Tag Archives: letting go

Merry Messy Christmas!

img_0047Chestnuts roasting on an open fire? Not at our house. Jack Frost rarely nips at our nose (nor do we ever dream of a white Christmas), since we live in Florida. A few Yuletide carols may be sung by a choir at our Christmas service, but since Trinity is a non-traditional, contemporary church, even that’s debatable.

We will have a turkey this year, but no mistletoe and no tiny tots hanging around with their eyes all aglow. Just a Jon who gets up when he feels like it and takes five hours to open ten gifts.

According to this picture perfect Christmas song, our chances for a Merry Christmas are poor indeed. We score about one and a half out of five.

Are you feeling it right now because your Christmas isn’t Hollywood perfect? Cheer up, the first one wasn’t any better:

An unwed, teenage mother.
No baby shower, but plenty of rumors.
A disgraced marriage.
An annoying, inconvenient, tax-registering trip.
A baby born in a barn (with no nurse, diapers or cradle).
Scruffy shepherds as newborn visitors.
A jealous king sending out spies and assassins.
An emergency escape by night to another country.

The truth of Christmas is that God willingly jumped over-His-head-deep into the chaos of earth’s struggles. The First Christmas was so…human. It was scandalous. It was messy. It was so earthly, many passed right on by. And because His arrival seemed nondescript to most, people missed its significance. And still do.img_0048

If it’s not “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” for you and a Norman Rockwell or Thomas Kinkade Christmas depiction is not happening where you are; happiness disregards you, money is tight, relationships stressed, someone deeply loved is gone and greatly missed, or possibly your only Christmas wish this year is for yourself or a sick loved one to heal, there’s no need to collapse in despair. No need to feel alone. No need to be paralyzed with fear.

Real life doesn’t stop for Christmas.

BUT!

Christmas came to invade every detail of our messy human existence and inundate whatever is occurring in our personal universe at the moment.

God came to us as one of us and He understands. He will walk with us through it all if we let Him. Stop, surrender and make room for Him this Season.

And have yourself a Very Merry Messy Christmas now!

“Christ, by highest heaven adored;
Christ, the everlasting Lord;
Late in time behold him come,
Offspring of the Virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail the incarnate Deity,
Pleased as man with man to dwell;
Jesus, our Emmanuel!
Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King!”

 
Home For the Holidays – painting by Norman Rockwell, 1950
Christmas Cottage – painting by Thomas Kinkade, 1990                                                                         “Hark The Herald Angels Sing,” Charles Wesley, 1739

Wings

I watched it, from my kitchen window, fluttering against the screen, desperate to get out. The butterfly was trapped. It flew in through the large roof opening of our pool frame, a hole the hurricane left behind when a screen came loose in the wind.gulf-fritillary

The butterfly showed no interest in the array of flowers we’ve planted inside, it wanted out and bumped along the side panels until it needed to rest, finally clinging to the screen instead of flying against it.

I dried my hands, grabbed a Rubbermaid container and lid and went out on the deck. I figured if I could trap it inside the container I could set it free, but it flew off before I could catch it.

I grabbed the pool scoop, the thing that looks like a large butterfly net, and followed the creature, gently swiping at it as it darted and glided above my head.

Opening the screen doors on each end of the enclosure, I attempted to guide it to freedom, but it flew too high or darted away in another direction. Butterfly obviously didn’t understand my good intentions. It couldn’t believe I was concerned for its welfare, though several times it was only inches from the open door.

“You’re so close! Come on Butterfly. Work with me. I know this is scary for you but I’m trying to help you here. Why can’t you understand, I’m just trying to help you be free?”

Eventually the butterfly exhausted itself and rested again, on a side screen, within reach and I gingerly set the Rubbermaid container over it and slid the lid underneath. The frightened creature panicked and crashed violently against the walls of the plastic prison.

I carefully carried it outside, far away from the pool enclosure and lifted the lid. The butterfly burst from captivity and soared away above the trees in a joyous dance of freedom.

In every place where my mind, heart and soul are trapped, every obstacle I so violently and fearfully bump up against, every towering wall I encounter with no escape, God is on a continuous rescue mission to set me free. He is there waiting, as I kick against my prison walls, believing I must find my own way out.

He longs to show me how to soar. He patiently moves me closer to the open door, closer to liberty, while my heart flutters in fear and my soul lifts in pride.

