Category Archives: How to extend grace in your community

When Church Doesn’t Feel Safe

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When Church Doesn’t Feel Safe

We tucked ourselves into a row of seats near the back and as we did the anxiety that had begun when we drove into the parking lot swelled. Tears threatened. I gripped my husband’s shaking hand. I knew his heart was racing as his breaths shortened. Fear threatened to overwhelm me.

We were at church.

All around us people chatted in small groups, occasionally looking across the room with a broad smile and extending a wave as they recognized friends or acknowledged visitors. There was an air of excitement as the music started and people began to find seats.

It had not always been this way, but we were in the grips of trauma-induced stress and anxiety. As much as we felt compelled to be there, we couldn’t do it.

We quietly slipped out, gathered our children from the nursery with a flimsy excuse and retreated to the safety and security of home.

The above story is like one recently shared with me. I was overwhelmed with compassion for these dear people.

In the next few days I heard a worship leader say that “we” are the church. It’s not the building that makes church “church” – it is the redeemed of God. 1 Corinthians 12:27 confirms it:

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is part of it.

“You are the church, baby girl. Go to them.”

God didn’t speak to me in bullet points, but I think he’s okay with me using them as I share. These are some of the clear instructions he spoke:

  • Invite them into the sanctuary of your home. Break bread and share a cup in remembrance of Me.
  • Be the hands and feet of Jesus. Encourage them with the Word; be honest but don’t you ever put shame on them.
  • Be extravagant in your expressions of love. Use that spiritual gift I gave you for a time like this.

As I pondered and prayed these last few days, He’s also reminded me that wherever I go, I’m taking the church with me. Whether I’m carving pumpkins in a friend’s driveway, visiting a friend in the hospital or listening carefully as a colleague explains a process, I am bringing the Body of Christ to people.

The pastor of our church often encourages us with the promise that if we get our family and friends into the pews he will make sure they hear the Gospel. That’s his job on Sunday, but he has never met my friends who gather as the sun sets over the lake; he doesn’t interact with the porter in my building at work and he couldn’t tell you my neighbors’ or even my children’s names.

They are my friends, neighbors and family; they sell me groceries, postage stamps and iced coffee.

Jesus said “’Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself. These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s law hangs from them.”[1]

The best part of being a spirit-filled believer today is that he has made our hearts his dwelling place. We are the church – let’s go be the church to the people who are too scarred and scared to show up to the building. Love him, love them. Love always.

Loving by His grace,

lorraine

 

[1] Matthew 22:37-40 The Message

Stuffing is for Turkeys and Taxidermy

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Stuffing is for Turkeys and Taxidermy

She leads a launch team that I’m part of and on that day, she delivered some unwelcome news; many people in the group would not receive a physical advance copy of the book.

I made the cut, so I was reading the complaints and expressions of disappointment with little empathy.

I sent a text to the leader, hoping to offer a word of encouragement, assuming the comments were discouraging her yet impressed by the way she was extending grace to the “complainers”.

“You are such a great team leader. You are managing these poor, bitter people well.”

In hindsight, I see my self-righteousness (hypocritical as it was) in that second sentence. She replied within minutes, so kind, but her statement set me back on my heels.

“It’s okay to experience and express disappointment.”

I recalled that I had surveyed that list of paper copies and was very relieved to find my name. On the other hand, there was another list, for one of my favorite authors, and I didn’t “make the cut”. I internally decided I didn’t have time to promote a book that I wouldn’t get to read before launch.

Honestly, I had to acknowledge I was nursing a splinter of bitterness, disappointed that I wasn’t chosen. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve thought about my reaction and her statement frequently.

I’ve discovered something to be true in my judgement of others. Every single time, the thing I’m most critical of in others is my struggle as well. Perhaps that is why the Bible says in Matthew 7:3 “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own?” In my experience, their splinter is from the same “wood” as my log.

In this exchange my friend short-circuited my judgement with a simple, yet profound statement of grace – permission to express disappointment. It was one I hadn’t even allowed myself.

