What’d You Get Me?

Jerry and I have most of our gift giving occasions between October – December.  That is the timeframe of both of our birthdays, our anniversary and of course Christmas.  The following post was written late in December several years ago, but the truth of it remains in my heart and mind–especially this Christmas day.
My husband and I have this game that we play around birthdays, Christmas or any other gift giving occasions.  It goes like this, “So what did you get me?”  Sometimes it’s said once in passing, sometimes it’s repeated over and over in rapid succession to try to wear the giver down to sharing some clue.  Yes, I know this sounds rather childish for two wellintomiddleagedadults to engage in, but I think it’s one of the casualties of not having children – we sometimes have to play that role in the family.
The morning of December 23 I was having a delightful quiet time with my Lord.  I finished my reading and my pondering, and was just about to put my pen down after recording the last word in my journal when I heard it . . .

“So what did you get me?”
 

I paused and listened to the voice
– but it wasn’t that of my husband.  It was my other beloved’s voice – Jesus!  As I tuned in to His voice I heard, “It’s my birthday soon you know, I’ve seen the gifts you’ve gotten for everyone else, what did you get for me?” 
When I shared this with my husband his response was “Isn’t that just like God to speak to us in our own game and language?”
For the remainder of that day, and the next several days I spent time pondering what I would give Jesus for his birthday. The better question was – had I even planned to give Him anything for his birthday?  If I hadn’t, why not?  And if I was, it was getting late, so I better decide quickly. 

What do you get the Lord of the Universe, who
owns everything and can create anything out of nothing?
The only response I could think of was “to obey is better than sacrifice.”  I think what Jesus was asking for was more of me. All of me in fact.  No need to spend time trying to figure out the hottest gift to give Him but to “just do it!”  To surrender myself and obey what He has already shown me. 
Funny several years later, I think this is still the gift He wants and the one I need to give.
So what about you? What are you giving to Jesus for His Birthday?

The Glass and Moving

Someday I will tally the actual amount of time that Jerry and I have lived alone since we were married, but for now I estimate it is about three years out of 23.  We have had family, friends, and people in need live with us. Those experiences taught us a lot about ourselves, how we view our possessions and what is important to us.

The last eighteen months, we feel like we’ve had a different kind of companion sharing think-2177839_1920our home and lives. Change. We changed ministries with which we serve. That change affected some of our relationships. Our budget was modified as was the way we spend our time. And now we are on the cusp of the biggest transition, moving to a new home in a new state.

Reflecting over these months, I think the biggest thing I have learned is to appreciate the way we each perceive life. Whether the proverbial glass is half full or half empty.

water-305658_1280

In our marriage, one of us sees the glass as at least half full, in fact often it is near overflowing with positive expectations. The other one of us, on a good day, sees the glass as nearly empty. More often saying, “There’s a glass? How come no one told me there is a glass?!”

Sometimes we try to temper the other’s view or pull them across the midline to our own perspective. Sometimes we wonder how on earth the other could possibly survive living life through that lens. From where I sit today though I am thankful for these differences.

One of us would have had us moving sooner, but without a solid plan in place. At times “half empty” would throw out a time frame that made “half full” wonder if the other really wanted this move.

Each time our glasses came into conflict we learned to take the opportunity to sit down, listen to what the other was saying and more clearly articulate our own perspective. The result – our communication has improved, we find ourselves operating off the same page more often and enjoying the journey of figuring it out together.

Besides, as someone recently shared with us the best news is that each glass is refillable!

share-2482016_1920So how about you?  How full or empty is your glass?  Do you and your spouse share the same perspective?

Ivan the Great

I was hosting a table to recruit volunteers at church this morning when an older gentleman I don’t recall seeing before walked up holding a coffee cup.  I asked if he was interested in learning about our event.  He asked if the computers I had at my table could get to the internet.  I told him they did, but all sites other than the church’s webpage were blocked.  I suggested some other ways he could get online if it was necessary.

He replied, “No, I am just upset, I have to calm myself down.”  Then he snickered and pointed at his cup of coffee and said, “the caffeine should help right?”  He went on to tell me that he just found out his car did not pass the emission test.  He appeared very shaken by this revelation and then walked away.

