Stillness

Stillness is ever waiting

For me to slow down my pace

To stop and take a moment

And forget about the race.

 

Often I have to be forced

To wait for a circumstance

Or be worn by weariness

To offer stillness a chance.

 

When I do stop to notice

I can hear a raindrop fall

And take in the tenderness

Of the One behind it all.

Between God and Me:)

Love is the only thing that matters when it comes to a wedding. Tyler and Gina’s wedding was a perfect example of that. I almost let all the activities and busyness of the week come between God and me, and I almost let the lesson in love He had for me slip away. I’m glad He persisted, and I’m thankful I finally understood His lesson last night. Weddings have the tendency to be busy, and this one was no exception. In the midst of the madness, God managed to quiet my spirit and touch my heart as never before. The images and lessons were clear, and His message was unmistakeable. All came together in a powerful way, and I found peace-filled relief as I listened to Him.

There comes a time when the only choice is letting go, and that letting go allowed me to draw nearer to God this week. I have a choice when it comes to doing and having what God desires. I can be obedient, or I can make the process more difficult for Him and for me.  I do that by rationalizing, ignoring the obvious, and delaying Him with my persistent questions and need to know. Lillyann helped with that lesson this week:) The lessons were obvious and would have been comical had they not cut so very deeply into my heart.

I was powerfully reminded that the things which get to me most are the ones which touch upon a sensitive spot in my heart. That sensitivity is always about my refusal to learn a lesson or see a truth about myself. If someone particularly angers or irritates, that indicates there is something in them which I refuse to see in myself.

I got myself into a dither over nothing this week and didn’t like what I heard and saw, but I learned the truth God wanted me to see. The truth often hurts, and the pain of recognizing that I share the quality that brings judgment when I see it in others is beyond humbling. It is devastating. God is faithful, so when I was humbled and flat on my face before Him yesterday, He gently led me to a place of understanding. I am thankful that He is faithful to take my humility and use it to teach. Last night as I cleaned, I found healing in a way I cannot describe effectively.

I opened windows as I cleaned, and the air that came through them felt like the Holy Spirit Himself airing me out. I couldn’t get away from that October breeze no matter where I went in the house, and I’m glad. It cleared my heart and my sinuses:) I was as tired as I’ve ever been in my life when I got home after dark, and I had to smile when I realized I was breathing was better. I love it when God does that. I slept like a baby after the physical activity that was such a blessing to me. Last night was icing on the beautiful cake this week.

Speaking of cake, we never got to the groom’s cake at the wedding. Things were hectic, and it was left unnoticed. If it had been an ordinary cake, I would have tossed it, but it was a heavenly work of art, so I brought it home and put it in the refrigerator. I wanted to save it, so I cut it into pieces to put in the freezer for the kids. I decided to have a piece, and it was amazing! I have never eaten a better chocolate cake in my life!! I can’t wait until Tyler and Gina taste it this evening. I plan to have some waiting for them and know they will enjoy it even more than I did.

Difficult lessons are difficult for a reason. Most lessons God has in mind are not easy, but they are the ones I most need to learn. That late night chocolate was literally a sweet sticker God put on the week to let me know that He noticed that I did something hard and learned something valuable as a result. My students know how I feel about stickers, so they’ll understand just what I mean. Whether it’s one of Lillyann’s little yellow stars on the refrigerator, a smiley sticker in school, or an A on an important entrance exam, it all adds up to the same feeling. I did what I was supposed to do, and in so doing learned a valuable lesson. It’s nice when someone notices, and God never fails to notice because He is God the best teacher ever. Obedience does indeed lead to joy.

