Archive for June, 2012

YOU CAN HELP!   PLEASE! See photo credit/info  – Bottom of Page

Take these shoes
Click clacking down some dead end street
Take these shoes
And make them fit
Take this shirt
Polyester white trash made in nowhere
Take this shirt
And make it clean, clean
Take this soul
Stranded in some skin and bones
Take this soul
And make it sing (Yahweh – U2)

The thing is, I’ve got this rash thing going on.  It’s my neck.  It keeps itching!

See, I live my life with too much to do in one day.  I run around like a multi-tasker on steroids.  I work.  I’m a mom of three, one little, two grown but who still need me for advice, wisdom, and favors, definitely lots of favors.  I’m sandwiched between the needs of our young and adult children, aging parents, and our needs.  Our aging home needs more attention and money than we have to give.    I want to write a book.  I need to organize my time better.  There isn’t enough time to even find the time to organize!

Our days melt into one another as work, errands, paperwork, tasks, email, and chores at home get accomplished.  Pay the bills, throw another load of clothes in the wash.  Did you remember to buy toilet paper?   Take the kids for their six month check up at the dentist?  Get the tires rotated?   Get the kids signed up for camp?  Did you remember to sit down for five minutes and play?  All we ever do is do things, but are we accomplishing anything?

At the end of most days, the result of all the busyness seems to add up to futility.  The laundry isn’t finished.  The windows are  still filthy.  The siding really needs painting.   The car still needs tires, and probably a new transmission.    The toilet paper was forgotten, and there aren’t even any paper towels as a backup.    The kids are hungry and you didn’t have time after work to go to the store.  All the bills and paperwork sit like a tornado of terror waiting to suck up and swirl all your precious time away.

Even though the whole day was spent working at something, not much seems to have been accomplished.  I constantly think about what I need to do and all that I long to do, knowing I have insufficient time for neither.   That’s when my neck starts to itch.

Perhaps it’s something else that’s actually gnawing at my neck.    I once heard that pain or discomfort is God’s way of using a megaphone to get our attention.   See, I’m starting to get this feeling that’s rising up inside of me, that I am called to do less, at least to do less here, and be more out there, out in the world.  I think I know what it is.

Itchy Faith

Yes, I think my faith is starting to itch me a little bit.  It’s starting to feel like a thorn under my skin, a rash that won’t go away.   Because as a Christian, when I accepted Christ, I learned I was saved by Christ’s sacrifice by nothing I did, but because of his love for me.  But His grace is so much more extravagant than that.  It’s more than just, “thanks Bro!  Now I’m heaven-bound, and I really appreciate it!  I’ll really try hard to readjust my cynical attitude from time to time.   Again, I sincerely appreciate you keeping me from the flames!”

See, I’m itching to do more out there, to be more of what I think God is calling me to be.  I read the bible, but not nearly often enough.  And I certainly pray about life’s problems, all the time in fact.   I like to think of myself as one of “God’s complainer-in-chief.”

Yet, I feel like there’s a little bug crawling in my ear, and I  can’t get it out, simply by scratching it.  It’s almost as if a voice is whispering, “Yeah, and so what are YOU going to do about it.  I already put in you the answers.  I gave you the cure; are you going to USE it?”

 See I don’t like this part of my faith.  It makes me itch.  Because I know, just like other medications, it may make me or take me to this place:  UNCOMFORTABLE.    I know if I commit to feeding the hungry on a regular basis, my heart is going to hurt, and race.  It probably will depress me.  If I start getting to know the people Jesus healed then I’m going have to listen more and talk less.   Rescue requires involvement.

I am starting to think if I have eyes, ears, hands, and feet that work reasonably well, he’s probably called me to use them.  And that is so scary!

I freeze up sometimes when asked about my beliefs, or about the bible because  I don’t want to offend others or “botch” God’s word.  I avoid getting involved because it means I might have to commit time or energy.  We like to delude ourselves by hoping someone else will make a difference in the world.   So I lie to myself, and say I wouldn’t be good at it, or I don’t have carpentry skills, or I’ve just got too much going on.

