Monday, October 23, 2017

Interruptions



Interruptions.

I've never looked at them as a positive thing.

Have you?

Someone showed up at our door.

In the evening.

Without calling first.

I'm in my baggy, comfortable, flannel pajamas.

Never mind it's only seven o'clock.

It's been one of those days.

Scott & I had just settled in with a movie.

And plate of fresh avocados & salsa.

(with blue corn chips on the side.)

And.... the door bell rings.

Dang!

Who the heck?

Interruption.



My youngest.

Deciding at the end of her sophomore year at AU.

To move home.

And finish at Lander.

Scott & I were two years into our empty nest.

Well

adjusted.

In our empty nest.

Happy.

Really happy.

In our empty nest.

And our 20 year old moves back home again.

Of course we were supportive.

But it was.

An unexpected development.

A change of plans.

She wasn't an interruption.

But our empty nest?  

Yep.  

It was most definitely  interrupted.





Let's go back a ways.

That time in 2013.

Three days before my flight left for Kenya.

Just about everything is done.

Three days out.

Bag packed.

Malaria pills.    Passport.    Stash of dark chocolate.    

Everything was ready.

And then.

Terrorists attacked a mall in Nairobi.

Kenya is rocked by the tragedy.

As is our team.

The trip

is understandably

postponed.

It's a no-go.

Plans change.

Last minute.

Redirection.



Sometimes plans change in small ways.

Sometimes in big.



So came cancer.

Not what I expected.

Definitely not in my plan.

Tumor.

Surgery.

Oncologists.

Scans.

Life changed overnight.

Interruption.





Life happens.

Things change.

But how do I usually react

When interruptions

come?



Last week I read an interesting question.


How do I see people  or circumstances.

That interrupt my schedule?

That interrupt my plans?

Do I see the interruption as an aggravation?

Or an obstacle?

Or does it ever dawn on me.

That God may be up to something?

That He may be at work in my life?

Or someone else's life?




" On days when things go smoothly,
   according to

   your
   plans,

   you may be unaware of My Sovereign Presence.

   On days when your plans are thwarted,

    Be

    on

    the

    lookout

    for 

    Me.

    I may be doing something important in your life,
     something quite different than you expected." *





I'm beginning to see it's true.



The unexpected visitor at my door?

He drove all the way to Due West.

To ask us for the last spot on our Kenya team.

This trip will have a lasting impact on his life.

I know it will.

It was interruption to my quiet evening on the couch.

But God was doing something much more important in this man's life.




And my youngest moving home?

A change in college resulted in a change of majors.

She found her passion in another field -- art.

And unique job opportunities came her way.

Pursuing something she truly loves.

An interruption to our happy empty nest.

Took her life on a different path.

Again.

God was doing something much more important.





My mission trip postponed three days before departure?

It was a devastating tragedy for Kenya.

And many lives were changed that day.

Our mission trip was rescheduled for a few months later.

My original team.

Combined with a second team at my church.

And one of my new teammates.

Has become.

(Along with her husband and children)

Some of our closest friends.

Plans changed during a tragedy.

But God was working in that loss for good.




Cancer?

It changed the direction of my life.

Completely.

I'm a better person for walking through that experience.

Not what I would ever have chosen.

Clearly an interruption to my life.

But God was doing something much more important.

In me.




"On days when your plans are thwarted,

  be

  on

  the

  lookout

  for

  Me.

I may be doing something important in your life.

Something

quite

different

than

you

expected."*



So, I'm on the lookout.

For interruptions.  

And before I get stressed or annoyed when they come.

I'll try to step back.

Take a breath.

And consider something more important might be in the works.






* Sarah Young "Jesus Calling"







Monday, October 16, 2017

Well Placed


From time to time.

I grumble about where I've been placed.

Placed in the sense of where I'm placed to do life.

And where I'm placed to serve.

I'm sure.

You would never do that.

But from time to time.

I grow dissatisfied.

And I consider.

Surely a different place would be easier.

Surely God didn't intend for me to have this place.




Responsibility is a big part.

Of where I've been placed.

And not just in my job.

In several areas of my life.

So.

I imagine sometimes.

What it would be like.

To be placed in life.

