A Time For Everything

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
……….He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:1-11

Sometimes we experience time in a way other than it’s passing…..other than the counting of days and hours, minutes and seconds. As Frederick Buechner puts it, “a time we mark not by its duration but by its content.” Instead of measuring it by the clock we measure it by what happened within the time. A good time. A difficult time. A time of celebration or a time of sorrow. And sometimes a most holy time.

The holiest moments happen at times and in places we least expect them. We don’t create them, can’t plan for them and if we’re not careful….we’ll miss them.

Like a few days ago in the hallway of a hospital, where, without meaning to, several showed up at the same time to see a man we love. To show him we care and to let him know we love him. We took turns going into his room to hold his hand. To see his face and let him see ours. Back in the hallway we catch up with those we don’t get to see often. We give hugs and share tears. And we pray.

Sometimes we don’t realize how significant that kind of time is until years later. Like conversations with a new friend at a new job.

I hope Lyle knew what his time meant to me. I worked with him for a year or so. I came into the job knowing little about the construction business, unsure of myself and wondering if I was going to make it. He was patient and kind as I learned. Lyle was easy to talk to and we often had good conversations about things he or I happened to be thinking about. He had profound thoughts on life and was as happy to share them as I was to listen. Lyle was an attentive listener and was the only person I worked with to know about my writing for a long time. He encouraged me to keep writing.

These are gifts…..these sacred moments. And they may not look like what you’d expect.  They come in a conversation. An unplanned gathering. A planned one too. During your quiet time or in the middle of a crowded restaurant. They happen at home, in the forest, on the mountain, at work, in a traffic jam, in a hospital, or in a stable. Holy moments are given and stay with us after the passing of days and years because they change us forever.

As we gather to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ let us remember and cherish that most holy moment and like the shepherds, “Let us go over……and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” Luke 2:15

But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.    Luke 2:19

And like Mary, let us treasure these things and ponder them in our hearts.

Merry Christmas and many blessings to you and yours for 2018.

 

Photo by Josh Boot on Unsplash

Making It Happen

Next week I’ll fly to Tampa to run in my last race of the year. The longest and most challenging one yet.

IMG_5897A group of us started training in January and next week we’ll get to experience the joy of accomplishing what we set out to do……..the reward of almost 12 months of dedication and hard work.

Our goal: The Spartan Trifecta – to conquer a Sprint, Super, and Beast in one calendar year.

This race is the final piece of our Trifecta. The culmination of all our training and commitment. It will be grueling, but oh the joy will be sweet.

Because the longer and harder you work…….the more it means.

And this means a lot. Three years ago I couldn’t run a quarter mile without stopping. I’ve come a long way since the Couch to 5K app and running my first 5K in 2015.

I’m not sure what’s next in my journey but whatever it is I plan to work at it with as much courage and dedication and surround myself with those that will cheer me on, push me, and lift me up when needed.

I couldn’t do this alone. These women and my family have been a vital part of my conquering.

So here’s to setting goals and making them happen. Here’s to taking on new challenges and overcoming obstacles. And here’s to doing it with some of the most beautiful and strongest people I know.

No compromising here.

Doctor Doctor

I have this thing about going to the doctor. I don’t like it.

I don’t like yearly check ups, eye exams, or flu shots……even when I’m sick…….I resist going to the doctor. I’ll ignore my symptoms until I can’t, then I’ll plan my own course of treatment, try an essential oil or a handful of vitamins and as a last resort, buy the over-the-counter stuff. If all of that doesn’t work, I’ll finally make the call for an appointment to see the doctor.

The doctor can see what I can’t see. He has more knowledge about what ails me and has access to what can help me – usually a prescription for medicine.

Jesus talks about doctors in the Gospel of Luke chapter 5:27-32.

Levi, who is better known as Matthew, is thrilled at his new life away from tax collecting. To celebrate, Matthew threw a feast for Jesus. Apparently, Matthew invited a lot of his friends to the party. Maybe because he wanted them to meet Jesus, or maybe because he thought the more the merrier. Probably both.

But the religious leaders were upset that Jesus was eating with “those kind” of people and asked Jesus’ disciples why he had anything to do with them. Jesus answered them.

“Healthy people don’t need a doctor, only the sick.”

The King James Version of the Bible uses the word whole instead of healthy.

“They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick.”

Jesus continues, “I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.” Verse 32 in the NLT.

Because of their observance of the law the Pharisees deemed themselves whole. They were blind to their spiritual sickness therefore had no need for the Sovereign Physician of souls.

