Out of all the things we could be/should be endeavoring to take on, change, or be for 2010, perhaps finding the perfect diet for our soul should be first on our list. Granted, some of us are already being force-fed parts of this diet that we didn't realize were included with the original meal plan. Health, finances, and losses beyond our control factor into our lives and can sometimes unbalance the perfection we long to have.
But yet there is a peace, a joy which we can have when we know to Whom our soul belongs, and when we acknowledge from whence our perfect, prescribed diet originates. God put the soul in each one of us - He made you you. He already has the perfect diet for your soul on His majestic menu, and He's just waiting for you to order it up. Why not ask Him tonight to lay out His spread before you in this up and coming year, and see if it isn't a different year than you had imagined.
It was a fun day.
So why the stress? It's tradition, I suppose. I remind myself, "it's still early, it's still early, it's still early" like a mantra so as not to send myself into a tailspin panic. My word, the Thanksgiving leftovers are barely cold but as soon as the month with the capital D hits we are immediately thrown into merry maniac mode.
I admit I'm getting sucked into the maelstrom that seems to derail me every year from enjoying the true reason for the season (excuse the overused rhyming cliche, but it works). As I go through my day making my list and checking things off at least twice, I do manage to feel more organized and on top of things if I get a few things done daily towards my ultimate goal that lands me at the manger on Christmas Day, presents unwrapped and turkey in the oven. Like starting for the umpteenth time on a diet, I vow, again this year, to not let all the hustle and bustle of the season get to me, but to slow down and enjoy the goings-on about me, seeing each day like another little paper door on an Advent calendar opening to show what surprise is waiting for me inside.
God created Christmas, but I'm not sure He bargained on the whole holiday rush thing we've got going on. See what you can do this year to make it less stressful and more Jesus-full. Drop a comment here and let us know what you're doing to slow down a bit so we can all learn from one another!
And, as always, my dad's words echo in my ears every time I have a birthday. He never let us forget that although on that particular day you were a certain age (48), you were now entering the next numerical year of your life ("You're now in your 49th year").
God is working in you to help you want to do and be able to do what pleases him.
Set apart for a special work.
God shaped you according to yours. How else can you explain yourself? Your ability to diagnose an engine problem by the noise it makes, to bake a cake without a recipe. You knew the Civil War better than your American history teacher. You know the name of every child in the orphanage. How do you explain such quirks of skill?
God. He knew young Israel would need a code, so he gave Moses a love for the law. He knew the doctrine of grace would need a fiery advocate, so he set Paul ablaze. And in your case, he knew what your generation would need and gave it. He designed you. And his design defines your destiny. Remember Peter's admonition? "If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies" (1 Pet. 4:11).
I encountered walking proof of this truth on a trip to Central America. Dave, a fellow American, was celebrating his sixty-first birthday with friends at the language school where my daughter was studying Spanish. My question—"What brings you here?"—opened a biographical floodgate. Drugs, sex, divorce, jail—Dave's first four decades read like a gangster's diary. But then God called him. Just as God called Moses, Paul, and millions, God called Dave.
His explanation went something like this. "I've always been able to fix things. All my life when stuff broke, people called me. A friend told me about poor children in Central America, so I came up with an idea. I find homes with no fathers and no plumbing. I install sinks and toilets and love kids. That's what I do. That's what I was made to do."
Sounds like Dave has found the cure for the common life. He's living in his sweet spot. What about you? What have you always done well? And what have you always loved to do?
That last question trips up a lot of well-meaning folks. God wouldn't let me do what I like to do—would he? According to Paul, he would. "God is working in you to help you want to do and be able to do what pleases him" (Phil. 2:13 NCV). Your Designer couples the "want to" with the "be able to." Desire shares the driver's seat with ability. "Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart" (Ps. 37:4 NIV). Your Father is too gracious to assign you to a life of misery. As Thomas Aquinas wrote, "Human life would seem to consist in that in which each man most delights, that for which he especially strives, and that which he particularly wishes to share with his friends."
So go ahead; reflect on your life. What have you always done well and loved to do?Some find such a question too simple. Don't we need to measure something? Aptitude or temperament? We consult teachers and tea leaves, read manuals and horoscopes. We inventory spiritual gifts and ancestors. While some of these strategies might aid us, a simpler answer lies before us. Or, better stated, lies within us.
The oak indwells the acorn. Read your life backward and check your supplies. Rerelish your moments of success and satisfaction. For in the merger of the two, you find your uniqueness.
