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?

And the Seasons, They go Round and Round . . . (thanks Joni Mitchell)

This new season in our lives came round when life in the super fast lane suddenly and unexpectedly experienced the brakes being applied (don’t fear, we are safe I am speaking metaphorically).  As one might imagine this sudden interuption of momentum resulted inspeedometer  a great deal of change.  It has been interesting at twenty plus years of marriage to see the different ways Jerry and I respond to this experience.

Almost immediately I welcomed this “sabbatical” (of sorts) to slow down, allow my brain, body and soul to rest and replenish.  Jerry on the other hand found the slow pace unsettling and dove into tackling the enormous amount of paperwork that comes with a vocational change.  I can’t emphasize enough how grateful I am for his leadership in this area.  My eyes glaze over with this kind of stuff, and he just plows through it.

Then a funny thing happened.  After about a week to ten days, we switched roles without realizing.  Jerry began to see the value of some down time, and I became busy with meetings, helping a friend post surgery, spending time with some of those I love, and volunteering at one of my favorite ministries.  All of a sudden I felt like I was nearly at full speed again, and wondered how I ever managed to work full time and have a life.

Now that we are two and a half weeks into our journey of transition what am I learning?

  1. Busyness is insidious.  It really has little to do with job status or hours and all to do with making right decisions.  That is knowing what to say yes to and standing firm on the things we say no to.  It doesn’t take long after stepping out of the rush to see the value of slowing down; but it also doesn’t take much to speed back up with barely a thought.  I must guard my time.
  2. We each have to process transition in our own way with our Lord. But as a married couple we also have to make time to talk, pray, worship, laugh and play together and let grace rule when one’s needs seems to be out of sync with the other’s.
  3. Proverbs is right!  There is safety in wise counsel.  “Refuse good advice and watch your plans fail; take good counsel and watch them succeed.”  Proverbs 15:22 The Message.  In just these first few weeks we have sought counsel from our pastors, business associates, close friends who know us well, friends who have traveled a similar path and a financial planner.  We need the objectivity of others and their wisdom when our “normal” becomes abnormal.
  4. I have time.  I don’t have to know today (or even this year – good thing since we are already half way through December – ha!) what my next steps are.  I need to be obedient to the call and leading of our Lord, use this time to dream, pursue interests and explore the range of opportunities.
  5. God is the supplier of my every moment and my every need.  In just a very short amount of time needs we didn’t even know we had have been provided. Here is one example.  Friday a friend and I volunteered to wrap gifts at an urban toy store.  Afterwards we planned to stop for lunch.  As our shift was ending one of the urban church partners said he wanted to bless us all (7 volunteers) with lunch.  A short time later he returned with boxes of pizza and some drinks.  Not only was it incredibly kind of him, but it spoke volumes to me on two levels.  First, here was a man who we thought we were serving by helping him and his parishioners to have Christmas gifts.  He turned the blessing around and served us.  It is very humbling to be on the receiving end.  The second blessing came to me in realizing that here, once again, God was supplying my need.  Yes, I had budgeted for the cost of going out to lunch with my friend, but God provided for us to have lunch at no cost to us but still enjoy the fellowship together.

So how do I sum up these first few weeks of transition?  Honestly, with the words shared at the last staff Leadership Conference we attended.  We were encouraged to live “Adventurously Expectant.”  That is a call I want to live.

 

 

To Be Known by Name

November is National Caregivers Month.  Peter Rosenberger, a ministry colleague at Caregivers With Hope created a video to honor caregivers.   We showed this video at our recent Caregivers Day of Pampering to 120 women who provide care for a family member affected by disability or special needs.  There were few dry eyes in the auditorium as the video played.

What is so striking in this video is the names.  We are so often acknowledged as “Jerry’s wife” or “Matthew’s mother” or “Kim’s sister.”  Yes that role is a very big part of who we are, and a role we (usually) cherish.  But every once in a while it is needful and appreciated to take a few minutes (or even hours) to be known as Joan, Sharon or Beth.

12238058_10153208770271778_5381036211214562344_oI think that is why at our Pampering Days one of the first “spa stops” for many of the ladies is the paraffin hand dip.  It affords a few minutes to sit down and be face to face with another person who calls us by name.  Conversations can quickly go deep as the “pamperer” looks the Caregiver in the eye and massages their hands.