My Merciful Father patiently waits until I retreat in exhaustion and there, submit to the gentle nudge of His heart to my own. “Come on Daughter. Work with me. I know this looks scary and you don’t understand, but I’m trying to help you. I’m just trying to set you free. Trust Me.”

With gentle restriction He apprehends me, changes me, and then sets me free to rise above the challenges of my own thoughts, heart and life.

Wings are not meant to fly against obstacles, but over them. Wings take us places we can’t normally go. Wings are meant for freedom.

Today, I submit to God’s capture. I will Trust Him, because soon, confinement will be over.

Freedom will come at last.

And I will soar.

Isaiah 40:31(NKJ) “but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings..”

Acts 26:14-15 (AMP) “ And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice in the Hebrew dialect saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick [repeatedly] against the goads [offering pointless resistance].’ And I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus..”

 Galatians 5:1 (ERV) “We have freedom now, because Christ made us free. So stand strong in that freedom. Don’t go back into slavery again.”

John 8:36 (ESV) “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

 

O Me Of Little Faith

mustard-seedI awoke at 3:42 AM in a heart racing panic and find myself at this place more often than I care to admit. It weighs heavy in the back of my mind, no matter how I try to push it away, the unknown haunts me. What will become of my son when we are no longer here? With the passing of every year, every birthday, his and mine, the question looms larger.

So I guess it’s confession time. It’s time for me to admit, to say it out loud; I don’t trust God in this. My re-occurring fear and worry prove it. I’m convinced no one will take care of him as well as I do, after all I Am Mom and have invested most of my life here. Other than Mike, who else will care enough to do that? I don’t know and the not knowing eats at me, plagues me and some days, consumes me.

Trusting God with a child is a tall order for any parent.  We are so hands on, heart invested, all in, with our kids and it’s easy to default back to a place of worry. But a child, who needs continual, life time supervision and assistance, elevates investment levels to exponential heights. So often I feel like the dad who brought his son to Jesus and cried out, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!” Maybe Jesus understands this parental desperation more than we know. He healed the boy in spite of dad’s wavering faith. And that gives me hope.

I’ve thought a lot about faith. What is it? How does it work? What should it look like in my life? Honest questions from a girl who grew up in a church culture equating struggle, disaster, illness, and tragedy with a condemning lack of faith; feeling failure and shame whenever my sunshine, lollipops and rainbow life disappeared behind onimous black clouds for a season. Understanding what it means to really trust God has been a huge re-learning process for me.

I’ve seen His unlimited goodness and faithfulness through the years, in both the easy and hard places of my life,  but realize I’m still lacking when it comes to radically abandoned trust. I’ve also lived long enough in my Heavenly Father’s amazing grace to understand we are always in process. Every day and every situation brings new opportunities for my faith to rise to higher levels.

An infant isn’t a full grown adult one week, one month or even a year after he is born. He grows incrementally day after day, over the span of many years. And we don’t condemn him for it. A twenty year old will not have the wisdom and experience of a seventy year old. Full maturity comes with time and age. We know instinctively this is the natural order of things, yet we Christ followers can beat ourselves and others up when we are not spiritual giants overnight.

Wayne Jacobsen (thegodjourney.com) put it like this: “I like the process of God winning us to trust. It’s not that we should trust Him or have to act like we trust Him even where we don’t. God wins us…I think life puts us in different points of extremity..but those opportunities when He says, “OK, we’re going to go deeper here, you’re going to get to learn to trust Me more”…I think all of my days I’m still going to find myself in places going, “OK, my trust doesn’t extend here yet, but God let it.” Maybe that’s the Author and Finisher of our faith, He’s going to grow it into a reality…the faith I live in today was not mine to produce but [grew as] I cooperated with Him.”

When Jesus calls out his followers with, “Oh, you of little faith,” we see it as a negative, a criticism, a scolding, but maybe it was more of a reminder than a rebuke.

After all, He said we only need faith the size of a mustard seed to throw a mountain into the sea (Matthew 17:20). A mustard seed is slightly larger than a grain of sand. That’s tiny!  Could He be telling us we don’t need as much as we think, we just need to exercise what we already have and watch it produce? After all He does the work, the miracle, the impossible. We just do the believing.

