Endless Summer

We are in a summer that just won’t end right now. It’s almost the end of September and we are still seeing temperatures in the 90’s multiple days a week. And it’s been that way since late May – early June. It is beginning to border on the absurd quite honestly.

Last week we had a few days that dipped into the 60 degree range at night and “only” made it into the mid-80’s during the day. Of course I was in Texas at the time so I missed out; it was still tap dancing with 90 there.

So when I tell you I am summer fatigued, you can understand why, right? I welcomed summer with open arms when it first got here. Yay! Pool time! Sunshine and blue skies! Party on! But then we hit “and on, and on, and on, and on.” A few weeks ago, I was still optimistic that I could hold out. It wouldn’t last much longer and fall would be here. I mean, Starbucks had kicked off the pumpkin insanity and the grocery stores had the ceramic fall decor out front. It was going to all be over soon.

Until it wasn’t. It’s officially fall on the calendar and the sun beats on.

I went for a walk around our building the other day just to give my eyes and brain a quick break from office work, and as I strolled past the maple trees along the front walk, I saw it.

20190916_130742[1]

One leaf. On a tree of thousands. Bright red in the middle of all the green. The first sign that maybe – just maybe – fall was actually coming. In spite of the heat radiating off the pavement, there was a glimmer of hope that change was on its way.

Life is hard right now. And it’s been hard for a while. There are daily battles that are fought and the next day, they have to be waged again. Fatigue is setting in and endurance is running low. Maybe you are in that season right now too.

Sometimes we welcome challenges because we want to see what we are made of. Are we strong enough? Sometimes we just want to prove to ourselves that we CAN do the tough stuff. But then we have to do it over, and over, and over. I find myself asking, “Haven’t I proven this? Why is it still happening? I learned my lesson God! I’ve been obedient, faithful, true. Why are we still in this summer that won’t end?”

I could give you a whole line about the “I’s” in the sentence above and how it should be about dependence on God instead of ourselves, but we’ve all heard that and read that and we know that. I could give you another session about perseverance in the face of trial brings about endurance and character and hope. But you have that one down too.

All I really want to tell you (and remind myself) is that eventually…someday…down the road or around the corner or over yet another mountain of a challenge…the season will change.

Ecclesiastes 3:1a
There is an appointed time for everything.

If you are familiar with the other half of that verse and those that follow after, you know Ecclesiastes launches into specific examples of “a time for…and a time for…” But I don’t want to go there. I want to offer you just that one piece.

There is an appointed time for everything.

Appointed time – a specific occurrence AND duration. As my father used to tell my sister and I, “This too shall pass.” Lately I’ve been adding, “Yeah, Dad. Like a kidney stone!”  The truth remains though. No matter how hard, or tiring, or long the struggle endures, it will end.

The brilliance and beauty of the next season will erupt across the mountains. The heat will give way to fresh breezes and a symphony of honking geese, chattering squirrels, and crunching leaves.

Be encouraged. The time will come and the long, hot drought of a summer will end.

Advertisements
Posted in Faith | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Intended for You

Christmas. The season of gifts and giving; decorations and family; food and parties. We all know it becomes busy – ridiculously busy. Especially for parents. We rush from concert to program; from work party to social event. All while we decorate and bake and shop and wrap.

And every year, we promise ourselves we will simplify next year. Next year we’ll start earlier. Next year we’ll commit to less. Next year…we’ll keep first things first. And if you are anything like me, this year was no exception. I can’t count how many times I’ve texted, said or thought, “Well, I’ve definitely bombed Christmas this year.” And in the process, as I do every year, I looked backwards through those magical glasses that paint the past in glorious tones.

One particular Christmas is playing over and over for me this year. Maybe because I miss Momma more than usual this year or maybe because of the way I’m getting it all “wrong.”

My parents worked in a sewing factory when my sister and I were little so unused fabric always seemed to find their way through my mother’s sewing room and into our closets or onto our beds.

This magical Christmas morning, my sister and I ran down the stairs to see what Christmas wonders would be awaiting us. Right there in front of the Christmas tree was a giant Ford blue puppet theater complete with curtains, puppets (with costumes) and drawstring bags to keep it all contained. There on the top corner was a great big tag that read “To Beth. From Santa!”Puppet

I was so happy and excited for my sister! She climbed right in and explored and I could see that her gift was going to be hours of amazing fun for her. But then I saw another present on the couch. It was the fluffiest, most beautiful sleeping bag I had ever seen. Above the red and blue gingham patchwork sleeping bag with its navy ruffled edge, was a built-in pillow shaped like a teddy bear with arms outstretched just waiting to hug his inhabitant into the sweetest dreams ever dreamt.  And there was another giant gift tag. As an emerging reader, I saw “To Be…” and my heart sank.