This month (and beyond) one of the best things you can do to honor and respect a caregiver is to learn their name, call them that, and spend a few minutes looking in their eyes and getting to know them as Marie, Stacy, Janice, Amy, Maria, Trish, Marilyn, Carin, Pam, Colleen, Kelly, Janine, Candy, Savine, Cindy, Marty, Helen, Gwen, Shirley, Jennifer, Michelle, Rose, Kim, Nina, Debbie, Jenn, Theresa, Joy, Lisa, Gwen, Anne, Leann, Katy, Eleanor, Brittany, Jill, Rachel, Maggie, Leanne, Willa, Betty,   . . .

Isaiah 43:1-4 ESV  (italics added)

But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Cush and Seba in exchange for you.
Because you are precious in my eyes,
and honored, and I love you,

In His Rightful Place

Recently we enjoyed another visit with most of our nieces and one grand niece.  The little one, “V” is about 19 months old.  Each visit she has become a little more comfortable with her UJ (Uncle Jerry, who she currently calls “UUUUh”).  Over her life we’ve seen her grow from cautiously watching him from a distance, to toddling near his wheelchair, to sitting on the back of it (where she thinks he can’t see her) to now stepping up on it and high fiving UJ,and of course admiring the “lights.”.

uj-amd-v
V checks out UJ and his chair on an earlier visit this year. 

What was particularly intriguing this visit is that her seemingly warm feelings toward UJ only happened when he was “in his rightful place” – in the corner of the living room by his table.  When he is there “all is right in her world.”  When we tried to have her interact with UJ in another room or outside, she was adamant (as an almost two year old can be) that life was off kilter.

My propensity to ponder these moments of life showed me a corollary to God.  When I allow God His rightful place in my life (on the throne) all is right with my world (even when it may seem on the surface that it is not).  When I displace Him from my heart’s throne and put something else there God is not “where He belongs” and my life shows it.

So very thankful for the “littles” (of all ages) in my life who bring me wonderful times of reflection with great joy.

I Like Mary’s Style

Virgin Mary

I am one of those who believes, and tries to live, the truth of the Christmas season throughout the year. Though we are now in 2016 and past the traditional “season” I am still working through insights I gained during the Christmas season.

In  a previous post I shared thoughts about the Shepherds.  I mentioned that I would be posting some thoughts on Mary, so here goes. As I read the story in small sections, I saw Mary’s response to the seemingly impossible message the angel shared with her summed up in three words:  Process, Ponder and Pray.

Luke 1:29 (NLT)  tells us that when Gabriel greeted Mary she was “confused and disturbed” trying to think of the meaning of what the angel spoke.  I think that’s a fair response on Mary’s part.  If an angel appeared to me and greeted me with “Favored woman, the Lord is with you.”  I think my first response would be “Say that again – who are you and what do you want from me?”

This is where I see Mary responding with the first P = PROCESS.  She had to wrap her brain around both the information that was coming to her and the source.

Gabriel went on to tell Mary not to fear and told her about the pregnancy she was about to experience and God’s purpose in it.  As I read the message I kept putting myself in Mary’s sandals wondering how she could take it all in:

  • An angel spoke to me personally
  • He said I am favored and do not need to be afraid
  • I am just a young girl, newly engaged; are you sure you have the right person?
  • Notice that newly engaged.  And now you want me to carry a pregnancy . . .
  • And not just any pregnancy , but one of a son who will reign FOREVER!

Just a few verses later though we see that Mary responded to Gabriel with “I am the Lord’s servant.  May everything you have said about me come true.”  Somehow, in a relatively short amount of time, and largely I am sure because of Mary’s trust in God, she PONDERed all that she heard and accepted it.

A few days later (during which I believe Mary did A LOT more processing and pondering) Mary took a trip to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who, though much older than Mary, was also in the midst of her own unbelievable pregnancy.  As the two moms-to-be spend some time talking together about what happened, Mary responds with what is commonly called “The Magnificat” or Mary’s PRAYerful response of praise to God for who He is and the way He works.

I would encourage you to read this passage for yourself.  Click here to read Luke 1:26-56.

I am not one to make New Years Resolutions, but I do have a plan this year to calendar “3P” time regularly:  Process, Ponder and Pray.  I am so grateful for Mary’s example and life to model the way.