There’s a tension, a balance, between planning for the future and worrying over it and our manual for living, the Bible, addresses both. Proverbs 6:6-8 tells us to consider the ant who stores up and plans for the days ahead. Jesus tells us to consider the lilies who don’t fret or toil but are clothed in beauty by the Provider of all things (Luke 2:27-40).

While we plan as much as possible for Jon’s future, we must trust God with the rest. We do our part and believe He will do His, because He always has. Today, I absorb what Apostle Paul stated in Philippians 4:6-7, into my heart, mind and spirit, “Never worry about anything. But in every situation let God know what you need in prayers and requests while giving thanks. Then God’s peace, which goes beyond anything we can imagine, will guard your thoughts and emotions through Christ.”

So Lord, today, I give Jon and his future back to You. Once again, I lay him at your feet and     place him in Your capable hands, knowing You have a good plan already in mind for him. I thank You for it, even in my inability to see or control it. I may need to do this again tomorrow and the next day and the day after that, Father, but I offer my mustard seed faith to you, thankful for Your patience while it grows into larger trust I have yet to obtain.

Lord, I believe. Please touch those places in me where I don’t believe, those areas filled with doubt, worry and fear. I give them, along with my son, to You and thank You for never giving up on me but continuously calling me into Your amazing faith, trust and peace.

Today I choose I choose Faith.

Today I choose Trust.

Today I choose You!

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” ~Corrie Ten Boom

Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

Proverbs 6:6-8 “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.”

Luke 12:27 “Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”

Matthew 6:34 “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Swimming Through The Nevers

Our son, David, texted me from Wisconsin, where he, Clara and little grandson, Asa, were at Clara’s parents for the week with the rest of her siblings, their spouses and kids for a family gathering.

asa cousinsDavid’s text said Asa was meeting his many cousins for the first time.

Without much thought my reply was, “That’s fun, because he’ll never have any on this side.”

“Yeah, I’ve been thinking about that.” He responded.

It hadn’t hit me until this moment; David’s children will never have cousins from our side of the family.

It was another ‘never’ moment in our life with Jon and I was suddenly saddened with a loss I fought for several days.

Loss always brings varying levels of grief and comes in many forms, through death, rejection, betrayal, disappointment, regret, hijacked hope, disabled dreams or what could have been.

We swim in this deep ocean of life, joyfully splashing, serenely floating or treading water, when loss washes over us like an unexpected wave. We’re swept under by its powerful force, breathless and fearful, struggling to find air and a way to resurface.

I don’t know, maybe other parents of special needs kids do this better than me, but I still experience blindsided takeovers in my life with Jon. I’m buzzing along in our daily thing, trusting God, thankful for the blessings we have when it hits again, another huge wave, reminding me of more ‘nevers’.

You’d think after all these years I’d see it coming but they still catch me off guard. My heart sinks, panic and desperation threaten. I spit and sputter and cry out to God, once again, asking to be pulled from the depths of despondency.

And He does. He always does. He reminds me He understands my mother’s heart. He assures me He is there to bring me through. And He keeps His promises. When the wave subsides I rise again and get back to the good in life, looking on the bright side with a completely full, instead of half empty cup, counting my blessings instead of my lack.

Asa won’t have cousins here it’s true, but he will have grandparents who love him. And because he has Uncle Jon in his life he will grow, as did his father, to be kinder, gentler, more compassionate and more accepting of other’s differences. Our grandson will be shaped and influenced by the unique dynamic of our family in ways others cannot offer.

Each of us have opportunities to dwell on the can’t, the won’t and the never. Yours are probably different than mine but we all have them. It’s human to be pulled under the waves of despair at times but it’s NEVER okay to stay there.  Drowning is certainly an option, but not a good one.

Ecclesiastes 3:1, says there’s a season for everything, so we do our grieving, kicking and flailing, then grasp the hand God extends beneath the turbulent waters of living, resurface, breathe and move on.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you..” Isaiah 43:1-2.

Here’s one ‘never’ I can rejoice in. There’s never a need to drown in despair! My God possesses perfect life guarding skills. He will always carry me back to solid ground.

 

Psalm 40:2 “He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.”

Psalm 42:11 “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1 “For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven..”

Parent Guilt

I rarely remember my dreams, but the one I have of my son, Jon, is always the same. He is lost.

He might be any age and in different surroundings but he is always lost. And I am always looking for him. And I can never find him. And no one around me cares enough to help me look.

