Here’s the thing…

At least I’m trying to figure it out…

Lately, with our move from TX to CO, I’ve thought a lot about what the thing is. It always has something to do with God and with people. So Sunday, when our pastor asked us what motivates us to finish the race—the race that Paul wrote about, and the race of life in general—I started thinking about the thing again…in light of God and people and His ever present Grace.

What’s the motivation? Love, for God and others; gratitude, for and to God, for so, so much; the ‘training’ I’ve done thus far; the prize. The thing is the race I’m running, the race we’re all running.

What keeps me in the race? Sometimes I’m not sure I know how to run it, much less finish. I get weary. Sometimes I fall. My commitment wavers—in so many areas. Marriage, parenting, relationships, church, life in general, can so often feel like such an uphill climb. But here’s the thing—we don’t do any of these things alone. We have Someone running alongside us. If it was up to me to finish alone, I’d give up every time. Thankfully, even though I fall, even though I get weary, even though I sometimes want to give up, I get up and keep going. I look toward the prize, the One who loves me and believes in me and is waiting for me at the finish line. He is the thing!

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

2 Timothy 4:7

Sensitive and Deep

“I should have been a great many things, Mr. Mayer.” Jo March

Sometimes, I think I missed my calling.

Actually, maybe I missed more than one:

  • In 6th grade, I was going to be an actress.
  • In 9th grade, I was going to be a singer. And I fell in love with Dan Fogelberg.
  • In 11th grade, I was going to be a philosopher. No, I was a philosopher. I wrote “poetry” and prose and recorded all of my save-the-world plans. I even wrote down in numerous journals all of the emotions and oh so deep thoughts that I just knew very few people had ever had in the history of the world. I even sat in a tree with my guitar and sang John Denver songs for hours at a time. IN A TREE! JOHN DENVER! (My mother loved that one and told that story for years).
  • At one point, I even had the idea that having a nudist colony would be the answer to ridding society of shallowness. Oh brother!
  • In college, I was going to work with special needs children. (Looks like I’m making progress on saving the world here).
  • Later in college, I wanted to work in the inner city with the poor. Not only work with them, but live there and love them to Jesus.
  • After college, I came really close to working in a school in Belize, ministering to and teaching children in a poor village. (Getting closer!).

A lot of years have come and gone since my aspiring actress days and those sensitive and deep high school journals. I’ve been so busy doing so many other things than what I thought I’d do that I haven’t had time to regret not following through on all the things I dreamed about. I ended up working at a camp, loving on kids and seeing their lives changed. (I also worked with horses, but their lives didn’t change very much). During those summers, I acted, sang, taught philosophy, cried with and hugged children who were rich in material things but poor in spirit. I met the man I married. I had five children, began homeschooling, built and lived in a country cottage, and learned how to garden. I delivered meals to shut-ins and volunteered with a local food and assistance ministry.  I went on mission trips to poor villages and helped build houses, community centers, and a school.

So I guess all in all, I have been a great many things. My calling didn’t change, and I never missed it. I changed and began to live what I was truly called to, without even knowing it.

My heart-song is of gratefulness  – thanksgiving for all the challenges, laughter, tears, late into-the-night discussions about life, all that I’ve taught, all that I’ve learned, and all that is still out there for me to learn. I know we are always called to be sensitive to the needs of others, to praise of God, to learn and grow in grace, to give those around us a taste of beauty. To share the depth and breadth of God’s love.

I still listen to Fogelberg – but I’m so very thankful that I didn’t try to follow through on the nudist colony. The world is a much, much better place because of it!

Dedicated to Sue, my dear friend and one of the most sensitive and deep people I know.

Good-bye, Comfort Zone

Lately, I’ve been asking God why we are here, in Denver. Other than my husband’s job. OK, I guess that’s a pretty big one, but I know there has to be something more than just that. Why would God take us away from our home, the one we built with our own hands, the one we made home for 27 years? The one where we raised our kids, laughed, cried, built a pet cemetery, held neighborhood carnivals, held church meetings, rented rooms, hosted missionaries, planted gardens?

