Tag Archives: faith

Are You Decorating a Prison?

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Are You Decorating a Prison?

I settled into the driver’s seat and kissed my sweet hubby goodbye. As I backed out of the driveway, anxiety bubbled up, competing with excitement and anticipation for control of my heart. I spoke a few words aloud to stifle it. “I’m fine. He will be fine. God’s got us.”

I sipped coffee from the Tervis he had handed me moments earlier. The aroma of the caramel liquid mingled with the scent of Polo and I missed him already. Once again anxiety threatened to steal the joy of embarking on a journey I had anticipated for months.

I drove in silence for a bit, considering my penchant for imagining the worst case scenario.

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I’ve never been good at good-byes. As a child, I hid from them, usually in the bathroom linen closet. It wasn’t often that we sent loved ones on their way, but when our Hoosier grandparents loaded the car for the long trek home I was not about to stand on the lawn and watch them drive away. I quietly slipped into my hiding place, where no one was leaving. I couldn’t bear the separation.

I am absolutely sure I didn’t say goodbye when my oldest brother reported to the Navy. As preparations were made for his departure, I withdrew. With every crisply ironed article of his sailor suit readied for packing, my anxiety increased. The world was a scary place and only God knew when I would see my brother again, if ever.

Not many years later, I got married and soon after we began our family. Imagine the joy when we finally bought a brick and mortar house and made a home. I was the mother hen and my chicks were all under my wings.

My husband had noticed that I didn’t handle goodbyes well; more like I didn’t handle them. At all. He couldn’t imagine missing the chance to get a last hug and speak one last expression of love and care.

And then one day he came home with an announcement. His parents were moving to North Carolina. He would be driving the truck with their household belongings and returning home by plane.

Ya’ll, I could not even. I was distraught. Seriously. I was quite certain that I would be widowed when there was either a tragic accident involving the truck or the plane fell from the sky. I was not in the habit of throwing fits, but I threw a good one.

How would I raise our daughter alone? How could his parents think this was reasonable? Why couldn’t everyone just leave us alone in our little bubble?

In retrospect I can see it so clearly; I was a young wife making feeble, yet frantic efforts to tightly wrap my arms around all of my loves and hold them tight. I believed it was up to us to protect our family; in this case it appeared it was up to me, because everyone else had lost their ever-loving minds and thought it was a good idea for my husband to leave us.

I was not being manipulative; I didn’t have a problem with my husband helping his parents. I was genuinely anxious and fearful and wanted to hold my little family together.

Forty-five years later I’m less concerned about a traffic accident than a potentially life-threatening drop in his blood sugar.

But here’s the thing that occurred to me later that evening as I walked into a conference center filled with stunning women, as their voices and mine blended and lifted praise to the Beautiful Name of Jesus. He never called us to live safe and cozy lives. He called us to step into our calling trusting in him alone.

I listened to Jennie Allen share her surrender of “yes” to Him for ANYTHING. I looked around at the vendor booths, filled with women who had started non-profits to support children in foster care and foreign missions. They risked stepping out of safe and cozy because they knew that God was with them in the first step and every one after.

They yoked up with Jesus and heard his voice, “I’ve got this, just get into the unforced rhythm of grace and watch how I do this.”

I had tried to wall us in; my goal was to create a safe and beautiful place for us to hide. The trouble is, those hiding places become “cutely decorated prisons”[1] where we do little or nothing for the kingdom.

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep my faith will stand.[2]

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 God’s plan is better than hiding in a closet or spinning out of control over what might happen.

The weekend was absolutely perfect. There was so much joy in every part. He is good and He is calling us out to places unknown to us but known perfectly to him. He will be with us in the first step and every one that follows.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion?
Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.
I’ll show you how to take a real rest.
Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it.
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.
Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Matthew 11:28-30 ~ The Message

What is he calling you to, my friend? I would love to hear about your faith steps. Where is he taking you? Tell me about it in the comments, won’t you?