I hate this dream. I hate the panic and the helplessness of it. I hate that after thirty six years I still have it.

I’ve come to believe this dream says a lot more about me than it does my son. Even though I have come to accept and love Jon for who he is, I think there is still a deep inside part of me that struggles with how this turned out. I had expectations. I wanted different. I wanted more.

chaos and peaceI saw the same guilt-panic in my son and daughter-in-law while visiting them recently. Their newborn son cries, a lot. Better described, he screams. He balls up his little fists, kicks his legs, flails his cute little arms, turns deep shades of red and wails himself inconsolable.

And they feel guilty. Why isn’t he happy? What are we doing wrong? This isn’t supposed to be like this.

Parenting is indescribably wonderful and can also be overwhelmingly scary. Kids don’t come with a step one, step two, step three, instruction manual like those for assembling a boxed set piece of furniture. Don’t we wish it was that easy?

Their manual is more like the one I recently received with a new small appliance I purchased, “Caution! Do not….,” a list of warnings; I had to figure out how to actually use the thing on my own. Is it this button or this one? Does it take a battery or not? Hmmm….

All parents deal with some level of guilt. It comes with the job. Most of us don’t know what we’re doing when we start and those who think they do soon find out it’s SO different when the kid is yours. It sounds good in the parenting book we read and the advice of a zillion experts we’ve heard, but now that you’re up to your eyebrows in parenting, it’s not that simple.

All of us feel, at some time in the process, “I don’t know what to do. I could have done more. I could have tried harder. I could have been better at that. I shouldn’t have said that. I should have realized. I am failing/have failed my child.”

Parent guilt can worry about the infant who won’t stop crying, worry about the teen who won’t listen anymore and worry about the adult who is making wrong choices.

Parent guilt can exhaust itself on extra activities, buys kids stuff they don’t need and avoid disciplining a child who is desperate for it.

Parent guilt sees failure rather than success. It sees the problem instead of solutions. It keeps our mind in a state of unrest rather than peace.

I believe parents of children with special needs battle the guilt demon more than most. I hear it in the Facebook posts, read it in their blogs and see it in their eyes. We never feel we do/did enough. Maybe the next treatment, medication, behavior plan, professional or therapy will make a difference. We are a driven, guilt-laden bunch, always looking for another help, another hope, and another solution.

The guilt twinge is real when I read about the person with Down syndrome who is getting married, or the one modeling on New York runways, or the one who owns a restaurant, or how about the guy with autism working for Microsoft? I have to remind myself that these are often the exception not the rule.

On our best day we have no guarantee how our kids will turn out but they basically need what all of us long for: love, acceptance, boundaries, food, shelter and most of all, God. The greatest thing we can ever do for our child is help them understand the God shaped hole inside them, only their Creator’s love can fill.

The other best thing we can do is say I’m sorry when we mess up and forgive ourselves for being less than perfect.

In spite of us, and maybe because of us, our children are quite resilient and they don’t need perfect parents. What they need is forgiving and forgiven parents.

Loose the guilt. It’s a parenting accessory neither we nor our kids need.

Love and forgiveness always win and inevitably chase the guilt demons far away.

 
1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love but perfect love drives out fear..”

Romans 8:1 “So now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus for the law of the Spirit of life has set you free..”

Psalm 127:3 “Children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.”

The Blame Game – My Special Education, Lesson #12

Jon Me IHOP 11-2015It’s no one’s fault,” the doctor in my hospital room said, the morning after our son was born. “These things just happen sometimes.”

Our newborn baby had Down syndrome and as the doctor began to explain the possible long term outcomes for him and our family, my heart raced in panic. My mind filled with a cloud of fear.

“NO! This can’t be happening! Not to my baby! Not to me! Not to us!”

Isn’t that how it goes when we’re faced with circumstances beyond our control? When our carefully thought out plans are suddenly ambushed?

We’re cruising through life, a few bumps and glitches here and there, but nothing we can’t handle. Then suddenly..Wham!!

We find, not just the proverbial rug pulled out from under us, but the floor too. The ground has just opened up and swallowed us whole!

And when we’re done free-falling, we have to find a reason. The ‘Why’ must be answered. It has to be SomeOne’s or SomeThing’s fault.

A friend sent me a card once that read, “Life is all about how you handle Plan B.”

