Archives for September 2015

Listen to Others {Live a Life That Counts}

I originally posted this on October 23, 2013.  On September 19, 2015, my friend’s grandpa passed away.  As she celebrates his life this morning, I wanted to remind her of his legacy and love. Blessings to Jen, her sweet Mom Naomi, and the rest of the family.  

We sit down at the small kitchen table with soup and a chicken salad sandwich.  He chooses chicken noodle; we take tomato.  He declines a drink.  The small meal is fine, he says.  I haven’t worked today so I don’t need much to eat.

We talk of slaughtering a cow and eating fresh beef.  Of bees and honey collecting.  Of raising and eating hogs.  Of his granddaughter’s childhood memories.  Of his mom and the meals she cooked for him. ..

What is your favorite meal, Grandpa?

I’d have to say beef with some potatoes and carrots.  Maybe some mashed potatoes. Other vegetables.

They continue talking of yummy meals.  He is smiling.  She is smiling.

I listen intently to granddaughter and grandfather reminiscing.  I have no desire to interrupt or interject.   It’s good for my heart to simply listen.

He says…

You know, the last time I had my dad’s smoked ham was when I was stationed in New Jersey.  I had an uncle who lived up there and my dad had given him some ham.  I visited one evening, and he prepared it for me. 

There’s a pause in the conversation…I can hear the sigh of his wife’s oxygen machine and the whispered conversation of those in the living room.  Then he begins again…

In 1942 I was stationed under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.  I worked on a switchboard there.  We’d see ships coming back from Hawaii with artillery holes in them.  They were painting the bridge at that time.  It’s miles long.  They were hand painting with a brush, a big job.  Course now they have better ways to do that.

I was also stationed in Oklahoma, Kentucky, and New Jersey.  I was sent from Kentucky to New Jersey with three other guys.  Just four of us.  We had to do all our work at the base.  It was secret work. We couldn’t take any work home. It was then that I saw my first television in New York City. It would only transmit from one room to the next.  Can you imagine?  Think about what we have now. 

He pauses, removes his glasses, and wipes his eyes with his handkerchief.  The moisture gathering around his eyes barely visible.

They dropped the bomb on Japan and that was it.  The army just let me go.

Were you drafted, grandpa? 

Yes, I would’ve have enlisted…

He wipes his eyes…again…

But I was drafted. 

I love history, so as he talks I am filling in blanks…World War II.  Pearl Harbor.  The Manhattan Project.  The Atomic Bomb. Hiroshima. And on and on.

One of the most pivotal times in America’s history. One of the most pivotal times in world history.  And, he played a part.  He knows things from working “in secret” in New Jersey that we’ll never know.  He knows of the world when women began entering the work force in droves because men were away at war.

World War II changed the face of America – from her workforce to atomic bombs.  Things we’d never known became reality.

And, he lived through it.  Served.  Wow.

He continued…

Well, I was 25 by then, and I’d spent some important years in the army, missing some things.  I didn’t go college.  I didn’t know how back then to go to college.  I didn’t have the resources either.  So I just did the best I could as a young man.  I got into the construction business…I helped build bridges in Zanesville…

And on he goes about structures he built.  Bridges.  Power plants.  He describes working from heights and materials dropping from above his head.  Scary, hard work.

He finishes his soup and returns to his wife’s bedside.  She’s moving toward eternity.  He sits by her side, not knowing in just about seven hours she’d be gone, taking her last breath in her earthly body and her first in the heavenly realms.

This conversation…this day…was a gift.  I was like a “fly on the wall” as a grandfather, who was watching his wife of 66 years fade from this life, shared precious memories with his granddaughter – my friend.  I’d come to bring dinner, but I’d left with a memory that will forever live in my heart.

As I drove home, I was reminded of a few things…

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One.  Listen to one another.  I often talk first and listen later.   God reminded me of James’ directive to believers in James 1:    19 My dear brothers and sisters,take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak…

Quick to listen and slow to speak.  Just think of what I would have missed if I’d been quick to speak and slow to listen.

Two.  Those who have lived longer than us have much to share if we’ll simply take time to stop and ask…listen.  In this crazy, busy world we rarely stop to have conversation beyond will you pick up the kids?  And, what’s for dinner?  We seldom sit for a few hours and just listen to others’ stories.  Sad, huh?

We ALL need a listening ear – young and old.   When someone listens to us, it says to our hearts:  You matter. Your story, your life, your experiences, your thoughts, your opinions, your everything matters to me. 

