The first day of the rest of your life…

I had an epiphany yesterday.  Actually, that’s not all that unusual for me, since I regularly find myself learning (or re-learning!) things that I should have already known or perhaps used to know, but suddenly remembered for some strange reason.  So what was my revelation yesterday?

“Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”

Wow, right?  I mean, really, could the “epiphany” have been any more clichéd?  Perhaps not, but it didn’t make it any less weighty for me.

I was standing in the kitchen, putting dishes into the washer and watching the hummingbirds swarm at the feeder when that incredible thought suddenly occurred.  It doesn’t sound any more momentous to you now than it did before, does it?  (grin)

Well, that’s ok.  It was plenty momentous for me.

On Saturday, my husband and I were having lunch together when he stopped to ask me a question:  “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  He followed that little gem up with several others:  “Are you good with where you are in life?  Is there something else you’d like to be doing?  Would you like to take classes or go learn something new?  Are you fulfilled where you are or do you really want to do something different?”  Those questions—and others—created quite the conversation for us then, and I suppose, my mind just hasn’t let them all go yet. (And yes, I do realize how blessed I am to have that man in my life!)

Yes, there are new things I want to learn and, yes, there are other things I want to do, but I’m actually pretty happy with where I am right now.  When I was growing up never in a million years would I have expected to look at my life as it is right now and say that truthfully.  I was one of the lucky ones…the blessed ones.  I had a loving family and I did well in school.  My extended family was large and involved and encouraged me to believe I could do whatever I chose.  Naturally, the plan was to go an conquer the world.  College was a given.  A good career and—after a very long time and in my own timetable, of course—I would marry and have children of my own while continuing to work.  That wasn’t God’s plan, however, so …things are very different now.  Oh, I had most of that.  Right up to the children and continuing to work part. And I’m just fine with that…most days.  (I’m not too fond of the days I have to clean the bathrooms.)

Those are things that I had anticipated in the grander scheme of life, but my thought process yesterday was just a little bit different.  You see, since my husband took his new position back in November of last year, I’ve been living in a bit of a whirlwind.  Each task in front of me came with a much longer line of following tasks and a set of dated timelines to get them all accomplished.

While there is still plenty to do, I suddenly realized that there would be no more overnight guests for awhile, no major events to plan for, no more pressing deadlines–and I was truly standing in the first day of the rest of the way I want to live my life in this place…just for me…just for us…just for God.  What kinds of things would I need to keep doing?  What kinds of things should I begin to change?  What kind of a life do I want to build for myself here?

Sometimes we just go with the flow and we forget that the decisions about how we spend our allotment of days is actually important.  Those moments turn into years and the knowledge of that makes me view them more carefully these days.  In my quest to live out the quiet life described in I Thessalonians 4:11-12, and with Jim Elliott’s admonition to “be all there” resounding in my spirit, I found myself deliberating in a new way yesterday…and today, as well.

How about you?  Are you happy with the life you’ve made for yourself?  If not, what would you change—what WILL you change—to make it more like you desire?  Have you talked with God about it?  (For the best results, do this first!!) Have you discussed it with your closest loved ones to get their input?  If your answer is in the affirmative and you really do like the life you’re living right now, then how will you celebrate that and how can you help others around you to make the kind of life that they’re called to lead, as well?

Whatever your answer, don’t just blow past it.  Give this the thought it deserves and take the time to start being deliberate in your changes and in your current joys.  Share your dreams with those around you.  You may find more good company for your journey than you’d ever believe.

Today is the first day of the rest of your life, too.  What will you do with it?

Spending the day

What are you doing today?

Is it work or play?  Is it easy or difficult?  Dull or exciting?  Laughter or tears…or both?  Or like most of us, “All of the above?”

I’ve been thinking about this idea a lot lately.  My “theme” for the year has been Jim Elliot’s quote:  “Wherever you are, be all there.” and that’s a lot harder sometimes than you’d think.

