still some time before it's said.

It's no wonder that from these experiences we gain more motivation to live and love as fully as we can while we are alive, while those we love are still with us; though our children are often so needy and caring for parents is wearing, and to spend time with friends takes more time to arrange than can actually be spent together, and a "date night" with our spouse had been nothing more than a good idea for months...

Nevertheless we do have today and we are not guaranteed tomorrow - not in our own lives or the lives around us.

I plan to be more vocal, at least in these numb moments, to make sure I say and show to those who surround me how rich my life is because of them.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

I can't even imagine

It's a hot, middle-of-the-summer kind of day. I am at the laundromat - oh joy. Part of the reason I am there is that it's a hot summer day, and everything will be able to dry on the clothesline before the sun sets. This is also a bad idea, because a laundromat is not the place you want to be when it's stifling.

So I wrestle my basket into the car and head home, and pulling up I realize that I don't have any additional clotheslines. It had been the last thing I'd said to my husband two hours ago when I was leaving - please, make sure the lines are up when I get back.

People are more easily irritated when it's hot - did you know that? "They" just did a big study on it as reported on the ten o'clock news - what a surprise...

I am not a happy camper. I hang up a few things and leave the basket with the rest and head into my room, the only room with air conditioning. I reach for my journal and start writing out my frustrations. As I recount how I am both disappointed and angry, I am reminded about other things in my life that are not working, and the more I think, the more I remember and the more irritated I get. My writing grows larger and wilder, then suddenly I stop, and I say to the Lord that this isn't helping and I give this all to You - my disappointment that once again my husband has not done what I counted on him to do, the fact that my mattress is old but I can't get a new one because I may not be living here for much longer, my anger at the one who is keeping us flustered about this living situation, my anxiety about returning to the teaching world after being a stay-at-home mom for ten years and worry about what school would possibly hire someone with a resume that looks like mine.


I laid it all out before my Lord and said, "I am putting all this in Your hands,” and I took a nap, which felt like all I was able to handle at that point.

There are familiar verses in Philippians 4 that have taken on a new understanding for me since reading them in the New Living Translation. " Don't worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus." I don't understand everything these verses are saying, but I do know that by making these things God's "problem" and no longer my own that I was more at peace. It didn't solve the problems but it took them out of my hands, and off my mind, and most importantly out of the emotional quagmire that was my heart.

When I woke up, I found that not only had my clotheslines been hung, but the rest of the clothes had been hung up as well.

Three days later we were given a mattress that is ten times better than the one we had, and along with it a great blue microfiber recliner.

The beauty of it being a blue chair is this: I have a blue chair at home and here it is that I sit in the mornings with my Bible, journal, and of course, my coffee. When I came to this place I had no "blue chair" and had mentioned it in passing to my husband. Throughout the weeks I've tried different places as my "blue chair." (The hammock was great, but it's very hard to journal there ...)


My husband was very excited that he'd found me a "blue chair"; I was amazed because I'd never felt he "got" that part of me before, and now here was evidence to the contrary.

The writer in me is fascinated by how the Author of all brings things to pass. He's taken these things I gave to him and fixed them in such amazing ways. Who would have imagined that suddenly I'd be given a mattress? Or that the acquisition of a new chair would serve as affirmation that maybe the man I married does occasionally "get" me?

I am filled with an anticipatory curiosity to see what is going to happen next.
There is still the matter of a house and a job that I placed in those ingenious hands.
My creative mind has already been blown away, so how the rest of the plot is to unfold I can't even imagine...

Saturday, July 14, 2007

"I Love You Too"

Everything has lead up to this point and now it is time. The leading character utters those words we've waited all season to hear.... "I love you" they say. The object of affection turns and hesitates (cue dramatic music). The milliseconds seem like minutes until finally it is uttered, "I love you too." (music swells, lovers kiss, exit to credits)

Ah, that romantic tension, all the waiting and wondering and worrying if this person really loves them or are they just stringing them along, because of course as we all know, if they are in love than all of their lives together will be happily ever after...but that's an entirely different subject.

What if the person had never said "I love you" would the other one had offered an "I love you" first?

Does the responder love less than the initiator because they love them "too" and not just simply "I love you"?

Does an "I love you too" mean that my love is based on the condition that you love me and then I love you too. If I say "I love you" does that mean I love you no matter if you do or do not love me "too"?

I'm reading Gary Chapman's book The Five Love Languages of God in which he gives examples of how God speaks each of the love languages: words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, acts of service and physical touch. So in whatever "love language" we as individuals primarily receive and show love, God speaks our language.

I was journaling about a particular way God had spoken my love language, happy that I'd actually recognized this gift of His, as opposed to my typical way of living in which I often miss God's hand in my life, and I ended my journal entry with "I love you too."

God said first "I love you Becky" and I responded "I love you too."

Does that make my love less than God's?
If He had not offered love would I have loved Him first?

John answers that question in I John 4: 10 "This is real love, not that we loved Him but that He first loved us and sent his Son to be the payment for our sins."

"I love you too" because God loves me first, and my love in no way compares to the unconditional unending love that He showers on me, this day and for the rest of the days of my life. I could never offer a love that equals how God loves me. In His love, He sent His only Son to be viciously murdered to take away my sin and I in return hesitate to speak his name in witness, or follow his commands when they seem too difficult. My love is hesitant and failing and sporadic, the poorest of "I love you too."

My response doesn't change His love: if I am the greatest of missionaries or the quietest of all the redeemed, if I spend my life in great service or hide my gifts in darkness, if I'm victorious in walking by faith or if I continue to stumble along the way, His words still stay the same. God loves me and because he does I desire to offer back to him " I love you too."

Friday, July 13, 2007

Making the Right Choice

It's allergy season.