And Jen’s grandfather?  He mattered.  His story, his life, his experiences, his thoughts, his opinions…mattered.

Today as they honor him, they won’t be listing his possessions or the balance of his bank account.  They won’t be speaking of the first car he owned or his new watch.  They’ll be speaking of HIM. Who he was.  How he lived.  How he loved.

Are you listening today?   What might you be missing by talking and not hearing?  Who needs your attention? Who’s heart do you need to hear?  I mean, really hear?  Time passes quickly.  Listen.  Love.  Make life count.

When You Don’t Get the War Room Ending {Who’s to Blame?}

I’d been anticipating the movie War Room for weeks.  Until…I read an online synopsis a few hours before heading to the theater.  Woman has difficulty in marriage.  Woman prays. God saves the day!  Marriage restored!  

I know.  There’s more to the story, but still…let’s just say I had a crap attitude.

I enter the theater with my arms mentally crossed.  I’d said I’d go.  This better not be a hokey Christian movie that paints Jesus as a genie in a bottle. I better not hear a Gospel that only works for white North Americans.  

My heart is just blah about it.  Because if you know my story, I didn’t get the War Room ending.

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My heart and head are battling as I watch the previews.  I ask God…Why didn’t you answer me too?  I did this and I did that, and in all fairness, so did my ex-husband. Although I know better, I get stuck in…Why does it seem You answer prayers for some and not others? Especially when the “ask” lines up Scripture?  Are some people better? More worthy?  How does it work? 

The movie begins.  Still skeptical.  Arms still crossed.  I refuse to laugh at the first few jokes.  I know I am being a brat because the movie really is funny.

Then slowly…

My heart wishes for a Clara.  I wonder what my life might be like if I would have had a Clara walking with me. Not someone my own age, but someone who had walked the road I was walking.  Someone older, seasoned, who could speak in.  This isn’t me trying to blame someone else for a failed marriage. This is me simply wondering…

Where are all the Clara’s?  

And not just for marriage advice.  But, for life living and love giving.

 

I find myself sitting in the movie, feeling less and less like God’s “answering or not” isn’t the real heart issue for me.  The real issue was/is me.

Because…

I prayed, but not like that.  I lacked belief (that God wanted to and would heal my marriage).  I lacked perseverance (I never set aside daily prayer time for ONLY my marriage.  I wrote prayers, but quickly forgot them among the pages of my journal.).  I lacked hope.  I lost the internal umph that Elizabeth so beautifully demonstrated, yelling at Satan to get out in Jesus’ name!

I am more of an “excuse maker” than “to Jesus taker.”

My heart whispers to God…I understand why I didn’t get the War Room ending.  At some point, Lord, you quit blaming and simply own.  

And I thank Him for second chances.  Because when we know better, we do better.  And now I  know better.  I know the power of prayer – even though I STRUGGLE to understand it (especially in light of God’s sovereignty.)   I understand the importance of perseverance and of keeping hope regardless of how long it takes.

I look around and see a beautiful life filled with blessings I do not deserve. A Jesus who heaps grace and love upon me.  Children who love me beyond measure.  A friend who walks alongside me and is not afraid to point out this crap attitude. A family who jumps through hoops and drives hours to serve and support.  A  church that opens her doors and arms wide to all who wish to enter. {And makes me high five random people:}

Truly…I have weight to lose and single parenting woes to maneuver, but my life is beautiful – not in a “look at me I’m perfect” way. But, in a “God is good even when your ending doesn’t mirror the War Room” way.

Lord, I pray for War Room endings. I believe you’re a God who can and will restore marriages.  You’re a God who is for marriage.  And although my marriage is the past, I am thankful for the present.  May I pray circles, truly believing you can and will answer according to your Word, your Will, and your Purposes.  Please free me from any remaining bitterness toward you and others as I cheerlead for those in the War Room, needing your help.  

Friend, are you begging God for something today?  For a child’s attitude to be changed?  A marriage to be restored?  A cancer scan to be clear?  A mouth to be fed?  A refugee to find love and safety?

Don’t stop.  Grab paper and pen.  Write each of those prayers. Tape them to your wall, closet, bathroom mirror – wherever there’s spare room.  Look at them.  Repeat them.  Believe God is able.  (Or pray, Lord, help my unbelief.)  Find God’s promises in Scripture.  Pray them. And while we know God only answers in His time and according to His purpose, do not let that stop you – even if it takes years.  Because we do not know how long and for what purpose, but we do know that the same power that rose Jesus from the grave lives inside of us if we are Christ followers.

