Monday, August 30, 2010

Handling the Daily Dips

The yellow, diamond shaped sign read “DIP.” I slowed slightly, as the car bounced over the gully in the road, rattling the under carriage of the car and rousing my little passengers from whatever they were doing. “Nice to know it was coming,” I thought, and with a hint of sarcasm added, “even nicer if those little signs would pop up in all of life.”

“Daily Dips” -- Do you know what I mean? We come across circumstances in all sorts of shapes and sizes along this road we travel. Sometimes, the damage and destruction is devastating, causing for road closings, reconstruction and repair, other times there are detours, and sometimes, we just hit a dip in the road. They are small, inconveniences that bounce us around, often without warning. They are the unexpected that we are told we can expect. They are part of life.

They slow us down and shake us up. Untimely phone calls. Unknown bills. Breakdown of appliances. Rain when we are planning an outside party. A car glitch when we need to be somewhere. Someone forgets something and we need to run somewhere (where we are not headed) and get it. We are out of eggs for our cake. We run out of laundry soap just as the stomach flu rages through our home. Sickness infects us. Bones fracture. Plans change. Printers stop working. Times change. The hem in our skirt tears, just as we are getting ready to step out the door. Sometimes, it’s just one dip – other times, it feels like it is one after another, like the ridges on a wash board and our minds and hearts get rattled and jostled.

Seems like I’m constantly working on not only trusting God in the big things of life, but in these little ones, too.

You see, if God is really in control of all things – and He is – then the truth is that He has planned even these little things, as annoying as they may first appear. Perhaps, they are actually more like opportunities, than annoyances and nuisances. Could they be God-conveniences, not in-conveniences?

They are chances for us to be faithful to what God values. A chance to be gentle, a chance to be wise, a chance to be self-controlled (ugh!), a chance to have patience. Rather than inconvenience, maybe they are God-conveniences to love another, help a friend, take a break, slow down, ask for help, realign our priorities, spend time holding a hand (or a heart). A chance to trust God. A chance to have faith.

Yes, I believe that they are God-conveniences. God has conveniently placed them in our lives to teach us something, about ourselves, about Himself, and about life. They are useful opportunities, not hindrances to cause discomfort and trouble.

Whether it’s a road block, a detour, or the dips in the road of your travels today, trust God. Look for what He has for you. Be obedient to what He desires of you. Remember that this daily dip may in fact not be something that puts you out, but a time when God is putting something in to the life He has planned for you.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Power of Our Words

Driving to school today, my middle daughter (prone to random questions, just like her mother), said “Mom, is the tongue really the strongest muscle in the body?”

“I’m not sure, “ I responded. “But it is the most powerful one. Do you know what that means?”

We talked about how reckless words pierce like a sword, but wise words bring healing (Proverbs 12:18), and then I asked them, “So, what can this most powerful muscle do in terms of our words?” And this is what they said (I quickly wrote down their insightful thoughts on the back of my dry cleaning slip): Our words can ________.

· Hurt or Help

· Change

· Love

· Teach and Tell

· Give joy; make others happy; make others smile

· Bring comfort

· Break people; comfort others

· Get all tangled up

· Give courage

· Grow others towards Jesus

Upon getting home, and still a bit curious about her technical question regarding the muscle itself, I did some research. The bottom line is that it is debatable whether the tongue is really the strongest muscle in the body. Depends on how you define strength. There is absolute strength (maximum force), dynamic strength (repeated motions), elastic strength (exert force quickly) and strength endurance (withstand fatigue). Is this getting too technical? Stick with me. Some would say the heart is the strongest, others the gluteus maximus (yes, that which you are sitting on), and still others the masseter muscle in your jaw.

However, regardless of which one wins out, I think we can agree that the tongue possesses all the characteristics of strength, through the words that it makes. It has maximum force speaking words for good and for evil and dynamic strength, as we are constantly communicating. It can exert force quickly, by blurting out criticism or quickly encouraging, and it can help others to withstand fatigue through words of faith.

Our tongue – it may not move a heavy object, but it can move someone to tears, to joy, to action or belief. It may not lift a bar bell, but it can lift someone’s spirits. The tongue may not carry a basket, but it can carry the good news of hope. It may not walk a mile, but it can walk along side someone with encouraging words. It may not hold our bodies upright, but it may hold up someone else in a time of weakness. And sadly, it may not knock down a building, but it may knock down a heart; it may not hurt with a punch, but it may suffer a blow to the soul.