I’m a multi-tasker of the very first order and making a conscious choice to focus fully on whatever is right in front of me this year still feels foreign…even after more than 7 months of trying.

I’m getting better at it.  Little by little.  Day by day of practice…and yet sometimes I have to remind myself right moment by moment.

I’ve had a  house full of company around here lately and even in the midst of it all, I had to remind myself to “be all there” (and not run to the computer and blog about it right then!) so I wouldn’t waste a single second of it:  croquet on the side yard, card games on the back porch, amazing amounts of really great food, phone calls from those who couldn’t make it, the laughter ringing in the rafters and escaping to the yard, the quiet conversations late into the night or while waiting on others to wake up, the tears of shared heartbreak and the prayers of and for loved ones.  All that preciousness that we store up until we can all be together again–I didn’t want to miss even a moment of it.  God uses all of that to sustain us during the times it is more difficult to obtain and I wanted to revel in it and soak it all up like a sponge–wasting nothing, no matter how small.  Friendship.  Family.  Family of the heart.  Days of spirit-filling sustenance from God.  All from Him.

Today, this day that some of us will take for granted, will be someone’s wedding day, someone’s best day, someone’s worst day…and someone’s last day.  Wherever you find yourself, make the choice to be all there today.  There’s a reason you’re having the day you are–and (surprise, surprise!) it may not be all about you.  Someone else may need to see how you handle it.  They may need to see God at work in you today in the easy stuff and, more likely, in the hard stuff, too.

“Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”  Psalm 90:12

This is what I need today:  the ability to be aware of how precious each day really is and a heart of wisdom to “spend” it well…and I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only one.

Prayer:  Father God, please be with those who have lost today and feel that loss so keenly, with those who are uncertain of their next move and those who charge blindly–or deliberately!–into danger, with those who will choose to laugh in spite of their difficulties today and those who need to learn how to do so.  Be with those who celebrate the wondrous thing and those who will deal with the ponderous ones.  Show us YOU in each situation and help those around us to see You at work in us.  In short, give us You today and help us share You with the world.

Wading upstream through quicksand

Did you ever have one of those days when you were just pitiful?  I mean really, truly PITY FULL?

You know what I’m talking about:  maybe it’s that day that makes Alexander’s look like a walk in the park and what comes out of those around you—and even from yourself!—is SO much less than you know everyone is capable of giving?

Maybe it’s that day when no matter how hard you try, you’re left feeling like you got the short end of the pulley bone and all you ended up with was just the little bitty broken pieces…and the only possible polite response…because you were raised to be polite even in the face of all this less-ness…is to bite your tongue and say “thank you” as graciously as if you’d just been cut the biggest slice of your mama’s homemade apple pie?

Cutting people slack is a tough business some days.  It is not a job for spiritual sissies, let me tell you.  I think that’s why God took the initiative and started out showing us how it’s done.

For the record, it’s worse when you’re lying in bed at the end of that day with a stuffy nose and the dry heaves and God slips in and tells you to suck it up…

that there are worse things than your bad day…

and then He has to get to meddling and remind you that maybe—just maybe?—some of what you got handed today looks a little bit like what you’ve handed someone else at some point…

and then (as if that’s not enough) He reminds you that you’re still the most blessed person you know…

and that you’re loved…so much that He has made it possible for you to be with Him forever…

and that He’s placed these people around you for a reason:  to show them HIM and if they don’t pay attention during the easy days, then maybe some of them might just take notice when you don’t act the way they thought you would when they pushed those buttons ever so hard.

Well, tomorrow is another day, Scarlett, so pull yourself together and hang on tighter to the Word and go on out and live it like He’s taught you.  After all, more than likely, someone else is going to have that day tomorrow…and now you just might be better prepared to be the blessing in it instead of the cause of it.

Ask me how I know all of this.  Yes, go on and ask me.  (And you thought you were the only one.  HA!)

“WHATEVER happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”  Philippians 1:27 NIV (emphasis mine)

Comfortable?

