TBT # 2: the week in numbers

I revived my writing space and found a trove of writing from a decade ago. It’s fun to look back at what life looked like ten years ago. This is part 2 of throw-back blogs, written December 2009 – almost ten years ago!

This week i have:

Attended 1 Christmas party

Purchased 2 Christmas presents, both of which were discovered by the little recipients-to-be. We need to find some sneakier hiding places.

Jogged 3 times. I would say run because i prefer it, but if you’d seen me, you’d know Jog is the appropriate word.

RSVP’d to 4 Christmas parties to attend in the coming week

Been awakened two or more times during the night 7 nights.

Imbibed 13 cups of coffee. That’s right yall, i’m up to two-a-day. (See the previous paragraph of today’s post for details).

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TBT #1: Happy Blogiversary!

I revived my writing space and found a trove of writing from a decade ago. It’s fun to look back at what life looked like ten years ago. Part 1 throw-back blogs, this was written February 2009 – OMG ten years ago!

Well, the actual date of the blog-iversary here was a month ago. Time tends to be a rather fluid concept in my world. (I’m working on that… along with about six or seven-hundred of my other greatest weaknesses. We’re all works in process, eh?)

So, it’s been just over a year now since i began blogging.  And it’s been a good one. Yes, yes, my glass is most always half full, but for that i shall not apologize. What i was going to tell you that it never ceases to amaze me that no matter how long hours or days feel while they’re happening, in retrospect a year always flies by at mind-blowing speed, and in its wake, regrets and bitter moments to leave behind; sweet memories and hard-won lessons to gather up and carry forward.

First a note to the friends i see and talk to on a regular basis:  I love when you get a kick out of what i write. I mean, really, that is just a little icing on the cake. Thank you.

Readers: i may not know who you are, because you often remain anonymous. Or sometimes not. But i’m glad to see you here. I mean, i don’t actually physically see you, and i know that sounds a little creepy. So ignore the creepy-sounding part, and take the “glad” part home.  You make me glad.

 

Perception vs reality

Sometimes things are exactly as they seem. Other times, though, our own angle on the situation means it’s impossible to see clearly on our own.

Our nearest neighbor has a window overlooking our front yard. Over the years he’s watched every manner of sibling skirmish, often reporting his observations later; philosophizing on how these childhood moments will affect the kids later. Sometimes he he ends the story  by reminding the bigger kids that the little guys will someday be big too, so treat ’em well (or else!). He’s a great neighbor; we’ll share a laugh about these moments, and I’m thankful for him in our “village.”

Recently he observed a situation so shocking, so unbelievable, that he didn’t wait long to tell Brian the whole story of what he’d seen. Only this time, it wasn’t about any of the kids: It was me.

They were sitting outside. When I walked out within the very hour I encountered two sheepish faces. “Rusty told me what he saw,” Brian mentioned fake-casually, with a sneaky smile.

“What’s that?”

“He says he saw you kick the dog.”

“He … what?” I hadn’t kicked the dog, so I thought they were messing around — until Rusty began unpacking what he’d seen. It was yesterday. No one else was around at my house. From the window, he’d seen me kick little June, and she ran away. Then he saw me do it again. And again!

I racked my brain for what he may be remembering. Listen, I’m not the biggest dog person. He may already have known that about me, I don’t know. But I know I’ve never kicked her. Oh! Except once when we were kicking the soccer ball to her, and she ran right straight into my foot-swing — hey…wait!

“Was this yesterday, late afternoon?” I ventured.

“Yes, it was,” his smile spreading. He’s going to think its funny if I’m busted.

“Could it be that you saw me kicking the soccer ball to June, and her running after it?”

Now he starts to look sheepish in a slightly different manner as we all begin to realize how the facts are situated.

“I did spend some time kicking the soccer ball to the dog yesterday afternoon.”

He never saw the ball. I can’t fault him that; the angle he could see from was certainly not a clear one. The ball was the same color as the dog. He probably hadn’t noticed in the past that dog soccer is her favorite game. We all had a good laugh.

But I’m sure glad we got it sorted out. It was funny; especially because of the contrast between the perception and the truth. And I’m glad now no one has to go around thinking I’m a dog-kicking jerk.

Sometimes, all it takes is a dose of perspective to clear up a misperception.

Grace In a Snail Shell

I was walking on the sand, addled by distracted thoughts; paralyzed by big decisions. I’d prayed myself quiet; reached out for prayer, sought wise advice, still only felt muddled inside. No answer; no peace. Nothing but “what ifs.”