Yes, I have been asking that question – a lot. Moving into a house so unlike the one we left, leaving our cottage in the woods, leaving friendships we nurtured over so many years, leaving behind… leaving behind the life we made there. Leaving behind…

But we are here…and there must be a reason, an eternal one. And although the answer has been there in my heart all along, and has even popped up several times, I’ve quickly just put it right back where it came from, thank you very much. But yesterday, not only did I hear the answer, I also heard the solution. Our pastor gave it to me, although he didn’t know I even had a question. We are here because we have been sent. Sent. And I need to own my “sentness.” Yes, I need to continue to ask Him the question, Why have You sent me here? but with a different focus. I need to focus on my delivery. If I linger too long in the other place, I won’t be able to deliver on the task, the mission of sent.

This is a new and different place, a place I never dreamed I’d be. But if I have to be anywhere, I’m thankful that I’ve been sent by the God of the universe, because He knows exactly why I’m here. Jesus was sent, and He sends us, every day. He has given me a job, an eternal one. And He wants me to ask the question, regularly. Daily. But when I ask, the focus is not on the inconvenience or the change or the difference; it’s on the true answer, on whoever it may be. Maybe the neighbors next door, or the person I see in the coffee shop, or other parents who need encouragement. I’m given opportunities daily to deliver on sent. Am I going to ask the question at the right time with the focus on delivery? Or will I continue to look back and think about what we left behind?

Oh Lord, make me worthy of sent…give me a heart to deliver your Love and Grace, wherever I am, wherever is Home.

Beauty

I love beauty. Profound, I know. But I think I’m learning what it really means – to love beauty. We all enjoy the obvious: the fiery sunset, the budding rose, the ringing laughter of a toddler. But what about the part of life that seems so other?

Because there is beauty in Other.

It’s all around us, even in the seeming ugliness of life…in the homeless man on the street corner, or the gnarled hands of an old woman, or the orphan wondering  if she’ll ever have a forever family. At first glance, they seem sad and lonely and tragic – and they are – but underneath is beauty that those of us on the outside looking in can’t see. The street-corner-man’s longing for something better, wanting to connect with someone. Those worn and tired hands the result of years of hard work and determination born out of love and care of family. The tears of the orphan reflecting the hope for a forever family as she wonders if they are out there for her. There is depth in these faces and lives. Longing. Love. Hope. Beauty.

As I grow older, I seem to relate a little, even remotely, to those sad scenarios that catch my breath when I see them. Because God has a Purpose for each of us, no matter how seemingly insignificant or lonely — and we share that — Purpose. No, I haven’t been homeless or crippled or orphaned – but in the Eternal, whether recognized or not – is Light and Life and Hope.  And somehow there is a connection with them, something that transcends the obvious differences. Depth. Beauty.

There is beauty in my desire to be part of that Hope. Even if it only means sharing a cup of cold water in the night or wiping away a tear. It is all around us, whether we see it or smell it or feel it, because God is there. And He sends it to us in small ways, in the hard realities that hit us in life. We only have to look for it and receive.

This Christmas

Every year, my children ask me what I want for Christmas (or Mother’s Day or my birthday). And every year I pretty much say the same thing — I just want all of us to be together and enjoy one another. They dutifully roll their eyes and ask me again. And I say the same thing – again. Well, I’m saying it one more time, in writing: I DON’T WANT ANYTHING FOR CHRISTMAS! Other than being together.

But I’m going to add something, and hopefully I’ll feel the same way next year and the next and the next. I want each of them to give whatever they might think about spending on me to a true need.

This year, I hope my children will give something with eternity in mind. That is what I truly want for Christmas. So here are some ideas:

alarm-inc.org

showmercy.org

girleffect.org

mercyships.org

orphanreliefandrescue.org

love146.org

notforsalecampaign.org

thementoringproject.org

All of the above organizations are doing great things – helping children and young women get free from trafficking, working with orphans and children who were born with aids, doing medical miracles, building wells in third world countries, helping widows who lost their husbands start businesses, training leaders in war-torn countries, mentoring at-risk boys.

And in the midst of loving these children and families with food, shelter, medicine – they love them enough to introduce them to a God who loves them more than anything.