Expression of emotions is healthy. In fact, the best way to diffuse a powerful emotion is to express it. In my culture (family, work, church) there is a lot of freedom to express positive emotion, but we often haven’t known what to do with negative ones.

Just this morning, I read from Philippians 4 where we are admonished and encouraged to focus our minds on true things (among others) so that we can walk with God in peace. Does that seem like a contradiction to expressing negative feelings? Stay with me for another minute or two, friend.

In this case, I was disappointed that I would not receive a physical copy of Stasi Eldredge’s new book. She’s my all-time favorite non-fiction author and her book Captivating changed my life more than any book other than the Bible. My disappointment was a reasonable and healthy emotional response.

After admitting and expressing my disappointment, I moved on to embrace the truth:

  • I have the resources to buy the book, or my library will have the book and I can request it online for delivery to my door (we live in amazing times, ya’ll!).
  • Serving on launch teams gives me opportunities to interact with amazing authors and book lovers while we share new books with our communities.

And just like that…I’m flooded with gratitude and yes, peace. Peace comes with the right perspective, but we only get there by appropriately expressing honest emotions. I’m so thankful for the patient and smart people around me, who continue to extend grace as I learn and grow in the marvelous grace of God.

By his grace alone,

lorraine

The Benefit of the Doubt

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The Benefit of the Doubt

Good intentions. There is a proverb that says the road to hell is paved with them.

I’m not so sure of that, but I’m quite sure that as humans we tend to moralize and justify our actions to ourselves. Phrases like “She meant well” or “He had good intentions” don’t always line up with our behavior.

I love words and the walls of my house often display all manner of proverbs and verses to encourage and remind. However, I cringe when I see the sign that declares “Follow your heart” and that sentiment will never adorn my home. It matters not how many lovely images are attached, the message is frightening because I know this truth all too well:

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”
Jeremiah 17:9 NIV

The New Living Translation translates the second half of that verse like this: “Who really knows how bad it is?” Honestly, the brief glimpses into the darkness of my heart leave me desperate for the transformative work of the Word of God, by the Spirit of God and the GRACE of God.

Is it any wonder our interactions with one another are at best awkward and at worst misunderstood and hurtful even among friends and family members? Social media has only fanned the fire with moment by moment updates.

What if we agreed to choose kindness? What if we delay our reaction by putting our phones down or choosing to recall the things we KNOW to be true about our relationships?

The easiest and best gift you can offer this week is the benefit of the doubt.

“To give someone the benefit of the doubt is to default to the belief that their intentions are honest and not assume malice when there is uncertainty or doubt surrounding the circumstances.” [i]

It’s not easy; I know that. But I have so much invested; there is much value in relationship and until there is a pattern of behavior, a body of work that proves ill intent, I’m going to avoid following my hurting heart and choose to believe the best about these precious souls.

Letting it go,

lorraine

[i] Urbandictionary.com

Things Can’t Get Worse, Right….?

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Things Can’t Get Worse, Right….?

I remember it well. The days leading up to and following the new year everyone was on Facebook proclaiming that this one just had to be better than last. I recall thinking “Maybe you’d better buckle up, because things can always get worse” but refraining from typing the words because I’m an adult. With a brain. And some common sense. Well, most of the time.

Then the unthinkable happened. 2018 roared in like a lion on steroids with a ravenous appetite for my family. Perhaps there is a similar lion in your world; I’m sort of busy over here manipulating a chair and whip while nursing bloody wounds where hearts are supposed to beat with joy and anticipation, but I see you there. This is for you, friend.