This means that every room of the house has a half empty box of kleenex in it and some rooms even have two! I'm up right now at an hour unrecognizable to me because I can't breathe.

Inadvertently I'd bought a box of Puffs Plus, tissues with lotion, and I discovered that they are wonderfully soft. The next time I went to replenish the kleenex supply I intentionally sought out more of this brand.

I found them and they were expensive so I stood in the aisle seeing if I could justify to myself spending practically twice what the other tissues were to get this kind that I'd liked. I was buying several boxes so it took me a while to rationalize it all out and put the softer tissues in my cart.

Those tissues sit beside me now as I write and every time I've grabbed one, I've been grateful that I made the right decision. After weeks of the joys of pollen, my nose is still not raw, and though they were close to three dollars a box, a still intact nose, as the commercials would say, is "priceless".

It doesn't matter how much extra I paid for these tissues because whatever it was, it was well worth the price for the benefits I have gained: even though I waffled about buying quality over the economical choice.

I had a geometry teacher in high school that would say that every time we had a choice to make, what we chose would impact our character. If we made the easy choice it would weaken us, if we made the hard choice it would make us stronger. I had no idea what he was talking about, I was just happy to be taking a break from hearing about angles and proofs so he could talk philosophy all he wanted.

Now though I understand: and through this silly example I'm saying the same thing. Making the right choice doesn't mean it will be the easier one, it may be the one that will cost you more initially.: more time, more effort, more emotion...but if it's the right choice to make it will have benefits beyond what we can initially see.

And in the grandest scheme of all things, here is where faith comes in. God gives us these things for us to do and things to avoid. Some of them are pretty obvious, others I've puzzled over and then there are some that when push comes to shove, like praying for your enemies, it seems just too hard of a choice to execute. But these are God's words, the choices He says are best for us, and I can only trust that if I spend the extra effort that there will be enduring benefits far beyond my expectations.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Being A Buoy

Being near a lake draws my attention to things I typically don’t see at home in the city. Things like circling seagulls and the rhythm of waves rolling to shore, the color of a sunset reflected on the water, and buoys.

Buoys are everywhere around the lake, marking where boats can go, and how far out swimmers are safe. Typically in this area they are white with an orange-red stripe, and they bob in the water, all day, every day, and through the night and then the next day and the next night and the...well, you get the picture.

It doesn’t seem to matter if the lake is calm or choppy or filled with racing white-capped waves, the buoys still stay in the same place, bobbing up and down, sometimes more agitatedly than at other times, but still there.

I’ve learned that they are anchored to the bottom of the lake by a long chain that holds securely to the solid foundation of a large weight.

When the waves crash over them, they are overwhelmed but not submerged.

During a storm they are pounded but not destroyed.
When cross winds blow they are blown sideways but not blown over.

I want to be a buoy: anchored deep in the confidence of God’s love and care over my life as in the prayers of Ephesians 3:17 -19: "And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in Him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God's marvelous love. And may you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love really is. May you experience the love of Christ though it is so great you will never fully understand it.
Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God."

When life and circumstances whip up waves around me, I want to be able to keep afloat in the distress. No matter how high the waters rise, I want to be able still to rise above them, to simply bob on the surface of whatever threatens to destroy me because I am anchored deeply and securely with a chain that’s been forged by my own experiences of the faithfulness of God, each link a testimony of God’s enduring grace.

And when life is simply like the doldrums of a calm, windless ocean, I then want to still be in my place, bobbing away, with a consistency much like the stars of the sky. Psalms 19 says “The heavens tell the glory of God. The skies display his marvelous craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or a word; their voice is silent in the skies; yet their message has gone out to all the earth, and their words to all the world.”

If I remain faithfully anchored to this foundation of God's love even through storms and foul winds and overwhelming waves, because He "fills me with the fullness of life and power that comes from Him," then it will be evident that He is the source of consistency that I cling to in my life.


And because of this strength and God's faithfulness to me, my life, day after day, will declare His glory, declare that He is in control and that He is good, no matter what my circumstances.









Tuesday, June 12, 2007

All I Need

I was perusing the Sunday paper and checking out the weekly ad from one of my favorite craft stores. I confess, I'm at the craft store more than I need to be, so much so that I almost feel a bit like Norm from the show Cheers...remember, he would walk in and everyone would shout out "Norm" because, well, there everyone knows your name. (don't tell me you're not having that music go through your mind right now)

So I have just about every craft supply known to mankind; soap and paper, and candle wax and fabric and yarn and... what can I say, I'm a great starter and yet so easily distracted!

So here in my hand is the big colorful two page ad with the big 40% off coupon right there at the bottom of the first page, tempting me to think about what I could possibly get with it. I search the ad for what's on sale; there's silk flowers, stickers, paper, frames, wedding supplies etc. I read through it again just to see if I missed anything, nope, I saw them all and conclude that there's nothing on sale that would draw me there and I can't think of anything to use the coupon on. There is nothing that I need. This is an amazing thing to realize - there's always another tool to get, always something I wanted to do with the kids, always some event coming up that needs some kind of decor or party favor, but nope, there's nothing at all that I need.

I have it all. I have all I need. There's no need to look for anything.

It's a strange feeling. I've been as conditioned as the next person to go through the ads every week to see what's on sale, or what is available that I don't have and absolutely have to have. Isn't it surprising how you're pretty content with your life and belongings and then you open a random catalog and suddenly have a half dozen things you don't know how you've been living without?

I was pondering this foreign realization of not needing anything crafty while I finished picking up the scattered paper. It actually felt good to realize I have all I need, feeling complete.

Christian author Max Lucado has said "If God is enough for you,then you’ll always have enough, because you’ll always have God." Or as David put it in Psalms "The Lord is my Shepherd, I have everything I need."

If I have everything I need there is no need for me to be looking for anything else.