A few minutes later he came back by and said, “you better pray for me.  I need the weather to stay nice today because they tell me I have to put a thermostat on my car to pass emissions.  I’ve never done this before.”  photo_1832_20060728

I assured him I would pray for him and as he walked away again I asked for his first name.  He replied (with gusto), “Ivan the Great!”  I responded with “Nice to meet you Ivan the Great and I will be praying for you.”

Ivan took a few more steps away from my table toward the auditorium (as I was silently praying for him) and turned around and laughed, and said, “oh never mind, you won’t pray.”  I assured him I had already begun praying for him and invited him to come back to my table so I could pray with him directly.  He continued to snicker and walked in to the service.

At the end of the service Ivan came back by the table again.  He told me he looked outside and thought I was doing a good job praying because it hadn’t rained yet.

I don’t know if Ivan the Great got his thermostat in today.  I hope I recognize him again at church so I can ask him.  But I do know the God who is pleased when His children reach out and share their needs with one another and then with Him.

The funny thing is – I wasn’t even supposed to be at that table today.  In fact, we were not going to start hosting the table until next week.  But I got mixed up and set it up a week early.  Perhaps God wanted that all along so Ivan the Great could find out that someone cares for him.  Or perhaps God put Ivan in my path today to remind me that it is more important to be “present over perfect” (thanks to Shauna Niequist for her book of that title that is messing with my heart and soul).

 

Lane Lines of Grace

I am not a good swimmer, but I LOVE swimming, especially outside.  Somehow the combination of the water and the sun doesn’t just motivate me to exercise, but it provides a form of therapy for me.

I start my laps by doing a variety of strokes (I like to call them “freestyle” but they are not in competitive swimmers world – they are my freestyle) that have me either on front or side.  My “reward” at the end of my laps is to wrap up with back stroke for several laps.

I have no problem staying within the lane lines when I swim forward or on my side.  When doing back strokes, especially if the sun is directly overheard, I tend to angle quite a bit and then self correct when I bump into the lane lines.

 

poolWhen I do my laps I choose a lane and I stay within the confines of that boundary.  Even when I can’t see clearly where I am going I have some flexibility and freedom.  When I bump into a lane line I have a choice – to correct my course to stay in the safety of the lane that is mine or to ignore the lane line and say it doesn’t matter and cross over/under the lane line which would likely lead me to impact (and not in a good way) my fellow swimmers.

I am grateful for those lane lines.  Not only do they help me with swimming, but they give me a picture of God’s grace.  It is not exact, and certainly not a theological treatise.

I think of the water in the pool as God’s grace.  Once I enter the pool I am free to move around anyplace within the pool.  When I am in Christ I have a great deal of freedom to live within the vastness of God’s grace.

As I get more serious about what I am doing in the pool I choose a lane.  By choosing that lane I am agreeing to stay within the confines of that lane.  As I become more mature in my walk with Christ and understand more of His plan for me I submit myself to the lane He designed for me.  It may look similar to the lane my friend is in, but it is different. I still have a significant amount of freedom/movement within my lane, but there are boundaries.  I can choose to override those boundaries, but my path is much more enjoyable for me and those around when I move within the freedom of my lane in God’s grace!

 

 

It’s Just a Little Thing

Today is packing day for our next week of Family Retreat.  Since Jerry comes up a couple days after me I leave all of his “stuff” in a corner of our den and his attendant picks it up on the way to camp.  I try to keep his pile as concise as possible.  I hung one bag over the handles of his main suitcase.

Later in the morning I realized I forgot to give him a laundry bag.  I took the lightweight mesh laundry bag and tucked it into an open space in the bag hanging from his suitcase.  Right away the bag and the suitcase fell over.  My first thought was, “for crying out loud, it’s a little light thing- how did it change the balance that much?”  So I picked the luggage up and it once again fell over (what’s the definition of insane?  Trying the same thing over again and expecting a different result . . . . ).

luggageThird time is a charm?  I realized I needed to turn the luggage around so the weight was leaning into another support.  And voila – it stayed upright!!