Well!   We all have too much going on.  Yet while I go to bed at night in a comfortable king-sized bed in an air-conditioned house and mentally say my prayers, sometimes I close my eyes and I see continent sized groups of people that sleep on a dirt floor, or a stale mattress.  I see flies, so many flies!   When I sit at my desk inundated with mountains of paperwork, all requiring communication or financial responses, I feel swamped.  Then I remember, there is a child in a tattered dirty shirt and bare calloused feet somewhere in the world trying to till the soil of dry dirt, and ”hope for rain” as the only source of water.

I’m annoyed when I take my child to the pediatrician’s office and on the way, realize I’m nearly out of gas, and if I stop we’ll be late.  Then this uninvited vision of a feverish child swollen with malaria with half-mast eyes, and crying for her mother who no longer exists floats to the surface of my consciousness.  Who are you to complain about all the abundance I’ve given you? This too, creeps into my thought process.    I shoe away the fly in the car that’s bothering my soul.

I turn on the ipod in my air-conditioned van.  U2’s “Yahweh” is playing.  I love this song.  I’m bothered by this song.  Like other songs of theirs, am I going to just listen to another groovy tune, get to my destination, and turn it off?  Or am I going to respond to it?

……Take these hands
Teach them what to carry
Take these hands
Don’t make a fist, no
Take this mouth
So quick to criticize
Take this mouth
Give it a kiss (Yahweh – U2)

Yes, I’ve had this rash for a good while now.  I’ve gone from complaining often to complaining less and being grateful more.  But God hasn’t come down from heaven and said, “Good job daughter, I’m pleased with you. You finally got it.”   No, it’s more like this itchy thought that keeps rising, “You haven’t even climbed the first step yet.  Keep going.”

I don’t know where this will lead.   I’m scared.  How will He have me serve?  Write about ways to serve or actually serving?   Will he put me out there in the battlefield where people are actually hurting, crying, starving, or dying?  I don’t know.  I don’t know if or where I’ll be going or when.    I don’t have a field manual.    I just simply feel something is changing in me and it itches me in such a way I personally can’t live the way I used to.

Words like social justice and compassion and service keep rising up despite my political beliefs, despite my attempts to push them back down.  Oh no, I’m starting to feel a bit like Bono.  I have a feeling, lack of fame won’t give me immunity, any more than an abundance of it excludes him.   I’m pretty sure God is calling all of us to view our place and our purpose in the world, whether we have a platform reaching millions or a platform reaching only One. 

  Be warned.  If you have a tender heart, this rash is contagious.  It will make you uncomfortable.  The question is what are you going to do about it?

Take this heart
And make it brave

 Yahweh – U2

To hear this song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jyzPtjIP2eo

When searching for the perfect photo for this article, my first “hit” stumbled upon this;  it is a concrete and specific way you can help.  Compassion International is a fantastic organization that is one of the world’s most efficient charities in terms of applying the greatest percentage of money directly to those in need.   Our family has sponsored a child since 2003.  I will be blogging about this in the future!

Please prayerfully consider sponsoring, or even a one time donation to Compassion International!

http://ihrg.org/10-ways-to-choose-which-child-to-sponsor

Compassion International:  http://www.compassion.com

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It’s a beautiful day. Don’t let it get away–Beautiful Day–U2

I’ve had the pleasure of watching both my son and my daughter graduate from high school.  So last night,at dinner, I asked them, my husband, and six year old son a profound question. With the exception of my youngest, who just finished kindergarten, the rest of us whether college educated or self-taught have certainly been at least a part time student at The School of Hard Knocks, a.k.a.  The Real World.    So I asked them this question, with a disclaimer that there would be a “no wrong answer” response from me.  I asked:

       Once you graduate, what is the key to happiness, or living a good life?