Dear Lord: I pray that I would be ever mindful of my words. Please provide me with the grace to speak out when the time is right, and hold my tongue at other times. Help me to use gentle words, wise words, words filled with truth and beauty. Please grant me mercy when I misuse my words, and help me to make amends. Let my words be pleasing to you, Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Victory Despite Difficulty -- He's My Son

On a cold October day, almost 16 years ago, my husband and I walked in to the hospital, carrying our 8 month old son. We walked out later, the day now noticeably colder, after hearing that he had Cerebral Palsy. We were heart broken. So many unknowns and so many fears.

Parker was born at 32 weeks gestation. He was in the ICU, had a prolonged hospital course and a complicated time when he came home, but we never would have guessed that he would be diagnosed with CP.

It would take volumes for me to write his story -- our story -- God's story, in regards to Parker's life. Needless to say, there have been many times of failure and difficulty. In Parker's words, "Having special needs is hard. It really stinks."

However, Parker is bright kid, a fun kid, and a determined kid. Today, I am not going to unpack the hardship, in which time and time again, God has been faithful, but rather share something of a joy. One time a pastor friend of ours shared, "Yes, the difficulties will be great, but the victories will be sweeter.

Below is a special video, recently made -- Teen with Cerebral Palsy Wins Powerlifting Medal. I posted it on Facebook last night and received an outpouring of comments -- comments that greatly encouraged Parker. Thank you to all of you who took the time to cheer him on with your words of affirmation.

Here is a shining moment in his life. Thanks for taking the time to watch it. I hope it inspires you. Please feel free to pass it on.

PS -- And to Coach Brown -- thank you for believing in Parker. God is using you greatly to impact his life. You are making a difference.

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Time to Fly

At 7:55 AM this morning, I dropped my oldest daughter off at the doors of the High School for freshman orientation. She stepped out of the car, no longer a little girl, but a woman. Sure, the transition was gradual over the years, but something about this morning just felt different. Like a slide show in fast motion I remembered the first time I saw her on the day she was born, her first coos, her first steps, her first words. I remembered her first day of preschool, dressed in the pretty little yellow dress, and her first day of kindergarten, along with a thousand other snap shots of her life. And now – another first. There are likely to be many more to follow. But this was a big first for her (and for me) today.

I prayed for her on the way to school, like I always do with the children. I wanted to say so much, but there wasn’t time now. I wanted to tell her to be kind, be friendly, be wise, smile, and be careful. But I held back (at least for the most part), and instead, as she went to open the door, I said, “I’m proud of you, honey. You are a terrific person. You’re going to do great. I believe in you.”

And as the door closed, and she walked in to school, I thought, “Did I teach her enough, Lord? Is she ready? Did I spend enough time playing with her, teaching her, balancing love and discipline in her life? I pray that she will be wise and understanding. I pray that she will be confident in who You created her to be, and yet humble and considerate. Please help her to be courageous and yet gentle. Help her to be aware of others needs, but also strong enough to stand up for what is right. Help her to be compassionate, a leader, a tender spirited and strong -- a light in a crazy world.”

I felt a sense of peace that I did what I could do over the year, trying my best and trusting the Lord along the way. I have not done it perfectly, but I hope that she has learned by my strengths and my failures; I am sure she will need to learn from her own, as well.

I wanted to text her at 8:06 AM and say “How’s it going?”, but I didn’t, once again, I held back. It was time for her to fly.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

What is it About a Surprise Party?

A gaggle of nine and ten year old girls with skates on their feet and giggles in their voices, rocked and rolled back and forth in a small group, huddling behind the door to the roller rink. They waited for their friend -- the guest of honor --to arrive at the surprise party.

The birthday girl's mother made the call to her husband signally that the other girls were ready. (The little girl thought that she was coming to the roller rink to check it out for a birthday party that she was hoping to have. Her birthday was still a week away). The mother watched the entrance while the silliness and energy grew louder from the girls. They looked like an explosion of confetti, apropos for the party. Standing ten feet behind the girls, the moms stood in a line, watching and waiting. They were there to witness the fun -- share in the joy. Who can resist witnessing the unfolding of a surprise?

"She's here, girls! Everyone ready? When she walks in, you know what to do!" whispered the mother.

At that instant, the birthday girl entered the roller rink, and a resounding "SURPRISE!" echoed throughout the rink. The little girl was shocked. She stood motionless, mouth formed in a wide open smile, her sweet little eyes staring out from behind her glasses, taking it all in.

The girls skated over to her and wrapped their arms around her, laughing and joining in with rounds of "happy birthdays" and "surprise" mingled together. The fun was under way, and it was a beautiful sight.

And the moms? We just stood there with tears in our eyes, soft smiles on our faces, and at least for myself, a heart that was stirred by something mysterious and deep, down inside.

