Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Grande, with a triple shot of Trust

An odd thing happened last week...I got completely beside myself! Completely! My sister-in-law, Lyn, was having open heart surgery. It was something we have known was going to have to occur, replacing a heart valve that had quit doing its job. Her life was at risk if she DIDN'T have the surgery. And so it was scheduled for last Wednesday, then postponed a day to Thursday.

Wednesday was ok...updates from family held any fear at bay. Thursday morning began began with a text to her very early, expressing my love and prayers. Up until this point, everything had been about HER...her fear, her discomfort, her dread. And then it happened!

Suddenly, around 10am, it became about ME! Why weren't the family members texting? Shouldn't she be at the halfway point...had the nurses phoned the waiting room? Was there trouble? What would happen if we lost her? Her daughter is pregnant. What if her new grandson never gets to know her? What if she never gets to hold him? What would it do to Lyn's mother to lose her daughter? Lyn's husband adores her. What if he lost her?

The more I indulged in these thoughts, the more beside myself I became! My heart beat faster. I couldn't breathe. So I took a walk: it only served to magnify the thoughts in my head! I watched TV, which only reminded me that people die from all kinds of things: tornados, terrorist attacks, earthquakes, heart valve surgeries...ok, that last part wasn't on TV, but it was front and center in my conscious! Then I turned to comfort food. But there was no comfort there. Now I was filled up to the brim with Cinnamon-Sugar Pita Chips, on top of my stomach full of Panic!

At this point, I am supposed to say that I received some illumination from the Holy Spirit, which whisked away my anxiety. That did not happen. I wanted it to, but it didn't. Instead, my heart pounded out of my chest, as I prepared for the worst. I just could not find the shadow under His wing. I searched for it, but I could not find it. I could not see Him on his Holy Hill.

What dissipated my anxiety? She came out of surgery ok.
 Ewwwwww. Score one for Team Panic! At other times, I would have followed Panic's victory by visiting Shame and Defeat. And I probably would have taken Pitiful with me for company!

This time, I saw this situation for what it was...a wake up call that I was holding on too tight to my family and friends, as if I could do anything to add one hair to their heads! I was focused on ME, how I was feeling, what I was thinking, what I needed to do to calm down. So, not only is fear an absence of Faith; it is also the prevalence of hubris and selfishness. God alone knows His Perfect Will.

"God, Your Will is hard, but You hold EVERY card...."

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Can I Get Mine To Go?

Yesterday was one of those great days. It was one of those days so filled with adventure and serendipity that you wake up the next morning with the awareness that your five senses have been heightened to extremes!

We took a day trip South to reconnect with old friends. But because Jon and I are enjoy-the-journey types, we soaked up the scenery along the way down. Bluebonnets were still happily blooming, thanks to our mild Spring. We played 70's music and sang the wrong words at the tops of our lungs. We held hands across the pickup console, relishing memories of our first date 40 years ago, how and where he asked me, what courage it took for him. We spoke of being destined for each other...why others couldn't see in us what we saw in each other. After 35 years of all the ups and downs of marriage, contentment and deep, abiding love have been the outcome. It was worth the fight.

We made our reconnection with our friends and fellow colleagues in the work of ministry, and enjoyed catching up on children, grandchildren, directions of ministry, world changes. After a wonderful visit, with laughter and tears and Jon's lame jokes, we began our return North.

Traffic was hectic but steadily moving. We saw our old friend, Sam Houston, standing very tall and statesmanlike beside the highway, and Jon took the next exit ramp off. We ended up at one of our favorite "haunts" sorry for the terrible pun... at a cemetery. The Oakwood Cemetery in Huntsville, TX is filled with the history of Texas since before the Texas Revolution of 1836. Sam Houston is buried there. Other heroes and early settlers are, too. Our visit there was brief but meaningful: a yellow fever epidemic went through in 1867, killing many including, eventually, the town doctor. Women died young there, of complications from childbirth or from the hard life created by nation-building. We thanked them all, as we walked among the tall cedars and moss-covered tree roots. The cemetery was teeming with life.