  • Well-meaning people are going to ask questions like “Are you okay?” when they know full well you can’t possibly be okay. The only correct answer is the honest one. If you are not okay, let it be known. If they care, an arm will slip around your shoulder and they will stick around without judgment for the tears and whatever else leaks out of you. If they don’t, they’ll find a quick excuse to walk away but they’ll know the truth…and so will you.
  • You might be mad. Did you know that’s okay? I have it on the authority of King David that God can handle our anger, so trust me on this one. He isn’t creating our difficulties, but He is aware of them and we can vent to the one who knows it all and loves unconditionally.
  • Get ready to be amazed. There are two extremes and you will experience both. There are going to people who won’t be willing to join you in your misery. When I say that I’m not referring to some pity party, rather the reality that is your present circumstance. In the words of the icy Disney princess, let them go. Or in the words of Taylor Swift, shake them off. Either way…be done with them. They aren’t worth your limited energy. But you are also going to be blown away by the people who see you and respond with the purest of love. These are not the “Go, keep warm and be well fed” church crowd that James warns of; they are the ones who show up with whatever you need, usually before you know you need it. You might not even know them yet, but they love Jesus and you.
  • Step away from social media. In the middle of your hard season you don’t need to be constantly exposed to everyone else’s highlight reels. Do ask your friends to share their greatest joys with you personally – send those cute photos and funny memes right to your phone or inbox.
  • Continue doing the things you love with the people you love as much as possible. Live even when it feels like you might die.

If you have a friend who is in this place right now, may I suggest some things you can do for them?

  • Stay in touch. Ask “How are you?” and be willing to hear an honest answer. Listen – with compassion and intention.
  • Ask what they need; make sure they know you sincerely want to help.
  • Pursue time together. Ask them to come for dinner/family game night/coffee. Insist, even if it means taking the food to their house and handling prep, serving and cleanup.
  • Share your joy. They not only can handle it, they need it.
  • Refrain from giving too much advice or opinion, especially if they have a team of professionals.
  • Pray for them and listen to God’s prompts for ways to help. Make it your goal to be their biggest encourager.

Trouble rushes in like a tidal wave of disgusting, powerful water and sweeps away normal. If you are barely keeping your head above water, keep treading. If the flood has subsided and you are faced with the muddy aftermath, keep trusting.

Hope and confidence in God is our lifeline; this is the verse that I return to again and again. I pray it encourages your heart as well.

Because of the Lord’s great love for us we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
Lamentations 3:22-26

Waiting in hope,

lorraine

Hello, My Name is Irma

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Hello, My Name is Irma

She approached slowly, gradually revealing herself like a seductress. Absent weather data, no one could have known Irma’s ferocity or intent.

On Sunday, we woke to light rain and blustery winds. I cleaned the oven and finished the laundry, cooking and tidying the house as if guests were expected. We alternated between storm coverage and football on television, eyeing the hurricane snacks with longing.

Always the optimist, I hoped for the best even as I had prepared for the worst. Gallon jugs of water were frozen, ready to keep our food cold in the event of a power outage. The garage was packed with every outdoor item that might potentially be a missile thrust from the strong arm of this beast of a storm.

As evening approached, gusts picked up and at times the rain was horizontal. For a week, our focus had been on her, paths projecting she would scoot up the West coast of Florida. As if she knew she had a right, she changed her mind…Irma made a turn and headed right for us.

Occasionally the power blinked, but it kept coming back. Storm coverage continued and my favorite anchors were reassuring. At 12:50 a.m. it blinked and the house went dark and silent. I grabbed my flashlight and then lit three pillar candles…my blessed trinity of light and comfort.

Something was banging against the house. My imagination was spiraling out of control as the windows shook from the force of roaring wind. Local friends posted updates of downed trees and power outages.

Irma had unleashed her full fury. There was no escaping it. I was focused on the storm and my heart could surely relate to the words of the psalmist:

My heart pounds in my chest. The terror of death assaults me.
Fear and trembling overwhelm me, and I can’t stop shaking.
Oh, that I had wings like a dove, then I would fly away and rest!
I would fly far away to the quiet of the wilderness.
How quickly I would escape—far from this wild storm….” Psalm 55:4-7 NIV

Around three in the morning, the wind subsided significantly. Frogs croaked as crickets chirped in a strange harmony. The eye was passing overhead.

