Archives for November 2011

Will You Later Regret This Season?

I just heard a friend of mine is fighting bronchitis– again.   My inclination was to rattle off all kinds of advice:  “rest – take care of yourself – you only go around this way once – you don’t get do-overs.”  (Not in a judgmental way, but in a “I hate to see a friend sick” way:)

But, that’s advice I don’t listen to myself.  In fact, truly resting is nearly impossible for me.  This morning I went to the doctor thinking I’d fractured my foot.  It’s not fractured, but I have some tendonitis.  The treatment?  Steroids (to which I said, no thank you), ice, and rest..ie staying off my foot.

What?  No way.  I have to do this and this and this and that.  Resting – not an option.

But, I only go around this way once!  I don’t get a do-over!

Exactly.

After my friend said he was sick and is trying to rest since he only has one life to live for his God and his family, I immediately thought of my dad because  for me and my family, the holiday season marks the beginning of the end for my dad.

I saw my dad walking and talking for the last time on Friday, December 7, 2007.  The night before, I had celebrated my 32nd birthday with my family.  My dad wasn’t feeling well, so he skipped the shopping day and babysat Hannah and Owen while I shopped.  That was the last time Hannah and Owen would see their Poppy.

My dad entered the hospital with pneumonia on December 11.  He went home thinking he was better but later returned to the hospital.   I spoke with him for the last time on Thursday, December 20.  I called to see how he was; he assured me, “I am fine, Sarah Beth.”  I said ok and I love you.

That’s it.

He wasn’t supposed to stay in the hospital for more than a few days.  He was not supposed to need a ventilator so that his lungs could “rest” from the bronchitis and pneumonia.

Little did I know, I’d spend Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day sitting in the hospital waiting room…hoping, praying that he would improve, wake up, and talk to us.

On January 10, 2008, I was grocery shopping.  I had my phone close because it was a big day for my dad – the doctors were moving him to a new hospital and weaning him from the ventilator.  I was waiting for word of the successful transition from my sister.

My sister called.  My dad had become septic from the ventilator.

My mom had decided to turn off the machines.

The hour ride to Charleston was unbearable.  Steve pulled in front of the hospital, and I literally ran to my dad’s room.  He was hanging on.  Two hours without machines, and he was still breathing.  I lay across him, hugged him tightly, and told him I loved him and that it was ok to go home.

He moved his hand toward me and in less than 20 seconds, he was gone. My dad was waiting on me.  I will always believe he was waiting.

My dad’s death was sudden.  He was diagnosed and died within one month.  However, when I reflect on life, I see God’s hand so clearly.  Situations when we asked, “why, God?” but now we’re saying, “Thank you so much, God!”  My dad spent a few seasons without work – both times in the summer.  At the time, our family struggled with loss of income, asking God why my dad lost his job so suddenly.  Now we see the blessing.  My dad spent those out of work summers taking my sister and me to the pool, camping, playing games, breaking my mom’s Home Interior, and much more.

In fact, when my sister and I look back at our childhood, we never say, “we wish would’ve gone to Disney World.  We wish mom and dad would’ve done this or that.”  No, we didn’t have half the opportunities that my kids – most kids – have today.  But, it didn’t/doesn’t matter – our parents spent time with us – invested in us – with ALL they had.

Did God give us extra time with our dad then because he knew he wouldn’t be here now?  Maybe.  Probably.  Sure seems like it.  Would I trade my time with my dad for time now?  Now, that’s a hard question.  I want my dad back.  I wanted him to see my kids’ baptism a few months ago.  I wish he could see Hannah dance and Owen play soccer.  I wish we could watch a few episodes of Walker, Texas Ranger  – or a John Wayne movie –together.

But, when I hear stories from both kids and adults that start with “my parents don’t or didn’t have time for ______.”  I cringe.  I can’t imagine that being my story.

So today, as I try to make much of Him, I resolve anew to protect my time with my kids, my husband, my family.  As finances tighten during the holiday season, and I long for my job (and paycheck!), I know God sees the big picture.  And, while trite, you never know when that moment is your last.

I know for sure that if God called me home tomorrow, next month, or even at age 56 like my dad, I would never, never, never regret this season of my life.  I would never regret fewer Christtmas presents, tighter budgets, less harried holidays.

Ultimately, we all hope for “well done, good and faithful servant.”  I also pray for “well done, good and faithful wife, mom, daughter, sister, and friend.”

As December approaches and as our schedules inevitably fill with Christmas programs, shopping, parties, family visits, etc, I pray you ( and I!) continually pause and remember not what’s important…but who’s important:  Our Savior, family, and friends.

