Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Life Script

We like to think that life will work out peachy keen. And for plenty of folks, it starts out that way, and continues on that way for a good while.

Eventually things go wrong. Bad things enter the picture: hurts, broken relationships, health issues, financial troubles, destructive addictions. Or simpler things like jealousy, frustration, discouragement, discontentment, or unkind words coming out of my mouth.

Whenever I try to imagine just living a pleasant life, pondering the possibility of such a thing and how nice it could be and how maybe it really could work to have a clean new car to drive to happy community events and freshly mowed yards around tidy gardens and happily playing children out on that mowed yard with smiling faces wearing their simple but designer clothes and warm fuzzies at every bedtime following that delicious gourmet dinner I prepared while hubby gave said children baths - you know, going for the classic average American thing like we see on magazine covers, in storybooks, on the big screen - I come to terms with one constant problem: me. Maybe none of the rest of the people who try to live that life have that to contend with - well, I know most of them don't have "me" in their equation - but "me" in particular is a reference to my propensity to mess up, to harbor hurts, to pass judgment, to be negative, to be selfish. From what I've learned they simply have a different "me" with different problems, if they are honest.

So the house of cards comes crashing down. The Truman Show unravels. The car gets old and crumby and smelly, the designer clothes are dirty and mismatched and the arguing children are no longer smiling, the yard gets crabgrass and the flower beds are weedy, bedtime finds us tired and grumpy after a thrown together meal shared by an unhappy mother and father who can't agree on what to do about the grumpy kids. "Me" has arrived, and maybe "you" have, too.

Enter stage right: self-help books, excuses from well-meaning friends, New Year's resolutions, professional counseling ala Dr. Phil and Oprah, and maybe a decision to cash this one in and start again. Only problem?
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Albert Einstein
So you decide to try something different. Live off the grid maybe. Or move to downtown Manhattan. Or across the country. Get a new job, a new spouse (or maybe skip the actual spouse thing and try something really new), new clothes, new hair color. You can get a lot of new things, but you can't seem to lose the "me" factor: grumpiness emerges, unkind words are eventually leaking out again, depression sits on your shoulder, insecurities make you jealous. Whatever. You discover that it's the same thing over and over again. And the results aren't different.

So what's behind left wing curtain, waiting to come onstage? You know you need more than a change on the outside. You need to make life work as it is, because no matter where you go or how you dress or what you do with your talents on the outside, it's the inner man that is the plaguing trouble.

Once upon a time all those nagging things that are a part of "me" were called sin. In God's book, they still are. And He has an antidote - Jesus, His death, the acceptance of His love and mercy and help. And His Holy Spirit empowers us to be changed - a real change, not an outward makeover. He changes my very heart.

My heart needs help. Every day. In Him I find real change and hope. Whether the yard is mowed or not.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

I Will Bore You With My List

You know it's been busy when you don't even realize you haven't posted. Huh...

It's been a full week of special meetings, school, counseling, meeting folks, shopping, and pizza partying. But now I've moved on.

In ten days, four of us fly to Europe to begin a month long adventure of travel and service. Ten days. So I've begun in earnest to make lists, shop locally and online, contemplate needs, and make new lists. My goal is to pack light - so light that nothing will need to be checked, at least for the inter-continental flight. We do have a flight from Frankfurt to Madrid that only allows one carry-on: a single personal item. So we will need to check a bag for that leg of the journey. Hopefully nothing will get lost during that simple excursion!

I like the challenge. (Many people consider packing in a carry-on for a month of travel a challenge.) I LOVE the challenge. Hmmm. Let's see here. Put together outfits for 7 days, then do laundry in Germany. Repeat the process three times in Madrid, and arrive home with clean clothes to unpack. Hopefully. Whew.

My list so far?
  • cosmetics
  • meds
  • Ralph Lauren blue and beige knit dress (I found it yesterday at TJMaxx -- perfect for travel!)
  • Linen lightweight jacket, beige (This rolls up nice and small.)
  • Medium blue twill jacket
  • Navy, beige, and salmon flowered top
  • Limited 917 skinny jeans
  • Navy georgette skirt
  • Primary colored floral patterned gauze skirt
  • Yellow patterned T-shirt
  • Navy T-shirt
  • White T-shirt
  • Rust colored embroidered sleeveless top
  • Peter Pan collared cream colored sleeveless shell trimmed with pearls (quite a dressy touch)
  • lingerie (I will spare you the details)
  • Navy peek-toe flats
  • Beige comfort sandals
  • Cobalt blue gladiator style sandals
  • a scarf or two, a few necklaces
I will wear several of these for travel - the jeans, a top or two layered, and the twill jacket. The rest should readily fit in my gorgeous leather carry-on size dufflebag (a Christmas gift from the kiddos.)

