Thursday, June 21, 2018

No Rain


My daughters and I huddled close.  We were walking down the road on a beautiful summer night when a gentle rain began to fall.  We were closely knit together under our one umbrella.  We had to move in unison if we were going to move at all.  

My youngest daughter reached out her hand to touch the drops and then she stared straight up.  She said, “Mama, there is no rain under here.”  

I thought this was obvious and unimportant and the very significance of using an umbrella.  And yet the matter of this simple fact caused me to see something I had been missing for far too long.  

For just over a year, my life has felt random, uncontrolled and unpredictable.  I traced back in my mind, my daddy died thirteen months ago.  I have now traveled every holiday without him.  I navigate a company in which he mentored me for twenty-five years without him.  Two of my children graduated this year, without him and now one will move across the country and he won’t be there to tell me this is exactly how it should be.  

And although I know God is faithful and true.  And although I feel Him loving me fiercely and showing up in my loneliness and occasional despair, I have chosen to focus on the rain outside the umbrella instead of the cool, dry place underneath.

You see we cannot predict the rain.  The weatherman will tell us almost to the minute when it will start and when it will stop, but he doesn’t know the size of the drops nor how many puddles will form on my porch.

But God does.  

He also knows underneath the umbrella, rain cannot fall.  It cannot dampen my clothes or fill my shoes.  So it is with God.

If I truly give Him control.  If I truly believe in His goodness and His uncanny ability to show up then rain in the form of hope draining despair cannot descend.
It is where we choose to look.

Outside we stare at the random, frantic pattern of life.  Inside, underneath,  we find the precise nature of a peace giving God.


Monday, June 4, 2018

Sandman

She asks me to “sing one more song.”  This little girl of mine.
I wonder if it is because my stories have grown stale. I am not blessed with the wild imagination of my husband.  I remember how he could spin stories for hours with the boys. He also made up the sweetest lullabies.  I started to remember, one by one, I sang them to her.  I realize this part; these lullabies were missed with my youngest.  She came home at 25 months.  She could walk to her bed and she had learned to dress and tuck herself in before our hearts ever met her.

In adoption you roll back the clock.  We were allowed to parent her at 25 months but to us and to her we started at zero.  We started with bottles and diapers, but somehow and I am not sure how, I didn’t sing.  Perhaps I was too worried about language.  My little girl had no idea what I was saying.  I signed what I could and hugged her through the rest.  She was so overstimulated most of the time, silence seemed our friend.  I would read Bible stories as we lay next to each other and tell her when mom and daddy could not be there,  Jesus was.

She would wake in the middle of the night for months at a time with the most shrieking cry.  We could read it in her eyes that she woke not knowing where she was or how she had arrived.  We would hold her tight and warm her with hot milk.  We went back in time in almost every way to how we had loved our newborns, but I forgot the singing.

Now, song after song came.  The ones Brian had made up, the ones my mom had sung to me.    I introduced her to the sandman and the “fishies in the itty-bitty pool”.

She told me how much she loved me and I marveled at the grace of this moment.  I am not a singer.  If I made a list, probably longish in nature, of things I do not do well, singing would be on there.

She didn’t care about the quality. It was an analogy of sorts, the kind that only God can construct and the beautiful kind that I often miss.

In the bustle of these days I have felt less.  Less capable, less proficient, less sure.  The work day bringing challenges I have never known, and my eldest is spending his days with plans to continue school far away.  I look in the mirror to find the self-assured person I was just months ago but she is missing now. 

Yet, God sees and He knows and He fills the holes.
He tells us to sing with all our hearts, work with all our souls, parent with all our sweat and He will fill the gaps.

Our weakness, HIS wonder. 
Our poverty, HIS wealth.
Our insecurity, HIS assurance.
Our lack, HIS abundance.

So, I sing of sandmans and Saviors.  Remembering I was never meant to be all.  My role is to turn back the clock to when I was a child to a time when I trusted Him absolutely and with every piece of my heart.

Do I lack?  Absolutely, but He never, ever does.



Monday, May 14, 2018

All There


Sometimes you invite folks into your life or into your thoughts or your space and really can’t remember how they got there.

I saw her headed to the bathroom.  I remember thinking she did not look well.  By the time she reappeared, everyone had deplaned, that is everyone that was not going on to Chicago.  Me, her and about a half dozen other folks. 