Plan A is what you want. Plan B is what you get and I wasn’t dealing well at all, with what I got.

I fell into absolute despair trying to figure out what I did to cause my child’s disability. For months it filled every waking moment and many sleepless nights. Those pesky, “I should have” and “I shouldn’t have” scenarios, plagued my thoughts constantly.

There was plenty of help in the guilt department from well meaning folks. Everything from, “You should of eaten more potatoes while you were pregnant,” (no kidding) to “You must have bad sin hiding someplace in your life for God to punish you like this.”

Apparently there was a rash of babies born with Down syndrome at the time. In an attempt to find a common denominator (or something to blame) the Department of Health and Human Services for the State of New York called when Jon was about a month old to ask if they could survey me.

“Do you live near power lines? How long have you lived there?”
“Have you ever taken drugs? Did you take drugs while pregnant?”
“How often do you drink alcohol? Never? Occasionally? Once a week? Everyday?”
“What kind of make up do you wear? What brand of laundry detergent do you use?”

After an hour long barrage of questions, I hung up the phone more convinced than ever I was the cause of my son’s diagnosis.

When I finally gave up blaming myself I turned my angst on God. He could have prevented this but didn’t. It was His fault and I was mad. What kind of God did I believe in anyway? An overwhelmingly devastating question for me, since we were fresh out of Bible college and my husband was just beginning a lifetime of pastoral ministry.

Though it seemed artificial to be so angry at God when my husband was a pastor, and I, the pastor’s wife, anger was all that made sense at the time. It was the easiest life raft to cling to.

We see it in the daily news continuously. A crisis occurs, a shooting, tornado, flood, fire, mudslide, plane crash, death, violence or destruction. The talking heads start in, opinion-ating, analyzing, philosophizing and finally conclude with, “Something must be done to make sure this never happens again.”

Either people want to believe they have this much power, this much control, or placing blame is just a coping mechanism for the unanswerable and unexplained.

Sometimes there is someone to blame but more often not. Sometimes stuff just happens because we live on a fallen, broken and sin cursed planet.

Finding possible solutions is useful but the blame game often goes around in a monotonous circle until we are divided and estranged, from each other and from our only source of hope. God.

It seems God is blamed for most everything that goes wrong, by people who barely acknowledge His existence the rest of the time or bother to thank Him for any of the good and right in life.

In his book, Reframe. From the God We’ve Made to the God With Us, Brian Hardin said it this way: “We don’t usually start with God, but if we can’t find an answer we often end up there. God has become the cosmic trash heap for all humankind’s unexplainable suffering. He’s apparently got His hands in everything from tornadoes to human trafficking. From cancer to the reason the car wouldn’t start this morning. And this is the God we’re supposed to be in a relationship with?”

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s this: I can’t control everything that happens to me, to those I care about or to the world at large. And I don’t have to figure everything out, don’t have to know all the answers.

I only have to admit and own what I’m responsible for and trust my Heavenly Daddy has a greater plan and purpose than I can see.

He will bring justice in His time. He will make everything right in His way and acceptance of this truth, deep in my heart and soul, not just my head, brings peace in a frenzied world.

And for all my initial distress, despair, crying, sighing, shouting and blaming, my son turned out to be a blessing, a unique treasure God values and loves. Someone who is always teaching me the art of selflessness, drawing me closer to the heart of my Father.

I eventually laid it down, the miserable scrutinizing, finger pointing and fretting over who or what was at fault. It was exhausting and served no purpose. Blaming drained life from me and returned nothing.

The blame game was over and I lost.

But I’m no longer a sore looser, just a grateful one.

 
Job 40:1-5 The Lord said to Job: “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!” Then Job answered the Lord: “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer—twice, but I will say no more.”

Romans 9:20 “Who do you think you are to talk back to God like that? Can an object that was made say to its maker, “Why did you make me like this?”

John 16:33 “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Acceptance – My Special Education, Lesson #11

SanJuan from the fortI was packing for a week long cruise, the first real vacation Mike and I have had together in fifteen years. It was a celebration of forty years of marriage and a long overdue get away.

Our good friends had made time in their busy schedule to stay with Jon and our youngest son and his wife were joining us. Though we were excitedly looking forward to this time together, it was another family event Jon would miss and I was, again, contending with guilt attacks and assaults of sadness.