Suddenly I was no more than six years old. As Hurricane Donna crossed the state, my parents weathered the storm; they woke us when the eye passed over. They explained that the storm was still raging, but in those few moments, there was calm. We ventured outside to look at the sky in the complete darkness, to peer at the stars in the clear sky. I will never forget that night.

Again, I witnessed the calm that can be present even in a raging storm.

The day before the storm, I overheard an exchange between the Publix checker, the bag boy and a customer. As they chatted about the storm, the young bagger said he planned to sleep through the storm. The checker, with great enthusiasm, disagreed. “You see me? I ain’t Jesus and I ain’t sleeping through no hurricane!”

I chuckled, but I could relate. Too often, I get caught up in the storm and can’t find rest. And what about after the storm?

We suffer in our hot and humid homes, missing and appreciating electricity like the rich uncle we never realized we had. The debris is piled high along every road; technology is slow to recover but life beckons us return to normal. Groceries shelves are empty and gas station lines are long. Restaurants are packed and people are grumpy.

Irma has made her way North and fizzled out, but she left quite a mark. Lives were lost. Work was missed and the damages are still being assessed.

There is another hurricane brewing in the Atlantic. The good news? It’s not likely to have significant impact on the United States.

Life is a lot like that. One storm follows another and sometimes they pile up and you can’t even recover from the first before the next is raging. It’s a lot to handle.

I was thinking about all of this when I learned that our local eagle nest was destroyed in the hurricane. I never pass that way without slowing to look for those majestic birds. I was devastated.

But a friend captured this picture of the pair, perched above the pine tree where their huge nest once dominated the landscape. The nest is gone, but they are no less mighty. By nature, they will rebuild; if not in the same tree, nearby. Together, the male and female will bring sticks to construct the aerie (although the female manages placement, but that’s another post!) and over time they will raise more babies.

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Photo credit – Doug Hurlebaus

 

The minute I saw the photo, I remembered this:

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
 but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 40:30-31 NIV

I know you are tired, friends. This has been a harrowing and trying few days (and some of you even weathered Irma!). But our hope is in Jesus; I pray that the wind of his spirit comes up under your wings and you soar like an eagle to repair and rebuild the damage from the most recent storms in your life.

By grace we weather life’s storms,

lorraine

 

 

 

 

What Are We To Do?

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What Are We To Do?

The world is messy right now and I’m struggling to find my voice.

By  nature, I’m a pleaser and always struggle with the notion that I might say the wrong thing, so often I remain silent. I think the biggest struggle I’ve had is with the radical differences of opinion between people I know, people who are in loving relationships with one another. And yet, there is tension.

I am craving a safe place. I want some rest. I know, there is hard work to be done and God’s people need to be about the business of reconciliation. As with most social issues, the answer is found in loving people the way that God loves. Unconditionally.

So this  morning, as I drink my coffee from a real cup, sitting in  my favorite spot…the smell of bacon cooking in the oven and the sight of my dear husband reading across the room, I remember that God has been speaking a word over me this year.

Rest. I don’t have to solve this problem today.

I began searching the Bible for verses about rest. On a day that I have much to do, I wanted to find a reason to linger in this sweet spot.

“And the kingdom of Jehoshaphat was at peace,
for his God had given him rest on every side.” – 2 Chronicles 20:30

Lovely verse, but I wanted to know more about this peace. I backed up and read the rest of the story.

Their current reality was the threat of a vast army. In fact, they had no hope of defense. Jehoshaphat led the people in prayer, one of the most simple, beautiful prayers I’ve ever read:

We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.

The words settle on my heart and I read on.

God answered; the people followed his instruction. They sang a simple chorus as they went about the business he called them to:

Give thanks to the Lord for his love endures forever.

As they walked in obedience toward the battlefield, eyes on God, they made a startling discovery. Their enemy lay slaughtered in the valley below. The battle was over.