If I belong to God and He is mine, then there is no reason to look anywhere else for anything than to Him. In Psalms 104:28 it says, " Every one of these depends on you...when you supply it, they gather it. You open your hand to feed them and they are satisfied." In Philippians 4: 19 Paul relates that " And this same God that takes care of me will supply all your needs according to his glorious riches."

It's a good feeling, a good thing to roll around in my mind.
I have all I need in Him;whatever that might be for the day, a refuge, a shield, my joy, protection, my hope and on and on the descriptions go.

I'd heard that when God revealed himself to Moses in Genesis by saying "I AM" it was as if He was saying "I AM _________" whatever it is that you need, fill in the blank for God is that. That's an interesting concept. What I need varies on a more often than even daily basis, yet if I have God, I have enough.

If my house wasn't filled with craft supplies I may have missed this wonderful insight today about what it means to need nothing, so all that stuff served a least some purpose...maybe I should go make a wall hanging now that reminds me of this thought, or a scrapbook page, or a card or ....

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Affirming Words

"Never doubt in the dark what God has revealed to you in the light."

Good advice: not easy to follow but sound wisdom nevertheless.

I find that more often than not that I feel I am in the dark, in the twilight or shadows. Doubting, not so much what God has revealed, but how I feel about my own abilities or more precisely, my capability to do all that I am responsible to do.

It takes failing at just one endeavor for me to start disregarding everything I've accomplished.

I'm a firstborn and accustomed to things coming easily and being successful and when they don't and when I'm not, I have not developed ways of handling that.

But I've discovered that I do have a way that helps: it helps even when I'm being moderately successful and not only when I'm discouraged by failure.

I've begun to save affirming words - treasured words like the rare gems they are in dust of day to day living: cards, personal notes, and copies of emails make up this collection and most of these have found a place in the pages of my Bible, which just seems highly appropriate that the place I go for encouragement from my God is also a repository of affirmation from those around me whose opinions I value.

It is a good thing for me to gather these jewels that sparkle when days are dark. To know, in black and white, that how I'm feeling this day is not all that there is.

Also to remember that if I feel this way, chances are that I am not alone. If it is in my power to speak or write affirming words to someone else, I should, as often as possible. The Bible says that a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver. Honestly I've never understood the visual example there but I can recognize that these words are valuable and beautiful and treasures.

And this is one treasure that I can freely distribute because even though it costs me nothing it has the ability to enrich someone else for a very long time as demonstrated by those slips of paper falling out of my Bible...

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Subtle Shifts

The other day I was reading a great book and driving.

Maybe I should restate that. I had been reading a great book but now I was driving but I would have really rather been finishing my book. I was to the last 15 pages and the mystery was finally going to be untangled but, I also had to be somewhere, so I was driving and the book was sitting on the passenger seat just waiting...

Waiting for what? you may ask: I was waiting for a red light.
I was hoping for red lights on my trip this day because I knew I'd have enough time to read another page and be closer to all the answers!

Wouldn't you know it, not a single red light the entire trip!

What was interesting though was how a subtle shift in my thinking changed my entire perspective on traffic lights. I remember the same thing happening when my son was small and loved trains; suddenly living where there are tracks everywhere wasn't as bad as it had been before.

While we love shows like Extreme Makeover perhaps it wouldn't take as much as we'd think to change the joy we have in our days.

I'm sure that if I could think that exercise is fun and vegetables are more desirable than chocolate there would be good changes in my health. If housework was viewed as satisfying and fulfilling instead just a necessary evil that I'd be happier with the never ending dishes and laundry.

The more I think about it, the more I think that if tiny little attitudes could shift they would have big impact.

Have you ever been the recipient of an unexpected smile or small kindness as you've gone about your day? Did it not give your spirit an unexpected boost?

The recent term that could describe this could also be "thinking outside the box". What if I changed my thought processes and already reached conclusions about just a few simple things?

I don't know. I really don't. There are no conclusions here today, just a curiosity.

What do you think?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Square Holes, Square Pegs


I'm so excited! I was just being teased that it didn't take much to get me excited: but I'm choosing to take that as a compliment.

I'm amazed how God watches out for me in all things, even those that are very little.

In the past 24 hours I've gotten an email that was encouraging where I was discouraged, a phone call giving me legal advice that will save me from many headaches, and a visit that resulted in the weeds being gone from what I'm calling my garden and a dozen new transplants all snuggled down into my dirt: and all these things came from the friends in my life.

I don't know anything about legalities or flowers (except that they're so pretty and tempting in the store this time of year and I get them home and they're just not happy at my house) yet where I have these holes in my abilities, God's provided others who have these strengths.

The expression is typically "like a square peg in a round hole" but my Father is the giver of all good gifts (James 1:17) and this day He's blessed me with the realization that while He is the provider of all my needs, often He sends His provisions through my friends.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Water Daily

I am a simple minded person.
I am visual.
I am forgetful.

I've just gotten a beautiful hanging plant. I carefully brought it home and placed it on the hook and it looked wonderful!

The next morning it was all withered and curling up against itself. So I watered it really well and it perked right up and again looked great.

This morning it's all curled up and withered looking.

Hmmm.

What a great plant!

Here I thought I was getting something to brighten up my yard and what I've actually gotten is my own botanical reminder.

I am just like my plant in that I need to be watered daily. It seems no matter how great the day before has been, how abundantly I've been satisfied and filled that the next morning I'm dry and thirsty, and when the sun is beating down on me, I need even more water.

I easily relate to the psalmist when he said "My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water" (Psalms 63:1).

And then there's this promise for me. "(If) you would ask me, I will give you living water!"(John 4:10).