I’m not getting legalistic about this…I’m really not. I love Christmas – I love making cookies for people, watching Christmas movies, decorating my house to give it that festive feel, drinking eggnog, listening to Christmas music – making our home a welcome place. We’ve done the traditional Christmas thing, with gifts and Santa, although we’ve tried to keep Jesus as the true reason for Christmas and the center of why we do what we do.  We wouldn’t have Christmas without Him.

And I don’t expect anyone else to feel the same way about getting gifts as I do. It’s just time for me to follow the message that’s been working on my heart.

I truly have a wonderful life…that I can enjoy the Christmas season in these ways is such a blessing. That I can have family together, enjoying one another is a treasure. The time we spend together, the time we invest in others, has eternal value. This year, I want to share that eternity.

My House

So I’m trying to sell my house. I KNOW this is a bad time to sell anything, much less a house. But my house is special. I’ve raised 5 children here, entertained a zillion friends of all ages, taught and learned and read and played music here. I’ve gardened here and learned all about antique roses. We have a pet cemetery on a hill under a tree with numerous family friends who’ve come and gone. My children hosted neighborhood carnivals here, and the trail they forged from Grandma’s house next door is still there. We’ve played here, cried here, loved here. I home schooled my kids here (and I learned just as much as they did, if not more). My husband built our house from the ground up, along with help from friends, and together we’ve made it home.

Truth be told, I really don’t want to sell my house. My family moved around a lot when I was growing up, and since I was painfully shy, those moves weren’t easy, and I don’t have fond memories of them. Being in this house as long as we have has given me roots and a sense of contentment and stability. I’d just as soon grow old and die here as move anywhere. But I need to be where my husband is…and I believe that God is working to take us out of our comfort zone because He has other plans in another place – and maybe in another house.

When my brain cells are working in a semi normal state, I begin to understand that maybe not everyone wants a house 15 miles from the nearest WalMart; and maybe they don’t want to take care of a yard, and they don’t care about having a cottage garden. Not everyone likes having a country dog or an in-ground trampoline. So it seems, with the way things are right now, that my house won’t sell. But how are things, really? Only God knows that. So my house will sell, at the right time and to just the right person.

Who knows? Maybe it will go to someone with a green thumb who wants to learn about antique roses. I hope so.roses3

It’s just not that simple…

I have a friend who is also a minister and founder of a ministry to war torn countries in Africa. I heard him speak last week with his very thick French accent, but perfect English, and his message was so powerful – full of grace, boldness, power, and gentleness. Yes, all those things together. He spoke of loss…of loved ones, of life, of freedom. He himself lost many family members to the genocide in Rwanda. He had to sweep his family away to safety. He’s been in prison, tortured, beaten, threatened. But his joy is so full and contagious. His life is one that I would not even begin to truly understand…going to a depth that I can only imagine. Nothing simple about his life, nothing simple about his journey. But if you asked him why he has so much joy and contentment in his life, he’d say it is very simple – that his life is full and complete, lacking in nothing, because God has directed him all the way, and he has laid everything at His feet.

My daughter is going through a pretty tough time, and she gets angry when anyone tries to “help” her work her way through it. No one understands, she says, everyone thinks it’s all so simple. No one is going through the same thing. It’s all too complicated, it’s not as simple as everyone says it is.

Well, she’s right. But she’s also only half right. Because there is another side to the coin. One side is very complicated and detailed, and unless you’ve walked in her shoes, don’t try to help her. But the other side is very simple and easy. There is a way out of all the complicated mess. And we all have the opportunity to walk in that direction. When my friend from Africa says he’s found the peace that passes all understanding, it’s because he has received it in the midst of all the complicated messes of life, through Jesus Christ. He in no way minimizes the struggles of others…his whole life is dedicated to helping them. But he has that simple peace of heart and mind that only God can give. He’s lived the hell of hardships, and he chooses to walk hand in hand with Jesus. He probably has to begin that simple walk daily, starting fresh every single day as he wakes up to the harsh reality of a complicated life. But somehow, he does it. Oh, that I can walk in the same direction…that my sweet daughter can do the same.

I heard someone say recently that obedience is God’s love language…”if you love me, you’ll keep my commandments.” No, it isn’t always easy. Sometimes we may think we won’t survive. But God can truly give us a resting place in the midst of it. It’s just that simple.