With less responsibility.

Or maybe none at all.

A place with more solitude.

Less conflict and demands.

And definitely more peace.

Yeah.

My life would be better.

If I were placed in a place like that.




I wonder what it would be like.

If I worked in my studio all day?


With quiet music and time to create.

Or maybe if I were a gardener at Brookgreen Gardens?



I'd be good with walking the beach every day.

Watching for wayward starfish.


So I could return them back to the ocean.

Maybe I could do animal rescue?


I've had some practice with that.

Or how about just cutting grass with a great lawn mower?


Those are the places I sometimes consider.

Well placed places for me.



This week.

I've been reading out of the book of Luke.

Jesus telling the parable about the four soils.

About what happens to the seeds.

That fall on the footpath.

The rocks.

Among the thorns.

And the fertile soil.

The study notes for this passage struck me.




"In order to be helpful, we need to be well-placed."

"Seek opportunities where you have been placed."




Where.

I.

have.

been.

placed.



When I look at my life that way.

I can see.

That solitary places.

Places of tranquility and peace.

Would not be very useful to Jesus.

And in all honesty.

Not where I'm best suited to be.

He can use me in other places.

Out in the world.

Where life can be difficult.

And hard.

And challenging.

Where people are hurting.

And need encouragement.



Ultimately.

Well placed.

Is where people can catch a glimpse of Him.

Through me.

Where they see love and understanding.

He gives me that chance.

To reflect Him in my place of responsibility.





It's clear.

The time I spend wishing for different circumstances.

Wishing for less responsibility.

Feeling dissatisfied.

Is time.

Wasted for me.

Distracted time.

Ineffective time.

Likely.

It's been an area the enemy has effectively nailed me.

And I don't like that.




So.

I'm being intentional.

Because it won't come naturally to me.

To pay attention.

To the opportunities.

Where I have been placed.



In order to reflect Jesus.

I.

need.

to.

be.

well placed.

And well placed.

Is where He places me.














Sunday, August 27, 2017

My Hard Assignment



I've heard many times.

You're not the first person.

To have a hard assignment from God.

And how ridiculously many times.

I thought they were really talking about me.



It really doesn't help at all.

That I recognize.

Many of you may feel the same way.

I'm a self-absorbed human.

And so are you.

Life takes place in my own little world.

Where I'm the star.

Nobody else's challenges are as big as mine.

People just don't understand.

The world around me is so unjust.

Can't they see how much I do for them!

Nobody ever says thank you.

Nobody ever notices.

If anyone really knew the responsibility I carried.



GEEZ!

Dramatic martyr complex if EVER I heard it!




Do you sometimes just have to step back.

And tell yourself to get a grip?

Maybe not.

Lord knows I do.




I've been sitting here this Sunday morning.

It's very early.

Before 6: 00 a.m. early.

I come up here about this time.

To my studio.

Most mornings.

It's my have to time.

I have to spend time in this chair.

Getting my feet under me.

Spiritually speaking.

Before my day gets underway.

To read scripture.

And pray.    And hopefully listen.

And this idea of a hard assignment.

Convicted me a little today.



It's hard for me not to be all about me.

I want to make it about me.

And when I do.

That inner dialog in my head often follows.

All those I shared above.

And how hard my assignment is from God.



But this morning.

I thought about my college roommate.

Fighting the physical battle of her life.

Stage four cancer.

A young friend that lives under the constant reminder.

Of what was said over him as a child.

A family member.

Who lost a child.

Someone at work.

That struggles with anxiety.

A friend who's husband cheated after 30 years of marriage.

Another couple I adore.

Who have banked everything on a call to minister in Kenya.

And are still waiting on God to make the way.

I thought about someone close to me.

That's living out the brutal consequences of lifelong alcoholism.

And someone else  that lives under constant scrutiny and expectation.

Because their husband is a minister.



THOSE.

Are hard assignments.



Being self-absorbed is a distraction.

An effective one.

The enemy uses distraction my life.

Effectively so.

To keep me from doing what I'm really called to do.

Because if I'm distracted.

Focusing on me.

I don't see my assignment.

Not the hard assignment I thought I had.



My real assignment.



I have a chance.

Everyday.

