Will I Ever Learn?

One of my former professors asked me once what the greatest thing was that I learned in college. After thinking about it for a short time, my response was that I still had so very much to learn. Just when I think I have everything all figured out, when I just know I’m finally right about something, life seems to jump up and knock me off my feet…one more time.

I used to be so much more opinionated than I am now; I guess I really truly thought I had everything figured out. Or maybe I just felt the need to speak my opinions aloud, I don’t know. But whatever the case, as I’ve gotten older I’ve begun to realize that most of the time, my opinions just aren’t that important, because there will always be others who can out argue me, out prove me, or out think me. And do you know what is really, truly important? Not what I think — shocker! — but what God thinks.

I know that we always grow and change, and I hope I’ll continue to realize my need to be teachable. At my new job, I’m still wearing the ‘I’m in training’ badge, and when people ask how long I’ll be in training, I usually tell them “always.” I’ll always have something to learn — from those who think differently, who look different, who are different.

One of the things that showed me just how much I needed to look outside my comfortable box was when I read Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz.  We were on the threshold of sending our oldest daughter to college in the northwest…the crazy, liberal, ungodly northwest. Eeeek!! As I read it, I loved it and I hated it at the same time. I didn’t want to think about seeing my faith from a different angle — it was just too scary and unsure. I was spiritually raised in the south, in the Bible belt, so reading something like that really challenged my faith and I had to ask questions. Yep, QUESTIONS! Sending my baby to the crazy NW, where I wondered if they even spoke English, just seemed like an equally crazy thing to do and had a huge question mark. How could a mother send her daughter straight into a den of wolves? A huge den, at that? What kind of mother would do something like that??

What I started to learn then was something about trust. Wolves are everywhere, even in the Bible belt, and I was over confident that my children, that we all, were “safe” there. I had to come to a place of trust that what she had learned from us would take her into the world (where I know we are supposed to be) with love and respect for others and differences, and yet keep her grounded in who she was and who God was making her.

Now, years later, my sweet girl actually lived through college in the northwest, and I actually lived through her going to college there. She still lives there and is alive and well, and I know she’s being a blessing to those who know her.

But most recently, I’ve begun to question more than what my kids are doing — whether they’re ok moving here or there, or having this relationship or that one. Or even if they’re thinking the same, believing the same, as I do. Not that I don’t look at those things…I always want the best for my kids. But that’s just it. What is best? Where and Who is best? How should I know? I don’t. Yes, I believe God gave these kids to us and us to them. And yes, we have a responsibility to raise them in light of eternity and with wisdom given to us by God. And yes, we spent many hours in prayer for them (and still do). But none of that automatically gives me an enlightened understanding or vision about what they should do or about how they will live. Whenever they struggle or question life or God or what is right, I struggle with them.  I know without a doubt that God can handle their struggles, way better than I can. But then the questions start to come back: questions about my own faith and understanding of how I’m supposed to live and love.

And now I’m at a point where I’m having to trust that what God has done in my own life, with my own faith, will keep me grounded as I learn to appreciate people right where they are – and for who they are. That over-confidence I had with my daughter, and that at times I’ve had with all my kids, that ‘safety zone’, I’ve also had with my own way of thinking. I thought I was good at loving others; and it’s easy to do when most of them think the same way I do. But I’m beginning to learn that there is a difference between what I thought about people, how I thought I loved them, what I secretly expected of them, and what is truly true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy. I see and work with people everyday who are very different from those I’ve chosen to shelter myself with. And I really really want to love them, right where they are, in that Philippians 4 kind of way.

I’ve continued to ask questions and learn to love others who are different than I am… a lot different. And that is a good thing. Thank heaven they aren’t all like me…oh the thought!

I’ve begun to question what I’m doing…and why I’m doing it. Not question the validity or importance of what I’m doing — but how to be truly honorable — toward God and others, and why I’ve been placed where I am. And tying it all together is tough; learning how to stand for Truth in a completely non-compromising way while loving and accepting others right where they are – no judgement, no requirements, no expectations.

I wouldn’t trade any of my life, because I know without a doubt that God has orchestrated every corner, every situation, every person. If I could, I might change some of the things I’ve done, that I’m not proud of. Because I know I could have been kinder, more merciful, more loving, more graceful. Those are the virtues I learn again and again every day, and I hope I’ll be worthy of them and able to impart them to those around me – today, with whomever I may meet, with those I work with, with those I’ll run into at the coffee shop or at work or at church or at the food bank.

And I hope I’m worthy of what they have to teach me, because I still have so, so much to learn.

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.

Help

I just finished reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett, and oh what a book! The emotion I felt, almost from the beginning, caught me by surprise. But it didn’t take long for me to understand those feelings, because I was a child of 1960s Mississippi — I lived that story. We had full time “help” in our home…I was one of the children eating her cooking, dirtying the house she cleaned, hearing her phone conversations. We weren’t wealthy at all, but living in small town Mississippi just south of Jackson made my mother feel the need to keep up with the neighbors, and having Help was what anyone who was anyone did.

I recently met a childhood friend for lunch, someone I hadn’t seen in about 40 years. We had a delightful time, catching up on life, reminiscing about our childhood in Mississippi. She lived there long after our family moved away (never to have full time help again – for us, it was just a Mississippi thing), and she experienced things that I still have a hard time believing truly happened, still happen, in today’s times. She enlightened me about some of the events that occurred during that 1960s-Civil Rights-Small-Town time in MS – some while we lived there, some in later years – and I realized for the first time just how insulated we were as children. I’m sure my parents knew about those things, things that often happened on the “other side of the tracks”; or as I learned through my friend, often happened on “our side”, because in many homes the Help weren’t welcome outside of working hours or their work environments.

Many years later, when my family – including my mom – was passing through our small Mississippi town, I wanted to call our “Help” and take her out to dinner. I hadn’t seen her in about 25 years, and I wanted her to meet my husband and children. As a child I loved Lou, not unlike Skeeter loved Constantine.  So I looked through the phone book, randomly calling numbers that might help me find her. I eventually found an address and went to her house. What a great reunion! As she answered the door and saw me, she yelled, “Is that my baby??” Not that she recognized me…I’m sure someone gave her a heads up that I was looking for her. We visited an hour or more, but she wouldn’t let us take her out. My mom told me later that she didn’t go with us because “it just isn’t done here.” What were we doing that shouldn’t be done? Eating out in small town Mississippi with someone from the other side of the tracks.

I laughed and cried while reading The Help – and while visiting with my childhood friend. My memories of that time are warm and nostalgic. I loved Lou, not because she helped us with cleaning and cooking and ironing, but because her real help was with life, leading and teaching me to become a good person. She truly loved me, and all these years later she’s stayed in my heart. If she were here today, I’d invite her out for a meal. But if that didn’t work, I’d do all I could to be her help. I’m thankful that, unbeknownst to any of us at the time, we were learning a much deeper and greater lesson about life. I hope I can help pass that lesson on.

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