I sent my conflicting emotions to the back room of my mind and updated the long list of Jon care instructions, made sure his prescriptions were filled, printed out a medical authorization letter and remembered to leave his insurance and ID card and keys to all the places we keep Jon-locked.

After boarding the ship I knew bringing him would have been a disaster. Too many people, long lines, moments of hurrying then waiting, decks that didn’t go all the way through the length of the ship causing creative strategies to find our way around, debarking for ports and making spontaneous plans and last minute decisions for the day then hurrying back to the ship on time so it didn’t leave without us.

Transitions. Transitions. More transitions. Something Jon never does well.

There were other moments when we thought of him. “Jon would love this,” we said. The never ending buffet, the puffer fish shaped cup wheeled by on a drink cart, the magician at our dinner table doing coin tricks, the casino and it’s never ending spread of pricey “video games”, a giant floating hotel to wander through and him curiously and slowly poking in every corner, nook and cranny.

As we sat together at dinner each evening there was contentment in this extraordinary setting. Even our little grandson was along, growing inside the swelling womb of my daughter-in-law. But one of us was missing. My family was incomplete.

There are random moments in life that trigger twinges of loss, a mourning for what should, but never will be. We are forever fighting enemies of guilt, regret and loss and constantly rising to new levels of acceptance.

Acceptance is defined as an assent to the reality of a situation, recognizing a situation without attempting to protest or change it. It is derived from a Latin word meaning “to find rest in.”

Some things we can’t control or change, we can only accept, but it’s often difficult to find a place of rest in circumstances beyond us. Living out of the ‘what ifs’ and ‘if onlys’ is pure misery and leaning into the, “Are you kidding me? I’m supposed ‘to find rest in’ this!” is hard work, but peace can only come with relaxing into the ‘what is’.

Even when life is great, it’s still not perfect. On this cruise, we had to circumvent a hurricane and miss the most anticipated stop of the trip. While sailing on the far reaching edge of the storm, walking turned into a balancing act and we were woken in the night by rocking, rattling and clicking sounds and drawers, in our room, sliding open then thumping shut as soon as sleep came again. I was nearly attacked by a banana loving iguana on a Saint Thomas beach and every day was a bad hair day.

But it was easy to overlook these uncontrollable situations in the anticipation and excitement of another sunrise and new adventures.

Life sails on like a cruise. We board at birth and debark when taking our final breath. There are stops along the way, new places to explore, ports to experience. Some we appreciate, others not so much. Some we never wish to see again and others we hope for, but never experience when an unexpected storm changes the direction of our journey.

There are long days at sea, as we’re carried along, waiting, and trusting the Captain of our ship knows where we’re headed and how to safely reach our destination. With God at the helm we are offered guilt free, acceptance-based cruising and a place to find rest in the storm.

It’s the best way to travel and it’s never too late to book a lifelong trip.

So don’t wait. Start now.

Guaranteed, you’ll love the adventure.
“Jesus Savior, pilot me
Over life’s tempestuous sea
Unknown waves before me roll
Hiding rock and treacherous shoal
Chart and compass come from thee
Jesus, Savior, pilot me.” ~ Edward Hopper, 1871

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

“Come unto me..and I will give you rest.” ~Jesus, Matthew 11:28~

Do Unto Others

“Do unto others as they have done to you?”

There are many times in life, relationships and circumstances we secretly wish Jesus had actually said it that way and more often than we like to admit, we react as if He did (Matthew 7:12).

Here’s what I know:

People can disappointruler-684005_640
People can hurt
People can reject
People can ignore
People can ridicule
People can neglect
People can be selfish
People can be disloyal
People can be harsh
People can be intolerant
People can be heartless
People can be cruel
People can be…just fallen, broken, messed-up people.

So how do we respond when others become these ‘People Can’ folks?

What is our reaction when people don’t rise to the level of our expectations?

The human tendency is to recoil, withdraw, take out a mental permanent marker and cross them off our internal, ‘people-I-just-might-continue-to-like’ list.

I’ve said it and many times heard others say it, “They did/said ________. That’s it! I’m done with them!”

We wash our angry, offended hands of them and walk away; maybe not literally, but emotionally. We build walls, barriers and keep them distant; at the extreme fringe of our consciousness.

They are cast to the outside of our tiny circle and are greeted, if it all, with a stiff jaw, hard heart and an icy attitude.