I can't put words to it though, but it is not the first time that I was moved to tears as I watched an event like this unfold. Is it the unexpected joy? The element of suspense? Is it the room full of love and friendship? Or is it in a world where we are more often surprised by things we'd rather not deal with, and for a brief moment we find a surprise that is a celebration?

I can't figure it out, but perhaps you know what I mean. There is just something very special and life-giving in witnessing it, but it seems like there is more. I'm still smiling about it tonite, and still wondering, what is it about a surprise party?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Tension of Faith

I sat by my fourteen year old daughter’s bedside feeling helpless, hour after hour over the past 5 days. I tried warm compresses and then cold compresses. I tried the prescribed pain medications, elevating her head, rubbing her back – nothing would touch her pain. I called doctors, brought her in 3 times (once to the ER),and still, no relief, despite antibiotic changes and pain medication adaptations. Vomiting was added to her long list of symptoms, and finally, she was admitted for IV fluids and medications.

Severe Otitis Externa (AKA Swimmers Ear) was the diagnosis, with dehydration and gastritis to top it off. As far as she was concerned, her head was going to explode. I tried to reassure her that in my previous medical experience, I never once witnessed that. She was not convinced at the time. Now, she is home and feeling better, noggin intact.

The thing is – as hard as it is for me to endure suffering, it is nearly impossible for me to watch my children endure it. I wrestled with God through the long nights of her tossing and turning in pain, silently crying, “Seriously, Lord. I can believe that you bring beauty out of my pain – but hers? Do you really have to do it this way?”

And I found myself in the tension of faith between what I believe about God in my own life and clinging to believing it for my child. The rubber was hitting the road for me – the squeal was deafening and the smell nauseating. Was I going to believe that His promises are sure, even as I watched her moan in pain? Her illness was not life threatening – but to her, it felt like it was.

And, despite my pounding on the doors of heaven for an answer, I did not hear one. His silence only prompted me to make a choice. Would I choose to believe that His promises are sure or would I doubt His great love – even in her pain – His great love for my dear daughter? I chose to believe Him, even (again) when I could not understand.

But what about my daughter? Would she understand? How would she process God allowing her pain?

I am praying that the Lord God, Lover of her life, Father of her heart, will minister to her in places that I cannot. That in my inabilities and helplessness, He would comfort her, encourage her, and strengthen her in places that a cold compress or pain medication could not reach – the deepest, dearest places of her soul.

I’m trusting Him for that today – in or out of pain, that He is tending to her (and in truth, all of His beloved), for as hard as it may be for me to imagine, He loves her even more than I do, and is weaving every detail of her life perfectly for her.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Intricate Lace of Faith

If the dew hadn’t gathered or the rain hadn’t fallen, I may not have noticed it -- a delicate yet strong spider web. Strand by strand, the spider weaves her web, back and forth, in and out between the blades of grass. The delicate fiber is nearly invisible to one passing by the yard. Now, in the morning sun, laced with fine droplets of water the creation of her web is revealed. The intricate web sparkles.

And so it is for us, strand by stand our faith is formed. Each strand, an opportunity to trust God in all circumstances, is connected to and woven through the character of God. Perhaps it is not noticed by one passing by or maybe not even to ourselves, as it is formed and takes shape. It is nearly invisible to the human eye, and yet strong and real.

And when the dew of our sorrow rises out of our hearts or the rains of our pains fall, they find a place to rest on the intricate lace of faith. Here the substance of what we believe and hope for sparkles in the sun. Our faith is revealed. The glory of God is revealed.

I imagine that the spider does not have the advantage of seeing the full beauty of her creation. She does what she was created to do -- weave. Perhaps it is the same for us. We do not always see the beauty of what God is doing through us, as we walk in obedience to Him. He strengthens us as our faith is formed – delicate (not in a fragile way, but in a precious way), beautiful and strong. And sometimes, it is only when the tears of our trials find a resting place upon that faith, that we see it sparkling.

Lord give me the strength to persevere and obey You, to trust You in all circumstances. You have made me to seek you and worship You; help me to do so even when I do not understand the bigger picture of what you are creating – strand by strand, in my life. And when my tears fall, let them bring glory to you as they rest settle on my faith that you have woven with strands of brokenness and pain, stretched out between the pillars of Your character. Amen.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Ever Feel Like You're Just Too Much?

I stood waiting at the airport ticket counter, a bulging purse slung over one shoulder, a stuffed briefcase over the other and a very heavy suitcase in tow. I knew that upon departing for my trip, my suitcase was precariously close to 48 pounds. Now on the return trip, I feared that I mis-packed and was going to tip over the 50 pound limit. Oddly, I considered the notion that if I could some how gain two pounds of body weight on a weekend getaway, maybe my suitcase could, too.

