Just Call Me Sarai

I am a bit surprised that over the years my close friends and family have not nicknamed me Sarai. I don’t know how many times over the years I have read or heard the story of Abram and Sarai, but reading it this morning I was struck by how Sarai-like I am.

breast-feeding-1831510_1280Sarai believed God when He made the promise of a son to her and Abram. I believe God too when I hear His words to me.

Sarai waited for God to fulfill that promise. I have been known to wait for God to fulfill something He told me. Not always a patient waiter, but I can wait (though there was that period of time in my life when I could not sing the song “In His Time”).

Sarai decided God must be waiting for her to act, so she did. She gave her servant Hagar to Abram to bear their son (which was culturally appropriate at the time). I too can gethourglass-2910951_1920 tired of waiting and take things into my own hands because I “know” it’s God’s plan (at least the promise was His plan – my execution of it, not so much!)

Sarai had her name changed by God from Sarai to Sarah. With the name change came a promise of blessing, pregnancy, and descendants beyond measure, some even Royalty. When I call myself a failure, a screw-up, a hopeless case God reminds me He calls me beloved, His daughter, a child of the King.

Sarah, despite taking a wrong turn and suffering some difficult situations during the waiting, saw God’s promise fulfilled when at the age of 90 she did bear a son, Isaac, to her hundred year old husband Abraham. I have seen some of God’s promises to me fulfilled in amazingly unexpected ways and unconventional ways. Some I am still waiting to see.

So for today, I renew my commitment to live like a princess, who knows her Dad is King and God. What He promises He will deliver, in His time and in His way.

 

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Twenty Plus Years in Graceland

This weekend Jerry and I celebrated our 22nd wedding anniversary. We marked the day quietly, just the two of us. This has been a hard year; the days that followed our 21st wedding anniversary carry some painful markings. If you are not aware of that journey, you can read some of the background here and here. Though we believe we did the right thing by resigning from a ministry we loved, the outworking of those decisions went very differently than we anticipated.

Perhaps that is why God allowed us to spend our 21st anniversary at Graceland. Yes, that Graceland in Memphis. We are not Elvis fans, but we were visiting our niece, and when in Memphis one of the things you need to do is the Graceland tour. At the time, Jerry Gracelandlaughed at the romantic way we celebrated number 21, the outlandishly decorated  rooms, gold records filling the walls, a strip of stores loaded with Elvis souvenirs, and banana cream treats. Still I found it oddly fitting to celebrate our anniversary at Graceland. The name seems to be an apt description of a good marriage.

Just a few weeks before visiting Memphis, we took another trip. This one to a marriage retreat hosted by Winshape in Rome, GA. If you are ever given the opportunity to attend a Winshape Marriage Retreat don’t hesitate for a moment – say yes without delay. The session we attended focused on working through conflict in marriage. At first I was a bit disappointed with this theme as conflict is something we had learned to manage. But it was the topic of the weekend we were gifted to attend. Little did we know how God was preparing us for the days to come.

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Preparing for the trust walk – Jerry will lead me through an obstacle course.

Jerry and I agree that while this year has probably been the hardest of our years together, our marriage is far better, stronger, and actually more fun. We have healthier communication, we understand and appreciate each other in new ways. For this we are thankful.

As we begin this new year of marriage, it seems appropriate to reflect on what we have learned in the graceland of marriage this past year. Winshape taught us that “Conflict is the pathway to real intimacy. It guides us to a deeper knowing” (Todd & Beverly Sandel, Winshape Speakers).The conflicts we were experiencing outside of our marriage, impacted our relationship deeply and we learned to apply a liberal amount of grace. Here are some of the signposts of grace we discovered.

1) Extend grace to one another as we each process grief and loss very differently and on our own individual time table. There was a time when we couldn’t help each other. We just needed to give space for the other to be. Thankfully most times when one of us was down the other was on their way up, so we could share encouragement.

2) Extend grace in what we hear from one another and how we respond. We had to make a conscious decision to not allow one another’s words to immediately alienate or anger us. Sometimes we simply could not get the right words out. We need to think the best of our spouse while clarifying what we heard.

3) Extend grace to ourselves rather than beat ourselves up when we have one of those days when we just need to be . . . and not do. Or just needed to be sad or cry.