Sometimes words just come to me.  They come at the strangest times and they rattle around in my spirit  and get past my focus and just sit there…way back there…in this weird little place at the back of my mind and just on the edge of my periphery and then… they just sit there.

That happened the other day while I was doing my quiet time.  I was just doing what I’m supposed to be doing.  I was spending some time in the Word and trying to get to know my God better, when all of the sudden, it happened again.  A single word… then, a phrase…and then a quick rush of sentences while I scrambled for the pen and the beautiful pad of sticky notes that I inherited the last time my friend Patty decided to do a house purge.

I scribbled the quick barrage of words all down and wondered if I should get up and blog about it right then, but—since I was actually doing my quiet time—I decided that I’d better finish that first.  I thought about it again when I was through, but the timing didn’t see quite right then, either, so I just waited.  You see, I’ve been there before.  I knew God was about to make a point…to me and possibly, to someone else, as well, but timing is always the key thing on these issues and I’ve learned to take my cues from God…since He seems to know best about these things.

Apparently, the time is now.  Just after 2 AM…it is very AM and I was awakened out of a sound sleep with the overwhelming sense of urgency to get up and write about this word:  comfortable.  Yes, I know.  It’s really funny, isn’t it, that God woke me out of a sound sleep all snuggled in with my big pillows and soft cotton sheets—the very definition of the word “comfortable”—to put these words on a screen in the middle of a time when I’d really rather be doing something else entirely.

(Again, I stress to you the irony and the exhibition of humor that my God has when He’s trying to get through to us.  God can be downright hysterical at times.  Did you hear it, too?  Yes, there it is.  I just heard Him chuckle…again.)

Anyway, back to my story.  I was sitting in my keeping room in my nice green chair that God gave to me on sale right after we bought this place and all of the sudden, there was this word.  Comfortable.  Well, yes, I was comfortable, thank you very much.  Comfortable.  What’s wrong with that?  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing…unless…you’re being called to do or be something else at the moment.

I’ve asked God to help me be quiet enough to hear Him on these things and He does that, but the thing is, you see, that God’s quietness doesn’t mean inactivity.  It means that while He’s being quiet and you’re being quiet…well, He’s really most likely up to something that often isn’t very quiet at all.  It also means that when it is time to no longer be quiet… that He may begin nudging and pushing at the same time that you’re in the middle of something else.  It means that you may have to give up something comfortable to go do what He tells you to do…and it may not be comfortable for you…or someone else…at all.

Nothing about Jesus was comfortable.  He was never the center of easy living, but that doesn’t mean that He wasn’t full of peace.  His disciples weren’t living comfortable lives, either.  There were no regularly adoring crowds of people who lined up to invite Jesus and His crew to stay in their best guest room and send them away with a bunch of great leftovers.  No. To be near Him, to get to know Him, to participate in His work, they endured.  Just in case you were wondering?  It is still worth it to do so.

While you can find plenty of Bible verses that talk about comfort, you won’t find a single one that says we’re supposed to be comfortable.  In fact, it is just the opposite, and our problems can often increase when we decide to use comfort as our measure of what God is telling us to do.  That’s just plain wrong.  Never mistake comfort for God’s guidance.  There is no Scriptural basis for it.

To the contrary, God seems to delight in placing His people where the world can see them be uncomfortable.  Far from being sadistic, this actually results in us (His people) being drawn closer to Him because in the really uncomfortable times, we find our comfort in Him.  What happens next–when God shows up and uses us in and through our discomfort–may be the only way that those who see it happen know He is at work there because what shows up most in us then… is HIM.

Take for instance, my friends who are dealing with significant health issues right now.  While we pray for healing and hope for health, God is still at work there.  There are people praying and there are some of them that are seeing God up close and personal in a totally new way…all because some of God’s people are hurting and praying and praising Him anyway.  Lives are being changed…and I don’t just mean those who are in the center of the storm.

