Because we have vastly different life experiences, I love to run ideas by her. But she often pops my bubble pointing out a flaw I didn't see or an analogy that doesn't work. In a few seconds she can make the profound thought I've had all week seem like a convoluted nursery rhyme.
It used to bug me how she could so easily bust up my perfectly good argument and be right. She'd get that faraway, wistful look in her eye and I knew I was toast. I wanted her praise, but came away with a reality check.
And then God revealed His great plan in this relationship. She makes me think. She forces me to back up what I say. She won't let me off the hook because she likes me. She causes me to consider viewpoints I haven't known. I don't always like what she has to say, but because she shoots straight with me, I know I can trust her. Though her words sting sometimes, they sharpen me. She makes me better.
When I lose perspective, she can assess the situation accurately and quickly shed light. If I'm stuck, she provides direction. She shows me what is true and urges me to follow it. She is a woman of wisdom and completely trustworthy.
And if a compliment comes from her mouth...wow, it really means something. I know she's not just being nice. An encouraging word from her not only lifts my spirits, it heals my soul.
Though I may crave one, I don't need a fan club. I need an honest friend, willing to tell me when I'm off.
I need her.
Visit Sting My Heart for more Thankful Thursday posts.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
People in our country are starving, not physically, from lack of food, but relationally from lack of connection. I was surprised to see the commercial on a local television station promoting a new series on their nightly news. Each Wednesday night they plan to do a feature on the news anchor's new baby. I saw pictures of the lad and he's darling and his mother seems nice enough, but why is the news anchor's baby news?
forgotten by everybody,
I think that is a much greater hunger,
a much greater poverty
than the person who has nothing to eat…
We must find each other.”
I suppose seeing a smiling tyke may be a nice break from the awful reality surrounding us, but I think it's about more than that. People aren't connecting normally anymore. They're culling interest in one another via the media, through characters on t.v., Facebook, e-mails and the like. Before you point it out, let me say I recognize the irony in talking about this on a blog, one of the main contributors to the phenomena. I can understand the appeal of our new forms of communication. Requiring little time investment, using technology is very efficient and pretty safe. We don't have to see a look of disappointment or sit through awkward pauses or even explain ourselves too much. But is something lost in that? Are we missing out on true connectedness? In avoiding actual physical contact are we losing our ability to relate to one another?
I've met lots of neat people through blogging. I'd go so far as to call them friends. We have things in common and/or challenge each other's thinking. I have learned from them, but I'm not sure if they qualify as real relationships. I have never met them and certainly don't invest much time. I pray for and sincerely care about them, but is that really being there for them?
I know much can be gained through these...shall we call them virtual relationships? I formed one of my best friendships through e-mail correspondence, but we also spent many hours talking on my back porch apart from our musing about life online. Could deep connection have happened without physical interaction?
Is this lack of connectedness merely a casualty of our time? Is this where society is now? Am I feeling nostalgic for the "good ole days?" Or could it be our souls aren't finding the intimacy we long for, so we settle for what we can get? Do we have trouble finding connection because we are all out of the habit? Are we perpetuating a very bad cycle? Maybe we've been hurt too bad in the past to risk it again and use technology to protect ourselves. But what is lost as a result? Are we sacrificing possible meaningful relationships to stay safe?
I don't have any answers, but I worry about us. Will women my age get together for coffee in their golden years or will the physical relationships no longer exist? Perhaps I'm oversimplifying things and not appreciating the emotional connections formed through advances in technology, but I can't get over the vast difference a face to face meeting produces. Communication of any kind is good and edifying, but real live people are the ones who hug you when you lose a loved one. It was the people I interact with on a weekly basis that came to my rescue getting my house ready for graduation after my unexpected surgery. It takes people who are here in my corner of the world to watch my kids or accompany me to a movie. I hate to diminish the quality of virtual relationships because I know mine have impacted my life for the better, lifting many a dreary day and encouraging me greatly, but they cannot replace actual people.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. I'm very interested in your impressions about connection. I don't believe I'm alone in thinking it is a real problem for people. Leave a comment and let's at least start a virtual relationship today, okay?
Visit Amy for more ideas about this quote. (In an odd twist of virtual fate, she happens to be the woman who designed my blog. Crazy, huh?)
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Seeing her walk into the room took me back thirty years in an instant, to when she was a substitute teacher at my school.