4) Accept the grace offered by the other, try not to talk them out of extending that because of how messed up we are.

5)  Accept the grace from our Lord, who by allowing us to wake up together each day and sustaining us with breath and heartbeats means He is not done with us yet and still has a good plan for us together.

Winshape was right, conflict has brought us into a deeper and sweeter relationship with each other, and with our God. I wonder what lies ahead in this new year?

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What about you?  How have you see grace lived out in your marriage?

 

What A Difference A Year Makes

Today has been a mostly ordinary day.  I helped Jerry get up.  I went to my part time job at the financial planners, and was able to confidently carry out my tasks with the knowledge I have gained there this year.  When my shift ended I attended a team meeting with my seeJesus Bethesda teammates in which we did some final planning for our upcoming fundraiser.  It is exciting to see the event and team come together.  Then I took a call from another seeJesus co-worker who shared a project that is just starting and asked if I would like to consider being involved with it.

As I pondered this request, as well as some other connections that came my way today I marveled at God’s goodness and grace.  You see, it was one year ago today, on this very rope-667319_1280date that Jerry and I got the first very clear information that life as we knew it was about to unravel.  We didn’t know the details, we didn’t know exactly how or when, but as the cliche says, the end was in sight.

To say November 2016 Started us on a tumultuous journey is an understatement.  But we’ve all been through our own kinds of floods, fires and trials.  You don’t need to hear the “down and dirty” from me.

What I do want you to hear is that our God is faithful!  Here we are at November 1, 2017 and we are growing in our new work and ministry roles, we have some exciting plans for our future, and we are stronger in our marriage than we’ve ever been.

Are we all the way through this rough spot?  Probably not – people tell us it will likely dance in and out of our lives for years to come.  But that’s ok – we are more snug in our cord of three, and that’s a knot I never want to undo!

Ecclesiastes 4:12 NIV

Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.rope-970023_1280

Too Busy to Listen?

I have noticed a pattern developing when we stop for fast food that has a scary correlation in my life. When I place our order I am asked by the voice in the box if I want any additional sauces with my order.  Each time I say no.  Yet, when I get to the window where they hand the bag of food I find it loaded with packets of sauces.  Way more sauce than two of us could use even if I had said yes.

How wasteful I feel throwing away all those packets.  I tried saving them for a time, but then wondered what I was going to do with a stock of sauce packets I never wanted in the first place.  So out they go after all.

Then it struck me –  how often do I think I’ve been attentive to someone, perhaps even sculpture-2275202_1280asking a question of them, only to realize I don’t really know what they just said to me (I am sure no one else has experienced this).  Essentially I’ve just wasted their time and trust in me, something far more valuable than plastic pouches of sauce.  I allowed them to talk to me, but never engaged in listening.

It is bad enough that I have noticed I do this with my husband, family, co-workers and friends.  But even worse, I do this with God.  I spend time in His word each morning.  I ponder what I read and believe He is saying to me.  I pray for application to my life.  And then hours (or sometimes, sadly, minutes) later I think or respond in a way that shows I totally missed what God said to me. photo_10929_20090511Thankfully He (and my friends, family and associates) extend a great deal of grace and second chances to me.

question-mark-160071_1280So help me please dear friends and readers . . . . share with me your best tips for keeping focused and attentive to those around you when your mind is begging to float away to a myriad of other thoughts.

 

When Will We Get It?

It happened again.  My heart is broken as I heard the latest news report on another child with disabilities who was abandoned by his Mom in some woods.  There is absolutely nothing about this tragedy that is right.  Even so, it’s an indication of how hard life with disability can be.

Two years ago there was a similar situation in Philadelphia.  The reflections I wrote then still apply and reposted below.  Church – these stories beg for us to act  – what is your response?

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I am sure that by now most of you have heard or read the story of the 21 year old non verbal young man with cerebral palsy who was abandoned by his mother for more than a week along Cobbs Creek Parkway in Philadelphia while she went to her visit her boyfriend.  This young man laid in the park for multiple days with only a blanket and a Bible.

hospice-1797305_1920The mother, who has been arrested and is currently hospitalized (reason unknown), has been berated by all who hear the story.  I have to agree that this is a horrendous situation.  I am grateful that this young man lived and is now being cared for by CHOP and other family members.  There really is no excuse for what the Mom did.  It is wrong to endanger her son’s life in this way.