Here’s my facebook post this morning and the amazing image that helped me remember that when it comes to a groom and his bride, love is all that matters. The same is true for God and me, and I don’t plan to let anything come between me and my God:)

This beautiful image captures the love between Tyler and Gina. Just as with this wonderful couple, nothing must come between Christ and me. I let the waiting of this world and the scurrying around do that sometimes, but Gina and Tyler taught me that love is all that truly matters when it comes to a wedding. My favorite moment in the wedding was when they expressed that love to one another in the vows they prepared. “I vow to let nothing come between us, God, and our children, and hold this beautiful family under God as my guiding light from now until eternity.” When I heard that, my heart could only say amen and pray the same for all of us. Thank you Aaron for your sweet patient love that captured the image that sums it up so beautifully♥

When it comes to weddings, nothing matters but the love between the bride and groom:)

A Servant’s Heart

The wedding yesterday reminded me of the value of a servant’s heart. There were several beautiful examples as I looked around the room last night and perused the photos this morning. Rita is officially family now, but she has been a dear friend and kindred spirit for much longer. She exemplifies the servant’s heart and is as selfless as anyone I’ve ever known. Her son, Kevin, is the most kind and giving man I’ve ever seen. My son showed his true character in the beautiful vows that showed his love for God and his precious girls. As he waited patiently, I thought of Christ who does the same when it comes to me:)

There was a lot of waiting yesterday, but Rita calmly went about taking care of all the details so others could have the spotlight and enjoy the wedding. I learned many valuable lessons from her last night. The most important was on focusing upon what is truly important. She held Mylah while she slept and took her home with her for the evening. She watched and beamed as those in the room enjoyed all she had done to make a special occasion more memorable. She not only understands exactly what Christ meant when He called us to be servants, she is one:)

While others were frazzled, she was calm. While others were impatient, she was relaxed. Rita will always be close to my heart, and I pray that I will grow to be more like her as we share the path. I thank God for the lessons and the love I got yesterday. Good waiting is about knowing what is important, but it is more about what you think of yourself and others. Rita clearly thinks of others, and I love that about her. I saw the same selfless love in my son as he did a great deal of waiting yesterday. He smiled and listened and let his bride have her day. I love that about him.

Kevin, or Pepe as the girls lovingly call him, quietly took care of so many tasks that I lost count. He always does that, and I forget sometimes to acknowledge his selfless and sacrificial love. That’s so true of those who quietly take care of what needs to be done without wanting or getting any credit or attention. I admire Kevin and told him years ago how thankful I was that he is in Tyler’s life. He made sure Gina and Tyler had a beautiful wedding, and I love him for that. His mom is a dear friend, and he is like a son to me.

As we danced last night, I’ve never been more proud of Tyler or closer to God. I love this photo because Rita, Kevin, and Tyler are all in it. The moment was a special one for Tyler and for me, and Rita is enjoying it as much as we are. Kevin was busy taking care of the endless details that made the evening so special That’s what love is all about, and I was privileged to be surrounded by it.

Ordinary Time

In the Christian calendar, the time that falls outside the distinctive liturgical seasons is known as Ordinary Time. There are 33-34 weeks of Ordinary Time which fall between Christmas and Lent, and between Easter and Advent. In Latin it’s called Tempus Per Annum or time throughout the year. The term comes from the word “ordinal,” which simply means counted time and has nothing to do with the ordinary or mundane.

As I went through the busy day yesterday, I thought about how my own time is counted. I go from season to season much as the church calendar does, but it is the time in between those busy seasons that make up most of my life. Talking with a friend, sharing a meal, playing with the girls, reading, and writing would be considered ordinary time in my life.

Counting time is a big part of my life. Counting down from one holiday or special event to another is very like that liturgical calendar, but I miss the ordinary time in life if I focus upon counting down. When it comes to my calendar, the ordinary time is the most precious time of all, and I mean that in an ordinary and mundane way.  I understand the concept of the liturgical calendar and use it as I study and pray; but when it comes to living my life, I plan to make sure I develop a deeper appreciation of that ordinary time between special events.