So each morning as I walk out to water my plant I will be reminded to come back in and take my Bible and seek water for my own soul. And as the day progresses both my plant and I will be nourished and full of life.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Honesty

Honesty

It seems like it’s been a common thread in my life for the past few weeks beginning with an Adult Sunday School class on that topic. What does it mean to be honest? What about “don’t ask, don’t tell”? What if I lead you to believe something is true that isn’t even though I never actually say that it’s true? What if I know something that I don’t share that you should know? What is our responsibility as Christians to be honest, totally 100% honest?

We didn’t have many answers, I think we raised even more questions and a lot of stories about how these different types of “honesty” have played out in our personal lives, and what effect being honest has on those around us and what they think of us. We looked at scripture and saw that there is no deceit at all in God: well that pretty much answered the question of how honest should we be…

So I found myself on the phone with someone very upset about how they perceived I’d treated them and hearing them say “tell me honestly do you have a problem with me?” The whole Sunday school conversation came back to me, how we are as honest with people as what we think they’re capable of hearing.

Through all this I’ve realized something that is true for myself: I want to know the truth, the whole truth. I would much rather be told that something I am doing is irritating someone to no end than to continue doing it thinking that it’s not a problem. I would rather you, as my friend; hold up a true mirror to me of what you’re seeing that just telling me what I want to hear.It might sting, it might even hurt, but I’d rather know than be operating under a pretense

It’s the old “Do these pants make me look fat?” Okay, sometimes it is just fishing for a compliment, but often it’s a genuine question to someone whose opinion we trust – tell me if I look bad here, before I go out and look badly before people I want to impress.

There is freedom in conversation when you know that you’ve agreed with the person you’re talking to that you’ll be completely honest in your answers even if that would appear to be offensive or hurtful. When you know that they will tell it like they see it and not just how you want to hear it.

So tell me the truth: tell it gently and kindly, and give me time to acknowledge that it hurts and to deal with it but speak truth. When we do, we give others and ourselves a rare and precious gift in a world where” political correctness” reigns.

I have friends like that. I hope my friends appreciate my being like that and although it’s not always pleasant, the truth always has the ability to make us better, and isn’t that what we really want: friends who watch our back and friends who are enriched because we are their friend?

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Who IS this Boy?

They’re calling him Rob.
The coaches, the other players, calling my son Rob.
That’s not his name.
It’s Robbie.
For 10 years he’s just been Robbie.
Well I guess they just don’t know.
It sounds so strange.

They’re still calling him Rob but now it’s because now he’s earned it as his nickname.
He “robbed” the other team twice tonight, with two double plays.
He was chosen as the game’s MVP by his coach and given the game ball.
I don’t think he’ll be falling asleep before midnight he’s so excited.

I watch this Rob on the diamond and I hardly recognize him, long and lean in his baseball uniform: intense in his concentration, light and quick on his feet, cheering on his teammates, the first to pat a guy on the back and say “good job”.

Is this the same kid that leaves socks and books all over the house? Is this the same kid that eats dinner and is starving ten minutes later? Who makes copious lists of sports statistics and sets up fantasy teams and plays whole games with them in his mind? Is this the kid who finds his way onto my lap every time we sit down to watch TV? And jumps onto my bed every morning to wake me up?

Robbie is the kid I know, this kid who’s just changed into footed polar bear pajamas and wants me to come and kiss him good night.

This is my son.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Oh, the Irony!

I spend a good portion of this morning on the phone. More specifically, on hold as I was trying to deal with an insurance matter concerning payment after an accident, I was beginning to wonder if my great grandchildren would be the ones cashing the check by the time this was all settled...

You've been there too haven't you? So you know exactly how I was feeling after the sixth time of being told "Hold please."

Here comes the music; the garbled, static filled sounds of Josh Groban singing "Don't give up".

Oh the irony!

It would be so much better if they would just be honest and play the music that actually goes along with the company policies:

"I can't get no satisfaction"

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Law of Inertia

Why is it so hard to get out of bed in the morning?

Because there is so much ahead you have to do?

Because there is so much left from yesterday that didn’t get done?

Because there is too little to look forward to the dawning day?

Because you were up too late last night trying to catch up?

Personally, I think it’s all of the above.

And it is what Newton figured out that “objects in motion tend to stay in motion and objects at rest want to stay in bed!”

You tell me he was in some lab when he came up with that, I bet he was trying to pry himself out from under the blankets too! Come to think of it, this is the same guy who “discovered” gravity while sitting under an apple tree…he lead a pretty sedentary life!

Okay, so eventually you have to get up.

While I can’t ease the pain of parting with your pillow, I can offer you two promises, like a pair of fuzzy slippers to help with the cold wood floors of morning reality.

“The unfailing love of the Lord never ends! Great is His faithfulness, His mercies begin afresh each day.” Lamentations 3:23

“Morning by morning He wakens me and opens my understanding to His will.” Isaiah 40:5

So while I need to leave my warm soft cocoon, I step into the day knowing that God will give me a fresh day's supply of understanding to discern what to do and mercies to sustain me so that I can do it.

Now where is that coffee pot...?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Things run out...

…we run out of time, out of money, out of gas.
There’s not enough hot water, food, or supplies.
We’ve run out of patience, strength, compassion.

We are finite.
Everything around us is finite.

Even something that seems as infinite as the ocean viewed from a sandy shore, ends somewhere over the horizon.

We live in a finite world and because we do we cannot grasp the infinite.

Unconditional love.
Eternal life.
An always faithful God.
Forgiveness for every sin.
Grace enough to cover every need.
The unending, unwavering desire of God for us to be close to Him.

Perhaps for many days I manage to be faithful, to be loving, to be compassionate and helpful and serving, then I’m not.
My determination is finite.
My abilities are finite.
My love is finite.

Yet, He calls me saying “I have loved you with an everlasting love.”
I answer “I will love you for all my life Lord.”
But actually all I give is just this moment because it’s all I can hold at a time.
The only thing I know I’ll have, is what I have right now.