Walking, I watched the waterline, looking as always for undiscovered treasure. Glimpsed a whelk shell there, sparkling in morning sunlight, and bent to observe it; pull it from the sand. Turning the shell over, I thought of the Fibonacci sequence built into each whelk — one of nature’s perfect patterns. Like the sequence of petals on a flower, the curve of every cat’s claw and elephant’s tusk – the design of nature reflects the beauty and intentionality of its Maker. Each of those thousands of shells littering the shoreline; unbidden, underfoot, disposable; all bearing the stamp of perfect Design.

And with that, my heart settled, my mind cleared. If God’s design is evident in every single corner of nature, there is no decision I need to fear. If his craftmanship is found where no human hand has sought to build, how much more has it been woven inside each person, made as we are, in his image? I have a great responsibility in my decisions, but I don’t have the power to thwart the intentions of a God so great that his design blankets every inch of earth.

All things bright and beautiful

All creatures great and small,

All things wise and wonderful;

‘Twas God that made them all.

  – Cecil Frances Alexander

Like a Disciple, 2

I can’t leave Matthew 26 yet. Right where we left off:   38He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”  … 43 “When he returned to them again, he found them sleeping, for they couldn’t keep their eyes open.”

He’s found them sleeping once already. Two verses later, his betrayer will arrive in the garden. James and John will prove themselves unable to “drink the bitter cup of suffering” they swore they would share with Christ. Peter will deny Christ over and over and over, just like he promised he’d never, ever do.

And 2,000ish years later, I’ll set out to live my day full of purpose, the Big Picture of life before my eyes, and five minutes later start sinking into the quicksand of distraction. I don’t doubt the disciples spent at least a few minutes in devout prayer before their eyes drooped shut. Lately my purpose for each day has felt like heavy eyelids.

I know my calling at this stage of life: To raise, teach, and lovingly live with four small disciples.

I’m as immersed in my task as Jesus’ disciples were in following him. In general, homeschool means that where I go, we all go. The five of us all together over a daily routine of breakfast, history, math, grammar (etc, etc.); errands; chores, cleaning up. So much cleaning up. Likewise, for those disciples, following him meant they spent all of their time with Jesus; walking, eating, watching, listening, learning from their Rabbi. Praying.

Sometimes he spoke cryptically, or in stories, and sometimes just plain and simple. That’s how it was when he told them (more than once, in fact) exactly how he was going to die:

“Listen,” he said, “we’re going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be betrayed …They will sentence him to die… to be mocked, flogged with a whip, and crucified. But on the third day he will be raised from the dead.” (Matthew 20:18-19)

You’d think they’d have been on alert! When Jesus brought Peter, James, and John with him to pray in Gethsemane, saying, “My soul is crushed with grief,” even this was not enough to rouse them from their sleepiness.

I wonder if they expected more fanfare; more recognition. James and John’s mom asked Jesus outright to save special seats beside Him in his Kingdom for her boys. She hoped for some payoff; I suspect they did too.

I can understand this. Once I imagined discipling, or ministering, would mean meeting someone for lunch and and hour of good talks, leaving with a nice warm feeling inside, feeling that I’d helped somehow. I didn’t expect to live out the painful process by being tried throughout the day, in continuous contact with my people, continually refined by the type of situations that will cause me to grow in patience (ugh), kindness and gentleness (ouch). Where a dripping faucet of kid complaints and sibling squabbles feels like I’m getting absolutely nowhere; like my the amount of Jesus inside my heart isn’t enough to overcome the all the humanity around here.

This is why those sleepy disciples captivate, and comfort. I’m as embarrassed for them as I tend to be for myself. Charged with just such a little task, and unable to even keep at it. A reminder that an imperfect Jesus follower is the only kind there is. But thank God that “he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.” (Psalm 103:14)

Otherwise Christ’s soul-grieving cup of suffering would not have been required. But in his goodness, he came, “not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mt. 20:28)

 

 

 

 

Lent: Like a disciple.

Do you know the story where Jesus asks his disciples to pray with him in the Garden of Gethsemene? Riiiight about here —>

Matthew 26:36-46 Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” 37 He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. 38 He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

39 He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

40 Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? 41 Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!”

42 Then Jesus left them a second time and prayed, “My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 When he returned to them again, he found them sleeping, for they couldn’t keep their eyes open.

44 So he went to pray a third time, saying the same things again. 45 Then he came to the disciples and said, “Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest. But look—the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Up, let’s be going. Look, my betrayer is here!”

The disciples just. Couldn’t. They flaked out so quick on Jesus! He’s over there sweating blood and they’re falling asleep at the wheel. It seems so easy. I’ve always liked to think {secretly, of course,} that I’d have done it better. I mean this it IT! One of the big nights of the faith and this is how the disciples have to go down in history?

So this year I felt a stirring to move into the Lent season with more intention and reverence than my non-denominational experience dictates. Many faith traditions celebrate Lent, but the school of thought I’ve been around, mostly, is that it’s unnecessary, possibly even legalistic. And yet. The Church calendar calls to me in these seasons: “Slow down.  Look back. See. Remember.” And I always want to listen. I always want to learn.

