Monthly Archives: December 2012

Failed and Loved

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I had plans for today.  There is so much to do this week.  It’s our first Christmas at home as a family.  We are usually with my in-laws but this year they are coming to us.  It’s my first opportunity to create the Christmas of my heart.  It’s the one holiday that Australia and the US truly share.  The one chance each year I get to feel connected to my roots and my home.  This Christmas is very, very important to me.  I have so much to do to get ready.

Our 2-year-old is sick.  He was puking over the weekend and is still not his normal self.  Today he was only happy if I was holding him.  And so for hours I sat holding him.  One load of laundry sat finished in the dryer and another sat finished in the washer.  A double batch of GF DF SF muffins cooked in the oven too long.  A half-done shuffle day remained piled high in the bedrooms.

I know.  Sitting with my kid is more important than the stuff that needed to get done.  I know.  And I loved sitting with him.  I loved that it was my arms that gave him peace.  It was so relaxing to forget everything and be.

I smiled at a thought: For a mother’s arms and lap to always be ready for her children… she should be sitting on a couch at all times.  Hmmm.  I would make a fantastic lady of leisure.

The shift hand-off happened at 6.15pm.  He gets home from work and I leave for worship practice.  His question reminded me of something else that had been sitting unfinished all day, “Do you have a plan for dinner?”

We had been given a beautiful piece of salmon.  I had pulled it out of the freezer to thaw.  It had been sitting in the sink since noon.  It was now room temperature.  Ruined.

I hate waste.  I especially hate waste that is due to someone’s mistake or stupidity.  That salmon was such a rare treat and I had wasted it.   Had I?  Was it wasted?  I asked him if it was still usable.  He didn’t help me.  He answered my question with a question.  And in a moment I was totally overwhelmed.

Everything closed in on me.  All the things I wanted to get done for Christmas.  All the things that needed to get done for our guests to be here.  All the things that didn’t get done today.  And I lost it.  I raised my voice in frustration.  He repeated his question.  And I did something we never do: I walked away.  I had to.  I was so angry at myself.  And I had to get ready to leave.

Our 4-year-old quietly followed me upstairs to the bathroom.  She could tell something wasn’t right.  My husband is a gentle and caring man.  We rarely have conflict like this.  I ruined the fish AND I created a conflict that affected our kids.  I was even more angry at myself.

On my way out the door I tried one more time to get my emotions steady and communicate with him.  One kid was crying to be picked up.  The other nagging about dinner.  For the second time, I just had to walk away.  And off to worship practice I went.  With a rain cloud above my head and deep disappointment in my heart.

I got home at 8.45pm.  Shift hand-off number two.  He was going to church to help set up stage lighting for Christmas services.

He let me try to apologize and ramble about worship practice and talk about my Christmas preparation stresses.  He generously and patiently let me verbally process.  Then he told me he’d made GF DF SF SF sausage cornbread for dinner for us and walked out the door.  The door swung back open, he leaned back inside and smiled, “I love you.”  My heart melted.

I’m eating this special meal and feeling so loved.  He made it with me in mind.  He could have just made himself something but he went out of his way to provide for me.  He could have been angry about the fish too but he let it go.  His love and care heals my anger about the fish.  His grace and forgiveness heals my anger toward myself.  I’m so grateful for my man who chooses to love me even when I’m unlovely. 

I can’t help but think about the Christmas message:  God’s love and care and grace and forgiveness poured out for me.  I fail and ruin life everyday but He continually loves me.  I’m so grateful for Yahweh who chooses to love me even when I’m unlovely.

“God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” (Romans 5:8)
” Let them come back to God, who is merciful, come back to our God, who is lavish with forgiveness.” (Isaiah 55:7b)

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Oh Paper Towels

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IMG_2215Sometimes you just need a paper towel.  Nothing else will do.

We use cloth tea towels for cleaning.  We use tea towels for pretty much everything a paper towel is used for.  But every now and again, only a disposable paper towel will do.

Environmentally but mostly budgetarily, paper towels are not part of our regular shopping list.  Every now and again we splurge and get some.  For the most part I’m fine if we don’t have them.  Except for those special situations when only a paper towel will do.

This week we really needed a paper towel.  I don’t even remember why.  But I do remember that we were bemoaning our lack of glorious disposable paper towels.

It’s like those scratchy white sheets represent all the things I’d “like” to have but don’t.  They stir up my discontent.  They embody my coveting of things.

And so after we bemoaned our lack of paper towels, I bemoaned by bad attitude.  I chastised myself for not being content.  I reminded myself that the meaning of life is not based on things.

_ _ _

On Saturday night I walked past “a moment” instead of walking into it.  There was a girl laying on the floor by an elevator while her friend stood by.  I should have stopped and helped but instead I walked by.  That is so not me.  I blew it.  I am a human that reaches out and connects with other humans.  I am not okay with walking by when I can offer help to another human.  I fell asleep with deep regret.  I woke up still wishing I could rewind time.

On Sunday morning our pastor taught from the book of Ruth about the power of doing right in “moments” we walk into.