Inadvertently I had blocked the aisle.  Standing and stretching, it had been a long day and now another three hours on the plane.  She was speaking into my neck when I flew around and found her.

She was loud.  I am not fond of loud.

“You waiting for the bathroom?”  she spoke-shouted.  “No, just stretching,” and as if I meant it, I said, “How are you?” Not one half second passed for her to say, “Absolutely terrible.”

Because we were now incredibly close together, I felt I couldn’t let her pass without at least a question, a word, a hug, something.

I went for, “What can I do for you?”

First there was air sickness:  I did move to a safer distance with that one. Then she explained she was travelling for a funeral.  She didn’t truly want to be on three flights to get there, but she had done it and without wavering she added,  “for her friend.”  This woman who I had momentarily cast as loud and perhaps nauseous was truly a brave, compassionate soul.

I applauded her. 

Jim Elliot said, “wherever you are, be all there.”
You see, I didn’t really want to be in the isle.  I really was not excited about chatting with my elderly friend for the entire plane to hear.  But missing her moxy would have been a mistake.  She encouraged me in ways she could have never known. 

I was tired, but my destination was home and family and love and rest.Her destination, as some twenty years my senior, was alongside a friend and a casket.Life is a bottle to be poured out; we always have the choice to taste the sweet in the bitter.

There is always joy in the midst if we choose to be “all there.”  If we choose to see,  to hear, to be present. 

I told my new friend to be brave.  I told her how much I admired her.  And I offered her my peppermint stick, a gift from my baby daughter for her motion sickness. 

I struggle with still sickness -  looking beyond what is in front of me.

“All there,” it is the act of being aware of Him.  It is being brave in the face of whatever we are facing.  It is knowing the joy, the true heaven- sent joy, is realizing He is there, even if we don’t want to be.

Monday, May 7, 2018

One Year Ago

I was holding his hand exactly one year ago today.  I sat next to his bed.  I remember how my heart was breaking.  It felt as if it was dripping out slowly, one tear into another.  Just four weeks had passed since Easter.

We had all been together.  Daddy and the rest of us.  He told me then he had not been feeling well.  Never did I imagine just a few short weeks later I would hold his hand as we waited together for Jesus to come.

It has made me think long and hard about journeys.  The ones we take in the heart.  Truly the ones that matter most.  The ones that perhaps we don’t plan or purpose. The ones that are begun by the Finisher.

He … the great punctuation of life.

Truly nothing has meaning without Him.  He puts an exclamation point on the simple.  I love that about Him.

The most ordinary life becomes extraordinary in the hands of Holy.
I want to wake and remember that when life is overwhelming;  we serve the overcomer.

I want to live forgiven and I pray I forge joy. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Painted Heart

This ‘loving people’ thing?
  We all want to do it.  We are all called to do it.  We have the best mentor, leader, teacher there ever was and ever will be. I am all in,  almost all of the time.

You see I try and predict the moments and measure my success. But fortunately for the entire human race; I cannot read the mind of God and He works outside the bonds of time and space and my schedule.
Therefore, He grabs minutes where I least expect and are less than planned.

I forget every single opportunity is a holy opportunity and every single person is a God built person, including the guy that took my candy.

This was one of those times I almost missed Him.  I truly hope He is not counting as I am in the thousands now for missed opportunities.

We sat down at a musical.  I was so looking forward to this.  I had no children in this production and no tuxedo to find and no call time to worry about and no treats to bring.  It was glorious.

Honestly my only worry was falling asleep.  I tend to do that in dark rooms these days.  But I came prepared, I had a full bag of suck on candy.  It never disappoints.  I opened it up wide and watched how my new neighbor, who I had technically never met, reached in.

I realized one bag of candy probably looked a bit too much for one person;  perhaps he was doing me a favor?  I will admit I had to adjust. I can believe a God who fits into a universe.  I rarely look for Him between theater seats. 

You see it is not just our actions.  It is our reactions.  It is not just our words; it is our wonder.  Finding Him where and when we were not looking.  This was not some weirdo taking my candy.  This was one of His looking for conversation…  and candy.

We had a lovely discussion.  We talked about who we would be looking for on stage.  The “talented kids of today” as we dubbed them. It was grand.

I never delivered the gospel.  I have no idea if the candy man was a believer;  but I felt closer to Jesus by embracing kindness while someone was close to me. I don’t look at the Gospels and see complicated;  I see compassion.