We got back in the pickup, and we drove two blocks up the hill to the stop light heading back to the highway. Straight ahead was the Huntsville Unit of the Texas State Prison system. It is a massive red brick building in the middle of old Huntsville, the building like a well-preserved relic from the 19th century. We were able to drive all the way around it, experiencing each armed guard on the high walls, the radiating of foreboding from the inside. This is the unit for death row inmates. It holds those for whom our society holds no hope. Death lives there, inside those high walls.

And just within earshot of the Huntsville Unit, the courthouse square was serving up live music, while families sat on blankets on the lawn. Children were running and playing as the band supplied the crowd with melodies of sadness and wistful heart songs. The irony of the experience was not lost on us. We drove by Sam Houston State University as we headed for our original highway home, and we considered the intensity of ...well, of that community. From I-45 you see the newer-built units of the prison system there. To see it all, you have to leave the highway, interrupt your journey, and make a destination out of something you would rather not see.

I slept the rest of the way home, with my head on the console and Jon's fingers playing in my hair. I could still smell the cedars as I drifted off...

"Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death."

"But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere."

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Do you have any Chloe's Doggie Biscottis?

Ok, everyone, in the midst of a week that made me reconsider the Mayan prophesies, The Lord has given me a blonde-haired portrait of His desire for His people to persevere. Her name is Chloe. She is 9 years old and lives around the corner from me. And she wants a sewing machine.

In that way, she reminds me so much of Hayley. Hayley would design entire outfits, including jewelry and shoes, that were actually adorable. Too bad I didn't know how to only real attempt ended in the ER, having the sewing machine needle removed from my finger! True story!

Back to Chloe. She wants a specific machine that does embroidery as well as sewing, and a pile of concept drawings are begging her to sew them. She has a 12 year old sister and a 7 month old sister, so funds for this particular machine would be under the category of luxury. But her smart, sweet mother was determined not to discourage her daughter's desire. Instead, she put the onus on Chloe to EARN the money. After thinking hard about the resources that she had to work with, Chloe decided to go door-to-door, offering to scoop poop for $6 per house ($5 for the sewing machine and $1 for tithe). Her family had gotten an A #1 pooper scoop for Christmas, but she obviously needed supervision and protection in her endeavor. That required that her mother get someone to keep the baby, while she devoted individual time to help Chloe ultimately succeed. So, last Saturday, Chloe scooped away, and did a very good job!

Today, (Thursday) Chloe was back. She was carrying a pink plastic basket filled with the absolute cutest homemade doggie biscuits, two per plastic bag and tied with adorable doggie paw print ribbon! She said, "I went to the library and got a cookbook for doggie treats. I used chicken broth and healthy herbs and seasonings, and I made them all myself! There are 2 treats in each bag, and each bag costs $1." With that smile of hers, I would have bought some, even if I didn't have a dog!!! So I bought 4!!!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Ponderings over my Afternoon Cup

After church and lunch today, I joined the throngs in the millions at the Lowe's in Little Elm. There was color, play clothes, church clothes, and even some colorful language! I encountered a family in the bathroom with a very upset child. At first, I thought it was a Sunday tantrum, by a little sweetheart needing a nap. Instead, it was a sweet mother trying to take her little daughter and herself to the restroom, along with her 2 year old son, who was screaming. He was screaming and crying hysterically because he was absolutely terrified by the loud noises of the flushing toilets! Terrified! I could only see his little croc'ed feet, but each time a toilet flushed, he would literally climb the door to the stall trying to get out! His precious mother kept telling him, "It's ok. We're almost done. Just a minute. It's ok. I promise, it's ok. Nothing will hurt you. It's just loud in here. It's ok...."

For the convenience of their customers, the toilets were self-flushing. Self-flushing. Which means that any movement in the tiny stalls would trigger the toilets to flush. Over and over. His agony was unbearable! Not the crying, not the desperation to escape. But the agony! All so that his little big sister could go to the bathroom. My heart broke for all three of them.