 I already had a mental outline prepared with six things I wanted to elaborate on, but let’s start with my family’s advice first:

My husband, father of three, said, “Get a boat.” I asked “What’s the best part of having a boat?”  He replied, “All of it.  Working on it.  Driving it.  Casting your reel off of it.  Skiing behind it.  If it’s a boat; it’s all good”

My oldest son, 24, said, “Sleeping!”  “Elaborate, please!” I replied.   In fewer than 25 words, he somehow conveyed to me, that when you are sleeping, you aren’t stressing, working, or in any number of ways, participating in life’s more difficult moments.  Ah, at such a tender age, he has found the antidote that somewhat cures the stresses of full time work.

My confident and ambitious daughter in college said, “Take responsibility for your life!”    She is strong-willed, independent, and needed no follow up questions from me.

My six year old, yelled out “Cake!!  Yummy, yummy cake!  And lots of it!” as he licked his lips!   He said this because my daughter had just baked a birthday cake for a friend, and he successfully convinced her to let him tag along and enjoy some delicious red velvet cake with her and her friend.  I love this age; he lives totally in the now.  That’s exactly where he found his answer.

I glanced out the door to my three cats who were basking in the setting sun’s light.  Their posture alone conveyed the modus operandi they exist out of:   Don’t worry; be happy!  Bask in the sun’s light as often as possible!

In less than 60 seconds, my family already nailed the points I already had planned to tell you.  I think it’s because these are universal truths.   In case you forget the wisdom from your baccalaureate address, by all means print this, and refer to as needed!

1.      Don’t Miss Your Boat!  Find Something You Love and Work Towards it Every Day 

Find the “boat” of your dreams and work towards it.  It won’t be easy; it requires a ton of work to earn it or build it yourself.  Your dreams and goals are the same way.  It takes years to hone your craft, or master your skills.  Whether you go to college or not, you are responsible for your learning!    But once you earn or build your dreamboat, don’t be afraid to occasionally  step out of it.  You’re going to have to leave your comfort zone, to truly go where you want to go in life.    There will be storms in life, but you can’t avoid navigating the seas, when there are big fish to catch and destinations to reach.  Sail on!

2.   There’s No Such Thing As “You Can’t Teach An Old Dog New Tricks”

If you can type reasonably well, are adept at using Google and/or Facebook, then you are already equipped in the art of self-education.  Always keep learning; but know how  to learn independently.  Respect your teachers, but don’t assume you can’t learn what they know without them.  You can.  Supplement your education by reading everything and finding ways to partake in your passions.  You can waste excess hours on social networking sites, or you use your computer as a tool to supplement your education, and the social network as a way to make connections that will increase your opportunities to connect to your passions.  Make it a point to learn something new every day!  Also, when you hear something as fact, don’t assume that it is, especially in the media.  Research it yourself, and find out if it’s true.

3.   Take Responsibility for Your Life.  Don’t blame others, ever, for your choices.  Don’t blame others for their success and your perceived lack of it.  Make your own luck and create your own destiny in such a way, that you’ll inspire others.  Three parts to this are key:

A. Do not let others define you.  When you get to the point, you are not a “people-pleaser”  and don’t require others to hold you in high regard, but can look squarely in the mirror and see a person of integrity, who is trying their hardest, and continues to take the hard steps to reach your goals, you will be successful.  You define your success, not others.  This also means whether you’re a NASA engineer, a stay at home parent,  an artist, or a CEO on Wall Street, you get to pick what success means to you!

B.  Refuse victimhood.    Life is not fair, but you should have mastered that around kindergarten.  Bullies exist.  There’s always someone who has more.  Somebody gets to the top because they had a leg up.  So what?!   You’re taking the honorable route and anything worth having takes time.  But always, refuse to be a victim.  You have the capacity to learn and the capacity to rise above, because that is an internal character trait, not an outward circumstance beyond your control, such as where you come from, or what your financial, educational, or any other status is currently.

