Each year as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, I open up the box of decorations and begin to place them up around my house. In that box is a beautiful cornucopia that I get to fill with colorful gourds and squash from the garden store, flowers in oranges and yellows that I place strategically on tables, and candles that smell like pumpkins and apple spice (my favorite) that add both wonderful smells and a warm glow to the rooms in my home. There is one decoration that I hold most dear. It is hand-made by my then-first-grade son. Bordered in orange construction paper, it’s a hand-turkey… you know, a young son’s handprint made to look like your favorite gobbler. You probably have one of your own somewhere. Below it is a hand-written message, “I am Thankful For…” And my sweet 7-year-old boy wrote, “that my Mom is retiring.” The first time I saw this artwork, I was waiting in the hallway of his elementary school, anticipating an exhilarating conference with his teacher. As I walked in, she mused, “Well this is the first time a parent has cried before the conference begins!”
I really wasn’t retiring. While I am certainly one of the older moms of the group, I am not even close to retirement age. But the previous year I had left my part-time, flexible job and taken gone back to full-time ministry (is there any other kind?). My sweet little boy had noticed that Mom wasn’t quite herself lately. The pressures of running a home and a church had dampened her spirit, and he must have felt it. But…he never said anything. I read about his feelings in the hallway of his elementary school.
But I have to admit, I had felt it too.
I always figured that if God had a job to do and needed someone to act on his behalf here on earth that he’d choose someone who was perfectly qualified to get the job done.
I try, have tried, and am trying to be that person whom God might want to entrust with one of his jobs. Frankly, it’s exhausting. Toiling away at striving, perfecting, and keeping up appearances that I am, indeed, worthy of the task is a never-ending job. Worse yet, I continually fall short of making myself the perfect candidate. Every. Single. Time.
That’s why I love the story of Rahab. She’s far from the model citizen. But she believes who God is and what He can do. She wants in. And when faith collides with willingness, we get to see God’s power at work.
I might have insomnia. Some nights…sometimes for many nights in a row…sleep eludes me.
There could be many explanations for my strange behavior. Perhaps I am just not tired. Maybe I feel the need to organize my closets, cupboards or Tupperware drawer (type A personalities do this. I know, it’s strange). But more likely than not, my inability to fall asleep has to do with my reluctance to forgive someone for something that was said or done to me. Sometimes I’m reluctant to forgive myself for an offense I committed. Either way, in the dark of the night, when everyone is fast asleep, I find myself face to face with God. And it’s uncomfortable, to say the least.
Sometimes I’ll try to run from this uncomfortable feeling by watching a movie or listening to music. Other times, I’ll physically run—on the treadmill or even outside. I just need to move. I need to escape my own thoughts. But chances are, that no matter how I busy my mind and my body, when I finally tire and the music stops, I still have to confront the same challenge—God has called me to forgive, and I am reluctant to do so.
One of my greatest joys is to hear my sons playing their instruments in the house. My youngest plays piano—sweet and melodic. My oldest plays electric guitar—not quite as sweet, but reminiscent of the 8Os rock I used to crank through my boom-box. Either way, it’s a glorious sound, the sound of people using their talents to touch another soul, bringing joy to someone fortunate enough to be within earshot of their creative expression. I can honestly say, the music somehow restores my soul and helps me connect with our praise-worthy God.
I was fortunate to grow up in a musical household. My Mom would come into my room in the morning and actually sing to wake me up. She would also sing in the course of regular conversation. If someone inadvertently made a comment that came anywhere close to resembling a song lyric, she’d pick up there and sing the chorus for our listening pleasure. But what I loved most about having a professional opera singer for a mother was standing next to her in church. Those hymns take on a whole new meaning when you hear them belted out by a soprano who can hit all the notes. And (side note) I have yet to hear a rendition of “O Holy Night” that holds a candle to hers, which I heard each Christmas eve at the Midnight service. Simply spectacular.
