Living Under the Cloud

Tech geeks, I am sorry.  If you clicked here looking for technical insights into the cloud where our lives and data circle overhead, you are at the wrong place. I am writing about “THE Cloud,” as identified in the Biblical book of Numbers.

I am a planner. I like to know what is going to happen next. I want to be fully prepared. No surprises here (unless they are chocolate and raspberry!).

In our family, Jerry is the visionary. He sees that mountain out in the distance and knowsdachstein-2863756_1920 that is the destination. What he doesn’t see (but I do) are the miles of gullies, hills, rocks,and the ongoing forest of trees that we must pass through before we reach that mountain.  And none of it is wheelchair accessible! Our differences make us a good team, or at least as he puts it, “makes us fun to watch.”

My penchant for the process is why I have boxes already packed and sorted, though our move is still some time away. That is why when reading Numbers earlier this month I spent so much time pondering the adventures of the children of Israel. We know there were at least two million people making this trek through the desert. I am thankful I was not asked to be their trip coordinator.

They had GPS, but not on a smart phone. Their GPS came directly from God who told them their arrival time would be in 40 years. Rather than giving them turn by turn 0379a-img_3505directions, He guided them with a cloud by day and a fire by night. Directionally that’s all they had.

When the cloud moved they (yes, all two million of them) moved. When the cloud stopped, they stopped. When they stopped they did not know if they were setting up camp for one night or for a year. They just knew they were to stay there until the cloud moved again.

When Jerry and I travel if we are stopping only one night in transit I pack a smaller bag with the things needed just for that night. Once we see the set up in the hotel we decide if we can make it work with the slide board. If we can, I leave the hoyer lift, shower chair, etc. in the van. It’s just so much work for one night.

I don’t think I would have been a good Israelite woman in this caravan.

“What?  You mean I unpacked every camel’s saddle bags and all the packs on the donkeys last night and now we need to leave again?”

“Jeremiah” (the Hebrew root for Jerry), “do you remember which camel we packed the cooking pot in?  If we aren’t staying here long I don’t want to unpack everything, but I can’t find it.”

trip-1422608_1920I know the children of Israel failed God many times in their journey by grumbling, complaining and jealousy. But I have a newfound respect for them when I think about their 40-year journey.

I too can easily fall into grumbling, questioning, doubt and the need to control. Forgive me God. Lord teach me to wait on you. Seems like the skies are lightening, but your cloud over our home has not yet moved. Help me to make the most of this time of waiting; and to be ready when you say it’s time to move.

Waiting for Help

My post last week on “To Help or Not to Help” generated some great conversation on Facebook and WordPress. Thank you. Some of you noted that it is helpful to either ask, or wait to be asked if the other needs our assistance. I could not agree more.

When Jerry asks for help I may tell him yes, but ask if he can he wait a few minutes, and vise versa. We each know the tone in the other’s voice that indicates help is needed without any delay.

I thought I’d follow up this week with a (now) humorous anecdote on waiting for help.

It was a Friday several years ago when Jerry took a day off and I went into the office. He had already called me twice throughout the day asking me to come home when I had a few minutes to help him with something. Thankfully we lived less than a mile from the office so it was not a big deal.

When his third call of the day came midafternoon I decided to pack it in and just work the remainder of the day from home.  He asked for me to come help because he was stuck in the middle of the living room unable to move. He thought his wheelchair batteries died. I asked him the usual questions.

Are you safe?  Yes.

Can you wait 15 minutes while I wrap up this one project and then pack up to come home for the day?  His answer was yes to that too.

When I got home this is what I saw.

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I again asked what happened and if he was ok.  He still said yes and wondered why I asked.  I then described that his front wheels were off the ground and his foot rests were hung up on the recliner.  He had no idea!  He wanted a picture to see what I was describing.

Gathering every ounce of strength I had I pulled him backwards and got all his wheels on the floor.  Then we took deep breaths, and tried to figure out what happened.  We think he was reclining in his chair and somehow jammed the joystick and recline features together.

