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.

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.