The same story in Matthew 9 verses 9-13 has an additional statement. Jesus told the Pharisees to “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’

The Pharisees missed the point. Loving and caring for others is more important to God than religious rituals.

Before we judge the Pharisees and the teachers of the law we should ask ourselves if we have any of the same attitudes. Do we think we’re good? Do we tend to think “those people” need to get it together? We all have our own definition of “those people”. Corrupt politicians, thugs, meth heads, strippers, racists or murderers. Those who rule the system and the ones who abuse it. The ones who are left out and the ones who leave them out. Those we think Jesus would never dine with. Those we think are too far gone.

Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy people who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to invite good people but sinners to change their hearts and lives.”  5:32 NCV

 

Photo courtesy of Pexels.

 
Theory

Remember the Leftovers

I say if I’d been there to see the miracle of Jesus feeding the 5,000 with five loaves of bread and two fish that I’d follow him faithfully and never doubt anything he said. I would surely never question his promises after seeing him feed another crowd of 4,000 with seven loaves and a few small fish.

But then I read Mark 8:14-21.

Jesus is warning his disciples to watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and Herod. Before Jesus explains, the disciples discuss among themselves that they brought only one loaf of bread on the boat and this must be why Jesus is talking about yeast.

Jesus asks, “Why are you talking about bread?”

That’s not the only question Jesus asks.

Do you not understand?

Are your hearts too hard to take it in?

Don’t you see? Can’t you hear?

Don’t you remember?

Remember how many leftovers were gathered after everyone ate at both crowd feeding miracles?

At first, I’m puzzled by the disciples’ bread discussion. Not only did they watch Jesus feed thousands with a few loaves and some fish, they saw Jesus calm a storm. They saw him walk on water and heal the lame and the leper. They saw him make the blind see and heal a synagogue ruler’s daughter.

So why this inability to see beyond bread?

They were captive to their limited frame of reference….even after all the miracles. Their frame at that moment was a boat and one loaf of bread. Unfortunately, like the disciples, I am slow to understand. There are times I can’t see beyond my circumstances and I forget the miracles. My vision is blurred and my hearing is selective.

When the disciples told him how many baskets of leftovers they picked up, Jesus asks one more question.

Do you still not understand? 

Jesus asks them hard questions but he isn’t harsh. He is patient and kind with their slow understanding. I am overwhelmingly thankful for his tenderness.

Because sometimes, like the disciples, I don’t see beyond the bread.

Photo by Expect Best from Pexels

Congregate

They Won

This is the kind of story that never gets old.

Daddy knew he needed to make a change.

To get better.

To save his life and ours.

He moved all of us to a whole new life in another state. Far away from the drinking binges and the fighting and the rehab centers that didn’t work. Far away from what happened and what was……..to something good and better.

The convoy to our fresh start rolled out one early summer morning in 1982. As a preteen I was probably less annoyed than most kids my age would have been. I knew I’d miss my friends but I was ready for something better. The hope of a calmer life, a different house, and a new school filled my heart. Moving day was a good day.

My sisters and I weren’t the only ones at a new school. Part of Dad’s new life included seminary and he began the night courses eagerly. He took careful notes in class and squeezed study time in when he could.

I can’t remember the day or the month or the season, but before the end of the first year Dad started drinking again.

Mom was devastated. She never told me that, but I know. Dad was too. When you’re a kid you have no idea what your parents are going through. Then you grow up and endure your own heartaches and one day, without meaning to, you feel the pain of your mom’s fear or the torment of your dad’s struggle with alcohol.

For the next decade Daddy lost the battle with alcohol over and over and over again.

Ten years.

Ten more years of the chaos and violence. Ten more years of tears and sorrow. Regretting the move, resenting the losses. Ten more years of emergency room visits and halfway houses. Ten more years of job changes and the financial strain and moving from house to house.

I’m sure Daddy remembered the day he took his last drink. He may have counted the days but he never told us. After about a year of him not drinking……we realized he wasn’t drinking. Then it was two years, then five. Ten years sober, then 20 years.

Daddy was sober for almost 23 years when he passed away in 2014.

Twenty three years of healing and restored relationships. Twenty three years of good memories. Twenty three years of the sweetest grace.

They won. Daddy and Mom pressed through and marched on. They fought the good fight and fought with each other. They messed up but moved forward. There were days they wanted to but they didn’t give up.

The long view is what got them through. The good days helped them see beyond the bad ones. When everything was falling apart they believed it could all come together. Love does that. It sees longer and deeper and wider. So my parents kept going. One day at a time. And they won.

The last time Daddy and Mom were face to face and held each others’ hands they weren’t thinking of the hard years. They were thankful for the moment and all the years that got them there.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash.

Restart

Open Spaces

I posted this over a year ago but I’m sharing it again because I need the reminder. It’s another Live Like It Matters Challenge and it’s a good one. I have to work hard at this one.

What we do with our time tells the world a lot about us.

How do you spend your time? What does your calendar or planner say about your life?

Last month I didn’t like what my planner said about me. It said I’m busy doing a lot of things. Good things, too. But when I’m not careful about how I plan, I end up doing a lot of additional things and ignoring essential ones.

I have to regularly ask myself: is my life busy or bountiful? Manageable or meaningful? Do I value relationships over routine?

We are afflicted with the idea that we aren’t accomplishing anything unless we are rushing here and there, checking off the items on our “to do” list. But a full calendar doesn’t equal an abundant life. I cannot feel the spaciousness of God’s love when I’ve crammed my calendar full.

When I crowd my calendar with a lot of additional unnecessary activities, I crowd out opportunities for good conversations. I push away the chance of a meaningful encounter. I cannot live on purpose when I’m running around trying to accomplish a lot of things. When I’m rushing from one place to the next I don’t see the people around me. I may see them with my eyes, but not with my heart.

I won’t take the time to smile and say hello to the elderly lady behind me. I won’t notice the young boy in the cereal aisle that’s lost his mother.  I’ll rush through a phone call from my sister.

Because I want to live like it matters and after years of doing it the wrong way, I know that I need time in my home with my family and I need solitude. So I must be wise when planning and making commitments. Since I work full-time most of my days are filled but I can be intentional about my evenings.

I’ve learned that I need plenty of blank spaces in my calendar….some unplanned blocks of time…………time to move at soul-speed. The kind of time when I’m still and my heart is open to any kind of heavenly thought that God might send my way.

The unplanned time can be the most meaningful time spent. The kind that allows for a lengthy unrushed phone call with a long distance friend. Or a cozy movie night at home with my husband because the kids are out of the house unexpectedly. Or a nap on a Sunday afternoon.

We all need open spaces in our calendars.

My Live Like It Matters Challenge to you is to leave some open spaces in your planner. Circle them if you have to but leave them blank. See what it does for you. See what it does for the people around you.

Unplanned time is time well spent.

Because how you spend your time matters. And how you plan or don’t plan matters.

Live like it matters.
Rush

Photo courtesy of Pexels

Look What You Made Me Do

Like millions of others, my daughters anticipated the new song by Taylor Swift and they weren’t disappointed. While most critics have bashed Look What You Made Me Do, millions of fans have helped Swift break streaming, download, and video view records and it’s predicted the song will hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart next month.

I like the song. Maybe it’s easy for me to like it because my girls literally grew up with Taylor Swift. Every single one of her songs has been played over and over and over in our house, on the computer, in the car, or on their phones. Wherever they could be played, TS songs were played. So in a way, I grew up as a mom with Taylor Swift. From Teardrops on My Guitar to Look What You Made Me Do is a lot of growing.

As I listen to Look What You Made Me Do, I’m reminded of a time as a young woman when I had the same attitude as the one played out in the song. After some heartbreaks I vowed I would never be hurt again. I didn’t trust others and kept everyone at arm’s length. I was strong and independent and ready to take on the world.

Like Taylor, “I got smarter, I got harder in the nick of time.” Only my heart became harder and harder because with every hurt a wall was built around my heart. Another hurt, another wall. Walls of sarcasm and suspicion. Walls of bitterness, pride and stony ambition.

But the thing about walls around our hearts is they don’t work. Not if we want love and joy and peace. Walls keep these away.

So what do I tell my young daughter when she’s betrayed by a friend? Or when someone calls her a name? What do I do when I’m lied to? Or ignored? Or uninvited?

I can tell my daughter to treat those who mistreated her the same way. I can tell her to ignore them and never talk to them again. I can snub those who ignore me and unfriend those who no longer welcome me.

But there is a better way. I’ll be kind to them. I’ll smile and speak when I see them. And I’ll forgive them. I’ll tell my daughters to do the same. Forgiveness may be a process and one I have to work hard at but it’s the only way to do it if I want to love and live well.

And I will tell my daughters to fight to keep their hearts soft. “Become wiser. Don’t give in to what you want to do at first. Don’t let this song or all the others like it become the anthem of your lives. Don’t give in to how the world says to treat those who hurt you. Instead, be kind and brave . And forgive them.”

 Above all else, guard your heart,
    for everything you do flows from it.     Proverbs 4:23 NIV

While lessons learned should make us wiser, they shouldn’t make us harder. Hearts are meant to be soft and without walls. That’s the only way we learn to love. That’s how we give it and get it. That’s how we learn to trust. That’s how we learn to forgive and become compassionate and kind.

Maybe smarter in the nick of time. But not harder.

Photo by Gabriele Diwald on Unsplash

Caught My Eye

My husband tells me I ask more questions than any person he’s ever known. It’s probably true.

Mom used to tell me I was curious from the beginning with a genuine desire to learn all I could. She called it a zest to investigate and it landed me into some pretty funny situations when I was younger.

I’ve not lost the zest. I wonder about things. I think of a question then search for the answer. Or something catches my eye so I’ll take a closer look.

I was pulling weeds when I noticed a few mushrooms on the other side of the yard. As I walked closer I saw this little family of mushrooms. IMG_5660.jpg

I spent the next few minutes or so observing and taking several photos of the mushrooms.

Just because they caught my eye.

We came into this life so generous, alive, unarmored, & curious.  Curious, in the best, silliest, most fixated, life-giving way. ~ Anne Lamott

A Face in the Crowd

The New Kid

The day I turned 12 years old, my family moved from our small town in Alabama to a big town in Tennessee. I lived in an unfamiliar house in a peculiar neighborhood and all my friends were too far away. A few weeks later I walked into my new school wearing a new dress because that was the rule. Girls wore dresses and boys wore collared, button-down shirts tucked in their pants. I never had these rules before and this made everything feel even stranger.

My classes went well though. I was late to Mrs. Bradshaw’s 7th grade English class because I had trouble finding the classroom. I listened intently to the teachers and was eager to learn, especially Tennessee History. Then there was lunch. I hadn’t thought about dreading it until I stood in line waiting for the glob of potatoes to fill the square on the top left corner of my tray. As I finished going through the line, I glanced around to see the entire lunchroom.

I stood there. Awkwardly. In a dress I hated. With a hideous hair cut. Holding a lunch I didn’t want to eat in a place I didn’t want to be.  IMG_5631

But like every new or uncomfortable situation I’ve been in since then, I made it through and here I am to tell the story.

We’ve all been there. Maybe not in the 7th grade with your hair cut too short wearing a plaid dress, but you’ve been the new kid or employee in training. The first-timer in an obstacle race, a freshman at college, the rookie gym member, or a newcomer to a writer’s conference…….feeling out of place, unsure and less than.

When we’re new to something we ask questions. That’s how we grow from not knowing to knowing. Is this seat taken? Which way to the math and science building? How can I strengthen my back muscles? Where do I get my timing chip? What do I say to the literary agent?

So we learn where to go and what to say and the next day or the next time it’s easier…..we’re not as unsure. We do that over and over and without even thinking about it we know what we’re doing and we’re confident in it. We’re winning the races, or killing our workouts at the gym, acing the college classes, or writing a book.

Changing circumstances, new experiences, and different environments are normal parts of our lives. Some of them we choose. Others we never would.

The best way to handle any of them: moment to moment, one foot in front of the other, with an open heart and a willingness to learn all we can. We’ll do it well sometimes. Other times we’ll fall flat on our faces. But it’s good either way if we’ve learned something, made a friend, solved a problem or faced a fear.

The more we do this, the better we get at it. We remember how we conquered the awkwardness and insecurity and it gives us courage to try other things. We welcome new opportunities. We’re not afraid to ask hard questions and we go against the flow when needed. We’re willing to be different and we don’t mind walking through difficult circumstances. Sometimes we even choose it because it’s the right thing to do.

But we do it with lots of grace and always thinking of others along the way because that’s the point. All of it means nothing……our learning, our serving, our working, our creating……..it means nothing if we’re not loving others.

I wish I could tell you who I sat with at lunch that day. Maybe I found out we had to sit with our homeroom class. Maybe someone called me over to sit with them. I do remember making lots of friends in 7th grade but I don’t remember anything from my Tennessee History class.

Let’s not forget how it feels to be the new kid and let’s make a newbie feel a little more comfortable when given the chance.

“Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”     Matthew 11:29-30 (MSG)