Do you ever have those weeks when you’re trying to keep things light and on the surface, but there are underlying issues that feel like a magnet that keep drawing you back to where ya just don’t want to go (but probably need to go)? Well, I’ve had one of those weeks. Maybe those kind of weeks make the on-the-surface stuff all the more appreciated. On-the-surface items like this, for instance….
….Breyers’ Girl Scout Cookies Thin Mints Ice Cream. If you haven’t yet tried it, it’s really good. My husband brought it home last night, and lucky for me, I just found it. 🙂 For this ‘mint chocolate chip’ lover, it’s probably first on my list of things to be thankful for this week because I’m enjoying it right NOW 🙂 Yeah, at the end of the week, it’s good to have some perks…not because I deserve them, not because I don’t, but just because they are good things.
It’s been raining a lot lately. The rain has brought lots of growth in plants. My ‘Grannie’s’ shamrocks are blooming beautifully and multiplying. Going to be time to share them soon…
And the Sage that reminds me of the ones I always grew at our home in Bethlehem, well, it’s finally blooming. I love the ‘periwinkle’ color. And that reminds me of another sweet moment this week. I have the sweetest little guy in one of my classes. He asked me my favorite color and I said, “periwinkle”. And of course, he looked a little puzzled. Another student asked “What’s periwinkle?” and I answered ‘purplish blue’. Well, the sweet little guy with big brown eyes said, “I like pinkle too.” 🙂 Sweet. Pinkle. I think that’s a great name for a color. Maybe a purplish pinkish blue color. I smiled big at the little guy. Yep. Pinkle is a good word.
Another perk came in the mail. A sweet gift of ‘aloe-herb facial cleanser’ and a lavender sachet from my mom. She had let me know she had a buy one get one free deal and to expect it in the mail. Crazy how even facial cleanser can be a reminder of being loved and cared for by someone… but so thankful it can!
A few other little perks of the week came in miniature form from more students at school. Every morning there’s a trail of students who find their way into my classroom before school to grab a hug. Some of them I know, some of them I don’t. But it’s sweet that they seek out a connection in the morning. One little guy is my designated pencil sharpener on Fridays, and another precocious and somewhat ornery little guy sets up my computers every morning. Can’t beat that. Funny how team work can make all the difference sometimes. I had some good conversations with my own kids this week, too. Thankful for cell phones that bridge the gaps and great divides of distance that keep us from connecting. I love that they are where they are and finding their way, but I sure miss spending time with my kids. I promise, I’m thankful for the 20 minute phone calls, but it sure is good when there’s time to be together.
Speaking of time…it sure is passing fast. This is my youngest son. He’s had some perks of his own this week. He just finished his first week of college. He’s watched all his siblings venture out on post secondary education, and he’s going to a community college here. …To be honest, I think Tanner has anticipated the perks of college more than the milestones. He’s hit lots of milestones these past two weeks: got his l o n g – a w a i t e d driver’s license, (that’s another story), new glasses, and tonight, is sitting down with his first laptop. As I was finishing up some last minute work, this was my view from the kitchen table. This desk in the kitchen was often his brother’s designated work space, and now Tanner is making it his own. So his enjoying his ‘perks’, well, it’s a real encouragement to me. And Tanner has a lot of gratitude for those ‘perks’. Even though he knew they were part of the whole college deal in our family, well, he was really thankful. Because it wasn’t about being deserving or not deserving, it was about generations of people that love him wanting to give him opportunities to do his best and help him be prepared for the next step, whatever the next step will be.
I’m thankful that at this point, the next step isn’t far from home. He’s going to community college, and so we still spend time together everyday. I’ve recently shared my car with a son who’s at UNC-W. (His old jeep kind of kicked the bucket), so every morning as the sun comes up, Tanner has been driving me to school. It’s a sweet time, and I’m thankful for the time together. It had rained really hard this week, and one morning the fog was hanging low. We could still see the light shining through, burning away the fog little by little. This photo kind of represented how I was feeling…
Those under the surface things can rise up to the surface and feel like a fog sometimes. Sometimes it takes a concerted effort to burn away the fog, that’s for sure. I think hope is a good fog burner. It helps you look for the light, not focus on the fog. Friends that bear truth can do that as well. They can help burn away the lack of clarity with good questions, an ‘I’m in there for the long haul’ attitude, and a direct approach to asking direct questions. Yeah, sometimes when I’m in that skating-on-the-surface, foggy world, well, I need friends who are willing to snap their fingers and say, “snap out of it”. “Don’t get comfortable with surface and fog.” “Clear it up.”