The human heart wants what it wants. It is a place of great deceit. I don’t trust mine. I’ll go with Jehoshaphat instead.  I find rest in this:

Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the vast army.
For the battle is not yours, but God’s.

Whatever battle or struggle you are facing friends, it is his to fight. Walk forward in what he has called you to do, praising him for who he is and what he has already done.

He’s got this.

Resting by his grace alone,

lorraine

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

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What I Did on My Summer Vacation

When I was in school, we always knew it was coming…the first writing assignment of the new school year. Without fail, the subject matter was “What I did on my summer vacation”.

Most years I didn’t have anything exciting to share. I was sure no one wanted to know that we emptied every room in the house and cleaned them from top to bottom. I took for granted our weekends spent at Rock Springs from early morning until the park ranger locked the gate behind our Plymouth well past dusk. I had no idea how wonderful that was.

Whether your family takes lots of trips, cramming as much as possible into the summer break or you choose to stay close to home and dial activity back a notch, summer is a great time to relax, unwind and take a break from the structure and demands of the school year.

That is good. I believe God designed seasons for our benefit and enjoyment. If ever one was designed for fun, it is summer! Unless you are a snowman, of course!

School resumed this week for most everyone and if not, it will in the next few days. I wonder if teachers still give that ancient writing prompt?

I was thinking about all this one morning last week when there was a soft knock at the door. My neighbor stood with her toddler in tow, a painted canvas in her hand.

It was early…she was reporting for pre-planning at her new job where she teaches kids with special needs and after she left, I thought about how she spent her summer break. I know for sure she completed some projects around the house, took some family vacation time and enjoyed the respite from the demands of her job as a teacher.

kelley fosterWhat if I told you this mom of three, transitioning to a new school in the Fall, also managed to raise awareness and gather a huge quantity of needed items for a local fostering agency?

That she also painted Bible verses on over forty canvases, raising more than $400 to combat world hunger?

With the help of social media, she shared each cause with intention and lots of friends and family joined with her to make a difference.

In the quiet after she left, I thought about my good intentions. The truth is, I have all the same excuses that you’ve heard or you’ve spoken. I came to grips with the truth. I have a choice. I can respond to the need or look the other way.

Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

I can keep walking; I can step around or over or cross to the other side and pretend I don’t see, but he knows and I know that I’ve seen.

Are you with me? Have you already felt that reminder in your spirit? Or maybe you aren’t quite sure where to start.

  • Think about the things that make your Mama Bear (or Daddy Bear) heart rumble. For my friend, it was foster children carrying their belongings in trash bags, or being removed without even a change of underwear or pajamas; it was the image of children starving when hers are well fed.
  • Carve out some intentional time to stop and dwell in the heaviness, to hear God’s voice. He will move you to a response.
  • Look at your calendar, explore the options for service and then set a goal. The best way to start a plan is with the end in mind.
  • Protect your margin – down time ensures that your heart is tender and compassionate rather than overloaded and stressed.
  • Press the start button as soon as possible.

Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

By grace alone,

lorraine

About Foundation for Foster Children

In 2008, the Foundation for Foster Children (FFC), a 501-c-3, was formed to address these staggering statistics. In collaboration with Community Based Care, a federally funded program, FFC provides an integral tier of support that goes beyond the basic needs of wellness and safety. This coordinated effort provides a comprehensive approach to addressing the outcomes from abuse and neglect.

The hallmarks of our program, educational support, personal development, and life-skills guidance target the areas essential to changing a child’s direction from poverty, crime and government assistance so that they can better become independent, contributing members of our community.

 

About Global Emergency Response Coalition

Formed in April 2017, the Global Emergency Response Coalition is a lifesaving humanitarian alliance made up of eight of the world’s largest U.S.-based international aid organizations, whose unified goal is to work collectively to deliver relief to millions of children and families in need.

Scripture quoted from Luke 10, New International Version

 

I Want What I Want

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I Want What I Want

 

As I stepped into the salon, Kate looked up from her client and smiled, her dark lashes fluttering as she flashed a bright smile. “Hi Lorraine! I’ll be finished up here soon, okay?”