I bought my petunias and headed to my car, when I had my second momentous encounter. I was putting my basket into the organized gathering spot for empty carts in the parking lot. Just as I got there, a young worker arrived to gather those carts, wearing a disgusted look. The object of his disgust was a box sitting in the spot where a child or a heavy purse would normally be. He looked at me and said, "Really? They've got their nerve! Really?" I looked closer at the box and saw that it was a moving box with the competition's logo emblazoned in orange on every side. "I can't deal with that," he said as he picked it up. He got a confused look on his face and set the box back in the basket, pulling open its cardboard flaps to reveal its treasure...."'s a bunch of craft stuff. Now, what am I supposed to do with a Home Depot box filled with craft stuff!" He spit out in my direction while meaning to only exchange disgusted glances. "...(muttering)...throw this junk away..."

I couldn't hold back now. "May I look?" and he nodded. Inside was someone's Craft Corner from Sunday School, including card stock, beads, fabric, and more. "Please don't throw this stuff away. Someone took this out of their trunk to make room for something else and forgot to put it back. This represents alot of money spent for someone's church. They didn't mean to leave it, and they are going to need it. Couldn't you just put it in a Lowe's box and put it at the front desk? You know someone had this at their church today. It's Sunday, it's getting hot, they probably brought kids, and it was just overlooked."

"But the box...?"

"Overlook the box just this once. Put it in another box. But please, hold it for the ones who left it. It's the right thing to do, you know it is. Please do the right thing. Let them come back for it."

"You are a lady who does the right thing by people, aren't you. You're that kind of person. Ok, I will take it in and save it for them. I will do it."

I said, "You won't regret doing the right thing. And I see by your name tag that you are a Customer Service Representative and that your name is Robert. Robert, I will go online to Lowe's website and post your good deed today. People will know that you did the right thing." His sheepish expression contrasted my wide smile and signaled the end of our exchange, but he had that box in his arms and was headed to the building.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

I'll Take a Pound of Whole Bean For Later

When I was in 6th grade, I remember sitting on my floor beside my bed with pen and paper, making out my timeline. I really grew up emotionally that year. I had come to realize that I would probably never marry Bobby Sherman or Davy Jones of the Monkees. (I might have had a slight hope with Mike Nesmith, since he was from Texas, but I didn't really want him.) I had realized that some people liked me and some didn't...mainly because of my optimistic outlook. Some people got it, and liked me. Some people didn't, and I became invisible to them because they thought I just didn't know as much as they did.

The Life Plan, my Timeline, looked something like this:
Age 18  Graduate from High School
Age 21  Graduate from College
Age 21  Begin career....maybe as a nurse or teacher
Age 22  Get married to nice, regular guy
Age 26  Have my first child, a boy, named Jason (of course)
Age 30  Have 2nd child, a girl, named Shannon Elizabeth
Ages 32 to 40  Have 4 additional children, with a total of 3 girls and 3 boys
Ages 6th Grade to 100  Live happily ever after!

That is some plan. And it looked very doable to me. I wasn't a Christian then, but I was a very good, sweet girl, so such a plan seemed perfect to me.

After I became a Christian at age 14, I lifted this same plan up to God and asked if He had any problem with it. Without waiting for an answer, I presented it in the form of a motion, seconded it, had some obligatory discussion with myself about it, then voted, and the motion did indeed carry into the by laws of my life with a voted of 1-0, with God abstaining. He could have voted no at any time, of course. But why would He? It was reasonable. It was well thought out. It put my education first. It included love and children, six of them! What kind of a problem could He have with that?

I had no idea that, just perhaps, God was smarter than me. He could see that the optimism in me needed to become joy, which requires hardship, victory, and failure. He could see that I would marry a month before my 19th birthday, and have to push myself to get out of college in 3 1/2 years. He could see that I would never become a nurse, nor would I ever become a school teacher. Instead, He desired for me to become a Pastor's wife, for which He had prepared me my whole life. He could see that my first child would a boy alright. But his name was to be Zachary Mason, knowing that a mason is a builder with stone and brick...he builds things that last and stand the test of time. He knew our second child would be another son named Samuel, after the grandfather Jon never knew but loved by reputation. And God knew that He would give us our girl, Barbara Hayley Elizabeth (we did get the Elizabeth in there), but at age 29, He took away the ability for me to have anymore. He didn't ask me...He just did it.