I have a dear friend who does that for me. And she did this week even when I made it painfully obvious that I was in a skating-on-the-surface mode and did not appreciate having to go deeper in conversation. She loved me enough to persist. (Thank you, CB <3.) Ugh. But in further conversations, she shared a poem about how acceptance of what God has for us. One of the lines said, “God’s faithfulness is never tainted by partiality.” The devotion goes on to say that we shouldn’t look ‘over the fence’ at another’s life or blessings and feel slighted because theirs appears better. God is faithful. Period.
Okay, so I know that. (My kids know that I know that because I’m always telling them to “not look to the left or right. Look straight ahead and do your thing.”) I mean I say that all the time to them and to myself. But when the terrain is difficult and it looks a bit like easy street for others, well, it can be tough to feel, let alone believe that it’s fair or good. The irony is that when we look ‘over the fence’ or ‘to the left or to the right’,it actually drains strength from facing our path. And sometimes paths are meant to be light and easy and free, and other times, they are rocky and windy (where you can’t see where the next few steps will lead) and tough and they demand, demand, demand more strength than we think we have.
However, it sure is important to remember that choosing to ‘skate on the surface’ when we’re meant to ‘dig deep’ can seem like a temporary solution. But…my experience tells me it is not a solution, but a diversion from the path I’m meant to be on. It just avoids and delays the most important legs of the journey and makes the journey longer. God can use any situation, and I need to trust Him with where my feet land. Some things I can control. Gotta be smart with those. (And face fogs and depths that I might not want to.) But with those things that I can’t control? Well, that’s where trust comes in.
As I read the poem my friend sent , I kept thinking of two verses. One is, “When he hath tried me I shall come forth as gold…” Job 23: 10. Now, I can in no way compare myself to Job. Sure, there’s been loss in my life, but the beauty way outweighs any of that. Job lost everything…not as in stuff, but as in stuff AND people— sons, daughters, relationships. He lost it all. Even his own wife and his best friends were either blaming him for trusting God, or saying blaming him for bringing this on himself. But he didn’t place his trust in circumstances or his friends (they made sure of that…).
Do you know what Job did when he heard the news of all his loss? He shaved his head, tore his clothes and ….worshipped. Worshipped. Yes, he grieved. But he maintained perspective in a power so much greater and wiser and yes, loving, than Himself. He focused on what he knew rather than what he felt. He trusted in the midst of trial. Trusted others? Nope, they let him down (big time.) Trusted circumstance?Nope..he didn’t know what the future held, and the recent past and present were devastating. Nope, He trusted in God and that He is good. He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I will return. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job trusted God with it all. A beautiful part of the story is that God restored so much. And Job’s life was indeed blessed, not merely by all the surface stuff of stuff, but by trusting God and having a peace that went way way below the surface…to the depths of his soul. So what poured out of his life was not a surface-y response, but a deep response of worship. He knew in whom He believed.
The other verse I thought of as I read the poem is that “He rains on the just and the unjust.” The verse actually says, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” God does what He sees fit. And the Bible tells us to not love based on actions, but love based on His love for us. Yep. He says pray for our enemies. Love them. Jesus was the greatest example of that. He’s saying don’t base your love on what you see. And maybe we’re not to base our love and understanding of Him on what we see either. Things just don’t make sense sometimes…partly because we see in part…as in a mirror dimly….a dim reflection of what is, but He sees in whole. He is God. Not me. And me expecting that I ‘get it’ all and understand things is quite presumptuous and arrogant. I don’t. I am not God. He is omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent.
Obvious comment alert: I am not omni-anything! I so know that, but as a mom, I hopefully had a bit more wisdom, knowledge, and power than my children. I so know that world of parenting ‘children’ who don’t quite realize there might be a tad bit more to a situation than what they know or see. With six little ones in my care, I learned early on that I couldn’t approach things the same way with each of my children. What was punishment for one, could be a break for another. What was a gift and necessity for one, could’ve been a crutch and disability for another. Their thinking patterns, personalities, circumstances and life’s path were (and are) very different. I can remember one day when they (all 6) were elementary age and under, that I finally replied to the “that’s not fair” cry with ‘You’re exactly right. Life is so not fair.” I can remember at first feeling a twinge of guilt, because in my heart I wanted life to be fair,for me and for them. But’s it’s just not. And when I finally owned up to the truth that, yep, life’s not fair, well, it was liberating for me, as a mom, as a wife, as a friend, and as just me. (Here are a few -oops, more than a few— shots from my WordPress blog photo album…sorry about photo overload…but these are photos of this mom who was so in process of learning about grace in the midst of raising these babies. And I’m so aware of how much a part of this journey for me that they are….So thankful for the depths that have allowed me to so enjoy the little things in our days )
Fair is about getting what we deserve. Sometimes, it’s upsetting when we don’t get what we think we deserve. Or if we get something that we don’t think we deserve. But overall, I’m pretty thankful that God’s grace is so not based on what we deserve. Unconditional love is un- conditional, that is, not based on actions, or what one might or might not deserve. Yes, there’s freedom in the ‘life’s not fair’ motto, because much of what I have received in my life is merely a gift, grace that covers and fills and inspires. Grace that loves through the good the bad and the ugly. Sitting in a courtroom is a serious, serious thing. It is easy to sense the power of the judge, the way that the power of his or her decision can change the outcome of a situation. Judgement is based on action, facts, truth. Grace covers even though it sees. Judgement closes doors.