I have lists for Rick and Merrick as well, but Camilla is on her own. Poor girl. It's tough to travel light when you are 16, don't you think? It can seem a bit boring. But I find it challenging and a bit fun!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Another Garden Lesson

I mentioned to him that I needed to head out to my garden and get after that spring phlox, the wild variety.

"You could just let it all go. You know, you get that Victorian garden effect."

"Oh," I chortled, "that Victorian garden effect is actually quite studied and planned. It is not a free for all. If I don't remove the excessively aggressive stuff, it will choke out the others and soon I will have predominately spring phlox and nothing else. No other color, no other size. The delicate will be trampled, the less pushy types will be swallowed up. It won't look pretty at all."

As I spent the next hour digging I found greater evidence of that very truth. In the midst of the carpet of a grassy-leaved white flower bearing plant several spring phlox were pushing through. Now - I have hopes of someday splitting that carpeted mass and sharing it with daughters. But I would never do so if I thought a single root of this phlox was present. So I will now need to cut out large portions of the good in order to be sure to rid the mass of the bad. And I best do it soon, or there will not be any uncontaminated good left at all.

It is popular to think that a truly Christian church is a place of great liberty where anything goes. We like to think that our Christian walk allows us great liberty as well. But as I considered my garden dilemma I realized, too, that God has called some things sin and some things holy. We should not tolerate ALL things, and we should take note of what is not good, to eliminate such things, lest they crowd out, trample, and overcome the good, the delicate.

Just like that wild Victorian cottage garden is actually carefully planned, so is true liberty. If chaos reigns, you can be sure that true and just liberty will not be found.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Title

The God of Hope. That's His name in the book of Romans. His -- Jesus, that is.

"Kinda like the sign over His desk," is how the preacher man put it. "You know, a title, a job description. The God of Hope."

"You lookin' for hope?" He says. "You've come to the right place. We specialize in Hope here."

Now if that's not great news, I don't know what is. We all need hope. We all do better with hope. We all give up without it.

Jesus Christ. He is The God of Hope. Romans 15.13. Check it out for yourselves.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Lifetimes - How Many Are There?

The 6o year old gentleman, referencing a job he once held, chuckled and said, "That was a few lifetimes ago." And I knew just what he meant.

When I consider childhood memories, I cannot even be sure that I and that little girl are one and the same. And the high school years, the college years, the working days, the newlywed stage. And of course, the young kids, the middle kids, the older kids. Really - that was all me? So long ago. So far away.

Maybe lifetimes are measured in decades. If so, I'm on my 6th lifetime right about now. Or is a new lifetime signaled by a major change in occupation or lifestyle? I guess we all may have differing criteria.

One thing I think we would agree on. At some point in life, you feel like you have lived several different lives. And right about now, I think I'm on the verge of beginning a new one. Exciting, sad, strange, and cool!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Simple Phrase

A dear woman and friend of mine, having walked with the Lord for long years, has learned to simplify and keep things basic. She has coined a phrase that I've been turning over in my head as of late. The words on replay in my mind? Simply put they are:
Reveal, deal, and heal.
Nothing too introspective. Not overly complex. Just a quick formula for action, for remedy, for help.

The Holy Spirit reveals an issue or sin through conflict, or a situation, or the Word. It is now our turn to respond. We often choose to shovel it under the rug in an effort to hide once again that which was revealed, hoping it will just go away, never to rear its ugly head. But I can guarantee one thing: this will prove to be merely a delay tactic. You can be sure that God's faithfulness to His plan to make us more and more like His Son will cause the sin or weakness to surface once again, and hopefully the next time we will deal with it properly

Or we could just go ahead and deal with it now.

I suggest we do just that. Move right on to step number two the first time around. Deal with it. Once an issue is revealed, just plain ol' deal with it. Take a deep breath, get your heart settled, and get the thing confronted. Resolve it then and there, before it gets old and forgotten. Follow the Scriptural mandate to bring an offense to a brother, repent when needed, make restitution, or make amends. Get counsel, get help. Whatever. Just don't ignore the sin or conflict.

Pursue it to completion, no matter what it takes. When this is done, healing rules the day. Bona fide healing. We all win. We all grow. He shapes us, equips us, and pours out grace and mercy. It is a good thing. A very good thing.

Dwelling together in unity requires effort of maintenance. There are no shortcuts. And as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

The end result? A sharper, cleaner, more effective tool. More readied for His use. It is a good thing. And simple. Funny how readily we overlook the simple things. I suggest a simple phrase for rumination today:
Reveal, deal, and heal.

Lost Treasure

Deep cleaning is always a bit of a treasure hunt, is it not? At our home it is.

A day or so ago we rearranged a couple pieces of furniture. One was an antique blanket chest. My son and dear friend hoisted it and carried it upstairs to my room. First we emptied it in hopes of alleviating a heavy load. Rather than being filled with bedding, this blanket chest contained untold numbers of envelopes filled with photos and slides, which, upon removal from the chest, settled here and there all over the family room. Now was that a source of distraction or not? As the piles were carried upstairs, they were looked over, you can be sure. Many images have been scanned; you may have already viewed them on my daughter's facebook.

