October 29, 2011
I have work to do after the show but in the middle of the commotion I scramble to find the guys to thank them. I want to assure them that, on top of everything else, God used them to patch me up. My motive is the Golden Rule. I'm not seeing a whole lot of fruit from my particular role in this mission; hearing a kind word from anyone would mean the world to me, so I assume the same would be true for them. My new mission in this moment is to encourage the band. When I finally find them and get their attention, I give them my words of love and appreciation. And they brush me off. Totally.
Change the location, people and situation, repeat a thousand times, and here we are today, seven years later. My mission to encourage fellow believers who have blessed me has been poo-pooed so often, I've lost count. Having been on the receiving end of many accolades and pats-on-the-back myself, I understand the dilemma. God said, "I will not give my glory to another." I know that it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. We're all worthless sinners; even our best works are no better than filthy rags. On the other hand, consider this: rather than having devoted the last two months of your life to organizing the event for which I am commending you, you could have chosen to ignore God's call. You could have spent that time sitting on the couch in your den eating pretzels, watching CSI. So you see, you did have a part to play! Good job, friend!
"Words of Affirmation" are a Love Language; some of us really need those words. Obviously God knows this, which is why encouragement is a gift of the Holy Spirit. We all have a God-given need to give and receive encouragement: for some of us, giving encouragement is our strongest gift. If Mama raised you right (which of course she did), you know it's rude to refuse a gift. If we don't learn to receive, others are denied the opportunity to give.
On behalf of my fellow Exhorters, I would like to extend an invitation to believers everywhere: As a Church, let's reconsider basic etiquette. Embrace a simple "Thank you." If you really must add your standard, "It was all God, I had nothing to do with it," by all means, go for it. Meanwhile, I've got my carefully-thought-out reply ready to go: "You're welcome!"
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:11
October 22, 2011
My wedding ring is missing. Again. Not to worry—it's in the house somewhere. God knows where it is and he will lead me straight to it, eventually. He always does.
As a life-long fidgeter, no accessory entrusted to my care stands a chance. Knowing this, I don't go in much for jewelry, except for a few standard items which I wear daily, including my wedding ring. The problem with rings is, it's easy to take them off, making them a prime target for fidgeting. We once had to disassemble an upholstered armchair because I lost my grip on this symbol of marital love as I was twisting it around my finger. It slipped between the cushions, into the dark recesses of architecture hidden beneath fabric and stuffing. The chair wasn't cheap, but we had no choice: this ring is an heirloom. It belonged to my husband's maternal great-grandmother, who received and wore it proudly in Peebles, Scotland until the day she died. When Fred's mom inherited the ring, it became a family treasure; she entrusted it to him, and he, in turn, gave it to me. We went to Peebles on our honeymoon, traced the ring's history, etc. Very romantic. As newlyweds, we had it appraised. Financially it isn't worth much; however, it remains annoyingly irreplaceable. Despite having to shoulder the responsibility of keeping track of this prize, I do love it. The design is perfect for me. It's unusual: white gold (nothing flashy), a modest diamond rendered imperfect (and therefore blessedly inexpensive) by a tiny black flick, surrounded by delicate (but not too dainty) Victorian scroll-work. There is the obvious sentimentality attached to what The Ring represents, but it is, after all, only a symbol. Fred and I love one another just as much, with or without his great-grandmother's diamond on my finger.
Here's the thing though: the symbolism of wedding rings matters to God. It matters to him, a lot. I know this because when I rush out the door ring-less, he brings this neglect to my attention before I make it to the end of our street. The empty spot on the third finger of my left hand burns. No matter how far behind schedule I may be, at God's signal, I turn the car around to set things right. Luckily, I have my late Great-Aunt Dede's inexpensive setting of ruby chips and diamond dust to wear as a backup, until God reveals the location of my wedding ring which, as I write this post, remains M.I.A.