Obviously, I’m not referring to abusive, immoral or illegal relationships. There may be people we need out of our life to vastly improve its’ outcome. Go ahead and pray for these as you walk away. But in the everyday interactions between co-workers, friends, family, spouse, fellow believers and the cashier in the checkout line, we can be so easily offended, so quick to write others off.

The truth is God did not write us off. He should have. We certainly deserve it.

He did this instead:

“For God so loved the world He gave…” John 3:16
“While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
“Father forgive them they don’t know what they’re doing.” Luke 23:34

And if God, my Creator, did this for us, we can do no less for others.

Jesus, our pattern and example of God walking and living on the earth said:

“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” Matthew 6:14
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” John 15:12
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35
“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you…” Matthew 5:44

In other words, “Do what I do. Treat others, not as they deserve, but in the same way I have treated you.”

He’s never turned his back on us, but gave it to the lash of scorners.

He’s never walked away from us, but stumbled up a dusty hill, carrying the same tree that took His life.

He’s never washed his hands of us, but allowed them to be pierced with nails of redemption.

He’s never crossed us off his list, but hung on a cross to prove He will never stop reaching for us.

This isn’t a fuzzy, mushy, lollipops and sunshine sorta’ love. It’s a, “This is hard and I don’t feel like it, but it’s the right thing to do,” kind of love (Luke 22:42).

It’s a love that puts relationship over being right. And a love, not for romantic, starry-eyed whimps, but for spirit led soldiers who will take up their cross and follow Him.

“So in EVERYTHING, do to others what you WOULD HAVE them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” Matthew 7:12.

The addition of a few extra words changes everything.

My prayer today, is they will also change me and you.

My Gnat Confession

scary-gnatCleaning Jon’s room makes me mad! I’m confessing, putting it out here for all to read.

Every time I clean his room I battle a huge bad attitude. One way to deal with my anger has been to give it a name, “The Landfill”, and to play worship music on my iPad as loudly as possible while cleaning.

The past few days we’ve been seeing little gnat things flying around the house and couldn’t figure out where they were coming from. I do a quick check in Jon’s room every other day or so, making sure nothing’s growing or moving that shouldn’t be and about once a week, do a more thorough clean and sheet change.

Yesterday, I decided it was “Landfill” cleaning day. Mike was home so he helped me with the vacuuming and I was sorting through Jon’s usual piles of stuff on the floor and in crates making sure everything was kosher, when I found it buried under a pile of stuffed animals, a personal size Rubbermaid cooler that he had taken from a cabinet in the laundry room.

I opened it to see what was inside and a fleet of gnats flew up in my face. After they lifted off, I noticed the bottom of the cooler was alive and moving with hundreds of little gnat larva. They were living off some sort of food science experiment growing in there.

Horrified, I screamed, slammed the top shut, grabbed it, ran to the front door and heaved the cooler as hard as I could into the yard. I slammed the front door closed and jumped around in the foyer for a few minutes, totally grossed out, itching, shaking and hollering, trying to get hallucinatory gnats off of me.

Once that subsided, incredible anger took its place. I stomped into the kitchen and yelled at Jon for two minutes straight while he stared at me like I’d just lost my mind then I went back in his room, still freaking out, and tried to tell Mike I’d found the source of our gnat invasion.

“I can’t hear anything you’re saying. You’ve got the music so loud it sounds like a Pentecostal church service in here. Turn it down so I can hear you.” Mike hollered over the music.

I yelled back, “Listening to that music is the only way I get through cleaning this room so you best be glad it’s playing. I’m so mad right now if that music shuts off I’m gonna’ smack someone, and hard!”

We scrubbed the daylights out of Jon’s room for the next hour. I reluctantly searched every nook, cranny, box, crate, bag and pile in there and in his bathroom. I threw every thread of bedding and fabric I could find in the washing machine and got Jon in the shower. He even let me wash his hair, possible penance for what he’d just put me through, though I’ll never know for sure.

A few hours later, after I was sure everything was clean and back in order, I finally calmed down.

Last night I prayed. Though yesterday’s clean was more than unusual, I asked God to show me why I become so angry every time I clean Jon’s room.  God knows my heart better than I, and I want to understand what is triggering this anger inside of me.

The answer came in my prayer as I poured my heart out before my Heavenly Daddy.