After thirty-some years of carrying on as usual, this year I gave up, frankly, a crap-ton of things for Lent. I should have seen the writing on the wall. Ash Wednesday was great. The rest of the next week, sure. Then we started to get dicey. I learned that Sundays are “Feast Days.” (I finally clued in that the span from Ash Wednesday to Easter is, um, well more than the 40 days we all know Lent to be. Why is the 40-day span of Lent actually spread out over 46 days?? Well, Feast Day! Each Sunday, a “mini Easter” recalls the resurrection, and we can’t fast while celebrating that! Which sounded so much to my mentality like “Cheat Day,” that perhaps that’s a better description of how I appropriated this into my Lenten season.)

After several days, I jumped right off the wagon. “Too many rules!” “Too confining!” “And what about Grace!!”

About two days after that, (pretty sure it was a Monday,) I jumped right back on. “Going to see it through! Finish what I started!”  It will shock no one I did not entirely finish. Maybe typing this as I polish off some chips, a truffle, AND a glass of Malbec.

Further complications: Do I want more Jesus, or do I really just want more of a beach body? Is “both” an ok answer? What am I trying to do here?

The spirit may be willing, but the body is weak, indeed. I flip and I flop. I’m off and I’m on. I want Jesus, and yet, I despise discomfort.

And so, as if I needed a reminder, yet again I see it.  I am the disciples in the Garden; eyelids too heavy to wake up to the reality my Lord is in his darkest night. I’m even Eve, in the garden, too much a know-it-all to follow just.one.rule. I’m the Israelites in the desert, complaining that my diet is sooo limited by this bread {from Heaven} and that water {miraculously} sprung from a rock!

I wish to be the hero, but the fact remains: There is but one hero in this story, the crucified, resurrected, ascended Christ Jesus. 

“Help!”

I may be allergic to the act of having to ask for help. The thought of having to do it makes my heart race and my chest tighten, as I think of all the reasons the person I might ask has to “no.” I know they are busy; I can think of how many things they probably have to do already and decide for them, no way can you take a moment to help me out – how embarrassing of me to have even thought of asking!

My allergy was confirmed just this week, when I did, in fact, need some help.

It had been a good idea when I arrived at the park to meet my small group — taking my key off the key ring with the intention to tie it up in my shoelace as we sat, so then it would be ready when the sun set and heat dropped and I went for a quick run. No keys to hold onto while running; I’ve done it a zillion times.

You can see where this is going, right? Of course when we all convened, I forgot to tie the loose key onto my shoe; I didn’t even notice that it wasn’t in hand with my phone and water bottle – until it was time to go.

Suddenly the setting sun wasn’t my ally. The power of the phone flashlight didn’t seem as helpful as usual when I combed the grassy spot where we’d been sitting and retraced my steps across the park. Twice – thrice! I prayed a fervent prayer for rescue.

Then I noticed that as the parking lot had cleared out, a few cars remained – two of my friends were still there talking. I felt a little prompt in the calm deep within, “Just ask for help.” Oh no, will I need to ask for a ride? Ugh! It’s too far out of the way, there’s no way I’ll do that. Even if I did (!!) ask for that, what would I do about picking up the car? And home is in the opposite direction from where they’ll need to go. Again, “Just ask.” Um, no thanks, think I’ll just keep scouring the area with my little flashlight and a growing sense of helplessness. I can just as well do it myself! But again, “just ask.”

And here, I began to realize, yes, the Lord can work even in my tiny, self-inflicted tragedy – His ongoing work of bringing me to humility, breaking me out of my walls of imagined self-sufficiency. It’s a big work. It happens in a million tiny moments, just like this.

I crossed the park again, this time to say – out loud – “I need help!” Three flashlights and three pairs of eyes now in the game, barely five minutes later, they key was found – not by me, in the same area I’d already searched.

Recently, as my own dear mom has been discovering, when you let people into your need – even just telling them, matter of factly, as she did, “here it is: breast cancer” – kindness comes pouring in. Comments, prayers, kindness graciously given; proving that help – even without her having asked for it – is willingly given.

We are made in the image of a God who gives – even to the point of giving up his Son. We are made for helping, for laying ourselves down in ways big and small; most commonly, small.  We often don’t even know how to ask for His grace when we need it, just like I didn’t know just to ask for help when I needed it. I thought I needed to ask for a ride across town; all I needed was to have friends along with me. Like Mom, who has gotten to witness the small miracle of being surrounded by support everywhere she goes, since she let everyone in.  We will have plenty of times to pray that “rescue” prayer, but we never need to suffer alone.