“Look Bethy! This one is for you too” I choked out. I wanted to be happy for her – I did! But I was the one who collected teddy bears. My nickname was even “Bear.” How did she get both of these amazing presents?!

My mother in her always teaching way said, “Sarah, why don’t you look at that tag again?” And then I slowed down and read the whole story. “To Bear. From Santa!” I couldn’t climb in fast enough! I was snuggled down and grinning in all my toothless delight before anyone could tell me I had read the tag right this time. I opened every present from right there in that sleeping bag. I took it to all my sleepovers and to this day, every one of my children have slept in the “Bear Bag” at some point or another. Yes, the pillow has had to be restuffed more than once. And I’m sure there have been patches along the way. But oh the joy of that gift that was intended for me that I almost gave away!Sleepy Bear

The gift intended for me that I almost gave away.

Have you given away your gifts this year? Not the ones you got for others, but the ones that were intended for you. So often we are happy to offer peace, joy, comfort, love, kindness, and compassion to everyone who is hurting around us. But how often have you considered that all of that was intended for YOU too? I have given it all away. And I have overlooked the fact that MY name was on those “gift tags” too.

When Christ came that night so long ago, He was born to bring peace to all. Have you lost your temper because you are stuck in traffic, can’t find the gift, or don’t have enough time this season? Have you taken a pass on the joy because you couldn’t see past the to do list? Are you grieving but can’t bring yourself to take comfort in even a slow cup of coffee or a good hearty cry? Don’t get so caught up in wrapping and shopping and baking that you forget to be with those you love and receive the kindness and compassion they have to offer.

See, to my parents, our puppet house and sleeping bag were a repurposed refrigerator box, screen door spring and fabric remnants from the factory. But they took those moments on Christmas morning to see them through our eyes. And in that there was joy, wonder, and love. The gifts they intended for us to have. Take some time to remember this year, that the Gift that came wrapped in scrap cloths and in a used feed box was also intended for you.

Merry Christmas.

Posted in Faith | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Blankets

Psalm 86:15-17 

15 But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger and abundant in loving kindness and truth.
16 Turn to me, and be gracious to me;
Oh grant Your strength to Your servant,
And save the son of Your handmaid.
17 Show me a sign for good,
That those who hate me may see it and be ashamed,
Because You, O Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

photo of gray blanket on sofa

Photo by Du01b0u01a1ng Nhu00e2n on Pexels.com

There are just some moments that need a blanket. You know the kind of moment I’m talking about? Maybe the weather is gray and drizzly. There is a chill in the air. Or perhaps there is a sorrow that just relentlessly weighs down the spirit.

All you want is a blanket. Something soft and gentle that embraces the rough edges of life and smooths them for a moment. You just need warmth and comfort. It’s a need for a soothing presence.

I’ve had some of these days lately. All I want is to burrow, like a rabbit into its nest. I want to swaddle myself in mounds of blankets, propped against all the fluffy pillows, and hugging a heavy mug of anything that will radiate gentle coziness. Life has just been heavy, laden with emotions, burdened by worries, and bogged down by a to do list that won’t quit.

But life won’t quit either. And you can’t walk around in a blanket all the time. Well, I guess you could but it would get awkward – not that I would know that from experience or anything… but I digress.

When life won’t afford you the ability to burrow in your blankets, where do you turn? For me it’s often to music. I can pop in the ear buds and get carried away by hymns, worship songs, a soundtrack, instrumentals, or the moody teen’s playlist. Other times, it’s scriptures – usually the Psalms – that fully express all the emotions of the day. Is there a more diverse collection of feelings than the Psalms? In one breath the psalmist is buoyed by praise, wonder, and awe for all that God is and has created. The next, he is praying for Heaven to restore his crushed spirit or redeem his very being from Sheol.

I guess I take comfort in the Psalms on blanket days because I know it’s ok. Embracing all those emotions and being stymied by everyday life is ok. It’s perfectly acceptable because we serve the God who created all those emotions and will love us in spite of how we manage and respond to them.

We have the best “Blanket” available.