And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. Romans 8:11

Find a mentor.  Be a mentor. You don’t have time?  Make it. Lives, futures, eternities are at stake. I don’t care how busy or important you are, we need you.  You need us. We need the Clara’s of this world so desperately.  And we need to be the Clara’s of this world so desperately.  

War Room Trailer

Fervent by Priscilla Shirer

Beth Moore Study (Learning to Pray God’s Word)

Be a High Fiver {Don’t Worry About What Others Think}

I take my seat on the bleachers Friday night excited to have my family and a friend joining me to watch Hannah perform with the Southern Belles Dance Team. My niece’s first game!  {She sings, cheers, and claps the entire time – too much cuteness to handle.}

football field

 

han and chloe

Then, I notice the gals in front of me.  Twins.  Both with Down’s Syndrome. Chatting a mile a minute!  No none cheers like they cheer.  No one smiles as big or gets as excited.  They are a true delight to watch.

Suddenly, a big play for the home team and one gal turns around and gives me a HIGH FIVE!  Not even kidding – high fives all around!

They turn and talk to my niece.  We exchange names and ages (they’re 27 and will be 28 soon), and they love football!

Again, big play – high fives all around…I love it! In fact, I begin to offer up the high five first.  It’s so sweet and fun.  We’re all laughing.

My friend turns to me and says…what if we all gave high fives to strangers?  Just noticed something awesome and high fived.

And I wonder…what keeps me from giving the high five?

What will people think? What if they don’t want to?  What if they make fun of me or think I’m silly?  What if…?   But, think of it!  What if we uninhibitedly high five others when something awesome happens?  Or hug them when something not-so-good occurs?  It really would make us better, help us and others to feel more loved and included.

What if we forget about all those things that make us so self- aware and just start loving and encouraging one another with a proverbial or literal high five?

Fast forward to church on Sunday morning…guess what?  MORE HIGH FIVING!  Let me just say I (usually) do NOT like it when the pastor says…turn to your neighbor and say [insert whatever here.]  It feels so weird.  Outside my comfort zone.  Ugh!

But…you know what’s coming, right?

The pastor says turn to your neighbor, give them a high five, and say “God is good!”

No. Way.  My friend leans over and whispers the obvious:  Yep, we are high fiving again.

I can almost physically feel the push. God behind shoving me outside my comfort zone – outside my “what will people think zone” into the world of high fiving.

I want to be a high fiver.

BE a high fiver

I want to turn to the next row at the football game, in the church building, in my classroom, in the grocery store, in my home –  and give a big high five to awesome or a big hug to heartbreak.

I want to view his kingdom as a high fiver, noticing who is around me and not letting petty worries hold me back.  I want to be like the twins, Stacey and Sherry.  Cheering others on, celebrating the win, dancing to the song, high fiving those around, and smiling for all to see.  Pure joy!  

I want to be like the children…

13 One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him.

14 When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. 15 I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.”16 Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them. Mark 10: 13-16

The Bible talks many times of childlike faith – one that trusts, loves, is teachable, admires, hopes…and high fives.  OK, the Bible never mentions high fiving. But, when I think of being a high fiver, I think of a child  – one not tainted and scarred by this world – one who sees good all around.  I think of loving my neighbor as myself:  we all want to be high fived, feeling we belong.

Let’s high five today, friends.  It might look like a hand-to-hand slap, an arms-to-neck hug, or a-lips-to-ear word of encouragement. Whatever form it takes, know He sees. And I think He smiles.

High five!

{Please share a high five moment in the comments here or on Facebook. I’d love to virtually high five you!}

These Are the Weeks I Question God {And Want to Hide}

Today, I don’t want to adult.  

I want to give up and give in.  I want to kick and scream.  {Thankful it’s Friday.}

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Because…

Teen girls addicted to heroin.

She’s only 16 and addicted.  She’s been to rehab once, but it “really didn’t stick…and I don’t really do it all that much anyway.”  She explained to me how shooting is better than sniffing.  You can just mix the powder with water on a spoon, heat the spoon, and it’s ready for the needle.  (She shares like it’s no big deal.) I asked her one simple question…why?  Why heroin?  Why drugs?

Life is just too hard.  It gets overwhelming in my head.  Drugs help with that.  

What’s so hard about life?  

Well, my dad’s an addict.  I live with my grandparents, won’t mention my mom because it doesn’t matter.  And my grandma doesn’t get it.  And I hate school because people make fun of me – make fun of my scars.  There’s just lots of stuff, you know?