Lucky me. I found out yesterday afternoon that not so great things also come in the unexpected. Mid-afternoon found me struggling with an issue that I couldn't have possibly seen coming. I was blindsided. Stunned. Incredulous. A "this can't possibly be happening" feeling overwhelmed me. It overwhelmed others very close to me too, and I felt their pain. With one phone call, my day had turned on a dime and my sunny outlook turned grim. Hello, valley.
After working things through with the involved parties at the end of the day, life leveled out a degree or two and I was just starting to regain a slight sense of balance this morning when the second blow hit. This time it was a daughter in tears on the phone, unable to register for spring semester classes at her college due to lack of a required physical, thereby blocking her online records and her ability to do the urgent task at hand. As I sat in my desk chair at work listening to her, I was completely at a loss as to how to help her from 100 miles away. My head started to pound with this new pressure being set squarely on top of the tension still fresh from yesterday that had barely started to clear. Could this much really be happening in such a short period of time? Seemed so, because happening it was.
Whereas dilemma number one's resolution hadn't come yet, for problem number two God showed up in a big way and fast. At the time, I had approximately 20 free minutes at school between classes, and my daughter's phone call came at the top of those 20. Still doing accomplishable work tasks while I set up command central on my cell phone, I placed call after call to various sources trying to help her out. My husband offered to make as many 100 mile round trips as needed to get her home and back if she needed to see our family doctor. Finally, phone call number three for me was the charm- the health services office at her university assured me that if she placed a call to them, they would waive the restriction and off to registration-land she could go. My panic lessened; solutions were on the horizon. I called her, she called them, and in minutes she had a spring schedule and was on her way to the rest of her day. And my 20 minutes were up.
Fortunately as my day continued it held no more surprises good or bad, which was fine with me. After a quick dinner out, I stopped at the store. After picking up my few items, I got in what appeared to be the shortest checkout line. (if you've ever shopped, you know what's coming next.) The woman in front of me was trying to redeem her grocery store coupon for her free turkey. She had a lovely looking bird there, but as I caught the conversation, I could hear the store employees telling her she had picked too nice a catch. This was definitely a turkey upgrade from what the coupon allowed for free... instead of getting the nice fresh gobbler, I think she was supposed to have chosen the frozen block of meat that resembled a bowling ball.
They tried voiding the purchase. We waited. They tried voiding the whole order. We waited.
They tried fooling the register into thinking that she really had purchased the right fowl. We waited some more. Five minutes passed. A store employee went to get another turkey, and when she reappeared with it, it sure looked to all of us in line like the same brand of turkey that had just been denied only minutes before. So, again we waited.
As all good responsible shoppers do, the lady who was trying to buy this bird turned to us line-waiters and got very apologetic. Embarrassing to her, the line was getting longer and longer, the employees were running out of options, and the cash register was still locked up. What to do, her eyes pleaded; what to do?
Personally, for me this waiting was not a bad thing. I had been in constant motion and on my feet all day, so to stand still in the same place for five to ten minutes wasn't bothering me one bit. So when Mrs. Turkey Buyer turned to me and started bashfully apologizing for how long this was taking and how she was holding things up, I seized the opportunity to spread a little Thanksgiving cheer. I just looked at her and said, "Hey - if this is the worst thing that happened to me all day, then I'm doing pretty good." She looked relieved. I continued, "After what I've been through in the past twenty four hours, this is nothing. I don't know about the rest of the line, but I'm in no hurry; I'm fine. Take your time." Her face showed extreme gratitude and appreciation, and inwardly I felt that I had just learned that it's all about perspective. I was tired and looking for a rest; she got the wrong plucked piece of meat and had held up the entire checkout line. Together, we had the perfect storm.
On a different day, if I was late and pressed for time, I might not have reacted quite as gracefully (shame on me). But it didn't happen on another day; it happened today soon after my bad run on events. Maybe today that gal just needed a break. And maybe God knew He had taught me enough in the past twenty-four hours that I was in the right position to give it to her. For whatever the reason, it felt great to not complain and just enjoy my extra time between the candy and the magazines.
You may have a similar experience this holiday season, and if so you have my permission to smile it away and thereby spread a little holiday hope. You'll amaze those around you and gleefully irritate those who wish to be a Scrooge. But buyer beware - to avoid being on the giving end of extra minutes for others in line when you chose your Thanksgiving roaster, choose wisely my friend. Remember to downgrade and choose wisely.