She didn't rule with fear like most subs or at least she didn't show it. She actually smiled when she introduced herself, lighting up the room, making her eyes sparkle. She was pretty and because she had dark hair and eyes like mine, I was hopeful maybe someday I could look like her. She wasn't irritated easily and even laughed a few times, flashing that smile and making me feel at ease. She wasn't crabby, but spoke gently and truly listened when we asked questions, not assuming they were meant to pull the wool over her eyes. I was drawn to her warmth and kindness. I didn't really know her. I only saw her for fifty minutes maybe once a month, but I wanted to be just like her.
I doubt she ever knew the impact she made on me. How could she? I never said anything, never gave her any indication she was a role model to me. Thirty years later, I still didn't say anything. I was pretty sure she'd have no idea who I was. I knew I couldn't have impressed her the way she did me. I appreciated her from afar and thanked God for His reminder that every little thing matters.
Being a substitute teacher, coming in and out of students' days inconsistently, I would guess she didn't set out to change lives. She was just doing her job, being faithful to what was before her that day in the best way she knew how. And yet God used her. It makes me wonder if I've done the same without realizing it. Without knowing, have I, have you, impacted the lives of others? Have we touched another by simply doing what is before us?
I'm amazed at the simplicity and brilliance in God's plan to use people this way. It takes the pressure off me somehow. No act is too small to make a difference. A warm smile goes a long way. Kindness may not be acknowledged, but it doesn't go unnoticed. Things that are not hard for me to do may touch someone. Nothing is wasted. Every day, every single day matters.
Thank You, Lord, for using us in the every day. May we represent You well.
Check out Sting My Heart for more Thankful Thursday posts.
Monday, July 21, 2008
I don't think of myself as a terribly emotional person. I'm not moved to tears easily (PMS week excluded, of course, oh and when I'm really tired or there's a good praise time going, or, well, never mind, maybe I do cry easy). ANYWAY, there are a few movies that get to me every time, I mean EVERY SINGLE TIME I watch them, no matter how often I've seen them.
There's the scene in Apollo 13 where the whole world is anxiously waiting to see if, against all odds, the heat shield held and the astronauts were able to survive re-entering the earth's atmosphere. The usual amount of time expires and everyone holds their breath (I still do--and I KNOW what's going to happen!). Then all of a sudden, there's a little static and the module appears, floating perfectly down to the ocean's surface. Cheers abound as I catch my breath and dab my eyes.
Mr. Holland, of Mr. Holland's Opus, spends his entire life teaching music, which started off as a temporary gig. What he REALLY wanted to do was compose music, but the realities of life cause him to keep the steady job and paycheck instead. When he is forced to retire, he wonders if he's wasted his life and missed the chance to live his dream. He is unexpectedly called into the school auditorium and finds generations of students filling the room to honor him. Years of investing in students collide with his yearnings to create a master work as past and present students join together in a mass ensemble to perform the masterpiece he's spent a lifetime working on. His dream is realized and he understands his opus is not the music he leaves behind, but the lives he's touched. Now tell me, how is a person supposed to stifle tears through that?
The sacrifice mattered and produced more than imagined.
In A Beautiful Mind, John Nash, a brilliant mathematician, suffers from schizophrenia. Medications dull his mind, making him unable to concentrate and feel like himself. Though it goes against common sense, his wife respects him by trusting his judgment to go without drugs, helps him find a way to deal with the voices and loves him through the trauma. At the end of the movie John is awarded the Nobel Prize. In his acceptance speech he says, "It is only in the mysterious equations of love that any logical reasons can be found." Then he looks his wife in the eye and says, "I'm only here tonight because of you. You are the reason I am. You are all my reasons." What woman with a heart can hold back the dam at that?! Is that not the Mecca of wifedom?! Of course John's wife beams proudly, tears streaming down her cheeks and joins the room in a standing ovation. The tremendous trial has produced a beautiful love affair.
The struggle was worth it.
A Jamaican bobsled team has overcome everything thrown at them and finds themselves in the running for an Olympic medal in Cool Runnings. On their final run they are on record pace when their sled breaks, causing them to crash to a stop within sight of the finish line. Though their chances for a medal are dashed, the team picks up the sled and carries it the rest of the way, gaining more respect and admiration with every step. The crowd goes wild with cheers and applause. And I quickly find something else to do before my family makes fun of me for crying again.