I look into her eyes…and I want to weep.  In fact, I spend most of the evening praying for her, wondering about her life, begging God to show me how to help her and so many others.  Because..she’s not the first addict I’ve met – more like the 10th in about three weeks.  She needs hope and nothing I say gives hope in her mind.

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Women and children being beaten.  

On Tuesday as I left for school, I am greeted by a man screaming and hitting his girlfriend on the corner opposite my house.  The story is long, but in the end, I gave Ashley a ride to work and had 11 of you join me in prayer for her -thank you!

But still.  A little girl watched with wide eyes as a man smacked her mom.  That same 8-year-old had to talk to the police. She also missed school because her backpack was in the car that the boyfriend drove to escape police.

I pray God be near in one minute, and in the next, I ask God…what chance does that blond-haired little girl have in life if this is all she knows?  Who will show her different? My heart knows not to count God out, but it’s so very hard.

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Friends living halfway around the globe.

Once upon a time, God connected me to a blogger named Marla Taviano.  (More about that here) Have you ever been connected to a person who made you a better person – just by knowing him/her?  A person that made  you want to know Jesus more because you witnessed her relationship with Him, her surrender, her kingdom work, and His work in her life? (Especially in VERY hard days!)  

That’s Marla.

For a year after we connected, I visited her and her family at their house.  Then, she moved to apartments (Abbey Lane), and I visited her – and so many of her friends – there.  It was through  my visits to Abbey lane and my relationship with Marla that my eyes began to open.  I realized what a mission field truly was…and I learned that those different from me ARE NOT “unreached people groups” to be evangelized for Jesus, but humans made in His image to be loved for Jesus.  

Marla now lives in Cambodia, and I connect with her 3-4 times a week via Facebook messenger.  But.  This week.  Today.  I just miss her and her family.  I feel I truly lived life with her. I focused on things that matter.  I’ve lost some of my courage – my bravery – since her departure.  

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Toddlers with cancer.

I met a family at Abby Lane – the Fitzpatricks.  I had two meals at their home.  Learned Settlers of Catan from them – Josh is a pro.  After we’d known them a few months, Marla confided to us that their seven-month-old son, Judah, had cancer.  Horrible.

Laura and Judah were there for my surprise 39th birthday party at the Tavianos – along with so many other smiling faces from the neighboring apartments.  I only spent three evenings with Laura and Judah, but Laura’s spirit and radiance evidenced Jesus living within her.  It felt like I’d known her for years.

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When the Tavianos moved to Cambodia in January, Judah was cancer free.  But a few months later it came back.  And Judah met Jesus yesterday.  

I can’t fathom losing a child.  I can’t imagine Josh of Laura’s pain.  I pray, but I still ask God…why?  

{You can read my friend Marla’s memories here.  So beautiful.}

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This week has just been dang hard in the lives of those around me.  And I know I can’t save the world – although my Momma says I like to try – but I can love the world.  And I can pray.

This world is broken and messy.  And as my friend, Lisa Whittle, put it so eloquently this morning “I want a hut on the tropical clear blue water with the fruity drink and my people for the rest of my life and poof, this all goes away.  That’s what I want…[but] as much as I want to be absorbed into the crowds, this is not the Jesus following life.”

Friends, church is good.  Bible study is good.  I love both of those things.  Hanging out with your sisters talking about Jesus and kiddos  – awesome.  But, today, I encourage you to leverage your church, your Bible study, and your friendships for the Kingdom.  To jump into the deep end of this world’s mess.  Armed with love that makes Jesus famous. Empowered by a want to and grace that can ONLY come from your Creator.  

Be brave.  Take heart.  He has overcome this world .(John 16:33)

And put your warrior boots on! (Please read this post!)

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.  Ephesians 6:12

No Easy Answers {Prayers Welcome}

I hear the yelling from my bedroom, but it barely registers.  I can’t seem to find my jean jacket.  

Rushing down the stairs, I grab my bag and forget breakfast.  Hannah is waiting.  Out the back door and I stop, thankful I chose the back, not the front.  There’s a man, woman, and small girl standing on the corner opposite my house.  I’ve never witnessed such anger. Heard such yelling.

I fear he has a weapon.  I jump in the car and motion for Hannah from the door – hurry!  I don’t know if he has a weapon.  

I back out, and he’s now in a white car.  The woman and the girl are walking the other direction.

And I feel the nudge.

I roll down the window and ask, Ma’am, do you need a ride?

Yes, can you take me to work?  

Sure.