What a week of fun - It's certainly not hard to enjoy working retail at the book fair this week in our library. The kids' faces light up as they come in, cash in hand, ready to shop. Our Home and School Association has generously donated funds so that each child gets a free book and no one goes home empty handed- which does wonders in avoiding tears for those who are short (or nonexistent) on cash.
Let me preface this to say that I have never read one of Mr. King's novels. They always seemed too "on the dark side" for my liking. I've seen Carrie and some of The Shining, and they don't fit into my form of entertainment. But this book gave me a window into the author's life story and how he approaches a life of writing and makes it work. It's practical, it's applicable, and it's a great read. Humorous, as well. It definitely gave me a different perspective on who I thought Stephen King was. Not so dark, after all.
I finished the book while still under my blanket Saturday night and immediately went online to Amazon to order my own copy (as the one I had been reading I had borrowed from the library - can't make any good notes or marks in the margins in that.) So, if you're looking for something good to read about writing, I highly recommend it.
I loved one of his quotes that read, "The scariest moment is just before you start". He is referring to writing, of putting pen to paper and seeing if anything comes out that tells a story. But I think it can apply to other areas in our lives as well - any time we face a challenge.
What are you waiting to start? (and why are you waiting??!!)
Today was more productive. And this afternoon was especially fun, setting up my studio area in our newly refinished garage- a place for me to scrapbook, work on photography, and write. A place I don't have to clean up. A place I can get creative and make a mess. Awesome. I will enjoy the process of making my space complete. (The process may include a trip to Ikea - one of my favorite things in life).
On another note, I was shocked today when I opened my journal to see that the last entry said, "Today is Halloween"..... I kept flipping pages, sure that I had passed over some that I'd written in during the past week. But no, all the pages after the Halloween entry were blank. Not a very good track record for a writer- that must change. I carry my journal with me all the time now, so it showed me just how busy my Monday -Friday life truly is. I think about writing most of the time, and I love knowing that it's something I can do if I have 5 minutes or two hours. It's always with me, always accessible. It hangs around like a stash of chocolate available to me all the time, only this is chocolate for my brain.
But I digress. Let's get back to talking about the weekend. It was enticingly warm today- enough to make one think that more warm weather is just around the corner. I had to keep reminding myself that winter is coming, not spring and summer. It's getting dark out earlier now, and the shorter fall/winter days are driving us into our homes, into our spaces, evaporating us from the outside world we inhabit when the days are balmy and long. I will miss the communal feel of the great outdoors, but am also looking forward to cozy winter nights by the fire.
Perhaps this will be a good season to read, a good season to write. It will no doubt be a joyous season for holidays, birthdays and anniversaries in our family.
What are you looking forward to this winter?
Oh man, I thought. He's forgotten an important document that he needs for a class.... but c'mon, drop off his USB to him before 10:45? I'd be deep into checking out picture books at the elementary school library where I work by then. I hurriedly looked at the clock and realized that if I flew out the door at that very second, I would have just enough time to get to the high school and back and still make it to work on time (I work a minute from home - no lights and only one stop sign.)
Initially I was frustrated that I had to make this unexpected trip, but I realized in the next moment that my son had redeemed himself thoroughly when he said, "If not, it's cool." My heart smiled. There was no demand there. No "you'd better do this for me" kind of attitude. Not a hint of insisting I change my plans to accomodate him. He was totally letting me off the hook if I couldn't do it - he realized it was his fault, his mistake, his error if he didn't get what was on that USB in time for his 10:45 class. He was just asking for some help if would work out okay for me.
As we moms know, I would have run the flash drive down to him no matter what. If it's in my power to help out my kids when they're stuck with something, I do. But the very fact that he tagged his request as he did made me want to do it for him all the more. And I plan to mention that to him when I see him after school because I think it's a good life skill to use on a lot of people besides just your mom.
It made me think of how I approach God when I come to Him with my laundry list of needs, requests, and, dare I say, sometimes demands. Just as I love to help any of my children when they need something, how much more our heavenly Father loves to help us when we are coming to Him with our wants. But how do I ask him? Do I throw in a "You need to do this for me right now" kind of tone, or do I come to Him saying, "I really think I need this, and if You can help me out, that would be awesome; if not, it's cool."
I think it's good for our hearts if we have a tag phrase in there that lets God off the hook if He doesn't produce in the way we think He should. I would be wise to realize that it is not His fault that I've gotten myself into some of the messes I have. He's not to blame, but I sure come expecting Him to fix things right up so that my day can go on uninterrupted.