C. Make good choices.  Don’t drink and drive, but think and thrive.  As an adult, you are pretty much free to do what you want, legally or even illegally, but only you can determine if the consequences are worth it.  Take risks in the things that will increase your success, not immature or dangerous choices that will diminish it or harm others.

4. Rest! 

With all the learning you’re going to be pouring into that noggin, it’s important to find time to play, relax, and of course rest.  It’s hard in a 24/7 driven world, but find ways to get the rest your body requires.  Everybody is different, but know your optimal number of hours of rest needed and find a way to get it.   Spice up your rest life, and get a hammock!   There’s nothing like a good view, before shutting one’s eyes!

5.  Get plenty of SON light!

Depend not only on yourself.  Seek help from others.  Also, call upon the higher power and the higher law of Grace, given freely by Jesus Christ, to power you not only on difficult days, but on the good ones as well.  Which brings me to my young son’s summary of all the above wisdom:

 6.  Savor sweetness!

Eat dessert first sometimes and forget about the calorie count!    Taste all the good things in life, not just food, but everywhere you look.  Look at life, as though you owned the world’s most expensive camera.  WOW!  What beauty, what amazing grandeur God has put before you; truly a panoramic banquet table awaits you each day.  Allow the things that are good to frame your daily perspective.  Refuse negativity as influence and refuse to be a negative person.  You’ll complain less, if you learn to get over things quickly and move on.

Equally important, where there is injustice, oppression, suffering, hunger, loneliness, sadness, isolation, imprisonment, cruelty, and all the unfair things of this world, will you personally commit to finding a role to play in some of the solution?  Never underestimate the power of one.  You have no idea how big your influence may play a role in those you come in contact with, and when you meet someone who falls in one of the above mentioned categories, will you choose to be involved and lend a helping hand, yourself or an encouraging word, a salve of sweetness?  Value and incorporate kindness, goodness, honesty, and sweetness into your character.

Conclusion:

You could read these sentences and view them in two possible ways:  A whole bunch of clichés, or a whole bunch of truths.  Well, sometimes clichés are true.   Anybody can say it, but do you have what it takes to live it?  I think you do.  You wouldn’t have read it to the end, if you didn’t think you have what it takes.  Lastly, know there will days when you will blow it or feel like a failure in some regard.  Learn from it, attempt to repair it if necessary, and by all means, move on!  Don’t let emotions or feelings dictate your reality, let your positivity, passions, and good choices move you forward from your mistakes.

Whether military service, college, tech school, volunteer service or employment is your next step in life, go forward with boldness, encouragement, and belief in yourself, that you are already more than capable.  Whatever your path, commit to living your life out loud, laughing often, learning always, lying never, and loving deeply.  Do these things and you will truly live.  When you live intentionally, you will find your success and happiness.   Choose to be happy.  Choose to exceed your definition of success.  Choose life, always!

Congratulations Class of 2012!!

Photo by Liz Gray

Go and wake up your luck.  Persian Saying

        Life is so beautiful.   I should easily be able to think of at least a thousand memories from the 17, 184* days I’ve lived so far,  but for sake of the preciousness of your life, allow me to account for just one day.

Yesterday was such a very happy day.  I woke up;  as is my custom, God willing, and that right there is something major to be grateful for.  This was followed by a series of multiple media message checking from cell phone, to email, to facebook, to homephone—all before I had a chance for my morning coffee.     Make the beds, make a plan for the day, change the litter box; change the plans for the day after consulting all the other family members and their plans.

Thankfully, it was Saturday, so we didn’t have the usual workday/school day stress of all trying to get out the door.   As words were exchanged and plans revised and rearranged, I first felt the twinges of stress creeping in from an “overstuffed” day, but for once I was able to pause  and remember something:

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it! (Psalm 118:24)

See I wanted to go to a dear friend’s daughter’s high school graduation.  I also already had plans to go see my daughter’s dance recital at a studio about two hours away, two hours from when the graduation ceremony started.  I had not seen my friend in over a year or her family.  Not only was her youngest daughter graduating, her oldest daughter was coming into town with a brand new baby, only a few weeks old.  I could not skip my daughter’s recital, yet how could I miss the graduation of someone so dear to our family?

