Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Let's Talk Turkey

All week long my feathers were ruffled. Or maybe I was just in a foul mood. 

I overreacted when a colleague told my boss something I’d said to her privately. 

I introduced myself to someone who said she’d met me several times while I stared at her blankly thinking I’d never seen her before in my life. I couldn't think of a thing to say, except an inelegant, "Really?" that inferred she must not have made much of an impression for me not to remember her. I felt impossibly rude.

I covered up feeling awkward with brusque and ungracious words when I stumbled into the middle of a conversation between my sister and a friend of hers.

I felt terrible about the way I reacted in all of these situations. 

{Maybe you can relate?}

In much calmer moments, I realized what I’d told my work colleague wasn’t even remotely confidential and it didn't matter if she told my boss. 

I learned the woman I couldn’t remember meeting was sporting a new hairstyle so I wasn’t completely crazy for not recognizing her, but that didn't excuse my lack of warmth.

My sister told me she’d inadvertently given her friend wrong information so she wasn’t surprised I was confused at what they were discussing.

Then I got an email from Compassion International telling me the little girl I was sponsoring in Sri Lanka had been removed from their program by her family so my sponsorship would end. 

Her picture hung on my refrigerator. I was praying for her. I’d received a few letters from her. Although I’d only been sponsoring her for a year, I felt bereft.

So I got a little upset with God.

A tiny thorn of comparison was pricking me, bleeding resentful doubts that maybe God gives everyone else what they want quickly and easily, while my progress to change stalls. Maybe it's my own fault when difficulties arise and I make a muddling mess of the opportunities I could have used to turn things around.

Then I heard the news about Paris and everything in my week suddenly seemed so trivial.

Every so often I get a glimpse of things from God’s perspective. 

That bird’s eye view that allows me to see the greater saga. 

That our lives are just a page in the enormous tome that holds the stories of those who’ve gone before us, those who walk beside us, and those who will come after us.

Thinking my indignant words might have irrevocably damaged the fellowship between me and God, he reminds me that it just isn’t so as he invites me back into his presence. 

Still filled with remorse over my outbursts, I'm the hesitant one, not him. I feel sheepish but grateful.
I will be glad and rejoice in your unfailing love, for you have seen my troubles, and you care about the anguish of my soul. Ps. 31:7

Sometimes there is a long silence after God whispers a word to our hearts. There are more obstacles than we thought there would be, and we don’t realize that the fight is against the efforts to make us doubt God’s goodness.

But when I have the choice to doubt or have faith, I choose faith. 

The doubts are the catalyst that make me more sure that only God can pull off the impossible. Only God can breathe life into what’s dead in my life. 

And only God can move the obstacles that loom as big as mountains. It’s not up to me.

All these thoughts were still fresh as I watched the musical “Cinderella,” for the second time this year. My niece and I saw it in the spring, staged by her school but last weekend I saw the much more elaborate Broadway production. 

When the cast started to sing “Impossible/It’s Possible,” Devon’s eyes lit up and she leaned over and said, “Auntie, do you remember this song from the last time we saw it?”

My doubts of the past week were suddenly erased. 

I know I'm right where I'm supposed to be. 

Imprinting memories on the hearts of my niece and nephew, that years from now they will remember threaded through the fabric of their childhood.

I'm still sifting through cards from Compassion International of other children to consider sponsoring. 

I haven't decided yet but I'm leaning toward a little girl named Ana from Mexico. I'm going to think about it over Thanksgiving.

I don't think I'll ever have the personality to take things in stride like water off a duck's back, but I know every irritation and annoyance just offers me a new opportunity to change my reactions and responses. I'm eager to practice.

So I'm pretty sure by the time it's time to carve the turkey, I'll be in a fine feather.

I'm joining my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for your Heart

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Wisdom of Experiences

I’m driving my niece home and listening to her talk about how her third-grade class has more boys than girls and the classroom gets a little rowdy sometimes. She demonstrates how the teacher tries to get their attention and says her voice sounds pretty loud to her ears.