Right away God reminded me about periods in my life (some very recent) when I know I have a lot on my plate, but I continue to add more.  It often seems like the littlest thing that knocks me over.  Sometimes I even say to Jerry, “I don’t know why I am crying right now, it’s not a big deal.”

The luggage toppling with the addition of “a little thing” was the perfect real life picture for me to see what I do to my own heart and life so often.  Now if I can just remember this lesson in the dailyness of life . . . .

Blessings and Joy!

IMG_1914No, this is not a post “airing our dirty laundry”, but instead a story of how this pile of laundry (about 10 loads) became a symbol of blessing and joy to me.

Friday we came home from serving at our first two weeks of Family Retreat.  (For those of you not familiar with Family Retreat you can read this post in my archives).  We arrive home exhausted, ready to do nothing for a couple of days but rest and relax.  We also come home with a LARGE pile of laundry.

Typically I’ve looked at the pile of laundry and grumbled (to myself I think, but perhaps out loud as well!) that I have to do that laundry.  That starts the rock rolling downhill while gathering thoughts of, “the kitchen needs to be mopped, the beds need clean sheets, the gardens need weeding, the bills need paying. . . .” and very soon my attitude is shot.

Our Family Retreat theme this year was “Joy.”  We talked each day about finding joy in the range of emotions that come our way in daily life.  Coming home I immediately got a chance to apply that!  I realized that I could choose my attitude about the laundry, and other tasks ahead of me.  I could see them as burdens, exercise frustration, but still have to complete them.  Or I could choose joy and view this mountain of laundry, weeds, dishes, etc. as a blessing.

  • A blessing that we have enough clothes to change daily
  • A blessing that I am not at a river pounding clothes on a a rock to clean them, but put them in this magic machine and they come out clean
  • A blessing that we have a door on the laundry room I can shut when  I am not ready to  take on the task
  • A blessing that we have a home with a small bit of property that has places to grow weeds

And then a funny thing happened . . .  when I changed my attitude about the laundry, I found unpacking wasn’t such a chore either.   I was grateful we have jobs that allow us opportunities to travel and serve, thankful for the blessing of suitcases, cars to travel in, thankful for a house to come home to. . .  and most of all thankful for a Heavenly Father who doesn’t give up on me but continues to strengthen me with His joy!

 

My Summer Community

It’s funny what happens when one says “yes” to God!

A couple days ago I came home from the pool and mentioned to Jerry that I had overlooked the community that exists there.  There are groups who meet to walk the pool together, or share a lane for laps.   Most of all of us sit in the same area of the deck each day.  While I  typically nod a pleasant hello at those I pass by I tend to choose a chair or bench by myself where I immediately bury my nose in a book or my phone then swim my laps, dry off and head home.  I hear the conversations around me, but don’t engage.  When I see people I know I chat a few minutes, then quickly reenter my world!

I think the idea of community struck home when I asked the pool manager about a man (whose name I never knew) I have not seen at the pool this year (and he was ALWAYS there in the past).  She told me that he had passed away.  It struck me that he was  a “regular” of sorts in my life and I knew nothing about him.

I told God that if He opened doors I would engage with “my summer peeps.”

Today a man I have seen for several years at the pool commented about how he didn’t spend very long in the pool doing laps today.  I replied that I did a few less laps today also, after all, it’s Sunday and a day of rest.

That one comment opened the door!  He sat down and one comment led to another and soon we were talking about church, and some challenges he is facing.  We discovered we had some commonality in our church history (funny, because over the years I was pretty convinced that he would be one person at the pool who had no interest in faith or related topics; boy was I wrong!)

As we continued to talk he asked if my husband and I had ever considered missions work.  I told him we have, and asked if he ever heard of Joni Eareckson Tada.  His jaw dropped as he told me all the ways Joni’s radio programs have encouraged him over the years.  He was not aware of our local ministry.

When I came home and told Jerry it’s amazing what happens when you say yes to God, he asked me , “who is coming to dinner?”  Well, no one yet . . .  but as we were reminded in church this morning that we are to BLESS:                                                                                     Begin with prayer
Listen to the stories of others
Eat with others
Serve
Share an appropriate part of your story

I think this summer community is ripe for blessing!