There is honor in finishing the race.
Why do these scenes get to me? What is it that brings the tears? Why do they touch me? I think it's because they show the reward in overcoming. They represent my deep longings, things I yearn to see in my own life. I want to accomplish God's mission for me. I want to know my sacrifices and life matter. I want to know the struggle will be worth it. I want the crowd to go wild and celebrate with me as I finish the race. When I watch those scenes I think, "I want to be there, Lord. I want to see the reward of persevering." Maybe the tears are homesickness for heaven where my movie like ending will occur. Or are they from fear I won't finish good enough?
While my attention is captured in these movies and I watch ordinary people accomplish the extraordinary, while I long to be among them, hoping with my entire being to perform as well as they, Jesus whispers in my ear,
It will be worth it.
It will make a difference.
It will matter.
Keep pushing for the finish line.
One day you will hear, "Well done. Mission accomplished."
Make it so, Lord, make it so.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
How will I ever find someone who loves me enough to spend the rest of his life with me?
How will I ever raise godly children when I've got so much junk of my own to figure out?
How will we afford braces and cell phones and car insurance and college for FOUR kids?!
It seems hopeless, Lord. He doesn't get You. How can I make him see? Will he ever let himself be loved by You?
How will I know if I'm doing Your work right, Lord? Am I doing it for me or for You?
Trust Me. TRUST Me.
How high are gas prices going to go?
How will I ever get it all done?
How can I write a Thankful Thursday post when I'm feeling so uninspired?!
The issues are different, circumstances change, the worries shift, but the answer is always the same.
Why do I need to be continually reminded? Will I ever learn this lesson? Or is it God's deep love, forcing me to run to Him when I can't make sense of it myself? Does He take even my lack of trust and make it into good when I go to Him for help?
Thank You, Lord, for putting things in my life I cannot figure out, for then I have only one place to go--YOU. Keep teaching me to trust, even and especially when I don't like it. Truly You are a gracious God.
For more Thankful Thursday posts, visit Iris at Sting My Heart.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
There's been a major dilemma at our house this summer.
Our teenage daughter wanted a bikini.
To be honest, it took me completely by surprise. She's never been a clothes hound and has always been pretty modest. She buys her shirts a size or two bigger so they aren't so tight. She's always turned her nose at skimpy clothes, giving them a "gross."
And she's always followed the rules...to the letter. She's the one I can trust to be completely honest and trustworthy and has never given me reason to doubt her.
Until she happened to borrow a bikini at a friend's house so she could get in a hot tub.
"Mom, don't worry, it was only girls in the hot tub and when the boys came out we stayed under water. When we got out, we wrapped our towels around us so they couldn't see anything."
"Mmm hmm, well you know what I think about that."
"Yeah...but...I finally looked okay in one."
And then the following week, she came home from the lake with a bad sunburn on her lower back.
"How'd you get sunburned there? Doesn't your suit cover that?"
"Well, I borrowed one of my friend's suits."
"Yeah...but...well my suit doesn't fit so well anymore."
Then she was leaving to go on another swimming outing with friends when I noticed she didn't have ANY suit with her.
"Where's your suit?"
"I can just borrow one from somebody."
Uh huh. You see what was happening here? I was losing my trust in her over a swim suit.
We set a date to go shopping the next morning. I tried to be open-minded and give it a chance, but the first three suits she put on produced an immediate, "No" out of me. Many suits later she was still hearing "Absolutely not" or "No way". Then came the tears, lots of them, uncharacteristic for this girl. We had words and friction and utter frustration. We left that store and tried another, only to experience the same problem.
We were at a complete standstill everywhere we went. She tried some suits I picked out, but didn't like any of them and I hated everything she liked. We tried to see each other's point of view. We tried to compromise--me saying she could try the bikinis that had more than a string holding them on, her saying she'd wear shorts over the bottoms to cover more. I understood how she felt and she knew where I was coming from, yet there was no agreement in sight.
As I looked at her teary eyes pleading with mine I wondered if a bikini was such a big deal. I worried that letting her a get one was going to cross some sort of line I could never go back to, but then I remembered who she is. She has always been a really good kid. She wants to do what's right. She works hard to keep her mama happy. She makes good choices in friends and handles herself responsibly. I imagined her at the lake and hated the thought of her feeling self-conscious or dorky in a suit she hated. She had already passed on a swimming event that week because she didn't have anything she felt comfortable wearing.