Finding the rhythms of grace,

lorraine

 

 

[1] Jennie Allen

[2] Hillsong United Lyrics, Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)

I Had an Out of Body Experience Last Sunday

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I Had an Out of Body Experience Last Sunday

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We were exhausted from three full days of moving and packing, but it was Sunday morning. We might have been tempted to skip church, but we had to check out of the hotel and the house was hardly relaxing, filled with moving boxes begging to be unpacked. There was also the minor detail of this being our son-in-law’s first official Sunday on staff. There was never a doubt that we would go to church.

We joined others as they came from classes and streamed from the humidity of the parking lot to the cool sanctuary. The bright room was filled with people greeting one another and settling into their seats.

We chose a spot about a third of the way from the front and our twelve-year-old grandson joined us. I finally exhaled, thankful for this pause in the midst of a very busy few days. I pulled him closer; I had to quietly admit to my Father that this grandma’s heart was anxious over all of this change and its impact, especially on my precious grandchildren.

The room was full of people who were mostly strangers to us. While the worship style was familiar and comforting, it was not what we are accustomed to.

And yet, as we sang hymns of the faith, my heart was full. I was able to set aside my mental list of tasks and goals and enter into genuine worship.

I was out of my normal “body” but it was good. It was as if God underscored his promise to prepare the way for his children.

“It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you;
he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
Deuteronomy 31:8 ESV

 

Are you dealing with change today? Are there circumstances that have brought you to physical and/or mental exhaustion? Perhaps a pause, the one thing you have no time for, is the very thing you most need. Get still, and listen. Then share with me what He speaks to your heart, will you?

In need of more grace every day,

lorraine

 

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When Success Gives Birth to Fear

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When Success Gives Birth to Fear

 

I’ve had the best week of my writing journey. I experienced the joy of seeing the stats jump higher than they ever have and it was all for this. As a writer, I pray that God gives me something to say. The truth is that words are not unique…they’ve all been spoken by someone. It is their arrangement and the truth that they convey that will touch the hearts of readers.

So, when the words that I strung together by his grace alone were read by over 1700 people, I was overwhelmed. At first it’s quiet optimism that this “writing thing” is not just a fluke. I see shares by people I’ve never, ever heard of and I think, this is how this works!

And then, my daughter shared my post. “My mom’s blog hit home with me today!” she said. My family and friends are the ones I want never to disappoint or embarrass, especially my girls; this is the one that meant the most.

For a few days, I just enjoyed feeling successful. Lord knows that I’ve had my share of rejections. I publicly moaned about the second reject from one syndicate and was immediately embarrassed that they responded on Facebook, encouraging me to keep trying. Deep down I know that I may not be a good fit for them. I’m learning a lot through rejection.

And then it was time to start considering a post for this week. I started and discarded so many pages. I wanted Jami Amerine’s sarcastic wit, Ann Voskamp’s meandering stories and Melanie Dale’s in your face truth. I was falling way short of it and nothing that I wrote was any good.

And I realized that I was afraid because of recent success. What if I’m a “one hit wonder”? What if I never write anything so well-received again? What if I embarrass my girls with my inept attempts at this?

So I took a ride, alone in my car. Silence: lots of quiet, and I listened. He already knew that my heart was troubled; no words required from me; I just needed to be still.

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And he said to me, “Go back to your call, Lorraine. Go back to the beginning.”

I’ve written the promise in my journal and I’ve read the words over and over so that they are becoming part of my heart, but I heard him speak them fresh:

The Sovereign Lord (that’s me, you know) has given me (that’s my part, Lorraine) a well-instructed tongue (they are my words, not yours), to know the word that sustains the weary (you’re tired aren’t you love; the words are first for you and then for the weary ones who will read them after you). He awakens me morning by morning (Just focus on today, sweet Lorraine), wakens my ear to listen (wait for me – I have something for you to say) like one being instructed (I’m teaching you how to do this, rely on me).
Isaiah 50:4

The same God who called Jami, Ann and Melanie called me along with a long string of amazing writers that I’m blessed to know. The stats can be encouraging but at the end of it all, I am writing for an audience of one.