Other readings:
Psalm 9:9-10
Psalm 71
Psalm 119:50
Bonus (and my personal favorite) 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

Posted in Faith | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Anchor

School is back in session. Four children, three schools, before school activities, after school activities, football games, concerts, plays, play dates. Just the preparations have been more exhausting than a full summer as a camp counselor – mentally anyway.

One recent afternoon as I was getting myself together for a very late trip to the grocery store, the children kept popping up with questions, reminders, and comments that just reiterated the idea that I am the anchor. I’m the one who everyone comes to in the house to keep it together and running. Hubs relies on me for encouragement and support. The kids rely on me for schedules, travel arrangements and help with homework. Everyone looks for meals and clean laundry. The dog even hopes he can get a walk around the neighborhood now and then.

Some days – ok, most days – it becomes overwhelming and I realize why anchors sink. They are so heavy. That’s when my brain did what it does. (Enjoy the ride…)

You know what else sinks? Rocks.
You know who was a rock? Peter.
Yeah, but he sank too.
Only because he forgot Who he was dealing with.

Oh.

Matthew 14:22-33
22 Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away. 23 After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone. 24 But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary. 25 And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. 26 When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

28 Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” 29 And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”31 Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. 33 And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!”

I know it’s a strange turn of thought but try this on with me. My life right now – and probably many of yours – is swirling, windy, tumultuous and turbulent. There are circumstances, people, and responsibilities battering you and I from all sides. People are relying on us and we can only feel ourselves sinking like an anchor with the weight of life.

I have always related to Peter a little more than some of the other disciples. His heart was always eager but he was just a mess in his execution. This is no exception. Peter was brave enough to climb out of the boat in the middle of a storm and head for Jesus. I can very quickly claim to be reliant on God in the course of my mess and trials.

Peter got out into the middle of the sea and he realized what he was doing. “Wait a minute! It’s hard and rough and stormy out here! What was I thinking?!” but by then he was too far from the boat to go back and he started to sink.

“God I trust you completely with my kids but please make sure they don’t hang out with that kid. Please do this for them or that for them. I believe in your provision but your timing could be better.” I believe but I get into the middle of my mess and I start to doubt. And sink.

I love the end of this quick tale. Jesus took Peter’s hand and scolded him a little. But finish the story.

32 When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. 33 And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!”

When they got in the boat. Not when Jesus took Peter’s hand. Not one moment before they were back in the boat. That means Jesus walked through the storm with Peter back to the boat. The storm raged until they were back on board. Jesus could have stopped it at any moment. But He proved to Peter – and the other disciples – that He would always stay through the storm.

So right now, if you are feeling overwhelmed with being the anchor in your life…
If storms are raging and you feel like the boat is out of reach…
If doubt is pulling you under…

Remember who the real Anchor is. The same God who walked Peter through the storm back to the boat is the God from Psalm 18:2.

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

He’s your Anchor. IMAG2391

Posted in Faith | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A day for Women

It’s Mother’s Day Eve and yes, I know that’s not really a day. Humor me. Sunflower

Since losing my own mom a little over a year and a half ago, Mother’s Day has become a real struggle for me. I don’t want to celebrate but as my husband so succinctly put it, “But your children do. They want to tell you they love you. Get over it.” But in reflecting on Mother’s Day and all of it’s prickly parts, I started to think about women who aren’t mothers in a biological sense. Below is my take on Mother’s Day which will now be – for me anyway – day for all women who pour into the lives of the people around them.

All my love Lady Warriors! You are phenomenal!
**********************************************************
A Mom’s take on Mother’s Day

You think it falls on one happy Sunday in May don’t you?

Let’s get real. It really starts the Thursday before when Dad says, “So what do you want to do for Mother’s Day?” And Mom starts making the plan for the family. What will we do for lunch? Do we have those groceries or do I need to pick them up at the store this weekend? A reservation for brunch at this point is out of the question because, well…we have 3 days and it’s been booked since March when the Moms who were on top of it planned for their own mothers.

And let’s talk about Sunday morning, shall we?

Dad thinks it’s a great idea to make breakfast in bed for Mom. With the kids. In the kitchen. With eggs. And bacon. And fresh orange juice.

We hear you. We try not to. We try to pretend we’re still asleep but we hear the mixer spewing flour and batter all over every surface. We hear the three bowls and two pans clattering. We can’t hear them but we know there are at minimum seventeen partially used, slightly crumpled paper towels scattered over every surface and some even make it to the floor. Oh, the floor. Flour, egg drippings, orange juice pulp. Yeah…the floor.