But what really plagued me was how other people would react to it. I dreaded what others might think of me allowing her to wear something I was not at all crazy about. Would they think I was a sell out?
I had to ask myself some tough questions. Which is more important, your daughter or what other people might think? Do you want to push it and make her buy a suit she hates, giving her an opportunity to "borrow" behind your back and destroy the trust you've built? Is this an issue of modesty or of your own pride? Should you be worried about the reflection on your parenting or your relationship with your daughter?
I still don't like it, but I let her get a bikini. I know others will think I caved. That's okay. Though man may only see the outward reflection of who I am (via my bikini-clad daughter), though they may think me worldly, God will see my heart. He will know my intent, giving up this battle to win the war and maintain a good relationship with an amazing teenager.
“When we are set free from the bondage of pleasing others, when we are free from currying others approval-then no one will be able to make us miserable or dissatisfied. And then, if we know we have pleased God, contentment will be our consolation.
Lord, help me release myself of the expectations of others. It is a lifelong battle that plagues me and can dishonor You. Give me wisdom to do what is right and pleasing to You alone.
To read more impressions of this quote, visit Denise at Shorty Bear's Place.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Fifty teenagers from seven different churches and many different schools, on one stage, worshiping the same God.
A sight to behold.
Though I'd heard them before and knew what was coming, from the moment they opened their mouths, I felt the Holy Spirit move. These weren't kids just putting on a show. Their expressions were genuine. They were not performing, they were praising and celebrating in their own hearts, personally, yet together. In one accord.
When they sang "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus", holding hands, heads held high, single-minded in purpose, resembling an army ready for battle, I had to blink away the tears. They are ordinary kids (I know 'cause I live with one of 'em), yet breathtaking in their sincere resolve. Clearly God has captured their hearts. What hope. What promise. What an example.
I heard my son raving about the experience to someone saying, "It's been awesome. You meet these people and it's like, hey, I love Jesus, you love Jesus, we're cool and we're tight. It's awesome."
And it showed. God at work. There was no mistaking His presence as these kids sang with one voice. I choked back tears all night recognizing a very good God in our midst. It was something very special.
It made me wonder, why can't we reproduce the same oneness, the same allegiance in our communities among people who love God? What happens in adulthood that makes us mistrust each other, judge each other? Occasionally we experience such unity in a church family, but rarely are we able to cross church borders and maintain it. Is it possible to capture oneness and enthusiasm in "the real world"?
If only we could, think of how Jesus would be exalted. No one could miss Him. And our world would be changed. We could be God's glory displayed. Imagine being a part of that! Wow.
Fifty ordinary teenagers showed me it's not impossible. They unveiled true beauty and made me yearn to recreate it.
Lord Jesus, show us how.
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
It was one of those nights where you wonder why God made this parenting gig so tough. It had been a long day after a short night with little sleep and I was ready to call it done. I had been anticipating the quiet and darkness for hours and the time had finally come. After a final check of my kid who'd felt sick all day, I was ready to find my own bed. "Hallelujah," I whispered. At last all the questions and needs could stop for a while. But while I was taking off my makeup, something kick started.
"Mom, I have a headache. Can I get some Advil?"
I took a deep breath. "Sure," I said and ran down the hallway, retrieved the pills and settled the lad back in his room.
I looked longingly at the bed on my way back to the bathroom. Before I got anything in my hand a different kid appeared.
"Mom, I think the back of my ear is bleeding."
"Honey, I'm sure it's fine. Let me see." I pushed her hair out of the way to inspect the spot which turned out to be a weepy bug bite. "It's fine. Just don't touch it. Good NIGHT!"
She moped back to bed. I barely missed her shadow when her sister came in with her cell phone (Family rule--teenagers hand over cell phones at bedtime).
"Is it okay if I work out with some friends tomorrow? Can you take me there at 11?"
"I s'pose that's fine."
I was ready to change into something comfy and hit the hay, HARD, when bug bite girl wandered back in. This time she was crying.
"Mom? . ."
I wanted to scream, "Hey, I'm off the clock, babe. It's a teeny bite. I think you're going to live. Deal with it." What came out instead was a slightly snarky, "Now what?"