Such rearranging always unearths tidbits that demand moments of reflection and reminiscing. Little handwritten notes, an old museum ticket, a receipt for a Mount Vernon tour all stir up memories worthy of recollection and savoring one final time before a decision is made to toss them in the waste paper basket. Waste paper.

But reminders of fond memories none-the-less.

The photos are kept, stowed away once again. Dimpled smiles, toddler antics, birthday celebrations, and sisterly hugs - all will be retrieved the next time we deep clean and will elicit again one more tear, one more round of story-telling, one more misty smile.

And a mom's heart will sigh in disbelief, then acceptance. And these days I sigh at last with joy.  I'm learning. These earthly days pass and with them go the memories, fading in the passing. Only what is done for Him will remain.

Great is His faithfulness. It reaches to the heavens. And that is treasure everlasting.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

In Which I Sigh the Sigh of Relief - Albeit Momentarily

Today I clean my room. It's been way too long, which is the typical space of time between cleanings unfortunately. My husband is quite patient.

I read a book years ago which I highly recommend - Disciplines of a Beautiful Woman by Anne Ortlund - from which I gleaned many great ideas on how to prioritize and organize and simplify my approach to life. But, in spite of Anne's suggestion that our most personal and private spaces are the truest reflection of our priorities, I continue to be an utter failure when it comes to keeping my bedroom tidy. (Heavens! What if she is right??!)

When push comes to shove (and it always comes to shove at my house) and the kids come to me with that quizzical look that says, "Where should I put this?",  invariably the object of that question (that floating pile of "things without a home") ends up at the foot of my bed just around the corner from a stack of books being researched for a new curriculum idea which is found sitting on the floor by my nightstand. Discarded clothes waiting to be sent to the church blessing shop soon join the collection. One might also find an unfolded blanket donated by a son who decides that his bedding is now too warm. Dance shoes and costumes from last week's performance are located on the floor underneath the window. Etc., etc.

You get the idea. Mom's room is the catchall. Someplace has to be. Well, that, of course, isn't true. Someone somewhere would get the thing returned to its rightful owner immediately. Or they perhaps have a closet designated purely for "floating" items. I myself thought it quite clever some years ago when I set aside a shelf for borrowed items. But it cannot begin to contain all that accumulates at 1942. Said shelf is home to books and CDs and DVDs, etc. But clothes, dishes, hair dryers, etc. just won't all fit. So, the floor at the foot of my bed becomes their home away from home.

And today? Today I'm cleaning my room. Hooray! Once finished, I will luxuriate (I hope my lit class is reading this and noticing that I used a vocabulary word) in the empty space, the lack of piles, the simplified life represented by this tidy personal space as I fool myself into believing (for a day or two)  that I really do have it all together after all.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Reveling In the Word

I was stuck, in a quandary, finding no answer, no hope, no solution.
I am considered to be a "seasoned" Christian; I've been doing this walk with God thing for a while now. You would think I would have known what to do. But I didn't. I knew I was caught but honestly thought there was no way out. I couldn't find the key because I didn't even know there was one. I had been deceived. I believed that there was no hope for this situation.
A simple truth eluded me -- until I shared the dilemma with a trusted counselor. It meant baring my soul, stammering and fumbling for words in trying to put tangible meaning to this deep grief and sorrow that had never been named, a pain that had been crammed down whenever it reared its ugly head, hidden away because there appeared to be no remedy.

I had not found a remedy because my sorrow and remorse was errant. My trusted friend listened to my story and helped me search it out. (It was well buried by now.) After long discourse I sighed and said, "Show me in the Word. Give me a verse or refer me to a story in the scripture." (When push comes to shove, I am confident only in the Word. And that's okay.)
Ah. At last. At long last. A simple reference to a well known story, one so familiar to me I could rehearse it at the drop of a hat, brought instant light which led to instant relief of a heavy burden. And I mean instant. Faith was imparted. Power to deliver ushered in release from false grief. Life and light flooded the dark place where lies had crouched, festering and spoiling. His Word reigned supreme against the very hosts of hell. My heartsick soul was renewed and joy filled that darkened corner of my soul!
God has a remedy for all of our troubles: the Word. His Word imparts faith, delivers from bondage, releases hope, crushes the enemy of our soul.
You know, I just so happened to have been meditating on John 1.1-5 the day my friend shared the simple story that held the key.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
In Him - in Him, the Word - was life. And the life was the light of men! The Word contained life which was light! 
It is an absolutely amazing, astounding, life-bringing, light-shining thing, this Holy Word of God. I am reveling. I have reveled for years and am doing so again today.
Come join me. Let faith arise and let light shine. Come find life and be FREE!