I sat on the lumpy parson’s chair next to the bay window and selected a worn magazine from the stack. Flipping through the pages, I focused on her client. They chatted about styling tools and I silently admired her cute outfit. “Love those thongs”, I thought. I almost asked her about them and then noticed the Tory Burch signature hardware on the strap.

They finished up and I caught sight of the exquisite setting of her diamond ring as she pulled her Louis Vuitton tote from the shelf behind me. Kate excused herself as they walked toward her Lexus, cheerfully chatting.

As we began the process of highlighting my hair to hide some of the evidence of my age, I mentioned the previous client. “She’s beautiful; and she has lovely taste in accessories and cars!” Kate agreed and we went on to catch up on one another’s lives.

A day later I sent my sweet stylist a text with a selfie, thanking her for my new look. She responded with an innocent comment that made me stop and think.

“You look stunning! You look like you drive a Lexus and wear Tory Burch.” She was humoring me based on my comments the previous day. I admired the woman’s sense of style and her impeccable taste, but that was really all that I knew about her. Was it that obvious that I might have wanted her stuff, if only for a moment?

I hesitated and then responded to her text from a place where God is working overtime to transform my heart. “I hope I look like I care about people; that I would drive my Passat to wherever you are when you need something.”

Lest you think this is a rant about designer handbags, it’s not. I own some; but I don’t want to be defined by the clothes I wear, the bag on my shoulder or the car that I drive.

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Image is powerful. I’ve wrestled with wanting a certain look and with not looking my age while not looking like a fool who’s in denial about her age. I want to be a Godly woman with great taste, who loves people. I want what I want.

Last night I sat in the quiet of my living room. It was early evening and the sun was streaming in the window as it crept lower toward the horizon, landing on the pages of a book I am reading. A phrase jumped off the page and I was arrested by it.

The author, Jennie Allen, was sharing a conversation she had with her friend, Jessica. Jessica spoke these words: “Jennie, I think most of us live thinking there is a medium. A place where we can live regular lives and serve God too.”

The truth is that when we finally surrender our lives, there is no medium. There is no contentment in living in the middle. I’ve spent most of my life precisely in the middle. Medium seemed safe and moderate, you know?

Your surrendered life won’t look like mine. For some, a surrendered life is a fifteen passenger van filled with car seats and kids who may or may not bear resemblance to you. For others it’s a hut in Africa or a shanty in Haiti. For some young adults it’s contentment in singleness and for others it’s contentment in a marriage that needs healing. There are moms who are worn out and worn down by a rebellious child they continue to love unconditionally.

Jennie went on to say that the only way to live is to die. It’s backwards and counterintuitive, isn’t it friend? And yet, there it is:

For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—
Romans 6:6 NIV

 I want what I want. But in Christ, when my heart is truly his, when I am fully surrendered, I will want what he wants. Every day he’s opening my eyes to the reality that my pilgrimage is short compared to eternity. He’s realigning my priorities.

This is certain. When we approach Mt. Zion in the heavenly Jerusalem, as countless thousands of angels sing and God’s firstborn are assembled in a joyful gathering to welcome us, it won’t matter who we wore or what we drove. Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant will greet us, speaking forgiveness.

On that day, my only adornment will be his grace. I think it looks really good on me.

Stunning, in fact.

Grace to you,

lorraine

I referenced Jennie Allen’s book,
Anything – the Prayer that Unlocked my God and My Soul.
I highly recommend it and you can get it here.

anythiing book

Excuse Me, That’s MY Tiara

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Excuse Me, That’s MY Tiara

It was less than a week after my birthday. While not a Hallmark milestone year, it was a benchmark for me. Suddenly I was eligible for even more “senior” discounts. At 62, theater tickets and even hotel rooms are cheaper.

I receive your blessing, Lord. I didn’t come this far to walk away from a good deal!