The "Ever After" part has been happily spent, but other emotions have been added to the bowl and mixed in well...sadness, poverty, death; success, singing, pleasure; hummus, enchiladas, haggis. It would not have looked very attractive on a timeline, that's for sure. But it is my life, nonetheless.

Go ahead, make your intricate timelines. Tell God your expectations. Present your 20 Year Long Term Goals, written in pen.

"....And God laughs...."

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Please Brew Mine Fresh...

I was talking with an older Christian woman yesterday, who was telling me about a new Bible Study she has been attending at her church. "What are you studying?" I asked. "The book of John," she said. "Are you enjoying it?" I asked next. "Not fact, I am thinking of quitting it. They want to look at it in detail. So much of John is such a comfort to me that I don't want to know anything that might 'muddy' that up....."

Wow. Don't want to know. There is nothing about God that I don't want to know. There is nothing about scripture that I don't want to know. There is absolutely nothing about Jesus that I don't want to know!

I guess comfort is not my end goal in study...Truth is. Truth is sometimes hard, sometimes a relief, sometimes causes conflict, sometimes makes peace. Truth sets free. Truth brings freedom. That freedom is our liberator from the dishonesties of the worlds of our own making, with us as the center sun and the creator of ourselves. Freedom from the foolishness of looking at today and thinking this is all we have. Freedom to be challenged to learn till our dying breath about some of the things that are not comfortable in this world.....and in our very imperfect lives!

It all boils down to this: Love The Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind; love yourself; and love your neighbor at least as much or more than you love yourself.

So simple....and sometimes so uncomfortable!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Half Caff with Room for Cream

Last weekend was a whirlwind! Jon was teaching his Tarleton State University Paradigm Bible Study on Thursday night till 10pm. Then, he got in his pickup and drove 8 hours to Ruidoso, NM to speak twice on Friday to a corporate retreat. He was back in his car immediately, driving the 8 hours back to Granbury, TX to speak at 11am at a marriage conference with me!

If that made you exhausted to read, join the rest of the logically-thinking world!

When we finally got home late that afternoon, he had made grand plans for us...a nice dinner out, walking around our town square, coffee on the patio under the stars.........
I could see before we hit the house that he was white with exhaustion, and, in my heart, I knew none of that would happen.

I offered to go get his cleaning before they closed, and I picked up dinner while I was out. When I got home, I set the table and we ate, with me explaining that I was "too tired" to eat out. We talked a few minutes, before the inevitable happened...HE FELL ASLEEP!

But I didn't care. Who cares about eating out and walking around with a zombie!

For most of you, you take that "common air" for granted, because you breathe it at the end of every day together. But it is rarified air to me. It is experiencing the flesh and blood, instead of waving to his location's regional map on the Weather Channel. It is hearing that small puff that represents his version of a snore, rather than settling for exchanging "good night, I love you" on the phone. It is watching over him while he sleeps and letting the rest of the world go on its merry way.

For that one glorious moment, we are breathing the same air. Can anything be better than that!?!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Did Someone Make Coffee?

I made a statement in our Sunday School class last week that I was the best and worst Christian during the years when my kids were little. I actually stole that from a missionary friend, Robin Tinley, who also said that after you give birth to your third child, no one will ever invite you over with your kids again! Brutal truth was a quality of hers!

The reason I was the worst Christian then was because I never had time to read my Bible with any truly deep study. I never had time to go into my prayer closet for intense intercession. Good grief, it wasn't even safe at my house to close my eyes when I prayed! And if I ever made it to church on time, it was only because I had decided we would forgo: a) breakfast, b) shoes, or c) both!

I was my closest to The Lord because I was desperate for His constant companionship! I read my Verse of the Day Calendar at least 10 times a day, just to keep my mind above the fray. I prayed sentence prayers constantly, all day long, all night long, without ceasing. "Lord, don't let Sam step on a spider. You know how he has a reaction, but we live by an open field." "Father, Zack has another ear infection. Give him comfort from the pain." "Jesus, my Hayley girl is 3 going on 30. Please give me wisdom."

I was so tempted to "hang out" somewhere when I was late again to SS. But I knew I needed the fellowship and nourishment from the Scripture. So I suffered the jokes and gentle ribbing of the preacher's wife being late again, knowing my husband had been at the church since 6:30am preparing for a long day, and I got my family ready, in the car, and into the nursery/classroom by myself.