The next time I have a request, I'll still ask God for it. But this time I'll allow myself to remember who's really in control and whatever answer I get, it'll be cool.
and almost laughed out loud while waiting for the conveyor belt to move in my favor. I think this is the first publication I've seen to declare themselves "Gosselin-free". It's sad when they have to advertise who they're NOT going to talk about in order to entice you to buy their magazine. Even sadder yet, I suppose, to be one of the not-talked-about Gosselins. And maybe this says something about our culture- when we start attracting customers by what we're avoiding and making that our drawing card.
Maybe the same tactic would work to let others know what a children's book is NOT about? "Dinosaur free picture book" or "Non-bear themed easy reader". Nah. Doesn't sound good. Guess I better leave that angle to the tabloids.
....and the complete bareness of some already.
What stage do you find yourself in now?
I've tried talking myself out of it, getting my mind on other things, telling myself I am ridiculous, getting downright mad at myself for panicking about nothing, and so on and so on. But yet, that time in between drags on...I jump every time my phone rings (or buzzes if it's on vibrate) for fear of bad news; of a callback.
People live with much worse. And there are other things that some folks would see as a calamity that don't strike a bone of fear with me. We all have our seasons where we need to trust God no matter what the circumstances and press on with Him, believing that no matter what the outcome, He knows all about it and goes there before us.
I'd be interested to hear from those of you who read my blog how you handle these tough times of waiting in your life - be it for test results, large decisions to be handed down, or jobs to come through, we have the shared experience of having times where all we can do is wait.
I wrote something a few years ago when my results didn't come out clear the first time through- so rather than reinvent the wheel, I thought I'd put that here for you to read today. The emotions and feelings at the end are just the same today as they were back then. May you find peace through God in what you're waiting for right now.
Elizabeth?” I heard her call my name and glanced over at the radiologist holding open the door to the waiting room. Since she had told me after the first round of tests that she'd be back to get me for the next level, I assumed I was moving on. I put down my magazine, wrapped that drafty hospital gown around me a bit tighter, and started to gather my things.
“You’re done”, she announced unexpectedly. “You can go.” I stared at her, then blinked. It took me a minute. My mind couldn’t quite comprehend the magnitude of what she had just said. I was sure I was dreaming, or, at the very least, misunderstanding her. My disbelief must have been written all over my face, because she said to me again with a smile, “You’re fine. Once we took more pictures this morning, we could see that there’s nothing there.”
Still sensing that I must have turned to stone and couldn’t move, she realized she was going to have to make direct physical contact with me in order to get me to believe her, so she gently yet firmly grabbed my elbow, (her eyes bouncing with a smile, rejoicing with me that she could give me great news), looked me straight in the eye and said one more time - “You’re fine. You can go!”
A flood of relief is a sensation like no other. All the cares, worries, concerns, fears, and what-if’s that had been at the forefront of your mind for hours, days, and maybe even weeks before suddenly dissolve as if they’d been swallowed up instantaneously. Even if it took quite a while for them to get there and pile up, their dismissal can be speed-of-sound fast if we get the answer we’re so desperately hoping for.That happened to me that day. And I later cried tears of joy. Then I thought about all the other people – women - I’d seen pass through the same rooms I did that morning, and wondered if any of them would receive good news too, or if some would be met with their greatest fears that day, changing the course of their life.
Later, I couldn’t help but think about the “Get-the-good-news-and-then-get-relief” cycle and how that is a perfect picture of us sinful creatures when we meet Jesus for the first time.At the foot of the cross, there we are, not even slightly covered, but exposed. Waiting. Sinful. Full of worries, concerns, regret, pride, ugliness, bitterness and shamefulness, to name a few.
But then along comes Jesus. He calls our name, we look at Him, and when He speaks to us, it’s to tell us the greatest news we could ever hear, “My child…..you’re fine. It’s over. It’s been done. I took care of it for you.” He smiles at us and lovingly grabs our elbow to steady us from the shock, looks us straight in the eye (heart) and says slowly and emphatically so we get the full impact, “You’re fine. You can go. You don’t need anything further. Go; go in peace; go in Me.”