How sorry an exchange – His everlasting love for my momentary devotion, until something else that is finite catches my attention and I pursue it, until it ends and I come back to the infinite, again offering my finite love, until my money runs out, or my motivation, or my peace and again I am off scrambling for the temporal.

My mind is finite. I cannot comprehend the concept of anything that is never ending. So I am amazed that God continues to love me and calls me back to Himself again
and again
and again
and again
and yet again
and yet another time
ad infinitum. . .

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Ode to a Thermos of Coffee

Catchy title isn’t it?

I am too far removed from college English to remember what an Ode is. I could look it up, but it might just confuse me. I just know it's what you write when you feel inspired by something.

My thermos inspired me when I poured a HOT cup of coffee at 9:30 at night. I’d made that coffee at 7:30 that morning, and now that my day seemed nowhere near ending I was seeking out caffeine to keep me going late into the night. For a girl who can barely function coherently after 10 pm, I would need all the help I could get!

But back to the thermos… my coffee was still so hot that evening that even adding cream didn’t cool it off enough to have to put it in the microwave.

I was so impressed! (Yes, I am easily amused).

Of course, the whole pot had started off hot and fresh, but then – well, the day happened, and the coffee that was left in the coffee maker was stale and cold.

But a thermos is a marvelous thing, and so is a friend.

There are times when passionate idealism or determination flow from me. I am excited, super-heated with a fresh concept, a fresh vision, and then life happens – just stuff - and my passion cools. My determination grows stale.

But then a friend pours back into me that initial dream, that fresh approach and enthusiasm, that which my friend has kept hot for me for those times when circumstances have chilled my passion.

Someone has said that a friend is the one who knows the song in your heart and sings it back to you when you have forgotten the words.

Yeah, that’s it – that’s what I’m saying as I have written my own “Ode to a Thermos of Coffee.” It is my friends who hold my dreams hot and fresh for me, and that is a marvelous thing quite worthy of an ode!

The Body of Christ...for you.

It is the time for Communion.
Of stopping and remembering.
Of confession and celebration.

I have always had an affinity for communion. As a child it was the only ceremonial thing my church participated in – the passing of the gold trays with the broken crackers and the little plastic cups of grape juice.

As an adult it’s a time to pause amid all the doing and remember why I do what I do. To remember that my service comes from love because of the love that flowed freely for me from the Cross.

Only recently have I experienced communion by intinction – that is to say when you come forward and take the bread and dip it in the juice. The first time I participated in communion this way, the pastor holding the cup looked into my eyes and said, “The blood of Christ shed for you.” I heard those words as if they were the first time.

Sunday I found myself holding the plate with the bread, and saying to each one that came, “The body of Christ broken for you”.

I have sung for congregations, and taught small groups but this was different, this was not a message to many, this was an invitation to an individual, and another invitation given specifically to another individual.

For each one that took the bread is in a different place in their relationship with their God; some seeking, some hardened, some just beginning, some wandering, some wondering, some going deeper and farther than before.

Yet to each one the invitation was the same. It is the same as it was when His body was first sacrificed, first broken, by nails that ripped into hands willingly placed on that crude cross.

The body of Christ, broken for you

As it was thousands of years ago.

As it is remembered in tens of thousands of churches across the world.

As this invitation comes specifically to you today, as if you were the only one in the world.

Behold, the body of Christ, broken for you.

Monday, April 2, 2007

My Musings on a Maundy Thursday Morning

It is a bright, beautiful, clear, sunny morning.

Was it a morning like this when You awoke, Jesus?

Did You sleep well last night knowing it would be Your last in a mortal body, knowing there would be no sleep for You tonight, or were You up into the wee hours of the morning in one last earnest conversation with those You loved—one for only their ears and not the record of Scripture, as You sought to fortify them for what was to come?

Did You stretch and flex Your hands as You greeted the dawn and perhaps, as the beams of sunlight fell on Your tough, callused palm, did You contemplate its surface, still unmarred by a piercing wound?

It is amazing, Lord, how You suffered for me at Calvary, but Your love was also shown by how You walked to Your cross, with a steady, unswerving step.

You alone knew that by the moon’s rising You would be abandoned by those who are now waking up around You.

You knew that the usual early morning greetings and frivolity of a group that had spent many a night and morning together, would cease after this last morning.

As you made Your way into Jerusalem on the roads so crowded with pilgrims bringing their sheep for the Passover celebration, did You read their thoughts and find their minds filled with inconsequential plans for the day, and hardly a thought of the God for Whom they were observing this tradition?

Did You see their hearts filled with pride and sin and insecurities and confusion?

As You walked among them, did they know that their lambs would no longer be necessary since the Lamb of God was taking Himself to be bound to the altar and that His blood would initiate and seal a new covenant between them and all people to come and their God?

Here now comes John to ask about preparations for the meal. The events of Sunday with the triumphal entry and adoring crowds have faded beneath the daily responsibilities and activities.

Today’s agenda is simply to prepare the required feast as they have in years before.

They do not realize that thousands of years later we too will be preparing this day to remember You.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Promises, Promises

Psalms 57:2 I cry out to God Most High
to God who will fulfill His purpose for me.


Psalms 57:7 My heart is confident in you O God,
no wonder I can sing your praises


Psalms 33:4 For the word of the Lord holds true
and everything He does is worthy of our trust


Psalms 33:11 But the Lord's plans stand firm forever;
His intentions can never be shaken.


The winter started off brutal and then in mid-January it was suddenly warm and the bulbs, beguiled by this surprise, started coming up.

"No! Don't! Not yet..." I shouted to them through the tightly latched window.

They didn't listen.
And then, as winter does, it came back and it was sub-zero for weeks and there was snow and it looked so hopeless. There'd be no flowers this spring.