What to do, what to do?  We’ve all been here.  How do you either A: Stop Time or   B: Be in two places at one time?

Well, if you figure that one out, please be sure and let me know, because it seems every day I live, there is more that either NEEDS to be done, or that I WANT to do, and sadly it’s just not possible to do it all.

So I prayed.  I rushed, but I prayed five simple words:  Lord, please order my day.  BOOM!  No sooner, than this simplest of prayers get lifted up, a possibility floated into my consciousness.   It was as if God let me know a visit with a friend delights and warms our heart no matter how brief.  I decided I would meet my friends, and hug her beautiful daughter if only for a few moments outside the church shortly before graduation started.  We spent about thirty true quality moments.  I did not get to see her graduate.  But I did get to see her.

I got to admire the serene beauty of a mom who raised four amazing children who have grown into Godly, well-adjusted, kind, compassionate young adults who will make this world a better place because of their purpose in it.  I got to see her two beautiful boys, one with a family of his own,  and her lovely oldest daughter, a mom of three with her newest gorgeous baby boy.  Hugs were exchanged and plans were made for a future visit.

Kiss, kiss, and off I went.  I drove the two hours west where the foothills, turn into what I guess I would call sledding hills.  Not quite the mountains, but there is a hint you’re getting closer.  Along the way to the dance recital, I kept stopping because I am the kind of person who gets distracted by Kodak Moments.  Rural America has a hundred snapshots a mile.  I could write into eternity, and I’m not even sure that would be enough time to capture all the beauty I see all around me.  Old wells, broken down cars,  wheel wagon mailboxes, giant ten-foot neon signs decades old, purple houses with pink petunias everywhere, and even the unique, humorous, and downright weird billboards I saw were all “signs”  from a higher power to:  SEE!  ENJOY!  WHAT BOUNTY AND ABUNDANCE I HAVE PLACED BEFORE YOU!

My favorite pic of the day was a sweepstakes building.  There was only one car there; I assume it was the owner or employee. There was not another car in sight.  They were open for business.  But no one came.  Maybe it’s because this small town felt like I did; I already won the lottery!!   Who needs a windfall, which often is accompanied by curses and broken promises, when beauty and memory is to be found everywhere.

I ultimately made it to the dance recital where my daughter sat in the front along with the other teachers, as opposed to dancing on the stage like all the recitals of the last ten years.    Her choreography was amazing and loud applause warmed my heart, because God continues to water the seeds of her gifts too.

I thought of all the unwritten chapters yesterday.  Not just what I want to write about, but what God wants to write about.  He truly has written eternity into the hearts of man.  Who will this new graduate become as she starts her voyage from this day forward as an adult?  Who will this new baby be?  What new adventures await my lovely friend who has successfully raised four amazing children and now after nearly thirty years will have the joy of time to do more of what she loves?  What lies ahead for all the talented dancers I saw yesterday? Their possibilities of choices, colleges, and careers are endless.

See I didn’t have to go inside and play the lottery.  For I have a secret to tell you.  I already won!!

It’s not about what we have or haven’t gotten yet.  It’s not about the career we have or don’t have that defines us.  Life is about  enjoying the gifts God puts all around you and within you.    It’s not about  stuff or status; it’s about purpose and perspective.  Ah yes, definitely perspective.