"Mom, when you came in to check on Tanner I was in his room."
"When you came in Tanner's room I was there and I knew it was probably too dark for you to see me so I didn't say anything 'cause I knew you'd be mad I wasn't in my own room, but I feel bad. I should've said something. It's kind of like lying to you. I'm sorry. I feel bad." And the waterworks came.
The clouds in the parenting heavens parted and a chorus of angelic voices sang.
I must have some mothering skills after all. The kid's got guilt.
It was as sweet as reading my oldest child's blog the other day where he said (and I quote) "I didn't have the luxury of having stupid parents."
Yep, there is, without doubt, a God. Thank You, Lord, for showing me I may hit the right target every now and then. Lead on.
For more Thankful Thursday posts, visit Iris at Sting My Heart.
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
Cards placed on my music stand containing sincere encouragement to keep writing, from a woman I hurt with my words.
A personal e-mail.
An unexpected visit on a very bad afternoon at a time she should have been working, giving me someone to cry it out to.
A look of appreciation and warm smile confirming I am loved.
Flowers left on my front porch with a note reminding me of who I am and where I've been.
Just when I think what I do doesn't matter, along comes a friend telling me it does. When oceans of doubt threaten to pull me down, friends lift my head above the water. They are extraordinary people, really, unselfishly seeing what God has placed in me and taking the time to encourage it. Do they realize in their selflessness they buoy me? Do they know they are credited for any growth I make? Do they know they make me who I am?
My friends remind me no act is too small, no word insignificant. They inspire me to follow the Spirit's leading and heed His gentle suggestions to be a friend--go ahead and make that phone call even if it seems too late, risk it and take cookies to the lady you don't know that well, take the time to ask the question though the answer may take a while--for then He is truly at work in us. Then we experience the blessing of being used by God.
“The Christian life is a pilgrimage. At times the road is difficult and we get lonely. Sometimes we may get discouraged and consider abandoning the journey. It is at such times that God will place a friend alongside us. One of God’s most precious gifts to us is friends who encourage us and lovingly challenge us to ‘keep going.’ “
By Henry T. Blackaby & Richard Blackaby from their devotional book, Experiencing God
Lord, thank You for the precious, precious gift of real friends, of people who speak Truth into my life and nudge me along when I lose steam. Help me love them as well as they have loved me.
Visit Bonnie for more interpretations of this quote.
Monday, July 07, 2008
Want this button?
It's still a miracle
after four pregnancies,
after seeing numbers up and down the scale,
after witnessing the good, the bad, and the very ugly,
it's still a miracle he looks my way with desire. I am still awed to find respite in his arms, to be who I am in his presence and feel completely at home.
It's still a miracle to be loved.
It's proof that an Almighty God heard the heart cries of a shy, fat girl, sustained her until she was ready and then blessed her for a lifetime.
How could I ever say there is no God?
Visit Chrysalis for more Marriage Monday posts.
Thursday, July 03, 2008
Each Sunday I walk through my church doors and find a second home, a place where it is okay to be me. I find love and acceptance among people seeking God. None of us are perfect. None of us have life figured out. We are all trudging along, looking for the best way to move beyond who we are into who God has decided we should be.
We have conversations that move beyond the polite "How are you?" into honest concern and sharing. We ask questions. We discuss. We sing. We listen to God's chosen speak. We search the scriptures.
The people I worship with model trust, faithfulness and perseverance in the midst of personal struggle. They determine to believe what God says is true, living out that belief every day of their lives. They make me want to be a better person, a better Christian and I am honored to be part of them.
Sometimes in our praise time, I stop singing to hear the voices filling the room. Though I know some can only go through the motions, others lift them up as they give it their all. In that moment we are one in voice and I wonder if God is smiling like me at the miracle--a myriad of people, full of differences, together in one room, focused on one purpose, coming in contact with Almighty God.
And I am so thankful, so privileged, to have the freedom to be together in this way. I am cognizant of the sacrifices of many people I never knew who have given me this luxury and my heart overflows with gratitude.
Thank You, Lord. Thank You for this freedom to worship that I often take for granted. Bless those who have sacrificed to provide this for a nation who doesn't always appreciate it. May we understand and treasure the gift.
To read what others are thankful for, visit Iris at Sting My Heart.