But there are.

There shouldn't be based on what happened, but the flowers are here and beautiful.

The promise of Spring robed in white and yellow.


The Psalms send the same message as the daffodils.


No matter what I see or think, no matter what happens,"God will fulfill His purpose for me." "His plans stand firm forever; His intentions can never be shaken".


No matter what brutal winds blow, what circumstances shatter my hopes, what troubles pile up on me, if God's purpose for me is to bloom

at a certain time,

in a certain place:

I will.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Spring Fever

I am getting spring fever just as surely as I am sitting in a resin chair by my garden on a 68-degree March day in Chicago.

Around me the green stalks are swollen, pregnant with buds just waiting for a few more days of warmth and sun until they will reveal
their cheerful yellow faces.

Two and a half crocuses remain after their premature entrance last week. A two-inch overnight snow was their demise, and even though it was gone as quickly as it had accumulated, the new growth was lost.
Their brief sojourn, though, clearly sent the message: “Winter is passing and spring is coming. Soon all things will be new and the hidden underground growth through the dark winter days will be evident.
The optimism of new life will defeat the despair of winter.”

My shoes are sitting next to me and I feel the matted greening grass under my happily unshod feet.
Spring is coming! Spring is coming!

The winter has been cold and dark with biting winds, and the ground frozen and impenetrable. I have huddled into myself, attempting to keep the fire of life glowing and protected from these winds that have blown, not caring their effect.
Enough now of wind and storm, the sun is come with warmth and light and bids me do as my plants: to stretch up toward heaven, to drink deeply of spring rains and with this nourishment grow and green until I too am pregnant again with hope, and then to bloom forth with new life.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Sometimes it's okay...

If you are a SAHM (stay at home mom) you will understand immediately the situation I found myself in. I had planned to take a shower all day and then it was 10 pm and I hadn’t. If you’d ask me why I hadn’t I wouldn’t have been able to tell you the exact thing(s) that kept me from taking care of my own needs, it had just been on of those days where everyone’s needs exceeded my time and energy.

So, after getting kids off to school and making breakfast and lunches, I finally got into the shower, better late than never.
I was ready for this 10 minute (okay, maybe 15 minute) vacation!
No sooner than I had the temperature adjusted just right than someone starting running water somewhere else in the house – INSTANT ICE!

Great, just great!

I am a good girl, always have been. I follow the rules, turn the other cheek, walk the extra mile, do unto others as I wish they’d do to me etc.

Now someone is messing up this shower; this event that has evolved from everyday personal maintenance to a symbol today of time for myself.
What is a girl to do?

As I tried to bypass the cold stream rushing out at me, I considered getting out and finding out who was running water and explaining…..and then realizing I would be the one who’d have to clean up all the wet footsteps to my destination…

So I cranked up the hot water, and left it there sufficiently depriving, I’m guessing, whoever was attempting to get hot water in another part of the house.

And for this mom, who is like all moms, always giving up for everyone else and making sure all other needs are met before her own, this was a hot, powerful reminder that there will always be needs but it is okay to take care of me.

Because like my friend Pam is always saying to me, If you don’t take care of the mom, who else is going to?

So, to all of you who are maxed out day after day taking care of everyone around you, let me remind you that it’s okay to take what you need to take care of you.
Wishing you long, and hot showers!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Love and Coffee

I realized that much I’ve learned about love,
I’ve learned in the presence of coffee.
I’ve just returned from being invited out for coffee,
partially because it was the seasonal special
with chocolate, caramel and Irish crème
but mostly because I needed space from my home
and needed to talk and my friend recognized that
and getting coffee became the perfect excuse.

The first time I was in a Starbucks
was because my father–in-law invited me and my infant son out for coffee. All I remember is enjoying for the first time a Carmel frappacino and sitting still in the comfortable chairs for the time it took to drink our Venti drinks. Since I was sleep deprived and in that general insaneness and giant learning curve that accompanies your first child, going out for coffee was like heaven.

One year I was given 3 coffee gift cards for Christmas.

I received specially blended coffee combinations
in plastic cones adorned with ribbons and silk roses
for Valentine’s Day.

I brought back 100% Kona coffee
when I visited the islands last year
and hope that the favor will be returned
by another who is visiting the tropics.

Our Bible Study group, aptly named Coffee Break, has a coffee bar called Love You A Latte in which we’ve gotten everyone addicted to whipped cream on their monthly specialty coffee and where we exchange hugs for coffee benefiting both the server and the “customer”.

See, it’s all about coffee!


I’m so sorry if you are not a coffee drinker.

It may be harder for you to learn about love.
Because I’ve found that in the drinking
and the giving and receiving of coffee
I have both demonstrated and have been the recipient
of expressions of love.
And gotten a caffeine boost to boot!


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Clarity

It’s winter in Chicago, which doesn’t have the same connotations as, let’s say, winter in Yellowstone - a pristine snowy whiteness covering everything…no, it’s winter in Chicago which doesn't mean that things aren't covered, they are; the cars, the roads , the sidewalks and the signs, but they're not covered in snow, they're covered in a layer of salt.

Every car is the same grayish color as the car next to it with slight undertones of the color the car actually is, peeping through the salt.

For whatever reason, there is never windshield wiper fluid in the cars that I drive. I get this thin film of kicked up salt and gunk that dries on there and when the sun shines it’s even harder to see where you are going.

So, there are those times, that I finally stop at a gas station and clean off my windshield and I am always amazed at how bad it was once it’s clean.

Before it was bothersome but it wasn’t that bad, until I get it back to the way it’s supposed to be and then I realize how bad it really was.

It’s the same way in my life. Things are okay, they’re not bad; my attitudes and my actions and my responses. There's just that gunk that builds up from daily travel down the roads of life. But then I find that I'm having trouble seeing my way as clearly.