Please God, don’t let me get so caught up in the numbers and the syndication that I forget that.

Needing his grace more every day,

lorraine

If God has called you to write, check out this online free writers guide:

http://sacredgroundstickyfloors.com/ladder-to-roof-top/

It’s been my joy to contribute there, but more important, I’ve learned so much from these talented, generous women!

If you missed last weeks post about feeling invisible, here you go!

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I Wouldn’t Wait! Confessions of a Teen Bride…

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I Wouldn’t Wait! Confessions of a Teen Bride…

We married on my 18th birthday.  I didn’t even have a driver’s license.  I’d known him for one year and he’s the only guy I ever went out with more than once or twice.  He was all of eight months older.

My parents were not thrilled about the wedding plans. There were threats that they wouldn’t come; I was their Catholic daughter marrying a Baptist boy in a Baptist church. I was too young and way too naïve. I was rocking their expectations, to say the least.

Our wedding was on a Friday night; there was a small reception at the church. A few of the ladies served cake, punch, nuts and mints.  I thought it was fabulous.  It wasn’t until a few years later that I realized just how plain and simple it really was, but I was in a beautiful dress that I had sewn with my own hands. I was ready to be a wife, HIS wife.

It’s interesting the things that you remember from such a significant life event. The pastor’s wife positioned my veil as my mom frantically hemmed dresses in the Sunday school room where the bridesmaids were getting ready for the ceremony. I was really glad my mother was there.

My brother Steve slipped his arm around me as I stood in the foyer and peeked through the back door into the sanctuary. In all of the hustle and bustle I remember him saying that I was beautiful. He waited with me for my dad to come and walk me down the aisle.

I didn’t hear angels sing as we exchanged our traditional vows, but a guy I went to school with named Angel sang the love theme from Romeo and Juliet. What can I say? It was the 70’s!

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When it was over, we climbed into our ‘68 Impala and drove to a car wash. Well-meaning friends and family had written all over the car with shoe polish (again, the 70’s)). There was a peace sign on the top of that car until the day we traded it. Make love, not war, people.

We drove to our little home and closed the door on the world for a week. I was completely content.

Our first home was slightly larger than the tiny houses that have recently become popular. We had purchased a 600 square foot mobile home at a price of $3,995; it came fully furnished. The sofa was so lightweight I could powerlift it over my ninety-eight pound frame.

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I felt like the queen of a castle. It was hardly majestic but it was our home. We were happy to start life together there. It was exactly what we wanted.

Over the next few years, we made a lot of decisions that we would later regret, but we have never regretted our choice to have our first child. We waited only six months to get pregnant – we were still getting to know each other, but we loved our growing family.

That simple ceremony was forty-four years ago. I suppose the odds were against us making it. We were too young, too poor, undereducated and naïve.

We started our marriage with less than one hundred dollars in cash, a fully mortgaged mobile home that began depreciating the day we signed the papers, and a car payment. Neither of us had a great job. It would be seven years before he earned an associate’s degree; thirty years to his bachelors. I never got around to college.

But we did make it and I’m convinced it is because of what we did have, mostly a legacy from our families, dysfunctional and imperfect as they were:

  • An example – Our parents were fully committed to keeping their families intact.
  • Lifestyle – Ours revolved around spending time rather than money.
  • Low expectations – We didn’t even once think that we should begin with what our parents managed to acquire in their twenty-five years of marriage.
  • Lots of siblings – We were used to sharing everything; we both came from large families and one bathroom houses.
  • Peer pressure – The couples around us were counting on us to remain a couple.
  • Hearts to serve – He did the laundry and ironing and cleaned the house after school and on weekends because his mother worked; when my sister was bed-ridden with a broken hip I got out of class early and walked two miles home every day so I could be with her when my dad left for work. Our parents taught us that families serve one another; we brought that gift into our new home.
  • Faith in God – Even when we lost faith in each other we knew that we were in his grip; that was enough when we couldn’t hold onto each other.
  • Inexperience – We didn’t bring a lot of comparisons to our bed or any other area of the house.
  • Refusing to keep score – We trusted each other enough to bring 100% most days; on the days one of us didn’t, the other picked up the slack.
  • Going to bed mad – Sometimes sleep and time are the best antidote to frustration and anger. So often the light of a new day brings clarity and peace. We learned to insert a pause and get some rest.