But, as I look back on it, I see a very strange miracle was taking place: my Verse of the Day, my sentence prayers, and my distracted worship were my 5 loaves and 2 fish. God took my "whatever I time I have" and blessed it and broke it and multiplied it. He met my needs, answered my prayers, gave me hope, and implanted wisdom. He wasn't mad at me; He was proud of me.

Friday, January 11, 2013

I'll take mine black, no fussy stuff

I happen to possess one of the most fascinating things on the planet...a set of stairs! When we first moved to Frisco, our home had TWO sets of stairs. That excitement (and waste of space) was just too much to handles! But five years ago, we moved into a house with a single set of wide, sturdy stairs, with a wooden handrail attached to wrought-iron spindles. I had no idea what a treacherous temptation it would provide. I viewed it only as a utilitarian means to an go from floor A to floor B.

How very limited was my viewpoint! The span between floor A and floor B holds a world of possibilities and dangers for kids of all ages! Older folks see only their escalating chances for broken hips, legs, and dignity. Is the second story actually worth that risk? Usually not. Nothing up there could possibly be worth months to years of hobbling and tortuous pain, much less untold agony. (My homeowners' does not cover untold agony.)

But for those under the age of 5, such an expanse produces a magnetic attraction similar to the pull of gravity in our earth's atmosphere! Very little can turn back that magnetism, short of removal from the possibility. Their eyes want to look away, but can't somehow. They try to distract themselves, but to no avail. There they are, the stairs, the lure to be taller, be bigger, know new and unusual things that require the risk of the climb. What could be up the top of the stairs? Who could be lurking...around the corner from the top of the stairs? What waits to be discovered.....waits in equal be discovered?

And what can the stairs themselves become? Playground? Table? Slinky roadway? The "getting there" will be as big an adventure as the view from the top. Crawling on hands and feet seems the safest way to get there. Adults, however, never crawl up. They have the ability to ascend, but don't seem to care that much to go, especially if their hands are full. Their abilities are wasted on them! So sad, they take for granted their easy chance at joy!

A petite blonde girl sits in the world's safest car, in the world's most sought-after car safety seat, securely fastened and being driven under the speed limit. She sits content for the remaining miles. But behind her eyes, one can see a twinkle. Upon closer examination, it appears to be resolve. The "risk" is waiting, and she intends to take it. The gauntlet beckons, and she will run it. She will not crawl. Although not yet 3, she will not crawl. She will play nearby, as though she could not possibly care less; but, she
will take her shot. Be assured. Be vigilant. But don't be fooled.

The kid has spunk!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

First cup of the New Year

I woke up on the first day of 2013 in a rustic motel in Crestline, California. Crestline is a sweet, little berg nestled into a section of the San Bernardino Mountainside. It had snowed the day before: a wet snow that insisted on turning from liquid to solid when the evening set in.

Just up the road from Crestline is the Thousand Pines Retreat Center. Waiting for us there, 270 students/young adults from all over the US and Canada depended on us to be Papa and Mama during this spiritual pilgrimage, preparing them before pushing them out of their nests in these treetops. They sing praise with abandon. They cry out loud before The Lord when they pray in honest repentance. Their need of us makes me want to be my best before God. They make me want to be a better person.

Their questions are raw, their eyes probing. They want the Truth, then they can accept or reject that Truth. It is an incredible responsibility. It can even be overwhelming. I want so much for them. I want them to have trust, to have joy, to have peace. I want them to believe me when I say, "Don't settle in anything you do....don't settle in your relationships, in your goals, or in your pursuit of God."

I want them to believe me when I tell them to take responsibility for their decisions and to plan for their futures. I want them to see their value in the world and in the Kingdom. I want them to believe that they can overcome the past, keeping its lessons and discarding its baggage! I want them to realize their potentials, while appreciating the sacrifices made to get to the present. I want them to see that God truly does have a wonderful plan for their lives, and He will be faithful to see it completed in them.

Actually, what I want for them is what I want for myself this new year...I intend to follow my own advice, for once!

Happy New Year!