Job’s friends wanted to base his present circumstances on a God who judged him….that this God saw something in Job’s life that needed judgement. But nope, that wasn’t the case at all. God allowed it. When Job went to the depths and dealt with his own questions and pondered God’s allowance of these things, God answered, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth..” and He goes on and on saying things like “have you commanded the morning since your days began and caused the dawn to know its place? ” and….where is the way to the dwelling of light? and darkness, where is its place?” He asks a lot of pointed and rhetorical questions which Job in his spirit obviously answers with a quiet yet deep understanding that God may know,see, and be a bit more than man.
But here’s the thing…the beautiful, hopeful thing — that once Job went to the depths, grieved, grieved, grieved, acknowledged questions, and dealt with them and prayed, then God revealed, answered, and granted perspective….and this is what Job said, “Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me which I did not know. …I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now, my eyes see you.” It goes on to say how Job repented of wrong belief and continued to trust in God and that God blessed him twofold. But again, the greatest blessing had already been received, and that was knowing that God’s love and being “for us” was a greater gift and way to live than anything Job had ever received, even more than any relationship on earth. Job ‘had heard of him, but now, after his experiences, he SAW him…knew him, and trusted in a way he had not yet trusted.
I had a moment last night when I just felt so overwhelmed by the love of God. It was just a quiet realization that felt like a knowing that went deep. It came out of nowhere, and just hit me pretty hard. And that knowing is what I think allows us to love when things don’t make sense and to experience joy when circumstances are tough. Am thinking that knowing to the depths of our soul that we are loved by God and that He is good…well, that allows us to have peace that passes understanding when circumstances are not at all what we would choose.
I’ve made a lot of choices FOR my children through the years. It was for their good, for their protection, for their growth… because I am FOR them. And some of those choices were hard and difficult and brought cries of ‘no fair’ to the surface. It was not what they felt they deserved. But sometimes children learn things better when they are put in situations where they HAVE to come face to face and deal with things. Then they can learn and grow and move on and use what they’ve learned, rather than be encumbered by what they haven’t. I did this because I love them. The more they knew that, the more they trusted (even when they didn’t like) my decisions. They realized that what was truly good was more than about way more than what they felt they deserved. It was about what someone who loved and adored them saw as being a path to what was better than good—a path to what’s best for the long haul, not the short cut.
Am thankful God is a loving Father who doesn’t give us what we deserve…He has a greater perspective, view, purpose in mind. So very thankful for that.
So, I hope my ramblings are not an attempt to avoid the long list of things I have to do. I hope that God is doing a work in me and as I share my thoughts that His word can encourage you. I hope that HOPE prevails and we can see that perfect love casts out fear and that God knows and allows ‘the paths we should take’ and that in embracing them that we can see His omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient grace. Grace that draws near. Grace that wants us to do more than merely hear, but, like Job, to see with our eyes and know with our hearts. Grace that is a covering that protects and inspires. Grace that allows us to see that the sun and rain fall on us all, and what we do with it can determine whether we sink or grow. Being bitter about our situation is a good way to sink, but accepting and dealing seem to be the way to grow, to know, to flourish. So, here’s to dealing, and feeling and trusting Him in whatever our current location or situation is. I always want to be thankful and aware of the ‘perks’ around me. But knowing that whether they come or go, and even though there are ‘depths of riches of wisdom and knowledge of God” that we may never comprehend, there is grace that is available and a prayer away. Here’s to not giving up Hope, but being sure to put our ultimate hope and trust in only that which is worthy of our Hope and trust. In Christ alone.
By His Grace ~
(on a Saturday…)
Oh, and gotta share this song… Shane and Shane’s “though you slay me”. Job’s “though he slay me, I will trust in Him.” John Piper adds his thoughts on hope…hope that rises above circumstance and fears and all that… Love this so much–the truth of it, how what God allows He uses… and how all our “affliction is momentary…and meaningful and is doing something. Do not lose heart….but take truths day by day…get alone with God and preach the word of God until your heart sings with confidence that you are known and cared for…”