So finally I'll stop and be "washed by the cleansing of God's word" (Ephesians 5:26) and all of a sudden things are a lot clearer. I remember the way they should be.

So, as I will now endeavor to keep the windshield clean so that I can see my way, I will also be more conscious to take the time to stop and wipe away that which builds up day by day on my heart.

For Those Who Serve

I read a statistic that said the average person spends 16 months of their life in the bathroom.

I want to know how long one spends in the kitchen!

It must be measured in decades!

I am always in the kitchen, either stocking it, or preparing a meal, than cleaning up from that meal, than cooking again, cleaning, stocking, cooking. . .

Why is it that the sink always has dishes in it? Always! I go to bed at night and everything (sometimes) is bright and shiny and little gremlins come in and by the time everyone is off to school in the morning the kitchen looks like a war zone of breakfast bowls and juice boxes, trash pulled out of the lunch bags that was left from yesterday (are there no garbage cans at school?) and knives with smears of butter and jelly and peanut butter. It’s incredible how much food stuff goes on in the first hour of a school day. It’s intense.

For as much time I spend in preparing food for others, I spend little of that eating. While I will chop and grate and mix and sauté for you I tend to grab a bite for myself because I’m too busy cooking to stop and enjoy the food myself.

I found that true this morning with my Bible and journal. The feel of my Bible was not unfamiliar in the days that have passed but as I opened my prayer journal I realized it had been a while that I’d read the Bible for myself.

I’d been in God’s Word but much the same way I was in the kitchen this morning, preparing food for others, making it recognizable and palatable for a variety of appetites and tastes.

In a power point presentation to be visually inspiring,

in a discussion forum so as to introduce both seekers and young believers to the everyday relevance of the Scriptures,

through a children’s story to share the glory of an Everlasting God with those who do not even have the ability to reason abstractly.

I’ve made beautiful meals for everyone else yet I nibble on a verse here or there.

For us who serve, we must remember to also eat.

For we well know that if we do not eat, if we do not feed ourselves, we will soon find we will not have the strength to continue to prepare the Bread of Life for those who are hungry.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Startling Reflections

I do not like mirrors.

I hate mirrors.

Okay, not the mirror per sea, but what I see in the mirror. Does anyone ever look into a mirror and say “Wow!” well, anyone beside the Fonz?

Worse than what I see when I purposely look into a mirror is the revelation I get when I’m suddenly looking at a reflection that I didn’t seek out. The sudden illumination you get walking past store windows that reveal those jeans don’t look as great on you as you thought and that hairstyle really isn’t working.

I had a mirror thrust in front of my heart today in the form of a winter storm warning. The news came that a church a hundred miles to the north had cancelled its services because of the blizzard that was heading my direction.

Maybe our church would be cancelled too – wouldn’t that be great?!

Hello – what was that I just saw?

In the body of a faithful Christian and church attendee, Sunday school teacher and choir member was a heart that was hopeful that the snow would shut down the services and she’d have a “day off"...?

Is there an inconsistency here between the public and the private? The duty and the desire? Is this the heart that serves because it loves God?

So, I guess, as I would get out a brush after viewing my morning “fresh out of bed” reflection that now as I’ve glimpsed my heart, I know there is some work that needs to be done.

Monday, February 19, 2007

An Appointment

9:05 a.m: “I’d like to make an appointment.”

“Let me take your number, and we’ll call you back.”

By the end of the day, no phone call came to schedule the appointment, and I could only imagine how long it would be until the actual meeting.

A lesson to be learned well and early is this: If you want to have an appointment by September, you’d better call and schedule it in July.
My education came with my first call to the OB-Gyn. “I’d like to schedule a prenatal exam. I just found out I’m pregnant!”

“Is there any particular day that you’d like to see the doctor?”

“As soon as possible. I’m available at any time.” (Of course, I was available any time of any day; nothing would stand between me and the health of my baby.)

“Okay, let’s see . . . the earliest available appointment would be at 2 p.m., three weeks from Thursday.”

Three weeks from Thursday! How could they put me off for that long? I was pregnant. This was my first baby! Terrible things could happen in three weeks—didn’t they understand how important this was to me?

Routine appointment?—A couple of months.

Impacted tooth? Rising Fever? Wheezing Cough?—A couple of days.

Emergency services necessary?—Even then, a couple of hours.

Seldom does it seem that what is important to me is urgent to anyone else. The lack of availability to meet my needs reminds me again that I am one of
hundreds
thousands
millions
billions.

What about trying to make an appointment with a specialist or a person of great influence? How long of a wait would that be?

Are you seeking an audience with a boss, the CEO, or the President of the United States? If (and that is a very big IF) they will see you, it will be on their terms, whenever that would be.

I actually attempted to make two appointments today. I guess when the office opens tomorrow I’ll attempt to set up this first appointment again, and again wait for them to return my call.

For the second, I was ushered in immediately.

No hassle,

no waiting,

no other visitors but me.

I had an audience with the most powerful, knowledgeable, and influential Person in the universe.

When you pray, I will listen.
If you look for me in earnest, you will find me when you seek me.
I will be found of you, says the Lord. (Jeremiah 29:12-14)


There is no greater physician or counselor. He is a specialist in all matters, and He had a wide-open space in His appointment book and was just waiting for my call.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

My Seeing Eye Friend

If you are blind, you need a Seeing Eye dog.

If you are breathing, you need a Seeing Eye friend: a friend who sees clearly where you are blind and one whom you trust enough to follow their lead.

I have many such friends, hopefully one for every blind spot I have and ones who not only make up for my deficiencies but who can see clearly what I can’t.

I’m in the forest; all I’m seeing are the trees.

I have one such friend, so if any of these words ever resonate with you, she is the reason they have been published for your eyes.