Holidays and special events cause many to sink into a state of despair and depression. I think everyone can relate to that or to the post celebration blues that follow a special day. I thank God for the celebrations on the liturgical calendar and on my own, but I pray that I will gain a greater appreciation for the ordinary time in both and be mindful of how I wait for God. How I wait is entirely up to me, and I can smile if I remember that God has me in the palm of His hand. I rarely remember that when I’m marching off on my own. Mylah learned to march this week, and her goose step is hilarious:) I go off with my own goose step, and I am thankful that God sees the humor in my marching around as I see it with Mylah’s. Even Lillyann had to belly laugh when she saw her little sister’s serious stepping:)

Joy takes on a new meaning as I learn patience in waiting and understand that suffering is an important part of the process of finding the fundamental joy that so differs from the ha ha happiness I often seek and the Pollyanna joy that can lead to the deepest despair of all. The deep joy God has in mind is not lighthearted happiness that comes from circumstances or pretending all is well but rather a fundamental joy that comes from the overwhelming sense that God’s hand is holding me always. I don’t truly get that until I am made aware that I’m not holding myself.  That’s where suffering enters in. As I come to that level of learning, I can smile knowing that He knows me and I truly know Him. That is what joy is all about.

Suffering teaches obedience, and obedience leads to joy. A simple path, but one on which I am given the choice of coming to know God and finding His joy or turning my back on Him and blaming Him for my hurt. There are times when I wish I didn’t have the choice; but then I realize that choice is what leads to joy and knowing God intimately, so I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

May I Have Your Attention Please:)

As I watched Lillyann and Mylah yesterday, I was struck by their need for my attention. That isn’t a problem because I give them my full attention when I’m there. My heart goes out to momma and daddy who have to also juggle school, work, and household chores. The problem is that each wanted my undivided attention:) I was frustrated until I realized God was using those sweet little girls to teach a serious lesson.

With all the preparations for the wedding and the mixed-up schedule, Lillyann was feeling a little left out. I was also more frazzled and got impatient myself. Children are not the only ones with the need for attention, and God showed me that I am very like Lillyann when I don’t get attention from loved ones. Time is relative and so is attention. Like Lillyann, I forget that everyone doesn’t have the time I do, and I’m not the only one vying for their attention. I’m old enough to know better and don’t have the excuse of being three:)

Since I retired completely last year, I find myself feeling more and more like Lilly when folks don’t have time for me. I pout and fret as she does but only when by myself because I’m the only one invited to my pity parties. Lilly is honest and open and invites everyone to hers:) I know it sounds silly, but watching Lilly feeling left out today made me realize that I feel the same way at times. I stay busy and help with the girls, but it isn’t the same as having a full time job, school, and children. I was reminded of that today.

I plan to repent and remember that I have more time than most as well as the freedom to decide what I want to do with it. That’s the beauty of and the problem with retirement. I’m so thankful to have the time to help with those sweet little girls and to volunteer. It is a blessing to have time and freedom, but I have to remember that others do not have the same luxury.

The need for attention is at the heart of most problems when it comes to relationship. I’m not the only one who feels the need for attention, but I felt pretty guilty yesterday as I watched Lillyann acting out and saw myself. I may act out differently, but the results are the same. It’s not easy to see myself as a three-year-old who’s having a bad day; but that’s the image God chose. It was an effective one that embarrassed and humbled, and I plan to take what I learned and apply it to my walk.

When I focus on myself and the attention I need, I will always be disappointed. When I remember that time is relative and some have none to spare, I’ll think before I expect it from others.  I’ll also be mindful that there are those in nursing facilities or home alone who have an abundance of time and would appreciate some attention. They also love lavishing attention on others.

Children want the same thing we all want-time and attention. When I have time, I expect others to have it too. In a perfect world, time would be more evenly divided as would all resources. In heaven, time doesn’t matter because God has everyone’s undivided attention. No one there worries about getting attention because they’re too busy giving it to God. When I’m giving attention, I think much less about getting it. When I give God my undivided attention, my problems concerning time and attention fade away.  That was the beautiful lesson yesterday:)

Who’s In Charge?

Who’s in charge? The answer to that question is a sobering one. I am. God will not take charge of my life, and He will not make me love Him, listen to Him, or obey Him. It’s my choice. God presented the opportunity for me to teach that lesson yesterday. I teach high school Sunday School, and that’s a difficult time and a turning point in the life of a believer. The faith of my father and/or mother must become my own if I am to form a relationship with God. So many young people don’t make the transition well and end up wandering from the church body and the faith without ever experiencing a deep, personal connection to God. I hope to help young people find their faith and form that relationship.