Everyone’s love story is different. I’m not advocating marrying right out of high school, skipping college or making babies in the first year of marriage. I guess what I’m really saying is that if two crazy, naïve and clueless kids could do it, maybe you can.

My simple prayer is that our story will encourage you to walk in his mercy, every new day and extend grace, first at home.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ~ Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV

By his grace alone,

lorraine

If you enjoyed this, check out another post on our crazy love.

 

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I Think We Need More Bread

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I Think We Need More Bread

I was looking through some journals yesterday when I came upon an entry I posted last March. I’ve read it three more times since then. I can’t get over the way that God gave me such a powerful word just because I asked.

It began with this sentence: “Yesterday it ran out. The last of Mike’s severance from the school. There are no long term prospects for work; there are no unemployment benefits. There is so much uncertainty about our provision.”

Those days were difficult. A job loss is not ever easy to accept, but this one stung. A lot. For reasons I won’t rehash, it was personal and painful. We were hurting; we knew God was going to move and that he had a plan, but it was hidden from our clouded vision.

We were in the boat with him, but when we looked around we couldn’t see past the water lapping at the sides. We wondered if we had adequate resources for this journey.

Certain writers use words that connect with my soul. One of those is Emily P. Freeman. At the time I didn’t know much about her, but I occasionally popped into her blog. That day, she posted this wonderful piece about leftovers.

Now, before you get the wrong idea, Emily’s site isn’t a cooking blog. She was talking about “making lists and then shaking them in God’s face” as if to tell him what he already knows. And she helped me take a hard look at what was left over after a miraculous provision.

“Are we going to be okay?”

That was the question I had written out and was shaking at him that day. For thousands of years, God’s people have looked at one another and at him with that question.

Emily’s post inspired me to look at my concern in light of Mark 8.

Bread was his idea. He never needs to be reminded of our hunger. Time and again he had compassion for the physical needs of the crowd.

While the disciples worried about bread in the boat, Jesus reminded them of the excess after feeding the crowd.

When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”

“Twelve,” they replied.

“And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”

They answered, “Seven.”

 He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”

I am so slow to understand, but I get it – there was more left over that day than the original meager offering.

It’s been a tough week in the world around us. The things that have happened in my backyard in the last seven days are unspeakable.

I’m more desperate than ever to remember you when I hold the bread in my hands and taste the miracle of your provision.

The pieces are broken; broken because there was a very real cost to meeting our needs.

Your body was broken for me. I am eternally secure with you. No man can ever change that.

Today I ask the same question in a completely different context, yet in the shadow of the former.

Are we going to be okay?

His answer hasn’t changed.

In Emily’s words (thank you, dear Emily, for sharing these words with me last March):

This morning, I hear it, the invitation to hold the bread in my hands, to see my day with kingdom eyes, to feast on him, to move forward with the energy that comes from eating the broken pieces. This is My body, broken for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.”

Jesus Broken Breads.

I am sure I will ask the question again, but I pray that it will be with a desire to see with unveiled sight the places where he is meeting us with the broken bits that are offered so that we might become whole.

Whatever your needs, my friend, if you are in the boat with Jesus he’s got you.

lorraine

Please take a few minutes to check out Emily’s original post here:

http://emilypfreeman.com/bread-is-the-new-hustle/

I highly recommend her recent book, Simply Tuesday. It is a beautiful encouragement to look for the beauty in the ordinary. All of her books are here: http://emilypfreeman.com/the-books

 

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This is me enjoying “Simply Tuesday” poolside.

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A Native’s Response to the Terror Attack on Orlando

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Olrando Skyline

Photography Credit: Jeremy Reper

I have lived in Orlando since 1956. A purist would argue that I’m not a native, but my roots run deep through the sandy soil of Central Florida.

I spent summer afternoons swimming in Lake Fairview to escape the heat of a house without air conditioning, eating grilled hot dogs at a concrete picnic table while swatting away flies.

I vividly remember the Wigwam Village Motel that once stood on the Orange Blossom Trail with its teepee shaped cottages. In those days, the roadway’s name suggested adventure and opportunity to discover new frontiers.

Charming. That is how I would describe the city where I grew from a toddler. The City Beautiful. My home town. I love this place.

Thanks to a certain mouse, my hometown has grown beyond anything I could have imagined, from just over 52,000 residents in 1956 to more than 2,000,000 today. It’s diverse; it’s teeming with professional sports teams and cultural venues. It’s not the sleepy little town of my childhood.

To the world, it’s the gateway to Disney theme parks; to people like me, it’s home. It’s the place I learned the benefits and responsibilities of citizenship.

Today my city and her surrounding communities are in mourning. Home became a target, and the unthinkable happened in our back yard.

Much like a family, we need to rally around one another, setting our differences aside. This is not the time to argue with an uncle about politics or religion or anything else, for that matter.

I have another citizenship that was impacted by the events of this past weekend.  I’m a Christian.

For Christ followers, this is a sacred moment, a call to be the Church. We stand on holy ground.

The weight of it is too much and so I pray that we will get this right:

 Our hearts are heavy, God. We cry for those who have received word of loved ones gone; we ache for those who wait still.

Remind us that you catch every tear and make note of every sorrow.
You linger with those who mourn.
Teach us to linger in the uncomfortable places.

Fill our hearts with your compassion;
give us wisdom and grace far beyond our human capacity.

We ask you, the great physician, to heal the wounded.
Show us how to lift up the arms of those who are doing the work we cannot.

Here in the home of the happiest place on earth, hundreds have no joy.
Restore in us the joy of your salvation; make us vessels of your joy
so that we may pour into the lives of the hurting.

As a community of believers,
make our feet be beautiful,
carrying your perfect love to hurting people
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Take us to the places you would go;
give us the words that you would speak
and one more thing, Lord…

You gave a donkey a voice to get the attention of Balaam; and when he finally understood your mission he said “Am I able to speak anything at all? The word that God puts in my mouth, that shall I speak.”

Let us speak only the words that you put in our mouths.

Lift up our faces that we may behold your beauty in the midst of ashes,

lorraine

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Photography Credit: Jeremy Reper

 

 

 

 

Do You Really Want to Know God?

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Eric Liddell Baner.

Eric Liddell knew a thing or two about practice. By his own admission, it was God who made him fast, but it was up to him to nurture and preserve the gift of speed that afforded him two Olympic medals.

After reading a biography of his short life I’m convinced that he was much more committed to practicing knowing God than to practicing running. This guy was legit.

I was given a step counter earlier this year. Wearing it revealed solid evidence of my inactivity and I got moving. A lot. Once I connected with others in April for some friendly competition, the steps really began to add up. With my new commitment to walking I was feeling fit, had lots of energy and slept well. I had a heightened awareness of my body’s need to be active.

But May brought thunderstorms, hot temperatures, and a trip to the dermatologist which resulted in a bunch of biopsies for skin cancer. There were many distractions and I lost my focus. My step count plunged.

I walked up the stairs yesterday, winded by the time I reached the third landing. By three and half my legs were screaming and I wasn’t sure I could make it to four. Three weeks ago those stairs were not easy, but I could hit that fifth landing without slowing down. I am again surprised by how quickly a body loses strength with inactivity.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve noticed that a lot like that climb up the stairs, my spiritual legs are weak where they had been strong. Once toned muscles have atrophied from lack of use.

I had a great plan to read and journal from the Psalms this summer, but I’ve not been consistent. Life has brought storms and other distractions; I’ve lost focus. Here I am again, shaking my head over something so elemental to spiritual growth.

I’ll never walk in the power of God outside of the presence of God.

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As I struggled up those stairs and stopped to rest on the landing, I heard that quiet voice of the Spirit:

For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things,
holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.
This is a trustworthy
saying that deserves full acceptance. That is why we labor and strive, because we have
put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people,
and especially of those who believe. – 1 Timothy 4:8-10

 I need to get back on the walking trail and get some steps in. I love feeling strong and exercise is good for mind, body and soul.

Even greater, I want to know more of God at the end of the summer than I do now.  He knows I need some practice. And I’m desperate to know Him, my only HOPE.

By his grace alone,

lorraine

 

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Your Life is a Crock

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Untitled design (1)My daughter has a big family by some standards. There are six children. Three of them are in diapers and are considered “special needs”. In addition there is a sassy five year old girl, a sensitive eight year old boy and an almost twelve year old boy who is introducing his parents to the joys of living with a tween.

They are a foster and adoptive family; they have opened their hearts and home and doubled their family in the past three years. As with any acquisition and development endeavor there have been hurdles and a few obstacles but they’ve managed this like they are the boss of it. And yet, they have repeatedly insisted that they are the boss of nothing (well, maybe that sassy five year old!).

Fostering fosters uncertainty. I’m an observer, albeit a much invested observer. I love every one of these children; I’m their grandma, after all. Even from my perspective, it is very difficult to know that our future with some of them is literally in the hands of case workers and ultimately a judge. We pray and wait for adoptions, holding our breath at times because nothing is certain. I can only imagine the reality of that to my daughter and son-in-law. However, they would be quick to tell you that they signed up for this.

When my husband and I get together with friends, everyone pulls out their cell phones to share pictures of their latest grandchild. Last weekend, I was excited to share a picture of two children who recently joined my daughter’s family, pushing the count to eight.

One of our friends asked a fair question. “Really?  Isn’t that a lot, maybe too many? How do they manage all of that?

I have to admit that when I got the text that they were adding to the headcount short term, I thought about how much work they were adding to their load. I considered logistics.  I wondered how these children would fit into the daily ebb and flow of life for this family.

Then I tried putting myself in the place of the two children. After living in one foster home for months, they were now moving to yet another strange place, with strange people. Uncertainty was thrust upon them. They, along with garbage bags stuffed with their belongings, were loaded up by a case worker and brought to their new home.

They must have had questions. Where will I sleep? Will they be kind? Are there other kids to play with? Will they understand that I need to sleep with a light on? What if they make me eat broccoli?

The best news is that these children will be reunited with mom soon. When?  The exact date is to be determined.  There are so many factors and dependencies; the only thing that is certain is today. But they are doing well, all things considered. Uncertainty has been their way of life for a while.

For now they will wake up every morning in a comfy bed and be fed and dressed in clean clothes. Whether they are put on a bus or driven to school, they know that they will return to a home that houses a loving family.  They will eat a home-cooked dinner and they will go to bed clean with prayers spoken over them. That is certain.

So, back to the question that begs to be answered: “How?”  I also marvel at how some people seem to have the capacity for so much. I asked the question. How is it that the same person who was once a fully extended new mom of one can now successfully mother eight children?

Her answer was so simple that I have continued to think about it weeks later.  “We always perceive that we are currently ‘at capacity’. The truth is that when we live with open arms, we not only receive more opportunities to serve; our capacity increases.”

There was a widow whose husband left her with a mountain of debt and two sons. She had no means; she lacked the capacity to repay the creditors who would soon seize her sons as slaves. Her only asset was a small bottle of olive oil.

This widow was a realist. She knew her limited capacity and certainly her circumstances. She cried out to the prophet Elisha and he gave her instructions to begin pouring oil into every container she could get her hands on. “Ask your neighbors and don’t ask for just a few.” (2 Kings 4:1-7)

Once she and her sons gathered the containers, she began to pour into each of the containers, one by one, from her small jar. Miraculously, the tiny crock of oil didn’t run dry until there were no more containers to pour into.

Limited Supply

My heart quickens as the Holy Spirit reveals to my heart what my ears have been hearing from the mouth of my petite but oh so wise daughter.  My life is a tiny crock of oil.

If I hoard it, I will never have any more than what that petite bottle will hold. It is when I open my arms, when I begin to find people to pour into, that I see the true capacity of my life. As it is poured into others, the capacity increases.

To be sure, there are some difficult choices to be made.  People who live with open arms have their arms full.  They have often had to let go of something in order to have the freedom to turn toward a call to serve and fully embrace it.

That tiny jar of oil had amazing, even miraculous supply. The resource was there all along, but it was only when she began to pour from it that she could truly know its capacity.

Where is God calling us to trust Him to reveal and release His capacity in our lives?

 

 

 

 

Perfecting Our Days

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Just this afternoon I read answers from a well-known author who was asked a series of typical ice breaker type questions. The one that has rattled around in my brain all evening was this: describe a perfect day. Her answer was detailed. The location and activities, right down to the football game that would be on the TV were mentioned; the menu and the guest list were specific. It was the sort of event that I would love to attend!

I’ve been thinking about how I would answer the question today. Right now. Because, the truth is that the answer is a moving target for me, and I think I might not be alone in that.

Reflecting on the past week, I thought it included a couple of perfect days. Friday night I played a hilarious game with a group of women I love after walking on the beach in the afternoon with my sweet hubby. Over the weekend I got to cook for and chat with my women – my family. And then yesterday…I went to the happiest place on earth with my cousin!

Beach WalkingHonestly, each day had its moments. The beach trip? Traffic on the way home was horrific. Bumper to bumper with my navigator (who would much rather drive than ride) stressing more every mile. We were behind schedule the rest of the day due to the hour delay.

Cooking and serving for my sweet family brought up all sorts of discontent over stuff like tableware!

The Magic Kingdom was packed yesterday. Apparently it’s Spring break somewhere in the South. As I explained to my young cousin from the Midwest, you know people are from the South when they address their children “first name, middle name” and every family member is wearing monogrammed clothing. Lines and wait times were long with charming southerners.

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And yet, each of these is securely locked in the “perfect day” pages of my mental scrapbook. And the reason is simple. I know that “perfect” days aren’t perfect. They are normal days, when wonderful things happen.

Imagine this: your closest and dearest friend has died. The one friend who had the potential to impact this dire situation is taking his sweet time showing up. The day is off to a rough start when that same friend seems to be in denial about your mutual friend’s status. You might even be a little mad about his apparent blasé response. But then…as you are watching for him, he shows up.

Jesus spoke to Lazarus and he walked out of the grave, still wrapped in the burial garments. A bad day turned perfect, I would say. I think Lazarus and the ones who loved him would agree!

Traffic that disrupts schedules is an annoyance, but it doesn’t have to rob the day of its shine. I won’t wait until everything is “perfect” to entertain. When I’m in an amazing place with people I love, I hope I can relax and enjoy the moment without losing patience over annoying circumstances.

Perhaps perfect days are the ones when I’m watching for Jesus; when things are going as bad as they can get and he shows up.

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When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him… John 11:20

“Yes Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is come into the world.” John 11:27

 

A Habit of Faith

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It’s Sunday morning and in our house, that means we are going to church. It’s always been that way. As newlyweds, we slept in on Saturday mornings. My earliest irritation with my father in law (may he rest in peace) was with his Saturday morning drop in visits. The man just never got the hint that newly married couples 1) like to stay in bed on their day off and 2) even if they are up, they are not interested in entertaining a third. We loved our lazy mornings. We needed those lazy mornings.

However, on Sunday we were up and out the door to church. We were already serving as teachers and for you Millennials, there was also church on Sunday night. It would have been so easy to justify staying home, but we established a habit from the start.

I grew up around priests and nuns. They were easily recognized by their religious habits, the clothing that identified them as consecrated to God. The habit is an outward reminder to all  of their devotion to Christ and the church. Our faith “habits” are a regular reminder of the price that was paid for our redemption as well as our commitment to the Body of Christ, the church.

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If memory serves me well, this was her first time to church.

With the addition of a baby we were even more determined to be there. Our firstborn entered the world on Sunday and the following Sunday morning she was dressed up and taken to church. You read that right…I took my newborn, one week old into the house of God, aka the Temple of Germs. I’m sure we were warned, but we were determined to be back in our community.

This paragraph is a little disclaimer: I didn’t put my precious little in the church nursery and I let no one – not even her grandmother (I didn’t want to put her in the awkward position of saying no) – hold her while we were there. I politely declined and explained that we would love for them to stop by our home where they could cuddle to their heart’s content. No. One. Ever. Came. People didn’t want to hold my baby, they wanted to hold a baby. They were not nearly as excited about getting to know her as they were about giving their uterus a baby fix. Not my baby.

Six years later our second little girl was born, also on a Sunday. After a Lamaze birth and a couple of days of rest we set out to church the following Sunday, continuing in our pattern. I returned to work five weeks after she was born. When not at my job, I hung cloth diapers on the line to dry while my husband worked in a very physically demanding job six days a week. It never once occurred to us to use Sunday mornings to recover from the week or get things done for the following one.

Of course we stayed home when we were sick. There were vacations and other things that kept us away, but it was our pattern, our habit to get up, get ready and go. There was never a Saturday night conversation about whether we would be going. It was our routine. Just like we went to work and school on Monday, we showed up at church every week.

Lest you think I was a conformist, I must tell you that I was the pioneer who (I’m sure of this) was the first person to introduce the notion of not having Sunday night church. Don’t get me wrong, Sunday night church was awesome. It was more casual and relaxed; from the music to the atmosphere in the sanctuary, it felt more like family than Sunday morning. Almost without fail, we traded hosting casual after church dinners with another family. That was the best time, whether we adults played cards or just chatted while the kids gathered in the other room.

The problem with this? By the time the evening was ending, it was past bedtimes and we were already behind in our normal weeknight schedule. I’m not known for boldly introducing groundbreaking new ideas but one morning as we sat in a fast food restaurant with our pastor and another local pastor, I made a bold statement: “Sunday night church isn’t good for families. I think we should consider not doing it.”

WHOA….I might as well have said that pastors could wear jeans in the pulpit and Baptists should speak to the Episcopalians in the liquor store. Based on their reaction, I was sure that if the Baptists excommunicated heretics, I was on my way out.

Needless to say, I now know that my vision was clearly anointed since this new enlightened generation realizes that Sunday nights are best spent with family, friends and neighbors, building relationships and sharing Jesus over supper. And therein is true Sunday Night Church, my friends.

I pop out of that rabbit hole to tell you that I’m so glad we have a habit of going to church. Last week, one week after my husband’s discharge from the hospital, I guided my car into a handicapped space, pulled his walker from the back seat and we made our way to the elevator that would carry us to the room where the church meets.

Walker at Church

It would have been easy to stay at home. He is recovering from major surgery. There are germs in such a large group of people. But the community that is the church was there, waiting for us. They greeted us with concern and care and open arms. We were with them again as we worshiped our Jesus, the one who knows our hearts and loves us anyway. The one who has brought healing and comfort in the midst of every storm. Our habit led us back to that place of imperfection and our hearts were encouraged.

The messages haven’t always been great. Sometimes things that were spoken from the pulpit made me cringe. We’ve been let down, hurt, overlooked and overworked. People have lied about us and to us. They are all flawed, these people who love God. We are all flawed. But the one who we seek is perfect. In his perfect love, we see the hope for redemption that is within every one of us. We encourage one another in that hope.

It is because of the community of Christ-believers that we have remained married for over forty-three years. The people in our community expected that of us; we know that they have counted on us to walk with them, learn from them and share with them our struggles and our victories. We owe it to them to show up, so if you’re looking for us this morning, we’ll be in the center row, about 2/3 of the way back.

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“Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25 (The Message)

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