“He’s thirty five, I shouldn’t have to still clean his room and it’s not fair that I do. We should be empty nesters now and only cleaning kid messes after grandchildren visit.”

As much as I love my son, cleaning his room is evidence that this didn’t turn out as I’d hoped and hope disappointed triggers many reactions and emotions. We often don’t recognize their source.

Like we didn’t know where the gnats were coming from, I didn’t know where my anger was coming from until I searched, until I asked.

Now that I know, God and I can start working on it together; one more area where grace can replace reaction, where a servant heart can replace selfishness.

Recognizing my shortcoming is the first step. Asking God to help me change is the second. He loves me too much to leave me as I am, yet He is gentle enough to expose and change my selfish heart one layer at a time, even if it takes a plague of gnats to motivate me.

Confession is good so I pray I’ll soon have a heart of joy and a song of praise at all times, even in “The Landfill”.

But. Please. Lord. (Shivverrrr) minus all creepy, crawly, cringy, critter things!

Psalm 139:23-24 “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Ephesians 4:26 “Be angry and sin not, don’t let the sun go down on your wrath or give place to the devil.”

James 5:16 “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed.”

Get Over it! My Special Education, Lesson #10

car-seat-belt-injury-orlando-flI drove halfway up the driveway before noticing Jon didn’t have his seat belt on, so I stopped the car and put it in park.

“Please put your seat belt on, Jon.”

He glared at the floor and snarled, “Leave me alone!”

“You want to be left alone? Ok then.”

I put the car in reverse and backed it up to the garage, where we’d just come from.

“You want to be left alone? Then get out of the car right now and go back in the house.”

I stared at him. He stared at the floor. We sat in silence for a minute.

“You either get your seat belt on and loose the attitude or get out of this car. I’m going out to have a nice time and I don’t need any grumpys coming along to wreck it.” I said firmly.

The scowl on my son’s face relaxed and he reached for the seat belt and slowly clicked it in place. I thanked him and off we went.

On the way to our destination, I decided to remind him why seat belts are not an option. I began to explain in simple language I knew he understood, that wearing one is the law and how they save lives in case of an accident.

As I was talking he reached out and turned the radio volume up.

“So you don’t want to hear what you need to know, is that it, Jon?” I reached over and turned the radio down. “You don’t want me to talk? Well, I won’t quit talking ‘till I’m dead. So you might as well get used to it.”

He reached over to turn the radio back up but not before I heard him mutter, “Hope that hurries up.”

I desperately tried not to laugh. Something so hurtful can be hilarious coming from Jon. He doesn’t talk much but he sure doesn’t pussy foot around about how he feels. At thirty five, when confronted with his inappropriate behavior, he’s often like a moody, bad attitude teenager who forgot to grow up.

I glanced at him as I drove and answered lightly, “Because you just said that, God is now going to make sure I live forever.”

A barely-there smile crossed his lips and he turned to look out the window so I wouldn’t see it.

This is what I know.

Sometimes, people I care about say words that are less than loving.

Get over it!

Sometimes, people I love are hurtful.

Get over it!

Sometimes those I try to help, lash back.

Get over it!

Sometimes those I most want love, acceptance and approval from, disappoint.

Get over it!

If Jesus, who was nailed to a tree, and in the excruciating pain and suffering of his final breath could declare, “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing,” for those who hung Him there, I have no right to hold an offense against those who do less to me.

I’m learning from my Savior and my son how to get over it!

Getting over offense is a choice we constantly make. Everyday and in all situations.

Will I hold on to the hurt and add it to my growing list of offenses?

Will I choose bitterness and bondage or forgiveness and freedom?

Will I choose to stop taking every word, action and reaction personally?

Will I choose to stop being overly sensitive.

Will I choose to let go?

When I pray for strength I don’t have, God’s grace meets me at the point of my choice. I then see others through His eyes and with His heart.

Broken.

Bruised.

Damaged.

Valuable.

Forgiven.

Deserving of love.

Worthy of redemption.

Just like me.

So. Get. Over. It!

“The first to apologize is the bravest. The first to forgive is the strongest. The first to forget is the happiest.” ~Unknown~

Matthew 18:21 Peter came up to the Lord and asked, “How many times should I forgive someone who does something wrong to me? Is seven times enough?”22 Jesus answered: Not just seven times, but seventy-seven times!

Colossians 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Ephesians 4:31-32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.