What about my missionary friends who gave up their lives and careers here in America—the land of ultimate comfort!—to minister in places far from family and friends because that’s just what God told them to do?  That doesn’t mean they’re not excited about it or even that they don’t like it.  To the contrary, I’ve been privileged to see their excitement and their passion for God and life in general increase because of the very changes that seemed so difficult in the beginning.  In fact, I’ve even got one friend who may have found that she’s actually more comfortable on the mission field abroad…and God sent her back home to America…at least for now.  Comfortable?  I don’t think so.

Those are bigger examples, so I’ll move it a little closer to home.  There are several people in my life who have recently (within the last two years) been called to radically different jobs than the ones they previously held.  It has meant changes in salary, odd schedules, longer drive times, relocations, learning totally different processes and people and, quite frankly, there have been times when each of them have wondered aloud—in my presence, so I know it to be true—if they actually made the right decision when they made these big changes.

Maybe none of this strikes a chord with you.  That’s ok.  Trust me, God will be making a point with you shortly.  Wherever you find yourself, I hope you’ll pay close attention to the little things He brings to mind and I hope that you’ll take the time to be quiet before Him and really hear what He has to say just to you.  I hope you’re well and happy and yes, comfortable, wherever you are, but if not, don’t despair!  God is at work even in your difficulties and fortunately, His word does have something to say about that.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort…”  2 Corinthians 1:3

Still savoring the day

 “No distance of place or lapse of time can less the friendship of those who are thoroughly persuaded of each other’s worth.” ~Robert Southey

I’m generally on the move for most of the day and the majority of my conversations are—since I typically work here alone at the house— usually just with God and the cats. While both God and the cats are really great listeners, the audible/verbal back and forth is typically a little different and not always readily understandable by other human ears. Yesterday was another story.

I spent most of yesterday sitting down and having a conversation…with a real, live person! (grin) We had a wonderful lunch at a local bistro and then retired to my keeping room where we talked and talked and talked for hours.   It was amazing to be able to look over and see this beloved face and hear her laugh without having to imagine the way her eyes crinkle and her smile lights up when she talks about her family or the way her eyes become serious when she talks about what God is asking her to do next.

I’ve learned not to take those things for granted, you see, because this was just the latest installment of a conversation that we started back in 1989. It was also the first time we’ve seen each other in almost 14 years. Yes, 14 years…of really regular contact through notes and phone calls and emails and texts, but no face-to-face time in all that time.

It didn’t slow us down a bit.

We hugged and laughed and ate and cooked and shared and prayed and it was absolutely wonderful. She stayed for supper and it was as normal as if she was always there…except that we actually ate at the table this time.

I loved every moment of our time together, but I think my favorite part was when we prayed together and she thanked God that this time we were able to actually hold hands while we did so. We’ve held hearts and secrets and prayer requests for so long now, that we are a part of each other whether we are near or far. We are bonded by our long-term friendship, our history and our faith in God and I am so grateful for the gift of yesterday. I am still savoring the time together even now.

Who do you need to touch base with again today? Pick up a phone, send a text or a card and let someone know that you value them. At the very least, say a prayer for them. Better yet? Pray with them, if you can!  It may be just what they need to make it through the rest of the week.

“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now…” Philippians 1:3-5

So now what?

I wrote a blog post last week that got quite a response. It garnered such response because, at some point, every single person who read it has had one of those hard days. It’s a pretty universal experience.

The post was shared and passed around and commented on and several people who love me reached out to me asking how they could pray for me after they read it. I can’t tell you how much that touched me. Truly, the fact that they were praying was the most helpful thing they could have done at the time, but honestly, I couldn’t share many of the details that went into the need for writing that post. Why? Because a lot of it just wasn’t my story to tell…and that’s still the case today.  Here’s what I can tell you:

Those stories belong to the families of the four (yes, 4!) people who died within 48 hours of that posting and the six (yes, 6!) personal relatives who were dealing with painful, life-threatening or life-changing health issues…and the multitude of friends and family members who were joined in prayer across the globe for each of them. That’s a lot to deal with and although none of it happened in my house, the calls for prayer came in here and the needs were felt here because I love each and every one of those people who called or emailed or expressed their pain or loss in person.

