Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Lanes

I read a few years ago the words “stay in your lane,” and I thought a little bird of heaven had just perched on my shoulder. To me it was permission. Permission to be who I was and permission to not try to be who I wasn’t.

It still is.

There are lanes God created us for and lanes where He never meant us to go. For example, I am not in the singing or dancing lane, nor am I in the painting or wallpapering lane. I am not meant to design skyscrapers or determine the strength of bridges. Nor am I built for rollercoasters or hang gliding. It has come to my realization that the list of things I am decent at is a wee bit shorter than the list of things at which I stink or will never, ever try. And until the other day, I was completely okay with that.

I am a huge, huge fan of art. I cannot draw but I am wildly in love with seeing people display their God given talent to paint or take photos or sculpt or sew. I LOVE it.

In my lifetime I have toured my children through dozens of museums, many dozens of times. I have poured into them about artists I love and why I love them. 

If an art show is near our neighborhood, we are there, and if there is anything hands on, we get our hands dirty. My little girl gets this. She tells me all the time she is going to teach art, that she is going to open a museum in our garage and one day people will pay for her art.

So far, I have not seen a boatload of talent, but we can dream. She scurried up to what looked like a giant canvas the other day. The curator of this little display gave her eye droppers and she went to work. I admired how as we walked up there were varying shades of rose. I like rose. I like my lane to be rosy. One could say I would be content with rose colored glasses.

But my little girl didn’t grab rose, or red or even pink. She set to work with blue and yellow effectively changing the landscape of my rose garden. And she completely loved it.

I let her know the canvas was not coming home. It was there for dozens of children to do heaven knows what with color. So as soon as she got home, she found her eye dropper. I was having none of it. I gave her a cup of water and let her paint the shower door.

And that’s when the Holy Spirit got hold of me and my lane. I think He and I are huge fans of knowing our gifting.  I think He appreciated the fact that I know better than going to Six Flags and vomit on rides. But I think in my solidarity in lane usage, I have missed places and spaces where He is taking me.

I am not so fond of pain and change and stretching passed where my own talents will take me. I recoil and I resign and I resist. And I forget. I forget that this life is not measured by success; it’s measured by stretching. It is going where only He can take us and seeing what only He can make and allowing Him to break us.

It is mixing what we know with what we can learn and what we don’t know with His wisdom. It is taking the values we hold dear and seeking to understand why we possess them and the privileges we take for granted and sharing them with others in new and more profound ways.

It is being vulnerable and transparent and realizing our shortcomings are His long suit and our frailties are His strengths. It is partnering and positioning not to be in front but to listen and learn and grow and become something and someone that resembles more of Him.

It is walking on ice with the knowledge we will slide and fall and bruise and bleed, but the healing will be all worth it.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Gray Hair

There is something profoundly beautiful about listening to people of vastly different generations than oneself. 

At first, I noticed all the silly things. I noted I had less grey hair than virtually anyone in the room. I noticed their pace. The way not one of them seemed in a hurry. I noticed how they stopped and took in the table of photos as if each one had a story about the image in the frame.

I realized as they sat to dine they came with the agenda to celebrate and not move on from this place. This was the place to be and not a place to go.

I envied them. I envied how comfortable they seemed in their own skin. I listened carefully not about careers and conquering but about life and character and faith. 

I learned that somewhere ahead of where I am now and behind where most of these darling 80 and 90 somethings are there is a beautiful shift from striving to reflecting.

I want to be more like them.

I spend far too much of every single day thinking ahead. I plan and program and postulate how to do things faster; how to create more time to do more things and do them better. I am rarely in the moment because half my heart has skipped to the next beat.

When do we grow up?

When do we realize that the important stuff is not ahead but right exactly now; living in the moment and squeezing the juice out of the gift of life. 

I am in a constant state of re do. Tomorrow I will read more, eat better, exercise harder, talk less, listen more and love deeper.

Perhaps when tomorrows are less than yesterdays we hold onto them by the second instead of measuring their successes.

Maybe we will stop wondering what life will bring and hold tighter to what He has penned. We will look into eyes instead of looking for more. We will listen with wonder instead of wondering what else. 

We will not just settle, but rather we will settle in. There is so much more to grasp if we sit still long enough to actually feel it with our hearts.

There is a great deception.

Remember the garden and the apple? Now it’s the internet or the living room or the office and the relentless, breathless striving for the sweeter life; the one that is easier or prettier or instagrammable.

I sat with people who have been there; they have “done that” and they have come to know the seeking ends and the dust settles when heaven becomes both the lens and the goal.

The beloveds told stories of losing their home countries, their spouses, their families all to find lasting, eternal, incredible value and purpose.

I want to grow up and be just like them. I want to stroll instead of struggle and weave wonder instead of worry. I want to consider legacy instead of leisure and relationships over routine.

These beauties; so wonderfully comfortable in their weathered skin; so wildly honest with everything in their hearts; so full of passion for what is on the inside and pressing in and pressing on for Jesus and all He means. Knowing the good He promises comes with both pain and suffering and believing it is all worth it.

Believing the time it takes to heal is its own bit of heaven. 

Perhaps these greys on my head are the spark of hope that He is not finished. His work to remodel and refinish my stubborn heart I believe is the goings on of a loving, pursuer of peace. 

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.