I Can’t [Insert Your Issue Here]

Somedays when the alarm goes off at 5:30, I want to hit snooze and give up on the whole exercise thing.

Somedays when my family is eating pizza or pasta or ice cream or anything super yummy, I want to give up on the whole healthy eating thing.

Somedays I kick my phone in the river, lose my car keys, and face three unpacked suitcases and six totes of Christmas decorations.

Today was that day.  It was one of those days that I smiled and  laughed, so I wouldn’t cry.

What to do when these days come?

I walked anyway and ate healthy anyway.  I took money out of savings and got a new phone.  My husband found my keys, brought the van to church, and walked home so I could drive home.  I left the suitcases and totes packed and played with the kiddos.

How?

God.  As I was reminded tonight at church, there are some things of which I am simply NOT capable.

I am not capable of living a healthy lifestyle.  I am not capable of controlling my temper (that was waiting to burst forth as I watched my smart phone go splash).  I am not capable of squelching the frustration that rises when I can’t tend to overflowing suitcases and unfinished decorating.

But, He is – the Holy Spirit working in and through me – that’s the only way I can be transformed – my gluttony, my explosive anger, my perfectionism that leads to anger/frustration/irritation – those and other “sin” issues can NOT be overcome by me.  Only by Him.

As I listened to Mike Berry teach on Matthew 5: 33-48 this evening, it was truly a mental slap.  If I am slapped on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek.  If someone wants my coat, give him/her my shirt too.  If I am asked to go one mile for someone, go two instead. Give to the one who asks me.  Love my enemies; pray for those who mistreat me.  Yes, love those who don’t even like me.

Sigh…I can’t obey these commands in Matthew.  I can’t eat healthy.  I can’t run half-marathons.  I can’t hold back the expletives when my phone goes splash.  I can’t hold down anxiety in a messy house.

But, He can.  He can and will work in me and through me.  I know this – have known this, but after a cruddy day, tonight’s message was a much needed reminder to quit, quit, quit trying to do life on my own (I KNOW that doesn’t work!) and turn, turn, turn to Him – continually and completely.

I don’t know what you’re struggling with today.  I do know that turning anywhere or to anything or to anyone without first turning to Him will leave you frustrated and hopeless.

So, tomorrow’s a new day, a new week, a new chance.  I plan to take a deep breath, set my alarm for 5:30, pray with all my heart, and move forward in Him.  I hope you will too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Different Christmas

Time is flying.  My son will be nine next week, and it seems he was just born.  Thanksgiving is next week.  Christmas is one month away.  I want to yell – STOP!  Please, time, stop.

However, I’ve learned that time can be slowed.  Well, actually, that I can feel as if I’m slowing time by the choices I make.  If I’m running around, multi-tasking, time flies.  If I stop, focus on one task or one person, time slows.

Time slowed on Tuesday as I sat for almost three hours and talked to a friend.  Among the many things we discussed was time.  How do we make family time on Sundays when we’re involved in the church?  How do we juggle our children’s activities, church obligations, family time, and more?  It’s a tension no family with young children can escape.

In fact, I think my daughter, Hannah, sensed our family time was and is suffering lately.  She held a family meeting and presented her plan:  Monday Funday.  Each Monday, she’ll plan an activity, worship song, and Bible passage for our family to share.  No Farish can have a Monday obligation because it’s family time- a time we’ll look back on in 10 years and say, “Remember when we’d spend every Monday together?  We’d take a hike, play games, and study God’s word.”

While I loved Hannah’s idea and heart, the significance of her request didn’t really hit me until the next day.  My family began studying the life of Paul.  We’re reading Paul:  90 Days on His Journey of Faith.  On Day 1, we encountered this question:

  • What role do ceremony and tradition play in your and your family’s life, especially your life of faith?

We each silently listed our traditions then shared.  Owen – birthday parties, Thanksgiving at Nana’s house, church on Sundays and holidays, and a few other “cultural” traditions like our candy countdown for Christmas.  Hannah composed a similar list, including our new Monday Funday.  I asked them, “What about our life of faith?  What traditions do we have that reflect our life of faith or are motivated by or originated from our faith?”

Silence.  They couldn’t think of any “faith” traditions.

So, I spent some time praying and thinking and reading about Christmas traditions since the season is upon us.  Praying, asking, “Lord, how can we focus on our faith during this season and not just the Christmas trees, decorations, presents, and fun?”  (Although, I LOVE that stuff 🙂

How can this Christmas season be different?