While I was willing to embrace the discounts I was not willing to accept the tag. Senior.

My parents were senior citizens. Senior citizens grumble about their “fixed” income and eat dinner at 4:00 to avoid crowds and save two dollars.

I was scrolling through Facebook, which always makes me feel better about myself. Right there on my news feed was a post about the Disney Princess Half Marathon – my friend had just signed up. Suddenly (and a bit impulsively) I was in.

You should know this about me: when the total of any purchase approaches high double digits my pulse quickens; if it hits triple digits I need a gut check. And yet I navigated over to the web site, whipped out my credit card and shelled out $185 to register. I was giddy – it might have been the tiaras or the hopes of a “dream come true magical experience”, but I had grand visions of crossing the finish line, hand in hand with my dear friend.

I imagined we would spend hours comparing training schedules and cheering each other along as we added distance and shortened times.

I made a meme for my Facebook cover. I wrote it down in my goals. Oh, this was going down, friends.

Perhaps this would be a good time to mention that I hate running. I love the idea of running; but running hurts me. It twists my guts in knots; I get something called a “stitch” in my side. With every foot fall I feel the jolt, first in my feet and then up my legs and into my torso. I literally feel like I’m pounding the pavement.

After I’ve been in motion (I can’t run very far, but at least my body doesn’t revolt against walking) for thirty minutes or so, the nerves behind the third and fourth toes on my right foot begin to burn. It’s somewhere between fire ants and electrical shock. It’s most painful with foot fall, so it’s only hurts every other step.

My breathing is labored and because I’m panting so hard I’m thirsty before I get to the end of my driveway.

I should also mention that this friend lives as far away from me as you can get and still be in the Continental United States. With almost three thousand miles separating us, our joint training was not impossible, but highly improbable for two people who can’t seem to get together for an occasional phone call.

You have a question, don’t you? You are dying to ask. 

Go ahead…I’m waiting.

Okay, I’ll ask it for you.

Why in the world did I think this was going to happen?

Twice I’ve positioned myself along a fence near the finish of the Disney World marathon. I watched every face as I checked the status of my runner on my smartphone. The first time, I was torn between urgency and dread.

26.2 miles. How could her body endure such punishment? And yet, I never took my eyes off the course as I scanned every face for the one that I loved. My child.

And I saw her. She was smiling, she was running well, and I cried. Relief and pride and joy swept over me. My baby girl had done it. 

Again last January I stood near the same place, watching. When I spotted her I made a spectacle because I wanted to make sure she knew I was there. It was a harder run; she hadn’t trained as well and she was hurting. But she did it. I know she had to dig deep to cross the finish, but she did.

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My beautiful daughter and her son at the finish.

 

Each time, I carefully surveyed the runners. They were all shapes and sizes. Some were running alone, others part of a team. Some ran for a cause emblazoned across their chest; others I was sure ran for reasons much more private but no less noble and meritorious.

I was inspired. I allowed myself to consider the possibility. I decided I would do that. One day.

And so it is not surprising that on that day, as I considered the number of days I hope to have left, I knew it was time to walk right into the dream that was birthed in my heart years earlier.

But August came and with it some significant pain that started in my hip and radiated down my leg and into my shin. I rested.

The pain persisted. It got a lot worse when I walked any distance. I relented; an appointment was scheduled and the diagnosis was harsh. Arthritis.

The short story is that I can’t do 13.1 miles. I’ll never cross that finish line, exuberant yet exhausted.

I’m been bummed. I’ve felt guilty about wasting the money. But most of all I’ve wondered what else is no longer possible. I have regrets over things not attempted. I also am beginning to understand why some of us are less “Snow White” and more “Grumpy” with age.

I’ve given this some time to marinate in my heart. I’ve asked God to cover it with grace and mercy as I consider what He would have me do next.

He is amazing ya’ll. He began to roll a highlight reel of my life. He showed me the races I have run; the ones where I crossed the finish line bloody and bruised and alone.