Now don’t flog me; while I completely disagree with the actions of the Mom and cannot condone them on any level, I have some compassion for the woman and some understanding of what she may have been up against.

Caregiving is hard!  It’s constant and continual.  I know, I’ve been doing it full time about a year less than this Mom.  And gratefully the person I care for is verbal and independent with all but his personal care.  He also has attendant care that spells me off a few days a week.  Even so, caregiving is exhausting and relentless.

While some may say she should have sought services to help, we are all aware of how difficult it is to get services through the social service agencies and governmental avenues.  If there is funding available the wait can very long, and often appropriate caregiving support is difficult to locate.  Again, this does not excuse what this Mom did.  Honestly what this story tells me is that I am in the right line of work!

The answer to the challenges of life with disability and caregiving is NOT more money or better services (though they may help).  The answer is Jesus Christ and His family.  The only hope we have is the hope that is greater than anything in this world, and carries us into eternity because life on this earth is not all there is .  While we are still in this world though, the answer includes those of us who call ourselves the Church (not any individual location, building or gathering but rather those who claim Jesus as Lord of life and want to live for Him) taking seriously the call Christ gives us to care for one another, to love one another and bear one another’s burdens.

These stories reminds me that it’s time for the Church to step it up.  I wonder if these stories would have had a different ending if some people in the community who are Christians would have come along side these Moms and been there to encourage her, help care for her son and let her know there is a better way than abandonment? 

I don’t know that for sure – there are so many factors involved in every family and life.  But this story gives me a renewed sense of passion to go to work tomorrow and build the passion, capacity and burden within the Christian community to come alongside families affected by disability so this type of thing never ever happens again!

Who do you know in your community who cares for a family member with a disability?  

What can you do this week to share hope and joy to let them know they are not alone?

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Enhanced Benefit?

In my part time work in a financial planer’s office I sometimes hear phone conversations between  one of our customer service reps and fund companies.  One of the questions that still catches my attention is when our rep asks the vendor if the particular product they are discussing has “an enhanced death benefit?”

I  shake my head and smile.  I don’t know how the vendor replies, but my answer every time wihtout fail is YES!  I have an enhanced death benefit – and it is called Heaven with Jesus!

Occasionally when someone has asked how I was doing I would reply something to the effect of, “It’s been a hard day, but it beats the alternative.”  One day it struck me how absolutely untrue that statement is for those who know Jesus Christ, so I no longer answer that way.   The absolute best day of my life on this earth cannot begin to compare what I will experience upon entering the pearly gates and meeting my Savior and Lord face to face (or more likely face to feet as I fall on my face before Him!)

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The reason I love and follow Jesus though, is not just because I have “an enhanced death benefit.”  I also have an enhanced life benefit.  Yes,  Jesus took my sin (and yours) upon Him when He died, so I was no responsible to pay that penalty.  By rising from the dead, and giving me His Holy Spirit as a seal on my heart and life, He made His life and power available to me each and every moment.

While the question my co worker asks a vendor strikes me funny, it is totally appropriate in the context of the office.  What is really the silly sad reality is how often I, who know better, do not fully embrace the enhanced life benefits at my disposal.

. . . I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.  John 10:10b NASB

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If this post sounds like crazy talk to you, or has left you confused, please leave a comment.  I’d like to interact with you about this!

It Is About Me?

Once upon a time (this is a true story, but one I have waited to tell until much time elapsed to protect the privacy of those involved) I was in conversation with someone who I felt was giving me a bit of an attitude that I was sure I did not deserve.  I made a choice while talking with them to return the attitude.  Yes, you read that right, I weighed the option and chose to give it back rather than extend grace.

Right away I knew I was wrong.  And that I needed to make the relationship right.  But I wasn’t ready.  I needed some time to work through my feelings before I could honestly ask for forgiveness.

When I felt ready to confess my sin, repent and ask forgiveness from the person I did so and they forgave me.

Then I waited . . .  for them to in turn ask my forgiveness for their attitude.

They never did.

I fell back on God, asking why and complaining that I did the right thing – why didn’t they?

I was met with the answer that this was about me – not them.

Wait . . .  what was that God?  Usually You tell me, “this isn’t about you.”  Why are You changing the script now?

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners   Romans 5:8 NLT

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