My Mom always said that God loves to hear us sing praises to God. She has a poster hanging in her music room that reads, “He who sings prays twice.” The phrase is sometimes credited to St. Augustine, but the sentiment first appears in the Psalms. Read More
I tend to do my best writing and my best thinking in the early part of the day. After my morning time with God and a short workout, my body is rested, my mind is fresh, and my spiritual bucket is full.
When time eludes me and things get busy, as they often do, one of those areas always seems to suffer. I might skip a few workouts because I’m approaching a deadline and feel like I need to use that hour to work. Or my time with God gets shortened or skipped entirely because I’m crafting a message or preparing for an interview.
Or worse yet, I open up my email before I open up my Bible. That’s always a sure sign that my day is not going to start out—or end—well. While technology allows me more access to God’s Word with electronic Bibles, daily devotions sent to my in-box, and social media that can connect me with prayer requests from others, starting my day in that way seems to drain me quickly.
Just one generation ago, sociologists were predicting that with technology, Americans would work far more effectively. Access to information, they said, would allow us to complete their work at such an accelerated speed that we would actually have too much spare time.
Do you have too much spare time?
Technology has often had the opposite effect. We are sending email as we get ready for bed, texting our co-workers over the weekends, and expected to be available to clients and friends on a moment-by-moment basis. We upgrade so that we can work faster, but find we are not only working faster, but we are also working more. We are addicted to speed. Read More
I jumped out of bed early this morning, a little too late for my exercise class and a lot too late to grab a cup of coffee. I headed straight to the fitness club and realized when I got there that I had thrown on my glasses and forgotten to put in my contacts. My glasses were way too bulky for the active class I was taking, so I took them off and left them in my locker.
I usually situate myself in class in the second row, so that I don’t have to come face-to-face with my aging body…that cute little figure that once wore swimsuits with confidence is hardly recognizable by its owner. Sigh. But today, because I am late, I am stuck in the front row. I am forced to confront my not-so-stunning self. I take a deep breath and open my eyes.
But today is different, because the mirrors are blurry. Forgetting my contacts may actually be a blessing.
As I complete the routine, I watch this blurry figure in front of me. I notice how, even at middle age, it is flexible beyond belief, strong and even a little bit graceful. I try to hold these positive thoughts in my mind rather than the not-good-enough judgments that usually flood my brain, and through the effort, I discover something wonderful. When the mirror is blurry, it’s actually easy to think clearly. I can’t make out the wrinkles, gray hair, or even my waistline, which is certainly a little thicker with each passing decade. Rather, I see past all the negativity and am somehow able to revel in the good. Read More
Today was one of those days that used to make me cringe when I worked as a meteorologist. Clear and sunny in the morning, but with possible showers moving in by midday. These are the most deceiving days, when I would warn viewers to pack an umbrella… just in case. For some, this is a huge inconvenience. Why would they want to lug around an extra umbrella just in case it was going to rain?
While some people are okay if they get a little wet and don’t beat themselves up for not heeding the warning, others want assurance that carrying around that pesky umbrella will be worth the effort. My job, of course, was to please them both.
But for others—like me—lugging around an umbrella gives us a sense of security, a little insurance policy for the “what ifs” that may come about during the day. We don’t even mind if the rain never comes, as long as we know we’re equipped. For me, an umbrella is the sign of the one who is prepared and in control.
I often use planning and structure as one big umbrella—something I keep tucked away in my gigantic carry-all purse, for those moments when I see something coming that might sprinkle a little chaos into my perfectly-coifed life. When the sky gets a little dark, and I feel the wind pick up, I can feel the outline of that umbrella in my bag and I know that even if it does rain, I will have the proper tool to emerge victoriously. My schedule keeps me equipped and in control.
I have always been a planner. From early in my life, I would map out a routine and think through a strategy in order to achieve whatever was on my list. A trained musician, I was conditioned to see the value of practicing just a little bit every day in order to accomplish a goal. In the same way, I now take time each week to plan out my time, fitting in each event with the precision of an engineer, making sure that each episode is contributing to my goal of being a spiritually and physically fit individual, a capable and caring mother and wife, and a woman seeking God’s heart. Read More