Thankfully that has never happened again.  Thankful too that he really was ok to wait for me to get home, though once he realized what happened he wished he had not said to take my time.

I know we’re not the only ones who have funny disability mishaps – how about sharing one of yours with me please?  arrow-1538686_1920

 

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?

 

The Roller Coaster is Real Part 1

One of the comments I sometimes hear is appreciation or amazement at how positive I/we have been through this ministry transition.  There are a couple of reasons that may seem to be the case.

Philippians 4:8 (NLT) in the New Testament tells me to “Fix [my] thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure and lovely, and admirable.  Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”  I have lived life with my focus on the “poor me”, the “what ifs” and the “wonder how bad this will get”?  None of those thoughts fit the Phil. 4:8 matrix.

I could share with you some of the negative or challenging thoughts I’ve had the past six weeks, or the disappointment when a message didn’t come that I expected, or when one came that I didn’t want to get, or any other number of things that are part of my daily life.  But that won’t benefit me, and it won’t benefit you.

Secondly this blog was started to raise my Ebenezer.  If you are new to my writings, you may not be familiar with that term.  An Ebenezer is a memorial, a pile of stones set up to honor or memorialize something.  I want these writings to be signs of God’s working in my life.  I record them here so when I hit some down days, as I have recently, I can reread how God has met me in the past and it reminds me that He will continue to be faithful now, and until the day He calls me home.

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Photo Credit:  ByChanceTV

Let me give you an example of how this plays out in my life.  I took the month of December “off.”  I didn’t do much to pursue employment, I rested A LOT, spent time with family and friends, and spent the time as I desired.  As the month ended I geared up thinking that January 2nd was the first day of my new work.  While Jerry and I don’t know all of what our “new work” is yet (we are still talking with some other ministries and praying), we know that part of it at least involves more writing and speaking for each of us.

So, there I sat at my desk on the first work day of the new year of opportunity and began to clean my desk.  As I did that I would periodically check email, etc.  That “happened” to be a day that several new people began to follow me and I had more interactive traffic via both the blog and emails on my writing.  What an encouragement!  As if that were not enough I got a phone call from someone inviting me to be the speaker for their women’s retreat in April.  What particularly struck me is the date they were asking for was one I could not have accommodated if I were still in my former position.  I was enjoying the view from the top of the roller coaster that day; so very grateful for God’s timing and encouragement and blessing.

Check back on Friday for part 2 and the wrap up of this roller coaster ride.

If you’d like to chat about whether I might be the right speaker for your group you can click here. 

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.

 

 

Behind the Scenes

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Sometimes I feel like this is all I see of God’s picture for my life.

I have a friend “Renee” who has a very real need in her life and the deadline to have this need met is rapidly approaching.  She is anxious about when and how God will answer.  Many of us are praying with her and trying to help her find leads.

At church another friend “Belinda” mentioned a situation she needs to find a resolution to very soon.  As I drove home from church I thought, it may just be possible that the answer to Belinda’s dilemna could also be the answer to Renee’s need.  So I floated the idea by Belinda.  She is interested and agreed to pray about it before we approach Renee.

I wish I could tell Renee right now that there may be an answer on the horizon.  But I can’t; I want to honor Belinda’s request to wait and also don’t want Renee to get excited about something that is so preliminary right now (leads have often not panned out).

All of a sudden it struck me!  This is just a small picture of  God and me.  He rarely tells me what He is up to – even when I beg for an answer because time is growing short.  I tend to think God must have forgotten about me and my situation and begin to  take things into my own hands.  When I finally realize that’s what I am doing and I get myself back to actively waiting for God’s answer it really is a much greater answer than I could have ever dreamed up.

As I pray for both the needs of Renee and Belinda to be met (whether together or separately) I am also grateful that God gave me this opportunity to view things from the other side for a few moments.  I am reminded that even when I think He is silent or has forgotten my need He is still at work in ways I may not yet see (and perhaps never will).  If I wait upon Him I am usually blown away by the way He responds.

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As I wait for His time and plan the details fill in. Surprise (ha!) He had a plan all along.