“At least that’s how it’s always been in my experiments,” she concludes, sounding wise beyond her years, but still charmingly childish.

I can't see her face in the backseat but I try to gently tell her, “I think you mean experience, not experiments."

I imagine the depth of an eight-year-old’s experience is fairly shallow, but then I think that maybe she’s onto something.

Our experiments make up our experiences. Doesn't that give us wisdom for the future? 

My one-time experiment to paint every room in my condo a different color only made me wish for indoor sunglasses. I realized that it was much wiser to add a pop of color from accessories than to live in a sunflower yellow den, a mint green dining room and a deep purple bathroom. 

{Thanks to that experience, I’m now a huge fan of neutral wall colors.}

I think of the time I threw a party and experimented with outdoor decor by hanging a lit candle chandelier over my punch bowl that dripped wax all night long into every guest’s beverage. After they left, I discovered the clumps of wax floating in their punch cups. 

{I now keep my punch bowl indoors and away from fire.}

Then there was the experiment of dating a man I met at work. After a few dates he told me it was nice that I went to church, but he really had no interest in God. I knew for me, it was important that someone I dated share my faith. 

{After that conversation, we amicably parted ways.}

My experiences have taught me that I need wisdom often and ongoing. I’ve always wanted to apply the wisdom found in the book of Proverbs in a practical way for my life, but I often get bogged down. 

Just this summer, I sat in church listening to a speaker say reading a chapter from Proverbs every morning and night for a month would change our lives. I was eager for change, but I didn’t even make it past the fourth chapter.

But now I think I've found some help.

The new book Proverbs Prayers, Praying the Wisdom of Proverbs for your Life, by John Mason, takes the 31 chapters in Proverbs and combines it with an accompanying prayer. 

His words are like poetry as he recasts the Proverbs passages into a more casual, familiar style, rephrasing these lovely verses from Prov. 24:13-14:
Your wisdom is like honey; it's so sweet to my soul. It assures me of a good future and that you will never abandon me. 
I'm learning to appreciate scripted prayers and how repeating the words can bring changes I'm just beginning to understand. So I'm praying these prayers out loud so my ears can hear them and they can sink down into the depths of my heart. 
Your word is the greatest thing I can imagine. It is the apple of my eye. It's so incredibly precious that I eagerly receive it into the deepest part of me. I choose to see, know and understand everything from your perspective. - Prov. 7:1-3
The more I read of the time-honored and God-breathed wisdom of Proverbs, the more I realize that it doesn't always align with what seems smart and right and intelligent and forward-thinking today. 

The wisdom of Proverbs asks us to believe that God's words can come alive, changing us to be more like him. 

But prevailing wisdom puts the focus on ourselves. 

If we make decisions that most benefit us, then we wouldn’t need courage to take that blind leap of faith into the unknown where God's calling us.

If it seems as if we're too washed up so maybe we should take it easy and retire, then we wouldn’t hope in a God who can take what’s dead and breathe it back to life.

If prevailing wisdom says what we've been trying hasn’t worked yet so maybe we should just quit, then we wouldn’t need to persevere with trust in God’s purposes for our lives.

If prevailing wisdom says we should clearly understand all that’s around us, then we wouldn’t need faith to believe without seeing.

I think I'll follow the ancient words and let them breathe life into my soul.

{How about you?}

My niece didn't quite understand the difference between experiments and experiences. When I told her she meant to use the word experience, she agreed with me.

"Exactly! That's what I said," she asserted confidently.

Maybe there's not much difference between the two, after all. 

As long as wisdom is gained from them both.

I'm part of Revell publisher's blogger review tour for Proverbs Prayers by John Mason. I received a complimentary copy of the book, but the opinions are completely my own.