People don’t remember our words;   they remember what and who they felt around us.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Crates

The man said they were cherry crates and I believed him.  Stamped on dozens of boards was the name of the farm where they had once been well used.  I wondered how many millions of cherries had been carried in boxes that now lay as boards.

We snatched them up.  Sold in bundles we had a treasure trove of wood to paint and upcycle.  We were in the crafting mood preparing for a fund raiser of hand made and well loved.

Neither of us are painters, but with a glue gun in hand, we went to work.  We have laughed till we cried reviewing each other triumphs and failures.

I have always wanted to paint.  I have always wanted to sing.  The fact remains I stink at both.

There is something profoundly satisfying in taking something out of the garage or basement, something hidden in a corner and seeing it become something more than it was.  Sometimes beautiful.

Isn’t this the very business Jesus is in?

I have never felt particularly great at anything.  I have seen great.  I live with great.  My husband is crazy talented.  And I have a tribe of talented children.
 I sit on the side of this pool and watch them.  It’s glorious.

I look at them and know the depth with which God has filled them;  He has also given to me.  I just have to figure out where and how.  The journey is in finding the joy.  The places He has equipped us.  He says in Hebrews, “He equips us for doing His will…”

As long as I have known Jesus, I have never known Him to be stingy.  By all accounts when He fills and gives and pours, He does it with a wide overflowing pitcher into the cup of grace.

We are equipped.

We are the strong wood with which He builds.  We are the ones that carry the message.  We are the reflectors of the brilliant message of salvation.

I am convinced for the thousand times I have gotten this wrong, the one more terrible thing I could is to not try.  To stay in the shadow with dust collecting on my heart.

I may not shout it, but I am going to do my level best to live it.

This joy, this joy that comes from knowing Jesus.  I want it to bubble up and over when times are blissfully good and when every ounce of me wants to quit.

He remakes, He refines, He redeems.  Taking the ugly and forging beautiful.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Oven

This old oven.  It has seen us through thousands of meals.  The upper one still working like a workhorse, but the lower; it had started to let me down. 

We had literally two hundred folks for dinner and the bottom oven burned my potatoes. It was set at a warm at 200 degrees but decided to bake at 500. 

Ever since then I have kind of frowned at that oven.  Ever since then I have used it sparingly and cautiously.  In reality, it has become more of a cabinet than a cooker.

We plan to fix it, one day, probably when all the other stuff is fixed that drives me crazier. So, I ignored it.  I ignored it until the stinking little light just wouldn’t shut off. It seemed to tease me that it was still alive in all its erroneous splendor.

I remembered why the light was on.  After another party where it was no help to me, I shoved a pan inside, a pan that had not been scrubbed.  It was the holding area until I could get that chore done.  But this I recalled now with the oven light gleaming on it was a huge pan that had held a banquet of chicken.

Somehow not quite fitting in the oven, it held the door open enough to trigger the light. I would be lying if I said I addressed the problem quickly.

I came to think of the light as a reminder of things to do.  Pans to wash…

Finally, early one morning, I opened the problem oven and I found the over tall pan.  I slammed it into the sink to tell it exactly what I thought of it advertising my ineffectual house cleaning.

I cleaned it and put what my daddy would call, the “dad gum” pan away. To my surprise…………. the light was still on.  And I will admit one turned on in my head as well.  I believe I heard a choir sing, “FINALLY.”

I strolled over and pushed the little button that said, Light. 
To my delight the light turned off.

I try hard not to spiritualize my stupidity but in this case, as the light went off, it was as if every little problem I struggle with on a moment by moment basis lined up like little soldiers waging the battles I have grown so accustomed to.

I wondered just how many could be shut off.  Ones named fear.  Ones named control.  Ones named pride and ones named perfection.

They keep me up.  They steal my joy.  They blind me to what God is doing every day all around me. They cause me to see through a lens that is both unspiritual and completely self-focused.

The shutting off is not a onetime event.  It is a deliberate prayerful task of submitting, surrendering and seeing.  Seeing not with earthly eyes but spiritual ones.
Eyes that embrace the great truth of a great God that loves me and cares for me and carries me. The One that in every way lights my path. And the One that that grieves when I hold my own and usurp Him. 

He waits like a gentleman holding the door to something better.  Bidding me to walk through and blessing me in the process. Shutting off is not shutting down, it is not turning on but turning towards freedom.