As I scrolled through Twitter one day, I found my answer:  Advent.  God reminded me of my childhood when I attended Poca United Methodist Church.  During this season, our church family would light Advent candles each week.  I remember the wreath with purple and white candles so vividly. I remember Pastor Cox focusing on what God has done, is doing, and will do.

Indeed, “Advent is a time to slow down and reflect. It is a season to consider the first coming of Christ and patiently ponder His second.” (The Village Church)  Slowing down, reflecting, considering Christ’s birth, death, resurrection, and second coming. That’s how I want us to spend this season.

I wonder…how might Christmas be different this year if that’s truly what we do as a family?  Slow, reflect, consider, and ponder.  How might your Christmas, stress level, and joy be different if deep in your heart this season truly becomes about Him?

I am hoping our family’s celebration of Advent begins a new tradition for us; one in which we make much of Him by focusing on Him instead of the hustle and bustle of the season.

Time’s flying by, especially as the holidays arrive.  I pray you make the most of each precious second by slowing, reflecting, pondering, and ultimately giving the One who deserves the glory all of it.

 

NOTE:  To help us as we begin this new tradition, we’re going to use two resources:  An Advent Guide from the Village Church and Discovering Advent:  How to Experience the Power of Waiting on God at Christmastime.

 

LINKS:

Paul:  90 Days on His Journey of Faith by Beth Moore

Blog:  The Village Church (Downloadable PDF guide to Advent)

Discovering Advent:  How to Experiecne the Power of Waiting on God at Christmastime

TIP:  Google “Advent Craft” or “Advent Ideas”  Lots of ideas!

What’s Your Motivation?

Decisions, decisions.  It seems like I have had to make a lot of big ones lately.  And, I have some really big ones looming over me like a huge rain cloud that might burst or might blow over.

We all make decisions daily – maybe hourly.  What to wear?  What to have for dinner?  (Still hate that one!)  Some are less frequent but weightier:  What activities are right for our kids?  What church should we attend?  Where should we live?

We make decisions alone.  We make them with our spouse, friend, or boss.  We make them with a group.  Regardless, decisions must be made. Duh:)

But, lately, I have not been as worried or concerned about the decision-making as I have been about my motivation for the choice on which I settle.

Last night a very good friend questioned my motives.  Not in an accusatory way, but in a loving way.  Her words (loosely) were “I say this out of love and not judgment, but you/we need to be careful how much of our hearts truly want to fix the problem and how much of our hearts just want to be right.  You/we need to keep our hearts purely striving and yearning for God’s will.”

Ouch.

Usually if it stings, then there’s some truth in it.  As I struggle/have struggled with the decision to which she’s referring, she has been the one that’s heard it…all the time.  I try to limit the bulk of my complaining, ranting, sadness, etc. to her ears. (I know, poor gal:)

Who better to point out my blind spot?  Who better to question my motives than the one who hears my heart and sees the fault?

This morning, I turn on the next podcast in a series I’ve been listening to.  Here’s what I heard:  “Jesus and the father are very interested in the motives that drive our actions, and you can do the right thing with the wrong motive and God call it sin. “

Insert big sigh/big conviction here.

The Scripture referenced in this podcast?  Philippians 2:3-7

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

For the rest of this morning’s walk, I prayed:  Lord, reveal my motive in this decision and in all the big ones coming.  Is this about me?  About others?   Am I considering others more significant then me?  Who’s is most important here – me?  Steve?  Hannah and Owen?  My family?  My friends?  My church?  Do I just want to be right?  Why?

When I listed both pending decisions and a few past decisions and then filtered those through this passage in Philippians, the answers seemed almost obvious.

The decision/thoughts that my friend questioned?  My motive is 90/10.  I am 90% wanting to see God glorified, but there’s 10% of me that simply wants to win – to be right.  I am so thankful that (although a bit painful), I have a friend who said, “That 10% is a problem.”  She’s right because (at some point) that 10% may start to seep into my soul.

What decisions have you made recently that  – in hindsight – were selfish?  What decisions are you about to make that could use the Philippians filter – looking not just to your own interests but to the interests of others?

This is hard.  Sometimes I just want what I want.  Sometimes I just want to be right.  Sometimes I don’t want the hard way; I want the easy way.  But, my life is not my own; it’s His.

 

Note:  Just as I was about to post, I saw this somewhat related tweet by Sarah Cunningham:  It’s not selfish to pursue greatness. It’s selfish to focus only on what is great for us & ignore what is great for others. (So true:)

Links: 

Philippians 2

Gospel-Centered Service from the Village – Matt Chandler

Sarah Cunningham’s blog