I drive about 20 yards when two police cars, lights flashing, come barreling down my street.  I quickly decide not to stop.  To take this woman to work and not turn around. I plan to call the police later until another officer sees her with me and pulls me over.

I listen as the officer asks her questions.

What’s your name? Where do you live? Why are you in this area?  Where do you work? Whose car is that? Is he your husband? What’s going on?  Did he hit you? Does this happen often?  Would you like to press charges?  And then to the little girl…  what’s your name? When’s your birthday?  {She was so brave.}

I listen to the mom’s responses.  She’s lying.  Sigh.

This has never happened before.  He never acts like this. He never laid a hand on me.  I just want to go to work.  We were both at fault, arguing this morning because both kids are sick, my check didn’t come, and we have no money.  

I interrupt….I think he hit her, officer.  I am pretty sure of what I saw.  

The officer glances my way, resigned, and asks again – Do you want to press charges?

No, I just want to go to work.  

Call us if you need us.

I am brokenhearted and furious all at once.

Press charges, dang it!  And I KNOW it’s happening at home.  Leave him.  Get help.  

I say none of this aloud.  I can almost guarantee she’s heard it before…the officer knows too.  I have to try so I say to her…ma’am if he’s hitting you, please tell someone.  It’s not ok.

Oh, he’s not, she says.  We are just having a hard morning.  

Silence.  {She has made up her mind. I am not sure what to say.}

I just don’t want to lose my daughter.  I just need to get to work.  

She wipes tears, trying so hard to keep her composure and do what she feels is the next right thing.

And there it is.

Survival.  She’s just trying to survive – to make it in this life that’s not been kind to her.

I turn to this hurting soul sitting in my backseat, and I know…the decision to leave or stay is so difficult for her – for anyone. It’s not black and white. She weighs the options…yes, he hits me, but he also provides. And maybe she loves him.  I really have no idea. Yet, I can see her struggle. She wants to press charges.  She wants “better” for herself and her kids.

I pull up to her work and ask again if I can take the little girl to school. Her school is near mine. She says her backpack is in the car with her boyfriend, so her daughter will stay with her today.

{And don’t get me started about this…about the potential teacher reaction if the little girl shows up without her homework and supplies. About the unexcused absence about to be applied to the little girl’s school record.  About the effect this will have on the gal’s grades through no fault of her own.  We label her as “left behind” educationally, but perhaps it’s not her ability to learn or intelligence level, but life that’s showing up on school records as “behind.” As a teacher, I never know what kids come carrying into my classroom through no fault of his/her own.}

She thanks me, and I offer all I have…I’ll be praying for you. To my own ears, it sounds a bit lame.  I know there’s power in prayer. I know it.  But, I also wish I had more – more to give, more time to talk to her….just more.

Hannah and I talk on the way to school…What else could we have done?  Should we have helped?  Hannah feels the cop was rude.  I explain that he’s probably seen the same situation time and time again.   A fact my mom {who has worked in the prosecuting attorney’s office since her 20s} confirms when her text…domestic victims won’t follow through 90% of the time…everyday someone comes to our window wanting to drop something.  Double sigh.

I have no answers.  I only share with you today because I hope you’ll pray for Ashley and her daughter.  I hope the next time you see someone whose life isn’t just like yours that you’ll remember every person is an image bearer of the Creator. {I struggle with this so much.}

And as I looked into the eyes of a lady who has no money.  Who is being abused. Who feels trapped. Who is trying to love her daughter well. Who has been beat up and screamed at on the side of the road….

I am humbled and reminded that we live in a messy world.  A broken world.  A world filled with pain.  A place where there’s no easy answers or fixes.  A place where Jesus is the only answer.  The only place where joy and peace can be found.

No easy answers

I am convicted to live more thankful.

I think of the woman at the well in John 4.  An outcast.  A Samaritan.  A sinner.  But, one whose testimony brought several Samaritans to Jesus.

I pray that’s me.  I pray that’s Ashley. I pray that’s Hannah. I pray that’s Ashley’s daughter.  Women who allow the words of Jesus  – his grace and his love – to permeate our hearts and flow from our mouths, so the world will know He is alive and at work.  Loving, rescuing, forgiving.  For it’s only through Him that any of us can love, forgive, have courage, and heal.  He’s our only hope.

Dear Lord, I pray protection and safety over Ashley and her daughter. I pray for open eyes and other options. You are the God who sees…the one who saw Hagar.  I pray you see Ashley today – and that she knows you see her. Give her courage and strength. Amen

If you’re willing, could you write a prayer for Ashley and her daughter in the comments?  I plan to share them with her. Thanks.