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.

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.

Epiphany

epiphany – a divine manifestation; a moment of sudden understanding or revelation.

I had an epiphany the other day. I’m sure that many, many others have already experienced the revelation I had – but it gave me a perspective that I didn’t even realize I was missing.

In the story of the Prodigal son, the younger son is usually the one who gets all the attention. Whenever someone teaches about it, he’s the one who went astray and then came home. The older brother is known for his crummy attitude, and the father is known for his love. His Love. That is where my epiphany starts.

The father’s love is obvious throughout the story. He gives his son freedom, which helps him learn and grow up – however hard on everyone involved. And when he returns, the father runs to him with open arms, overjoyed that he is alive and back home. Most parents can relate to some of this kind of love – if not the letting go, at least the open arms. But as a parent of a child who has chosen badly and sought her freedom in dangerous places, the love I have for her is, in some ways, harder than the love I have for my children who have walked the straight and narrow.

Harder? What does that mean? Well, for one, it’s harder for me to feel love for her sometimes. I know, love isn’t a feeling. But it’s kind of scary when your feelings sometimes go the other way from where they’re supposed to go. I actually have to choose the loving actions, words, body language. The easy kids are easy to love. And I’m thankful for my “easy” ones; and for all the parents out there who have easy children, you are truly blessed.

But even greater than that committed-no-matter-what kind of love, is the privilege of understanding, even if only a fraction, the kind of Grace-love the Father has for His children. The kind of love that transcends any feeling, positive or negative, I could have at any given moment. The kind of prodigal-son love that, after all the emotions that go along with parenting a child who strays – the anger, sadness, fear, grief – keeps my arms open even after all the hurt and alienation and frustration. If I weren’t the parent of a child who chose her own way, I’d never know the kind of love that truly comes from Grace.

Thank you God, for showing me the kind of love you have for me. And thank you that it has nothing to do with me, but everything to do with a God of Grace, waiting with open arms.