I taught middle school for thirty-three years, but that did little to prepare me for the teaching I’ve done during the past three. However, I do recognize a teachable moment when I see one, and I saw one yesterday as I grew frustrated while trying to get students to focus upon the scriptures at hand. The scriptures were very important, but God had another lesson in mind.

God will let me be in charge. He won’t force me to listen, learn, or obey, and I made it clear to the class that I wasn’t going to force them to either. The most frightening aspect of God’s love is that He doesn’t force me to love Him and lets me say no. It hurts Him deeply, and it hurts me deeply, and that’s true anytime love is not returned. Trust and truth are essential when it comes to love. I wish I could help my students avoid the pain in life, but I know it’s part of their journey. Some things must be experienced, so I decided to give them the control they wanted. I left the room and closed the door behind me. I wanted them to understand that God will let them do the same thing to Him.

You don’t have to ponder for very long when wondering why God doesn’t force us to do what He wants. That isn’t love, and love is His perfect plan. Loving because I have to is worse than not being loved at all. Sitting in a classroom doesn’t make me learn a thing. Obeying out of fear causes me to hate.  Those with lots of money and power pay or force people to agree with them and do what they want, but that never works outs in the long run. I hope the students learn the sobering truth at the heart of  being in charge.

The beauty of obedience is that it takes a big load off my mind. I’m learning it’s okay if folks aren’t as excited as I am about God, and I no longer feel responsible for getting others to love Him or His Word. Loving God and letting Him make a difference in my life is all I can do. Hopefully, that will make a difference in the lives of others. If it doesn’t, then that’s between them and God. Knowing I don’t want to be in charge is acknowledging that He is God and I am not. God will let me be the god of my own little world, but it’s never as much fun as I think it will be:)

The Worth of Weakness

Hebrews 5:2 says of the high priest “he can deal gently with the ignorant and misguided, since he himself also is beset with weakness;” (NASB) Those words show clearly the worth of weakness. All are weak, but not all are willing to admit weakness. Our society looks down on weakness, and meekness is certainly not a trait we value. That is never more obvious than during an election year:)

We are all human beings, and the author of Hebrews is saying that is a good thing. Acknowledging weakness builds a bridge between us as we share the suffering sin inevitably brings. Jesus can relate to our suffering, and he is a compassionate Savior who can relate to our sin because He carried all our sins with Him to His cross.

Human beings are vulnerable and weak and always will be. In recognizing my own weaknesses, I am able to relate to the those in my path. At the heart of God’s truth, if I am willing to hear it, is the inescapable fact that I am a sinner. I must come to a place of knowing and understanding that to accept the forgiveness He offers and begin to walk in His kingdom.

God became human so he could relate to us, and that is at the root of Hebrews 5:2. Even more compelling is the description of Christ’s prayer in verses 7-10 “In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety.  Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation,  being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.” (NASB) When I think of Jesus crying out to God and learning obedience from His suffering, I am humbled and comforted as never before.  As I cry out, my tears are caught by hands that hear and sympathize as only those who have traveled the same path can. Christ never sinned, but He did take on mine and understands my heart in a way that makes me want to obey and experience the joy He has in mind for me. He knows exactly how it feels to want God to reach down and fix problems and take away pain, but He also knows that will only make things worse.

Fixing and enabling teaches dependence not obedience. It is human nature to want to fix weakness instead of allow it to takes its natural course and create the environment necessary to learn obedience. Nothing hurts more than seeing our children hurt, and God knows that better than any one. Nothing hurts our children more than making the path too easy and taking obstacles out of their way. It’s a most difficult lesson, and even Christ cried out for His Father to take away His cup. Obedience is not about control. In fact, it is about letting go of control. That letting go leads to joy, and that’s why God won’t take away our suffering. He knows it’s necessary in order for us to learn obedience and find the joy He has in mind for us.

While there is no end to the cycle of sin, suffering, and obedience as long as I am in this body, there is also no end to the joy that comes when I respond with an obedient, trusting heart. That is the abundance God promises when I understand the worth of weakness and humble myself in obedience to Him.  God’s Holy Spirit will help me when it comes to obeying, and that will lead to joy. Coming face to face with my imperfections is part of His perfect plan. It is what knowing God is all about:)