To be used by God.

Countless opportunities to make my life count for eternity.

To bless other people.

Just as I have been blessed.

I have a chance to bless and add life to someone else.

Wherever I go.



Is that what I do consistently?

Of course not!

Not nearly as often as I could.

Especially if I'm distracted.

And focused on me.



But it sure the heck.

Is what I can.

Choose

To

Do.



And that assignment.

Don't seem so hard.

After all.






** painting "A Woman's Hand's Crossed Over Her Chest"
                     by Elana Ray



Wednesday, August 23, 2017

My False Sense of Security



I watched their grainy images on our camera security system.

One of them crawled through a window at our office.

And walked to a door to let the others inside.

Over the course of the evening.

They smashed windows.

And used a crowbar to pry open office doors.

Including mine.

They sat at my desk.

In my chair.

Riffled through papers and my things.

They threw beer cans across the room.

Knocked over furniture.

And lamps.

And then they left.

They appeared to be just kids.

The police came to investigate the next morning.

They interviewed some neighbors close by.

But the boys in the grainy video images.

Were never identified or found.



The break-in happened last year where I work.

Repairs to smashed windows were made.

Broken things were replaced.

And the memory of it now.

Has faded.

But I felt different because they were there.

And that uneasiness hasn't completely gone away.




Most days.

I rest in what's comfortable.

I rest in what's routine.

I get lulled into a false sense of security.

Safe neighborhoods.

Locked doors.

Alarm systems.

The small town where I live.




But I'm reminded.

Just like that morning at the office.

That my security is not dependent on an alarm system.

Or what party occupies the White House.

My security isn't dependent on my family.

Or how much I have in my retirement account.

I know from walking with Him.

That ultimately.

He.

Is my only real security.



"Nothing can separate you from my loving presence.

 That's the basis of your security."



 "Whenever you start to feel anxious,

 Remind yourself that your security rests in Me alone."



I'm visual.

I'm an artist.

I depend on what I can see.

So, it's a challenge for me.

Many times.

To depend on what I cannot see.

But He reminds me.


"I am nearer than you think,

 Richly present in all your moments.



The more aware you are of My presence,

 The safer you feel.



 I am far more real than the world you can see,

Hear, and touch."

                              "Jesus Calling" Sarah Young




And when I remember that.

My false sense of security.

Is gone.

And my real security.

Is found.























Saturday, August 5, 2017

Life After Cable



We did it.

We turned off cable.

It wasn't pretty for the first 72 hours.

There was the initial withdrawals.

From times we fell comfortably onto the sofa.

At the end of the day.

For mindless distraction.



I would say "comfort" was often associated with cable.

But, in truth.

Even with hundreds of stations at our fingertips.

There was almost never anything good on.

(Well.....with the exception of Fixer Upper, anyway.)




It's funny.

I've become quite frugal as I've gotten older.

And it's always a bit of a wake up call.

To see the annual cost of something.

Dang!    Over $2000 a year on cable.

True.   The internet & land line are part of the bundle.

But, the phone we never used.

I take that back.

Kate used our land line.

If we didn't pick up a cell phone call.

She automatically called the land line.

She's persistent that way.

So Kate used our land line.

And I watched "Fixer Upper."

Scott watched what I call -- murder & mayhem.

And while it's true, I'm a news junky.

Politics and news have become pretty discouraging in recent years.

I've grown weary of the 24 hour news cycle.

Not what I want to take in at the end of my day.




All in all.

Mmmmmm.

Not so much worth it.



So.

We called the cable company.

And turned it off.



That was about a month ago.

I'm happy to say.

We have survived.

I won't lie.

There's still times when I just want to plop down and watch.

But, for me.

It's been good.

It was mostly a comfortable distraction.

But, there's other things I'd rather do.

I don't have that much down time in my day.

Time just for me.

And I was spending too much of it there.

On nothing really that important.



I would say.

That a peace has descended on our house in the evenings.

It's always been pretty peaceful here.

But more so now I believe.

More time to exercise.  (Heaven forbid!)

More time to read.

More time for Pinterest.

More time to sit on the porch and talk about our day.

More time for my mosaics.

More space and time to think.




Everything has it's season.