I'm linking up with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for your HeartJoin me there for more posts from my blogger friends!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

What It Takes to Build a Resume

I’m standing in the lobby of a Mexican restaurant, on the phone with my brother-in-law. My sister has invited me to meet them for dinner and I'm the first to arrive.

“See if you can get one of the round booths in the corner of the bar so we can watch the games on TV,” he instructs. “If they’re already taken, you’ll have to hover nearby and wait for them to finish. As soon as they get up, grab the table.”

I hang up, hoping I can successfully execute the assignment I've just received for Project Ultimate Dinner Table. My brother-in-law works in sales and being bold and assertive are second nature for him. He thrives on it.  

I hate making a spectacle of myself. I already feel my face turning crimson because I know I'm not the right girl for this job.

I consult the hostess, but she confirms what my brother-in-law just told me. “Oh, those are the most popular tables so you just have to be really aggressive,” she says. 

She points to a nearby empty table. “Sit here and shark it out if you’d like.”

Shark it out? That must be restaurant-biz lingo. I’m thinking that this is a lot of work for chips and salsa. 

I settle myself in a chair and a voice behind me says, “Feel free to sit here but this is my table.” A man sets down his basket of chips and sits across from me.

I’m mortified and apologize profusely, silently blaming my brother-in-law for making me look ridiculous.

The man says he’s waiting for his girlfriend who hasn't arrived yet, and he can’t wait to see her reaction when she sees him sitting with me. 

I laugh a little nervously {hoping she’s not the violent type} as we chat for a few minutes, then turn to our phones.

If I had wanted to work on feeling less self-conscious and awkward, then this was the perfect {painful} exercise to build my social resume. 

If I’m honest, this might be what I need but I don’t really want to learn it this way.

I think building a resume, for the mind or the heart, might be a similar training experience.

Either way, isn't it easier to keep the fine-tuning and construction work under wraps and out of sight until it looks a little less messy and a lot more accomplished? 

When the work of the heart and soul is done in the dark, I can welcome it, but when it's put on display with a "please excuse the dust" sign adorning it, I cringe.

It wasn’t all that long ago that God took a look at my life’s resume and offered me a new position on my journey with him. One that was closer, deeper, nearer. 

To him.

In this new place he offered me greater access to him {and really, he offers that all along but I just didn't recognize it} and he asked me to spend more time with him, learning this new role.

I’d always known I was a child of God, a daughter of the king, but did I know him as my bridegroom, my warrior, my healer, my restorer, my friend? 

Did I know how much he loved me, fought for me, cared for me and wanted my company?

As I logged months and now years in this training-ground, I slowly discovered that as I wanted more of God, he wanted more of me. 

I had some faith skills to hone, some strengths to sharpen, some character traits to polish.

Maybe it’s easier to live with less hope to sidestep disappointment, but a cool heart is numb. 

It might save time to run through a prayer list like a check list, but the answers are overlooked and unrecognized.

It could take less effort to give up when God moves slowly, but faith without perseverance is weak. 

Could it be that in these places of training that are sometimes a desert, sometimes a wilderness, and sometimes a ruined wasteland, there emerges a doorway of hope in the clearing, where God waits to promote us to the next place of goodness he has for us?
Blessed are those who listen to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway. For those who find me, find life and receive favor from the Lord.  Proverbs 8:34-35

Finally, after what seemed like a never-ending wait, my sister, brother-in-law and the kids arrive at the restaurant, and I make the introductions as we all join the man at whose table I'm seated. 

Turns out my new friend is from my hometown of Pittsburgh and we all of a sudden had plenty to talk about.  

Our corner booth suddenly vacated and my brother-in-law cheerfully paid for my dinner for all my hard work of capturing the table. 

A few weeks later my sister told me they were at the Mexican restaurant again and my brother-in-law asked why she didn’t invite me.

My sister knows I’d rather leave that table-hunting job to somebody with a far more experienced resume than I have.

I'm joining my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for your Heart. Join me there for more posts from my blogger friends!