Fair to say, the Holy Spirit has my attention!  I feel like I’ve been warned and primed:  Watch for the moments that are coming.  Be ready to walk into them!

This morning I felt to give something valuable away.  We had been given a grocery gift card which I was very excited to use for Christmas.  But this morning I felt to give it to someone I barely know.  An employee at my doctor’s office.  I just felt moved to give it.  So I did.  I hope they’re not offended.  I hope it is a beautiful blessing.  I hope I heard from God.

_ _ _

Blessing upon blessing arrived on our doorstep today.  Friends. Friend bearing gifts.

One brought the gift of babysitting while I was at my weekly IV treatment.  Another brought an abundance of gifts for our kids for Christmas.  And another brought gifts of coconut oil, homemade turkey soup, kid birthday presents, and… paper towels. PAPER TOWELS!

Nobody knows that paper towels are a big deal to me.

She was quite hesitant, “I have something in my car. I feel like God told me to get it for you. But I don’t know why… I don’t know why you’d need these given to you… I… (sigh)… It’s paper towels.”

Can you believe it?!  I think I laughed out loud!

When I told her that I really did need paper towels, she got misty-eyed.   She had heard from God.

Paper towels.  A silly reminder that our Father Yahweh knows my heart of hearts and loves me despite who I am and because of who I am.  I am embarrassed and humbled.

Paper towels.  A journey of hearing God and being faithful to obey His leading.  Clearly she is being trained and equipped by the Holy Spirit!  I am inspired and encouraged.

Paper towels.  The best Christmas gift ever.

_ _ _

I am so grateful for the full-circle lesson God brought me through today.  I’m sure today is not the end of this lesson.  I’m going to have to choose to quieten my mind and heart.  To listen for Him.  And choose to say yes and obey.  He has big plans to touch people’s lives.  Our choice is whether or not to be part of it.

And then I heard the voice of the Master: “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” I spoke up, “I’ll go. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8)
I, Paul, have been sent on special assignment by Christ as part of God’s master plan. (Colossians 1:1)

Draw Near

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Sadness grips my heart and grief wraps like a too-heavy blanket.

A shooter in america took the lives of children and adults.

A friend’s baby was still-born.

A mother of small children lost her fight to cancer.

Here I am, once again, forced to stare at the fragility of life and the shortness of our years.

The kids are [supposed to be] napping.  I hear them each chirping away.  Playing pretend games.  Wishing for their rest-times to be done.  Their little lives are so precious.

I made a cup of coffee but can’t bring myself to drink.  Why should I have my daily comfort of coffee when others are in so much pain?

I am staring at the Christmas tree.  The little white lights seem so terribly small on the tree.  I want them to be bright and consuming.  I want them to overpower the shadows of the branches.

I want the Light to conquer all darkness.

I want only joyful days for all the people I know and love.

But, instead we are faced with days of desperation.  We walk through valley of the shadow of death.  And we walk through the valley of death itself.

I cannot explain why, but sitting here with this sadness makes me love Yahweh even more.

I have walked through shadows.  I have walked as dead through the motions of life when all hope was drained away.  I have felt the strong talons of darkness rip into my life and the lives of my loved ones.

And in those darkest days, Yahweh was with me.  The Holy Spirit was my oxygen: empowering my strength and clearing my mind.  The Word, Emmanuel, was my armor: True and strong for the battle.  The Father was my comfort and courage: His love urging me on.  I am not happy about it… but the darkest days really are my deepest days with Him.

In no way do I presume to know what other people are going through today.  I cannot imagine what the parents of those school children are feeling right now.  I cannot imagine the days of life that follow after losing a baby at birth.

I can only walk the path I am on.  And today, on my path, I am touched by the losses around me.  I hold this coffee.  I listen to my kids.  I stare at the tree.

And for me, on my path, this sadness draws me near to Him.  I throw my life into His arms again.  My tears soaking into His embrace.  Each second, each feeling, each tear is precious to Him.  Nothing escapes His notice.

I think about my dark days and I remember Him there. The comfort of His embrace is my hope.

Oh Yahweh, humanity is a mess.  Oh how we need You.  Comfort us God.  May we see the depth of your Love and Goodness amidst these days of terrible loss.

You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. (Psalm 56:8 NLT)

Remember: Something Against You

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I tend to believe that I have offended most people. Part of it is because I know that, as a verbal processor and a “blunt” Australian, I can say things in a non-refined and culturally inappropriate way. And part of it is because, in the culture of this part of America, people seem to be nice to your face even if they are upset in their hearts. Many Americans tell me they’ve always wanted to go to Australia. I always encourage them to go but I wonder, how do Americans cope with the brutally honest Australian culture?! I mean, I barely survived the brutally honest Australian culture and I was born and raised in it! Ha.

There are a quite a few bold Americans who have confronted me directly about situations or conversations. Unfortunately, the American version of “direct” and “blunt” is still full of subtext and so I still miss a lot of what is really being said. I’m not sure if subtext is not a part of Australian communication or not a part of Australian childhood communication. But either way, subtext is not in my communication tool box. I am at a loss when people use words with many layers of meanings and subtext. Sometimes I get a sense there is emotional content but I have no ability to work it out! The phrase “lost in translation” comes to mind. But we’re all speaking English.