Yesterday I hugged three beautiful moms and one beautiful graduate!  I kissed a new baby.  I met a new toddler.  I saw dancers that could soar so high and dance so magnificently it made me cry that even that much talent can be squeezed into one person’s body, and even that was repeated in multiple dancers.   I hugged and kissed a beautiful teacher–my daughter.   Throughout the day I listened to music that inspires my soul and saw scenery that leaves me with only one thought.  Thank you!    Thank you God for letting me win life’s lottery.  It’s not free from struggle, by any means, but it’s days like yesterday, that make me realize, I’m infinitely rich beyond measure.

Today I even got to wake up for the 17, 185th time.  Seriously, how SWEET is that???

The soul, like the body, lives by what it feeds on.  ~Josiah Gilbert Holland

  How long have you been blessed?  http://www.beatcanvas.com/daysalive.asp

Photo Credit:  http://christykrobinson.blogspot.com/2011/04/she-loved-much.html

A song to help you in your despair:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zvDCcCUL0E0

Some of the hardest tears I ever cried were the ones that were on what I call the killing floor.   Down, down, down you go.  Out pour the tears.  I once had someone tell me if you are sobbing uncontrollably, you should suck your thumb because it will make you stop.  Maybe you’ll start laughing and it will diminish some of the pain.  Yet I find, if and when you are in that place, not much of anything helps.  It’s like the Hoover Dam just burst and no amount of “it’s going to be okays” and hugs will put you back together again.    Time doesn’t heal all wounds; it only seeks to buffer the memory.

I’ve always wondered if men cry this deeply.  I would imagine some do.  I haven’t met one; well not that I know of.  Intuitively, I am pretty sure they exist, but like a tall tower, the perceived risk of collapse and all ensuing aftermath seems so much more catastrophic were they to risk their vulnerability.  We women, well that is part our beauty, our tenderness, our hearts that can shatter like glass.  It’s from the same well of tenderness, that allows us to love passionately.  One of my favorite U2 songs Kite reminds us “you need some protection, the thinner the skin.”  Indeed.

Pain of the deepest magnitude is the twisting and wrenching of one’s soul.  It’s the fear that the depth of this intensity may possibly not end.  It’s knowing that whatever caused this flood is irreversible.  The only thing that can be undone now is you.

Hopefully a family member or friend is there.  But often, in the depths of despair, there isn’t one to be found.  Perhaps a loved one is the cause of this; or worse, perhaps it’s you because of the choices you made.  Abandonment by someone you loved deeply, the death of someone you loved deeply or a dream you held so dear, or the revealed truth of who you truly are is often the bedrock of our grief.  The truth is revealed, in all its ugliness and finality and you already know no amount of tears will change it.  No do-over, no going back in time, there is only now and going forward.

So you cry.   Christians call it the “come to Jesus” moment.  It’s the place you go when there is absolutely nowhere else to go.  The depth of your loss and the pain of you feeling lost is more than you can bear.

       I can’t believe he just left me and the kids; we had everything.

       I lied.  I am so very sorry.

      We regret to inform you that your son was killed in the line of duty.

      I am an addict; and I can’t stop.

     The cancer is growing fast.  If we’re lucky, we’re looking at three months.

      Sweetie, about your mom—she’s not coming back. 

This moment, this is the one that not one of us gets immunity forever from.  Down come the knees; and so we fall.  We all fall; we’re “Falling at Your Feet.”  Pain is hell, but with grace, comes the promise of healing that can start now.  This will be the moment that changes everything from this point forward for you.  It’s the hour of decision and the line you have to draw in the sand.  You must decide, once you rise, who you will be now.

Here’s what I need to let you know.  Cry.  Even Jesus wept.  Cry for your loss.  Cry for the unfairness of it all.  Cry because it’s all true.

Although the next step is the hardest, it will be the best one you’ll ever take: the decision to rise.  Get off that killing floor.  Open the door.  Step out and face the brutality of your reality.  And know this also, you don’t have to do this alone.    For when all is said and done, you will look back and you will just KNOW—this was the moment you decided not only to survive; but to live.   Choose life.


For men are not cast off by the Lord forever.  Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love.   For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men.  Lamentations 3:31-33