So now what?

I’m a bit analytical (yes, I just heard the snorts of laughter from several friends) and I serve a God who does nothing without purpose (yes, I just heard that bunch of amens, too!), so I started looking for what I was supposed to learn in all of this world of hurt that happened. Here’s what I know for sure about why all of that pain and loss was necessary

 

(silence…lots of silence…crickets chirping in the background kind of silence…and then more silence…)

 

Nothing. Just like Sergeant Schultz, I know nothing. I have absolutely no clue why those lives were lost and why that kind of pain was necessary. God didn’t share any of that with me. So now what?

Here’s what I saw when I started looking at the lives that were lost:

I knew two of the people who died personally and had close relative or personal friend accounts of each of the other two lives and I found that they all shared two common bonds. They all loved Jesus and they all loved their families…passionately. Their loss was felt so keenly because that’s the way they had lived their lives. That’s pretty important. Each of these four people hadn’t done life perfectly, but they had managed to get the most important question—what are you going to do with this Savior, this God who loves you more than you can ever imagine?–answered correctly…and they had managed to live lives that reflected that answer as they shared His love with those closest to them.

By the way, those six relatives of mine who were dealing with those painful life issues…they’ve all made the same choice, as well.

So now what?

Those people who died last week? Those lives aren’t truly lost. God knows exactly where they are…because they’re with Him and they are reaping the rewards of their choice right now.

Those people who were in physical pain? Well, some of them are better, but most of them are still hurting. They’re healing, but they’re still hurting right now. The exact same thing can be said of those whose loved ones lives weren’t truly lost last week, as well.

So now what?

Those of us who are left still have questions to answer and lives to live. If you haven’t already decided what you’re going to do with this Savior, this Jesus the Christ, this God who loves you more than you can imagine and came to earth so you could be with Him forever, then today can be your day. Choose Him. He’s already chosen you.

If you’ve already made that decision, then you have a life to live well. Live it as passionately as Christ loves you. That’s going to look differently from person to person because God has such a creative streak, but make sure you tell those around you about Him and make sure they know that you love them…even more…because you know what it is to be loved by Him.

So now what? Jesus said it best:

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

The Hard Day

Today has been that day. It has been a day when each time the phone or the text message sound has rung I’ve almost cringed because the calls that have carried hard news have been more numerous than those that carried the good. A hard day…

  • Filled with loss and uncertainty, anger and what-ifs that can’t be answered.
  • Filled with bright yellow sunshine and just enough clouds to give you a break from the heat, breezes beneath the tall pines, and new daylilies blooming for the first time since we arrived here with the promise of more to come all around the house.
  • Filled with the asking of prayers to a God who knows it all and is not surprised.
  • Filled with tears and hurting spirits and love and yelps of happy surprise.
  • Filled with people of broken hearts who called…to ask for prayers of intercession and needs of healing in bodies and hearts and lives. Such honor for one who can’t do anything in each of these situations on her own, but knows the One Who CAN.
  • Filled with voices of family and friendship…is there ever a bad time to hear a loved one’s voice across the distance?
  • Filled with needs I feel in my soul even though they are borne most heavily by those who are far away.
  • Filled with memories of long ago years and the joys that we allowed to pass by so quickly feeling like we’d never be touched with such pain as is felt today.
  • Filled with the comfort found in ancient words written by those who struggled in desperately hard things before the same God Who was just the same then as He is today.
  • Filled with conversation to my Heavenly Father who knows what is needed…and all that is to come.
  • Filled with the celebration of lives and the remembrances of those I love so dearly.

God is good…even today. Especially today because He is near and because He IS.