She’s my favorite “poofreader” and one of many with whom I’ve shared my writings.
I've chosen each person who has ever seen what I've written, selecting only those who know me and would be an understanding and safe place to share my thoughts: my friend had another idea. One day she presented me with a book that was a compilation of the writings I’d been sending her. Today she emailed me with the announcement that she’d set up a blog for my words because, as she says, “you should be read and proud of what you've written!"

I don’t see it.

She does.

I’m going to trust her judgment, for she is my Seeing Eye friend.

Never Alone

I was at a Thursday night rehearsal for some music we’d be doing in church in a couple weeks. This particular piece was beyond my usual frame of reference, a recitative from the Elijah.

Now, I’ve been singing my whole life it seems. I remember it driving my parents nuts from the backseat on long car trips. But this genre was going to be a stretch for me, both musically and vocally.

So I practiced. I got the CD and sang along with it for a week. I even loaded it on “repeat” in my MP3 player and worked around the house with the music next to me as I folded laundry. I listened and sang with it so often that one day as I was doing the dishes I found I had most of it memorized, so I felt ready.

But … when the rehearsal began, and I was to sing all by myself with an organ instead of the recorded orchestra, I couldn’t do it.
I couldn’t find the entrances or the pitches or the rhythm.

And worst of all, it seemed the more I tried to focus and count, the more lost I became;
so, not only was I embarrassed, I was disappointed.
I really had thought I could do this.

I couldn’t not do this. We were all there and this song had to be performed. The organist tried talking me through the rhythms. I was trying, but it was like something on the tip of your tongue–you know it’s there, but you can’t quite get it …

I started the song again and as I did the baritone beside me started to count, “123456, 123456 …” quietly keeping the rhythm under me: steady, foundational. And soon I found I was singing. As I “got it” he would get quieter, and when something tricky would come he’d be just a little louder, and when I was well on my way he dropped out all together.

That support changed everything: both my ability and my confidence in my ability.

So often we get into situations we think we can handle and find that we can’t. Or, there are times that something is thrust on us that we have had no preparation for, and we flounder. In either case, how invaluable is the support of a friend–not someone who stands aside and gives advice, but someone who comes along beside and says by their words or their actions, “You can do this. I know you can handle this. I’m here to help in whatever way you need me. I will be a steady place for you when everything else is tumultuous.”

In this experience my thoughts also turned to how sure a foundation we have in the faithfulness of God, this God who has said to us that His mercies are new each morning. That He will be our rock and fortress, a place of safety in time of trouble, a light and the lifter up of our heads. He has lifted us out of a pit of despair and set our feet on solid ground and steadies us as we walk along. (Psalms 40:2)

We are always in the presence of God.
Always.
We can never not be in God’s presence.
Every moment He knows where we are. (Psalms 139)
He has promised that He will never leave us, or forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5)
He is always beside us.

So what?

So, know this, deep within your heart, when you’re in a situation you think you can handle, or one that has you in totally over your head, that you are never alone.
Never lost.
Never abandoned.
Never without hope or help.

“I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for He is right beside me.” Psalms 16:8

Of Golden Leaves and Scattered Influence


I was thinking this glorious morning with the bright blue sky how we are like the tall oak trees I’m watching in my backyard- with branches lifted towards heaven and roots that have reached down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love: we are strong and established and are constantly nourished from deep inside ourselves. Now the winds of the Spirit and opportunity loosen and blow from us pieces of ourselves that scatter to cover many places, beyond the reach of where we are planted.

We send out our words and prayers and actions into the world, to make contact with others, to cover pain with love, hurt with compassion, offenses with forgiveness, to bring kindness into the routine, color and brightness into lives and our influence is blown far beyond our own little space in the world.

Hundreds of leaves are being blown off the trees
yet they are still filled with thousands more,
so much of ourselves there is to give. . .

Friday, February 16, 2007

Paper Cuts and Little Things

My Bible got coconut creamed today.

Just like anyone actively involved on a Sunday morning, I had been carrying a bag full of stuff: Bible, Sunday school lesson, speakers for the MP3 player, two flavored coffee creamers, assorted pens and pencils.

So somewhere along the way the coconut creamer met the pages of my Bible and my Bible got creamed! Augh!

Oh, that feeling, that sinking, shoulder slumping, disappointed feeling: where you just look and sigh.

And then the action to fix it, grabbing the paper towels and mopping up the sticky creaminess, separating all the pages and drying them off and as you're cleaning it up, at the same time realizing the extent of the damage.

Now this is not a big deal.
--To the rest of the world.

But it was my BIBLE.

MY Bible.

The one I use all the time.

It's not that there aren't a half-dozen other Bibles around the house, it's that it's my Bible, the one with all the notes in it, the one with all the verses underlined that have jumped right off the page and into my heart, the one that feels so familiar as I pick it up in the morning and sit down in my corner big blue chair wondering what I will find in it's pages today.

Again, this is a small thing. In a world filled with war and famine and conflict this is nothing. Even within my own circle of friends and their concerns, it's hardly worth mentioning in a passing conversation, but it affected me.

Our lives are filled with such things, aren't they? The little things that hurt--like a paper cut. You'd never need a bandage for that, but it feels like you do, it hurts a lot more than you want to give it credit for.

So where do we go with the paper cuts of our lives, with the creamed Bibles and the little disappointments that are like a slow leak out of the balloon of our happiness and contentment?

Take them to Jesus. To the same one to whom we take those big awful things in our lives, we can come with the small things that saddened only us. We come to the one who cares about us so much that He knows the number of hairs on our head. So for our little hurts--there's understanding there for them.


If someone loves you, really really loves you, they care about everything that concerns you.


I have loved you with an everlasting love.
I have called you by your name.
You are mine.