But if we can block the vision of the disaster dancing in our heads, we delight in our breakfast with our babies as they all pile into bed with us, slopping orange juice onto the comforter but giggling at syrup sticky mouths and four dusted noses.

Until we look at the clock. 7:45?!

Go! Go! Go! With the precision of Patton, we bound from our beds and shoo bodies to their rooms. Wash your face. Brush your teeth. No BEFORE you get dressed because we don’t want to get toothpaste on your pretty dress. Zip up your sister. What do you mean you can’t find your dress socks? You just had them last week and I know I folded them and sent them back with your laundry. Please go look again.

Dear? Were you going to shower? You know church starts at 9:00 right? And parking will be crowded so we need to leave a little early.

No, you can’t wear your long sleeve brocade Christmas dress for Mother’s day. Because it’s too hot. Please just put on the dress I laid out. Baby girl that’s the second pair of tights you have torn this morning! Son, this is not the time for video games. You don’t have any shoes on. Yes both of them. Of course you lost your second shoe. You BOTH lost a shoe? Ok, retrace your steps and look under your bed.

My hose have a run! And so does the second pair…Well it’s lotion, sandals, a speed paint on the toes. I’m just praying that everyone else is as winter pale as I am.

Hairbrush – who had the hairbrush last? No darling husband, at this point I really don’t care if you wear a tie or not. Yes, those shoes look lovely with those pants.

Let’s go people! We need to be out the door in five! I’m sorry…Has anyone seen the teenager since breakfast? What do you mean she’s in the shower?! We’ve gotta GO!!!

And then we get to church. We pause beside the car. Please tuck in your shirt – again. Where is your shoe? You had it when you got IN the car, right? Ok, everyone smile. All I really want for Mother’s Day is one picture where you are all looking at the camera and smiling at the same time. Boy, if you photobomb one more picture with your tongue hanging out, I will be one child less of a mother.

Well good morning Pastor Steve!!

Oh, Mother’s Day. The day when the matriarch is celebrated- much to her dismay. The day to honor the miracle of birth and the bodies that pulled it off. The day when we step back and look at the women who may not have blood descendants of their own but who love just as fiercely and have an even greater influence as a result of the fact that they choose to exert that influence.

It’s a day to pay homage to the women who fully grasp what it means to pray without ceasing. Who wear grooves in the floor walking a baby to sleep when they are an infant, soothing a fever when they are young, and pacing the floor listening for the car to return well after curfew.

Mother’s Day affords us the opportunity to honor every woman who walked beside another and said, “It’s just a phase. You can do this and you will both survive.” To recognize and celebrate the women who stepped into the lives of the motherless and adopted them as their own pouring out the same passionate devotion they would for one of their own.

So Moms and Women of Profound Influence, when you walk into the Kitchen of Despair today and as you referee another sibling spat; while you drag everyone through the evening routine and get ready to send them back to school and work tomorrow; as you carry your beloved ones before the Throne of Grace in thanksgiving and petition, remember this.

It doesn’t happen without you. And when you are gone from this earth, your shadow, your fingerprints, your voice will do so much more than remain – it will endure and persist and ring through every life you have crossed.

Here’s to you blessed among women.

Posted in Faith | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lovable

I have a friend who has recently taught me a serious lesson that I think maybe we all could use – either as a refresher course or to finally let in to our hearts and souls and minds. See, this friend has taken to reminding me that she loves me – not in those words. In her own way she has let me know that she admires me (I think), respects me, and loves me as I am.

I will shamefully admit that I didn’t receive that well  at first. It felt awkward and uncomfortable because this particular friend has seen lots of my lumps. She has witnessed my less than stellar parenting (read – impatience), my less than positive attitude under stress (translation – critical and whiny face), and my not so pleasant demeanor towards the end of a long and busy week (aka tired and grumpy). I’m not sure but I think she intentionally reminds me in those moments that she still loves me.

heart-clip-art-60

Pardon the expression but…What the heck?!

 

When all I can see is how I am failing to live up to the holiness expectation I have in my head, this crazy woman reminds me that I am loved. When I know I am getting it ALL wrong, she reminds me that it doesn’t matter.

I am still loved. And – the part that is a REAL kicker – I am still lovable.

At the risk of being redundant…What the heck?!