I felt the presence of the long line of people behind me, while the thought flashed through my mind, like a blinking neon sign – “what will I do if I have too much?”

“What if I place my suitcase on the scale and the digital indicator reads more than 50 pounds? What am I going to do? Pay the over price? No. That’s not sensible. Take something out? What will I remove? A heavy jean skirt? No. I am wearing that right now. My hair straightener ? No, probably won’t let me through security with that. A couple pairs of shoes? Now, where would I put those? My briefcase is already overflowing.”

Silly -- so, so silly. Finally, after an extended wait, I got called up to the counter – the counter that did not even have a scale. The attendant was gracious as he lifted my suitcase with a grunt, and placed it on the conveyor belt. He checked my bag through, gave me my ticket and I was on my way. All that wasted worry.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes similarly, I find myself lugging around the notion that I am too much -- too much for God. Too many hurts. Too much worry. Too complicated. Too many mistakes. Too prone to wandering. Too pathetic. Too serious. Too superficial. Too many questions. Too much trouble. From one extreme to another – just too much “stuff.” Memories and experiences, by my own doing and the doing of others, are crammed in to my heart, and I feel heavy and burdened.

Truth is, for me and for you sweet reader, we are not too much. We can’t have too many mistakes or hurts that stand in the way of our being accepted and loved by the Lord. He does not look at us and say, “Hmmm. We have a problem here. You are just too much. Can you unload something?”

Instead, He knows every little detail, and He is not interested in weighing it against us. He lifts up our hearts and tends to them. He doesn’t ask us to unpack them alone. He helps us. He knows the intimate and the practical parts of us. We can’t be too much for Him. He doesn’t ask us to pay for more than we think we can handle. He took care of the price. There is no weight limit to God. He has all the strength in the world to handle whatever we have.

Okay, I’m taking my eyes off of myself and fixing them on the my sweet Jesus. And as I do so, I think I can faintly hear His voice calling to me (and to you, too!) -- “Oh, dear child, I love you. Do you not know that I know exactly what is in your heart? I am here to lift your burden. It cannot be too heavy. I am not limited by anything. You are precious and honored in My sight. Let me love you. Let me carry you. Stop fighting. I am abounding in compassion. Fear not. I have summoned you by name; you are Mine.”

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

From Whirl Wind to Windblown -- It is Good

Windblown – that’s the only word I can use to describe how I feel coming back from the She Speaks conference. It was a beautiful time of being with other women who love the Lord, worshipping Him, spending time with my dear friend whom I traveled with and learning through sessions on speaking, teaching by the Book, writing, marketing and much more. In addition, I felt the tender touch of God speaking to my heart the words that He had just for me – words I was not expecting, but am embracing. He showed up in the most unpredictable ways. It was a whirl wind, and although I feel windblown – I know that it is good.

From experience I also know that I’m a slow learner and it takes time for me to process all that God is showing me. That’s one of the great things about God – He doesn’t expect us to get it right away. He gives us time – He uses that time.

For now, I can feel the Lord impressing one major truth on my heart, as I step away from the intensity of the conference and back in to the chaos of life. God is in control – all the time – in the monumental and in the slight and momentary. He is the Author of my giftings, and the manager of how they will be used – that’s for you, too, sweet friend.

In my words, “He is my pen, my agent, and my publisher, and my marketing director.” I’m so relieved about that, otherwise, my tendency is to fret about what to do next, and then worry that I am not doing enough. I am reminded of the importance of trusting God for the every next step, and intentionally spending more time with Him, in His Word, in His presence, in His peace, and in prayer. There really is no good excuse. I am more convicted than ever.

It’s funny though, or not so funny, but just about the time that I think, “Ok, I’m just going to hang out with God, continue to write and see what He has,” the next thought that pops in to my mind is, “Maybe I should just quit.” Ridiculous, really. I know that there is someone out there – need I mention his pathetic name? s _ t _ n – who would like that. He would like me to mute my voice and give up, which would really be giving up on God. I’m not up for cooperating with the scoundrel. I’m choosing to trust God’s plan for my life, and His unfolding of it. God is going to do what He is going to do. What a relief.

I’m feeling dolefully inadequate in expressing myself today – and part of me is just wondering, maybe the windblown I am feeling is not only one of being overwhelmed, but one of being moved by the wind-like Spirit of God – that kind of Windblown. I am struck by the bigness of God and what He is doing in and through me, and even more so, I am moved by His tender, gracious love for me. Why He’d even bother – I sometimes am not sure – but He does. Again, what a relief.

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