Marriage should be honored by all. ~ Hebrews 13:4
October 15, 2011
Outside of one playwriting class in college, I've never studied writing. God has filled in the gaps, miraculously at times, providing tons of help for me along the way. I don't mean to suggest that these helps (mostly people: wonderful, long-suffering, talented friends) were provided as proof of a divine calling. I used to think so. Now, the very thought seems silly, even presumptuous. Rather, I think this endeavor, like so many others, is one God supports as a method of drawing me closer to himself. It's about traveling the road together, no matter the destination. For almost a decade this book has been my project with Jesus, but if I let it go and move on to something else, that would be okay. The experience has taught me a lot about writing, and life. It has been a worthwhile use of time. And, it's been fun.
Wait. Back up. Did I say fun? After several false starts, now that the book is actually being written, edited, passed around and read by professionals—people who don't know me or my husband—some new descriptives have entered the mix. Oh sure it's still fun, but also nauseating, humiliating, and terrifically tough. Writing the good stuff about people is easy, but this is a true story, about real, imperfect humans whose lives are marred by bad parenting and a host of psychological issues. The challenge has become, how much to tell. My goal is to glorify God, and yes, the shadows prove the sunshine. Telling the truth doesn't make any of us look very good though, especially several in the story who don't happen to be me. People I love and respect. People who are are still very much alive. What's a girl to do? Fictionalize? Use yet another pen name? Write anonymously? None of these answers seems as good as simply telling the truth.
The God who fixed my marriage can solve this problem as well, so I will leave it to him. Just another bump in the road. Meanwhile, I've got to get back to work. One thing's for sure: this story isn't going to tell itself.
Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he has redeemed from the hand of the enemy. ~ Psalm 107:2 NKJV
October 8, 2011
A vague memory of cloth napkins pops into my head. We haven't used them in a long time, a decade or more, but they must still be around. Rushing into the dining room I struggle to open a rarely-used drawer in a rarely-used cabinet, into which we shove all of our earthly treasures: silver candlesticks (now covered in wax) given at our wedding by friends we don't know anymore, hundreds of old photos, and—somewhere—a few tablecloths and napkins. The first drawer I try is stuck, but a mighty heave pulls it ajar. At a glance, seeing only boxes of clippings and mementos of Gray's babyhood, I try to close it and move on to the next. No luck. Now it's stuck open. This will cause more trouble. Drat you, drawer! I hear the boys taking their places at the table. Toning down my struggle with the furniture so as not to advertise, I reposition myself to get a better grip and more traction. Silently I try one final shove, employing every ounce strength my 110 pound frame can muster, but it won't budge. And then it occurs to me: Look under the boxes, Girl. Maybe God is the one keeping the drawer open.
There they are: three white cotton napkins, all that remain of the original four. Their condition is not exactly pristine, but they will do perfectly for this humble meal, for our family trio. Pulling them out, the drawer closes without any further trouble. Dinner is saved, and so am I.
Sometimes obstacles are given as gifts. Best to slow down and take a good long look at each one. As my friend Marsha likes to say, "It's not rejection, it's redirection."
When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. ~ Acts 16:7
October 1, 2011
Not every child is shown proper love; the ripple-effects of mistreatment in childhood are far-reaching and stubborn. Abuse is cyclical. Jesus Christ glues broken people back together, but while we remain stuck on earth, sharp edges poke through. No one behaves perfectly all of the time, not even believers who have followed Christ for decades; for some, though, the battle is up a steeper hill. If you have close associations with a person from this group—your boss, your best friend, your husband—you live out biblical principles that others only ponder theoretically. You can't gloss over Peter's instruction for wives to submit to husbands even as slaves to masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh, (1 Peter 2:18). As a concept, turning the other cheek has special meaning to you. While your office mate complains about the dip in her 401K and a recent trip to the dentist, you hold back tears because someone you love is blind to his own "anger management issues."
The topic of abuse and how to handle it is bigger than any blog post. If you need help, see a Christian counselor, and read Boundaries. Yes, Jesus tells us not to resist an evil person (Matthew 5:39), but he did not put you on this earth to be anyone's verbal punching bag. True biblical love does not enable abuse or any other sin. God is your protector, and part of his protection includes wise counsel. Get help. Sharp edges really can be softened, over time.
If you have no idea what this post is about, thank God! And then, show an extra measure of grace to the people you encounter today. Heaven only knows what went on before they walked out the door.