You may think I've lost my mind.

There was a time.

I might agree.

I used to think that people who had no cable were a bit odd.

Now.

I've joined the pack.

I'm not sure I'm missing so much.

Plus.

Keeping it real.

(There's always Netfix.)



Pretty content.

At being cable-free.











Tuesday, July 4, 2017

What I Carry



It's been a very long time.

Since I felt carefree.

Light.

I've been thinking about this.

I honestly don't remember.

The last time.

I felt no care at all in the world.




The skipping, singing, happy kind of carefree.

The kind you sometimes see in children.

How about you?



Where did I start picking up things.

And decide to start carrying them?

Or does that just come from getting older?





I choose to carry stuff.

Worry.

Doubt.

Fear.

Responsibilities.

Burdens.

Concern.


And when I've not been careful.

And intentional.

The load can quickly pile on.

And I feel the weight.

Much I was never intended to carry.

Much wasn't mine to carry.

Things outside of my control.

Things I had no business picking up in the first place.



I met a woman in Kenya two months ago.

Margaret.

Margaret was a sixty-six year old widow.

Just a few years older than me.


Margaret's husband died when she was a young woman.

And she was left to tend this one acre farm herself.

Four times a day.

Margaret walked down the mountain trail near her home.

To a well.

And there she filled a three gallon pail of water.

Strapped it on her back,

And climbed 100 yards straight up to her home.

The interpreters on my team challenged us.

Suggesting the women in our group carry it back up.

I always hate to be underestimated.

So I strapped on the pail of water and headed up.

Much to my regret.

We did a relay of handing it off on the way up the hill.

I walked a ways and handed it off to Myra.

She walked a ways and handed it off to Kristen.

It took three of us.

To do what Margaret does four times every day.




I learned an important lesson that day.

Some loads we have to carry.

But many are meant to share.



And in my worry.

In my doubt.

And in my responsibility and concern.

I'm reminded to stop.

Take a breath.

And take a good hard look at what I carry.



"Don't take yourself or your circumstances so seriously.

Relax and know that I am God with you.

Stop trying to monitor My responsibilities -

Things beyond your control.

Find freedom by accepting the boundaries of your domain.

Do not miss the Joy of My presence by carrying 

the weight of the world on your shoulders."     Sarah Young














Sunday, May 14, 2017

Every Mom Has A Choice



Even now.

At 57.

I recognize.

The things you did really well.

As my mama.


I hate to admit it.

But sometimes seeing someone else.

Not do this so well.

Causes me to appreciate.

That you did.

I don't know that I ever really thought about it before.

How important it was in my life.

Supporting me as I made my own choices.

And decisions.

 And live my life.

Without imposing your own opinions and fears.

Over me.



Looking back now.

Even at this point in my life.

I'm not sure I always appreciated.

Or realized.

That not everyone is given the same.



It was evident in hundreds of ways as a kid.

As I constantly rearranged my room.

And kept every kitten that came across my path.

You encouraged my love to "create."

To paint and draw.

And play football.

And ride motorcycles.



It was evident as I grew older.

And picked a college.

And wasn't made to feel guilty.

 About not coming home every weekend.

You encouraged me to fly on my very first trip to New York.

To leave home for a summer camp job.

And you never discouraged me.

When I changed my major three times in as many years.



You helped me get my first apartment.

And said yes to my wedding reception in your front yard.

When Scott and I got jobs and decided to move away.

I never remember you suggesting we stay close.


When my own kids came along.

You spent nights.

Helped.

And loved them.

And encouraged me as I became a mother myself.

Never suggesting that I mother a certain way.

Or your way.



Even as a grown woman.

I've continued to see.

Your encouragement to live my own life.

When very few people thought buying a shabby old house.

Would be a good idea.

(You agreed.)

But didn't discourage me.

When serving in Kenya became my heart's desire.

You still don't understand it.

But you don't discourage me.



Every mom.

Has a choice.

And I hope I continue to choose as wisely as you.

Give your children the freedom.

To be who they are.

To live their own life.

Free of the burden of your discouragement.

And your opinions.

Your manipulation and fears.

Free to live their lives.

You did that really well, mom.

And I pray I do it too.

I love you!