There were some where I barely could barely walk as I held the hand of one who came alongside and literally walked me across the finish. I saw the times that I crawled, too weary to look up…but he was always there.

I don’t know if I have days, years or decades left in this life. I don’t know how many of my dreams I’ll realize. 

But I know this for sure:

When I cross the the final finish line, he will be there waiting for me.

He is watching, he is checking my status and when I get near, he’s going to make sure that I see him. I believe he will take my hand and help me across.  

It’s true that I won’t be running with a tiara but I am his nonetheless. 

Let the king be enthralled by your beauty;honor him, for he is your lord. Psalm45:11

The hardware of this life’s races will pale in comparison to all that he has for us in heaven.

 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because,
having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life
that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
James 1:12 NIV

He will give you a crown of beauty for ashes. Isaiah 61:3

Can’t stop, won’t stop,

lorraine

Lemons and the Presidency

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Lemons and the Presidency

It’s inauguration day. This is not a political post; it’s safe to continue reading. Well, not exactly a political post. Perhaps you should proceed with caution.

Coincidentally, a friend gifted me two big bags of lemons. And what do you do when life (or your dear friend) gives you lemons?

You make lemonade. In my case, I made lemonade for all of my coworkers and I even shared some of the lemons (I hope you don’t mind, Regina!). With all the love one can muster on a Friday at noon, I squeezed those lemons in the break room; I added sugar and cold filtered water. Refreshment for all!

So, what does a bushel of lemons have in common with inauguration day?

Here’s the thing. I know that some of my fellow Americans are not happy today; heck, some are downright mad and others are just worried. Life just gave them a big bag of lemons.

Can I tell you a secret? If I let myself go there, I’m worried, too.

  • I’m worried about the current social climate that allows children to opt out of watching the inauguration. Seriously? Will we also allow future generations to skip chapters of their history books if the era included people whose political and/or social platform is different from theirs?
  • I’m worried about our penchant to pull scripture out of context and quote it to suit our agenda. If you really want to hold others to Levitical law, perhaps you should go review ALL OF IT. Shellfish, anyone? How about isolating the menstruating women? Or stoning a disobedient child.
    Let’s dole out GRACE with abandon. That’s what Jesus was all about. (I didn’t say there aren’t consequences, friends, but go read it all.)
  • I’m worried about feminists who will reject a woman who wants to champion women’s rights if she doesn’t agree fully with their stance on a woman’s right to choose.
  • I’m worried about people who I know who were willing to “unfriend” me over my choice in a recent election. The rhetoric was ugly and hurtful….and shocking. I thought we were friends. Where does that sort of ill will come from? I understand your reason for your vote; I hear you and I respect you. Disagree with me if you will, but disparage me? Where are our manners?
  • I’m worried about prejudice. I hurt for my friends of color. I worry about my little grandson. What will he face as he becomes a young man of color. With his limited sight I keep having visions of him with Sally Fields and that awful scene in Places in the Heart where, in spite of his blindness, Mr. Will knew something was up and the KKK showed up for Moze. I’m in tears again as I think of the hatred and violence.

That’s the short list, friends – it just hits a few of the high points.

But I have wonderful news that will give you sweet hope; it will combine your current big old bag of lemons with some love, sugar and ice and refresh your heart.

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The lemons came to me; I didn’t plant or nurture the tree; I didn’t even pick the lemons or put them in bags. But when I got them, it was in my power to add some love and sugar and allow them to refresh and bless.

God has got all of it, friends. It’s up to us to take each day, whether the circumstances we face were of our own planting or someone else’s, and do our part to spread the love of Christ.

The question I have to answer today, and each day, is this. Where is God calling me to notice a place where I can infuse love and maybe even a little sweetness to make a difference?

Ask him, friends. I don’t think you’ll have to look beyond your home or your workplace or perhaps that neighbor who voted the other way.

Not worried, because He’s got us (I’m actually right under his wing, resting in his shadow…

lorraine

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

Psalm 91:1-4