And now, as we’ve established, after the good news is the part of the cycle where the “relief” part kicks in. Or, it most certainly should. But my question to myself is this- Is my relief at what Jesus says to me the same overwhelming flood of joyful emotion I felt in a doctor’s office that day? Is my reaction the same stabbing sense of “Oh my goodness, I cannot believe it….this is wonderful…” Hmmm. Good question. I hope so. It sure should be. It seems a shame to even compare the two, but the human in me does. Do I even begin to fully realize what He is saying to me- what He has saved me from, and from what I’ve been spared? Do I realize the agony He could not escape but instead went through, so that I don’t have to? Do I even get it; that because of His dying in my place, I can go on in confidence and peace and have a full life, with a guaranteed promise of heaven hereafter?
If I do, then my relief should be great; totally encompassing. It should be overwhelming; life-changing. I want it to be that way. And from now on I will remind myself to remember it on a daily basis. And may I always recall how good it felt to walk out of a doctor’s office one day with a clean bill of health, and remember to let that translate exponentially into the realization of what I walk away from the foot of the cross with – better news than will ever come from another human being. It’s the news of a Savior who took my place in certain death, and gives me the gift of eternal life. Now that’s relief.
Well, it's official, and it sure didn't take long- I got my first manuscript rejection letter in the mail yesterday . I thought the speed in which it came was almost comical - along the lines of, "Look, lady, you don't have a chance with us so let's just get this overwith right now." Their comment to me? "Your story doesn't fit in line with the books we publish." Fair enough; I can handle that. As my husband pointed out, at least they had the courtesy to respond (ever so quickly), which is the proper perspective.
And I feel as I thought I'd feel. Non-bothered. Still determined. Not dissuaded in the least. A published author friend of mine once told me, "Celebrate each rejection letter, because it's one step closer to getting an acceptance letter!"
So today, I celebrate. And anxiously await checking the mail.....
Today is the National Day of Writing. At the school I work in, all of the students in grades K-2 went outside for an hour this morning in the beautiful fall sunshine to draw what they saw in nature and then write a story about it. I loved getting these pictures while they were busy at work.....
What did you write about today?
He never missed Huntley and Brinkley on the news. I can still see him perching on the end of the easy chair by the fireplace; eyes on the TV for the latest updates.
He truly loved his mother and father.
He ate anything that mother put in front of him.
He loved meatloaf and mashed potatoes.
He carried little money and wanted for little.
He built our home, a project that spanned a number of years. His Dad worked alongside.
He was an expert at telling jokes and at remembering them.
He always read all of the jokes in the Reader’s Digest first.
He was never interested in buying the “latest thing.”
He never bought a new car. Practical.
He loved working outside. Mowing, trimming. Coming in for iced tea breaks.
He loved to work hard.
He built a lot of things. I am blessed with many of them. You had to be careful of what you might want him to build, because the minute you told him, the car was on the way to Tinsmans.
He made people laugh. Our son Tom often makes a remark that sounds just like what Dad would say.
He adored Mother.
Farmer’s Club was a favorite night out for Dad. All those desserts and casseroles, coming down the line to be served to you. All those friends to talk to.
He was never late for anything.
He loved boat rides on Mirror Lake. Dad always new just when to slow the engine to get around the big rock underneath the surface right before going under the bridge.
He pushed us to do the best we could at school. A “C” required an explanation.
He helped me through advanced math class in high school. I’d cry out of sheer frustration and we’d keep at it until I eventually “got” it! I never would have passed the course if not for him.
He loved visits on the porch with Mark and Ed on summer evenings, talking until darkness fell, candles were lit, and the dessert came out.
He cried when Jim left for Vietnam. He and mother were so concerned about his safety, and very proud of his accomplishments as a pilot. We all were.
Dad, Happy 91st birthday. We miss you and love you. October 20th will always be a special day, because that was the day God brought you into the world!
I'm proud of what I've accomplished this week, and I respect myself all the more for it. No, I'm still not a published author, and yes, my manuscript is still safely tucked in my laptop. But it's about to come out of there and enter the real world- the world where it can fail or stand on its own merit, the world that can be harsh and real and cruel if it wants to be about something I find to be a passion and a hobby. But that's a chance I have to take.
Let me ask you this- and I'd really love to hear from some of you - have you ever gotten stuck up against a wall of fear that inhibited your ability to proceed towards a goal? Did there come a time in your life where you were about to see if you could pass muster and it positively paralyzed you? Maybe you were like I was - afraid to find out if you really have what it takes to do what you really want to do. In actuality, that's a great place to be. Because it's where the rubber meets the road- where heart meets life. Fear not. Press on and do it.
'Twas a fun afternoon!