Anyway, that’s a big part of why I worry that I’ve offended people. I’m offensive + I can’t tell if you’re offended = Assume I’ve offended everyone.

“You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER ‘ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court ; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court ; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go ; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. Matthew 5:21-24 (NASB)

This verse has always raised questions for me. What does this look like practically in our context? How can I know if someone has something against me? I feel like every person I talk to every day could have something against me. Where do I even begin to work on reconciliation?

We talked about this passage at a Bible Study group today and it really stirred my heart again to find a way to practically apply it in my life.

Here’s what jumped out at me today: the phrase, “remember that your brother has something against you,” uses the word “remember.” Not “guess,” not “sense,” not “wonder if.”

“Remember” (Greek: Mimnesko) means to remind, recall, return to one’s mind.

As I read the passage today I saw something new. There’s a tone to the wording that makes me think this is referring to unresolved conflict, an impasse of unforgiveness, or an ongoing issue of anger that both parties are aware of. It makes me see a joint-ownership in the problem. Like, the issue had been discussed (or yelled about) but it had not been resolved.

I have been so worried about all the people I *think* I could have offended every day, that I’ve not focused on the deeper issue here. All of us have old burnt bridges and unresolved issues that have been put aside at some point. Maybe it’s because it’s too painful to continue discussing. Maybe it’s because the conflict had been too raw and time was needed before reconciliation could happen. In Matthew 5, Jesus is inspiring us to allow the altar of God to be a place where His Spirit will remind us of things that now need to be resolved. I cannot pursue reconciliation with every person I *guess* could be offended. What a fruitless, fearful life that is. But I can be a tender, responsive listener to the Holy Spirit and ask Him daily for the names of people I need to connect or reconnect with.

This “remember” challenge feels way more fruitful than trying to deal with my fears of offending every human every day. When I bring my offering to the altar… my heart, my time, my prayer, my literal offering, my proverbial offering… will I allow myself to be reminded by God’s Spirit? And will I be courageous to go after the reconciliation?

Praying in a new way tonight. Praying to hear God’s reminders and pursue His timing.

Oh The Stains

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IMG_2060The carpets in our apartment are covered in stains.  Black spots on cream-colored carpet.

Last night, as water dripped from the table to the carpet, my friend said, “It’s only water. Not a big deal.”

Actually it is a bigger deal than she realized.  When any liquid, even just water, gets on the carpet, it dries with a black stain.  There is something bad underneath the old carpet.  The cleaning company says the only way to fix it is for everything to be pulled up.  The source of the problem could be the pad or it could be the sub-floor.  But something beneath the carpet is bad.

Even when we get a professional clean with commerical-strength equipment, the carpet dries with long stain streaks.  Any liquid causes grossness to be drawn up to the surface.

Makes me think of the warning about Mogwai in “Gremlins.”  Never get it wet.

It’s to the point now that there is zero satisfaction when I vacuum.  You can’t tell the difference between not-vacuumed and vacuumed.  The carpet is so gross.  I force myself to vacuum it but I have to say, I barely care anymore.  No love lost between us.  The carpet is an annoyance that I would get rid of in a heartbeat if I had the power to do so.

Actually, that’s not totally true.  It’s not the carpet that I’m mad about.  It’s the grossness beneath.  I really think the carpet could be saved if it had a new subfloor and pad.

Poor carpet.  I’m sorry about the grossness you are living with.

_ _ _

Sometimes I feel like that carpet.  Something touches me… a comment, a situation, an experience… that should be no big deal.  But it ends up being a big deal because of old things that lurk deep in my heart.  And instead of water-off-a-ducks-back, I become a spotty, stained carpet.

Sometimes I feel like there is no point in even trying to vacuum myself.  There’s nothing that can be done to fix what is visible.  The issue is deep.

This is why I am a lover of God’s Word and why I find such value in daily Bible reading.  God’s Word changes the things I cannot reach.  The living Bible reaches deep into my subfloor and heals the grossness.

This is not out of obligation.  This is not out of a works-mentality.  This is out of a desire to be whole and free and a blessing to my family and community.  I know God loves me as I am, but staying as I am would mean never getting to experience the beauty and joy of all that God has for me.

I am aware of many of my streaks and stains.  But there are many other problems that I don’t know about.  Poor carpet.  Poor me.  Affected by the things that are so deep.  An emotional bomb triggered by things that shouldn’t be a big deal.

If there is one thing in life that is worth my full energy and commitment… it is being a devourer of God’s Word.

May I always hunger for the Bible’s life-giving words.  May it be more vital to me than everything else… including coffee. 😉

May the carpet of my life be a reflection of His grace and healing and beauty.  May the stains and problems become less and less as He transforms me with His Love.

We’re ending 2012… heading into a new year.  May each year of my life be full of transformation and healing.

[Christ] gave up his life for [the Church] to make her holy and clean, washed by baptism and God’s Word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault.  Ephesians 5:25b-27