John 13:34-35
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.

Love one another even as I have loved you. And how did Christ love us?

 

Romans 5:6-8
For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

He loved us enough to die. He loved us when we were lumpy all over and completely as far from holy as we could get. And His love was so big that He was willing to die to show that love.

 

So here it is – a lesson in lovable.
#1. You are.
You are lovable. I am lovable. Even when we are getting it all wrong. Even when our best efforts fall short and our patience runs out and our lives are a train wreck of epic dimensions by our estimation. We are lovable.

So the next time someone says “I love you!” or tries to show you admiration or kindness or respect, it’s ok to accept it. Not in a vain, “Don’t I know it!” kind of way of course. No need to go purchase your light up “I’m lovable” pin. But know that it’s ok to be loved.

#2. Others are lovable. And you should tell them that.
It’s your job. More people will recognize that you are a disciple of Christ by your love than by your preaching. More people will know Jesus by the way you walk beside them and offer them a hand up than by how much you point out what they haven’t accomplished yet.

Yes, you could do that from a distance and by telepathy but some people could really use the words. Yes, it will be awkward.

But I think…just maybe…so was the cross.

Posted in Faith | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Rip Currents

*I’m not a scientist (as we have previously established) but I tried to pay attention in school. That said, take all scientific information noted here with the lens of grace and do additional research if the science is important to you.*

Recently there was a story in the news about two children who got caught in a rip current. A pretty common event around the beach but it made the news when the people who tried to rescue them got caught up too. All the affected swimmers were eventually saved when a group of 80 complete strangers linked arms and created a human chain from the shore to the swimmers and helped them to safety. The story took over news cycles for several days because of the bravery and kindness of strangers to rescue the boys and family in danger.

There are so many lessons in the story. Be aware of those in need. Don’t limit who you help. Sometimes it takes a village to save a few. But what about the lesson for the boys who initially got caught? I’m sure their family made it a point to educate the boys about how to handle a rip current if they were to ever get back in the water.

By my understanding, a rip current is created when water at the shore finds a channel to flow back out to sea. When the waves are washing in rapidly or are high, the amount of water flowing out creates a significant pull – current – that can “rip” loose floating debris or people out to the ocean. Human instinct says, “That current is too strong and it’s taking me where I don’t want to go, so I need to swim as hard as I can to get to safety.” Unfortunately, the current is stronger than the swimmer and they become exhausted  and may drown before they are rescued.

It’s not the current that takes them under. It’s their exhaustion from fighting something bigger than them.

Luke 23:44-47
44 It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45 because the sun was obscured; and the veil of the temple was torn in two. 46 And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” Having said this, He breathed His last. 

Good grief! Why would I pick the saddest piece of the Easter story right now?! Are we not all overwhelmed enough by the fear of rip currents?! That’s my point.

At the darkest hour. When things were as bad as they could get. With oppression, fear, anger, confusion, despair and exhaustion at their peak, Jesus let go. He released himself into God’s will.

You see, that’s how you deal with a rip current. When the current gets past the breakers and waves that are pushing to shore, it loses it’s power and releases into the open ocean. To save yourself from the rip, you have to let it take you out past the trouble and into the open calmer water. The funny thing is, if you swim down shore from the current and start in toward safety, the waves will carry you back in. The same waves that 10 yards earlier were creating the rush of water that threatened your life, now have the power to save you.

For two years, the breakers of life have been crashing and I kept feeling myself being pulled harder and harder away from shore. From who I knew myself to be in Christ and what I was called to do for the Kingdom. I was fighting with all I was to stay the person others expected me to be and handle my issues bravely the way I wanted to. In my power.
ocean

But suddenly I found myself broken, exhausted and drowning. No fight left and no sight line of the shore. At my darkest hour. When things were as bad as they could get. With oppression, fear, anger, confusion, despair and exhaustion at their peak, I was reminded that to be saved, I had to let go. I had to hand it over to God – all of it.

 

And now God is taking me out to sea. I don’t know how far the current will carry me but I know at the end, there is a peaceful place. And when it’s time, the waves will come again and push me back to shore. The same troubles that create the problem can, after God heals, bring us back to a new place in faith.

That’s another thing about rip currents. When you release and let yourself be drawn out to sea and washed back to shore, you don’t come back to where you washed out in the first place. You come back to a whole new place. Sometimes as a whole new person. Or like a person resurrected in Christ.

Posted in Faith | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment