Monthly Archives: August 2013

tick tock goes the clock

So, I had a cool topic for this week.

And then I sat down at Starbucks after church last Sunday to write about it, like I do….and it wouldn’t come out.  I mean, I tried writing it like four different ways, and the words I wanted to say, the point I wanted to make, just kept getting jumbled on the page.  It was as if the black of the words melted together and became some sort of ink blob.  They just wouldn’t come together right.  It was like trying to pull a weed out of a garden when the ground is baked hard and all you succeed in doing after pulling at the thing with all your might is breaking off the top part of the stem.  No good.

The time wasn’t right. The ground wasn’t soft; it wasn’t time to pull the weed.  The time wasn’t right to talk about what I wanted. The words are still stuck in the ground.  They’re all twisted around each other; all firmly baking beneath the hard soil.  And they’re still growing, still forming.  It’s not time to take pull them up yet.

And so, I’m going to wait to write about it.  It’ll come; I promise.  And maybe it’ll even be the best one yet.  Maybe it won’t.  But I’m waiting.

Because timing is everything.

I should know.

You know how there is a good time to say things to people, and a bad time?  Even if you say whatever it is you’ve got to get off your chest in the exact same way?  Same place, same tone of voice, same facial expression.  Same everything.  Different time – completely different reaction.

There are several people in my life that are kinda, sorta, potentially incredibly hard to talk to.

The hardest one is, to be very honest and meant with no disrespect whatsoever, is my father.   Depending on the day, if I tell him that his socks pulled up to his knees and being proudly displayed in his sandals are rather tacky-looking, that they might be, in fact, incredibly uncool, he has a couple possible reactions.  The first one is just plain laughter. That’s a good reaction. I had good timing.  I read his personal mood signals right.  But somedays I don’t read things right (or, to be honest, I’m too busy to care) and when I tell him his socks are a bit ridiculous, he storms out of the room, insanely angry and hurt, and slams a door or three.  Same words on my part, totally different reactions on his.  It’s all in the timing.

If two people are in the middle of a heart-felt conversation, and one of them pulls out a phone and starts texting someone else – very, very bad timing.  Seriously.  Whatever the texter had to say could probably have waited fifteen minutes.

You don’t ask a football player how his day has been right after he walks off a field where he just lost his game.  You don’t ask Mom for a couple of bucks for a new outfit right after she’s done the bills.  It’s just bad timing.

So, as you go through life, be careful of your timing.  Be aware of the people you interact with, what they’re going through, what mood they’re in.

But, also, be aware GOD has His own timing as well.  Don’t try to push it.  Be willing to wait for His perfect timing.  Be listening for His quiet voice to give you the “go” signal.  It comes in different forms – sometimes it feels like a rope tied around your chest pulling you somewhere.  Sometimes it’s just a gentle nudge in a direction.  Sometimes….it feels like a logical guess and a huge leap in faith.  So be aware that God directs us in different ways.

But, despite that not-so-minor detail, be willing to wait for the perfect timing.  Be sensitive to timing. Life will go so much better for you if you do.

 

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Plans and Sovereign Laughter

Butterfly!

School has started for all my teacher friends. Last year I was figuring out how to decorate wall panels and how to teach math, how exactly the temperamental copy machine works, and which seat each of my students would sit in for the first quarter.

But not this year.  This year is something new.  And while each year of the last six years has always had something new about this time of year, this year is something different.

This year I’m the student, not the teacher.

This year, I’m going to seminary.

No, not to become a pastor.  At least, not a head pastor of a church somewhere where I give a sermon every week.  I have no desire to do that.  But I do have a desire to love and serve and minister to people.  And while I already know how to do that, I’m going to school to learn how to do that better.  And mostly because, six years ago, God planted that seed in me.

See, when I graduated college, I kinda figured that was the end of education for me.  I never had any desire to go get a master’s degree.  At the time, I wasn’t even sure I could mentally handle it.  And I definitely didn’t want to try.  I was done.  I knew everyone else expected me to at some point, but I can be pretty good at ignoring people.

Plus, I had my life pretty much figured out.  Granted, life was already deviating slightly from the plan, but I figured that was a temporary thing.

The original plan was to get my teacher’s license, teach high school English for a couple years, pay off my college debts (ha!), and then go be a live-in tutor of sorts for some family on the mission field in the bush of Africa (does Africa even still have a bush?).  I was going to meet my husband on the mission field in the bush, and we’d get married under some tree somewhere in the bush, and then I’d teach our children wherever he was being a missionary (in the bush).

That was my plan.

And God laughed.

He sent me to college in Iowa instead of Colorado, like I had planned.  And THEN, He gave me the desire to get a minor in theater, along with earning my Teaching English major.  Which meant I spent an extra year in Iowa.  Plus I had a minor I had never intended on having.

And then, after I graduated, I went straight to the mission field.  No teaching in the States for a few years to pay off debts (yeah, as a teacher, that was never going to happen in just a few years).  But the living overseas thing ended up not being my long-term calling.  So I came home.  And was a third-grade aide for a year, and then…well, I’ve had a lot of jobs since then.

And now I’m going to Seminary, because the summer I came back from Bahrain God planted that in me, and now that seed has grown into a rather intriguing plant, declaring to me that it’s time.

All that to say, life is NOT how I planned it.  Life is NOT what I expected.

I’m not complaining.  It’s been quite the journey, and I’ve learned so much.  And I know God so much better than I ever dreamed, and I have so much more to learn.

I guess what I’m trying to say at the beginning of the school year is this:  Life is probably not going to go the way you expect.  Keep moving in the plans you have.  Keep pursuing them, but when God comes along and swipes them away from you, and when He replaces them with something crazy – don’t be alarmed.  Don’t even be surprised.  Just keep moving forward.

Keep moving.

Learn to enjoy the unknown and the surprise and even – yes – even the failure.

Hold everything with an open hand – it’s easier and less painful for God to switch things up on you that way.

Just remember that as Christ Reflections, it is our duty to bring Him glory.  And when you offer Him your life to do with as He pleases, He’ll do just that.  Trust Him; He’s great at planning adventures.

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Hairy Heart vs. Trust

I remember one very scary morning as a senior in high school when I noticed my father taking some pills, and I was informed he’d be missing school that day (he was a teacher at my high school).  I asked Mom about it, and apparently he had a medical condition they didn’t think they needed to tell me about because while it had potential to be life-threatening, they weren’t sure yet.

I spent most of that day trying not to cry, which didn’t work very well.  After all, everyone knew my father wasn’t at school, and that just didn’t happen.  My dad was one of those teachers you prayed daily would be gone so that you had a sub….and the kind that NEVER did.  If he got sick, he had some sort of deal with God that it was going to be over a weekend.  He wouldn’t want to cheat his students out of a single class with him.

So everyone asked where he was.  But, because of how little I knew, and because I grew up in a household of teachers and knew there’s just some stuff you can’t say to fellow students, I didn’t say much.  It was pretty easy, because anytime anyone would ask me anything, I’d have to swallow sobs, and tears would escape down my cheeks.  The kids wouldn’t ask anything after that.

Once, when one guy asked, I did get a “Oh, nothing” out.  But, the funny thing is, the very second I said that, I realized it had been the wrong answer.  He OBVIOUSLY knew something was up (I’m not the crying type), and he was just trying to comfort me.  And by not telling him, I had built walls between us.  I had essentially done what I was so angry at my parents for doing.

Instead of reaching out for the help that was offered; here I was, pushing everyone away.

I felt betrayed, abandoned, alone, and scared out of my senses.  I felt lied to, even though my parents hadn’t said anything.  Which was maybe the point – something huge was going on in our family, and they didn’t say anything.   They were trying to protect me.

Trying to protect me.

I hate those words.  While I understand the concept, I have never known those words to bring comfort and understanding.  In fact, I have only ever seen those words, or rather, the actions behind those words, do more harm than good.

And yeah, when faced with something hard, I’ve definitely had the first thought to protect those I love from whatever I’m facing.  Or I’ve had the thought that they really wouldn’t care.  Or that they didn’t need to be burdened with it.  Or wouldn’t understand.

But….but that’s not love.  That’s not community.  That’s not being open and vulnerable.

In fact, I’m going to go so far as to say that by NOT telling your close friends and family the heavy stuff, you’re preventing God from getting the glory He deserves when He works in the situation.  (Because, as long as the people involved are willing, God WILL work.  He WILL make all things good, and He WILL redeem the situation.  It might not be how you want or expect, but He will.  But ONLY if they let Him.)

But if you don’t tell the people that God has placed in your life what’s going on – what’s actually going on – you’re robbing them of seeing God work.  You’re robbing them of future joy.  And you’re making your journey harder on yourself.  You weren’t made to walk ANY part of this life by yourself.  We were made for community.  Might even be why Adam longed for Eve before God created her.  God never intended Adam to live alone.

But you have to be honest.  You have to say the hard stuff.  You have to be willing to say exactly where you are, what you’re feeling, if you even know.  To fake it, is wrong. You have to trust your friends to accept you AND your burden.  You have to trust God to hold your heart and the hearts of everyone connected to you.  You have to trust.

Which can seem so scary or impossible in the face of whatever else it is you’re facing.  But, in the long run, it’s better.  Promise.  Your relationship with God will be stronger.  Your friendships have potential to be stronger.  Your family has potential to be closer.

There are several stories and thoughts – J.K.Rowlings haven written one, and C.S.Lewis having stated that when a person protects their heart (or other people from what their heart is going through) so fully as to not let anyone else have any sort of access to it, that heart gets perverted, morphed, (hairy, if you will).  Hearts were made to be shared.  Life was made to be shared.  Carefully shared, wisely shared, sure.  But shared nonetheless.

But you have to be open.  You have to be genuine. You have to be willing.  You have to trust.

 

 

 

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
C. S. Lewis

 

 

PS – if you aren’t a cool enough nerd to know what I’m talking about when I’m referring to J.K.Rowling’s story – go read “The Warlock’s Hairy Heart”.  You can definitely find it in The Tales of Beedle The Bard,  maybe online.

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hiking, water, and too much sugar

Yesterday, I went hiking (if you can call a quarter-mile trail, a hike) with my youth group kids.   And it was hard.  Like, imagine if the air turned to water, and you suddenly had to develop the muscles to walk through it.  Everything in you has to push your body through it, each and every step.  That’s how the short hike was yesterday.

Which was weird.

Now, I’m not the best hiker in the world.  And I’m obviously not in incredible shape.  BUT I’m in MUCH better shape than the above statement implies.  I had just spent the weekend before in the mountains and done a tiny bit of hiking with much better success.  And while I was still the slowest hiker in the group over the weekend, and I had to catch my breath a lot – the whole walking-in-water-this-is-impossible feeling was NOT something I felt. 

So what had changed in the course of just a couple days?

As I mentally pushed through each and every step for a quarter mile, I tried to figure it out. 

And I’ve come to a conclusion.  I THINK it had something to do with the fact that the day before the short hike, I hardly drank any water, and I ate more than a healthy share of sugar.  I hadn’t done that over the weekend.  I had eaten (relatively) healthy.  My lack of healthy food and water intake affected my hiking performance in a more obvious, bigger way than I expected.

And (of course) I got to thinking that this is true of my life (not just my body ) as well.  Everything affects my ability to be the woman God created me to be.  If I’m paying attention to God, listening to voices that point me in that direction (godly friends, uplifting music/movies/books/etc.) than being that woman, living a life that God has called me to, is going to be so much easier (and, in fact, actually possible) and so much more enjoyable.  But if I’m “eating a bunch of sugar” ( or watching movies that put my mind in places that aren’t healthy, or listening to friends who might not have the godliest wisdom, or any wisdom) than attempting to be the woman God created me to be is going to be practically impossible.  And will probably feel like walking through water.  Not much fun.

So, to clear up a slightly muddy point, what voices are you allowing to speak into your life’s story?  Who is helping to narrate your life story?  Is it God and people who are a first-name- basis with Him?  Is it music and stories that help you think about Him, and good, pure, honorable, things? 

Or, are you listening to “sugar” that will slow you down and make simple, enjoyable things like a quarter-mile hike feel practically impossible?   That’s not how God intended you to have to live life.  He has better for you.  

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three-fingered, bug-eyed, and green-skinned

Have you ever felt like you didn’t belong here?

Did you know that’s because you don’t?

No kidding – you’re an alien.  Seriously!

Don’t  believe me – do have a great group of friends, but still, somehow, something’s off?  Or you might have only a few, or even no friends, and you KNOW something’s not right.  Or maybe your sense of style isn’t quite like everyone else’s.  You dance to a different beat.  You just know there HAS to be something better than this day-to-day-to-day life.

But everything around you tells you that you’re wrong.  Everyone else fits.  You will to; you just have to figure out how.  Get a boyfriend.  Dress differently.  Listen to Justin Bieber or One Direction (no, please don’t).   Get better grades.  Be a nerd.  Be a cheerleader.  Act a certain way.  Eat certain foods.  Weigh a certain weight.  Enjoy certain movies.  Do your hair a certain way.  Get to a certain level on a certain video game.  Learn to drive.  Go to college.  Know what you want to do with your life.  Have a purpose.  Have an awesome bedroom!   Blend in!

And while none of those things are inherently bad in and of themselves (except for maybe Bieber or OD or blending in), they aren’t ever going to quiet that nagging feeling that you don’t belong here.  That you were made for something better than this.   And people will tell you that’s normal, to not to pay too much attention.

And they’re right.  It IS normal.  Because you weren’t created for the world!  You weren’t created to fit in here!  At least, not with the world as it is right now.  Believe it or not, you were created to “fit in” in a perfect world, one where Eden existed and there was peace.  Where death was unheard of, and no one was ever ashamed.  A life that would fit in up in Heaven!  You’re just in the wrong place!  Go figure, right?  Doesn’t help with that restless/ frustrated/ out-of-place you have feeling right now, does it?  Sorry.

But that’s the point.  You’re not supposed to live a life that fits in here.  If your life looks too much like everyone else’s, something’s wrong.  You were made for something better, greater and grander than our current broken earth.  Unfortunately, living a life that would fit in heaven, usually means a bit (or a lot) of pain and discontent while living on the earth.

And so, what does living a heaven life here on earth mean?

It means you love people here when everyone else turns their back on you (even when the person you are trying to love turns their back).  It means knowing your money isn’t yours – it’s God’s.  And when He asks you to do something with it, you do it, no matter how little sense it makes.  It means having different priorities than everyone else.  Your goal isn’t to be the best or the richest or the prettiest or the one at the top (that’s all over rated anyway).  Your goal is to love the people around you the best you can, and then love them even better because Jesus is loving them through you.

Your goal is to, in everything, bringing God glory…in a way HE wants.  Don’t EVER assume you know what will bring God glory.  That’s up to Him.  So, ask.  And if He doesn’t respond, you move forward in the way your heart tells you.  Believe me, if your heart is in a place that wants God’s will to be fulfilled, He is not going to let you go in a wrong direction. He might just be waiting for you to move and THEN He’ll direct you.  He does that sometimes.

So, know you don’t belong here.  When you feel out of place, when your heart yearns for something better – that’s because that’s what you’re made for.  Don’t give up heart.  You’ll get there one day.  In God’s perfect timing, He’ll bring you home.

But don’t forget while you’re here on earth, that you don’t belong.  Don’t try to fit in.  Just be the wonderful you God created you to be.

After all, you’re an alien here!

Thankfully, you’re not the only one.  Which is why things like good friends who ALSO know they are aliens are important.  They can help you be an alien-life form here on earth.

But don’t ever let anyone convince you that this is your home, that you’re an earthling.   And believe me, there are a million voices trying.

But you’re not.  You have a fuller, crazier, more meaningful life ahead of you than an ol’ earthling does. You’re an alien, longing for your own world.  A world you call home.

And that’s a beautiful, wonderful, (yes, sometimes painful) thing.

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

Hebrews 11:13 – 16  (ESV)

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