Inexpressible Comfort

“Oh, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words…a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.” ~Craik

The quote above has come to me twice within the last 12 hours. I took time to appreciate it the first time I read it, but when it showed up the second time, it really made me stop and think.

Read it again. Take your time and read it slowly. Take in all the phrasing…all the meaning that’s packed into those 42 words. Did it remind you of anyone you know? I hope so.

There’s something amazing about being able to trust a person with who you really are and what you really think. It’s a gift of the highest order to have that liberty with another person. To know that someone truly sees you and knows your heart enough to see behind the things you say and then be willing to keep those things that are best about you and ‘with the breath of kindness blow the rest away’…wow. Yes. Inexpressible comfort. That really nails it.

It is my prayer that you have someone in your life who does this for you.  It’s also my prayer that, if you don’t, you’ll know that you can tell God all about it—whatever “IT” is—and He will do that for you.  He will provide that safe place, that inexpressible comfort and that sifting down to what you really mean if you’ll just talk to Him.

I realize that I’m incredibly blessed with the support system I have in friends and family.  Not everyone gets that, but everyone does have the opportunity to become that for someone else.  Chances are excellent that you can’t become that place of safety for someone else without some of that safety being reciprocated.

Let’s take that challenge together.  Let’s become those safe havens for the people around us.  Let’s choose to provide what we see the need for in the world around us.

Hmmm.  Seems to me that there’s a Bible verse that says something about this…Oh, yes!  And it’s so famous that even people who don’t read the Bible very much—or ever—have probably heard of it, too! (grin)

“Therefore, whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them…”  Matthew 7:12 (HCSB)

Grace & Peace!…and inexpressible comfort!  May they all be ours today!

Who God looks like today…

In some families–especially in mine–there are often traits of similarity so strong that people who haven’t met you before can tell who you’re related to when they see you.  There are physical characteristics and even similar tastes that transcend the miles between family members.  Several years ago, for example, my mother’s oldest sister (a former teacher from West Virginia) arrived in our home town and stopped by a local store.  She was extremely surprised to be called by my mother’s name…by a former student of my mother’s here in Mississippi.  The lady quickly realized it wasn’t my mother before her and corrected herself, but assured my aunt that she knew who she was related to just the same.  Though they hadn’t discussed it–or even been aware of it until that visit!–both sisters had chosen the exact same hairstyle and the same frames for their glasses…not to mention their height and facial similarities.  They lived over 800 miles apart and my aunt had never entered that store before, yet they were immediately identified as family.  Blood doesn’t lie.

Neither does Scripture.  John 1:12 tells us, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (ESV)  That means that when we choose to believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died to pay the price for our sins so that we can spend eternity with God, we become family.  We may live a world apart and not even speak the same languages or know any of the same people, but we’re still family according to God.  We’re His children.  As we grow up in Christ, we begin to look more and more like Him…in our thoughts, our actions and our attitudes.  Those things transcend our locations and our native languages–even the physical families to which we belong.

Even though we have Biblical accounts of those who have talked with Him, wrestled with Him and walked with Him, Scripture tells us that no one has ever seen God in all of His glory.  I’m good with that.  I’m good with that because I’m amazed at just the parts of Him that I have seen and I’m pretty certain I couldn’t handle seeing Him in all of His glory right now.  Take today for example.  Here’s what God has looked like to me today:

  • He looked like my husband when he told me that I was loved this morning.
  • He sounded like my mother as she called to get the address of a relative so she could bless them–despite their choice not to spend time with our family in recent months.
  • He looked like the friends who have left silly and encouraging messages on my phone and Facebook page today.
  • He sounded like my precious little 92-year-old friend who called to tell me she was thinking about me today and ask if we could pray for our two husbands as they’re facing recent health issues. (Mine is 47–hers is 95!)
  • He looked like my favorite AC repairman who came as soon as I called about the water leaking through my ceiling and soaking my chair.
  • He sounded like my prayer partner as she requested prayer for the health of someone who has tried to cause her family injury.

I’ve been overwhelmed by the ways God has shown up here today…and I hope you’ve been able to see the Family resemblance in the people around you, as well.  Who does God look like where you live?

For your weekend…

I keep thinking about my post from yesterday and “eulogeo”–the root word for “bless.”  Eulogeo, of course, is also where we get the word “eulogy”  which also means “to speak well of.”  If speaking well of God will bless His heart, just think how it will affect those around us!

Short and sweet, here’s your challenge for the weekend:  Make a point to ‘speak well of’ at least three people before Monday morning.  You can do this by speaking directly to them or you can do so while speaking to other people…just make sure the one your speaking well of can hear you do it!  (grin)

My mother has always said that she’d rather have her flowers while she’s alive to enjoy them…and I think the same sentiment applies to words of encouragement and blessing!  Say them out loud, write them down–your choice!–but do so while it can make a difference in and can improve the relationships with those you love!

Here’s to a weekend of blessing…for all of us!  Have fun!

Grace & Peace!

See you back here on Monday!

Blessing the Lord…

I’ve been spending a lot of time in the Psalms over the past couple of weeks.  In particular, I’ve been drawn to Psalm 103, which starts off in the following fashion:

“Bless the Lord, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”  Psalm 103:1-5 (NKJV)

I’ve been reading it in the New King James Version all week–that’s the version I use most often for study.  I’ve gotten used to that wording and it caused me to think about how delightful it is that it would be possible for me…me, a mere human…to bless the Lord of all the earth.  The very idea of the created being able to bless the Creator…now, that’s very cool.  Oh, how I want to do that!

As I read through it again this morning, I was using the Holman Christian Study Bible–the one I carry in the truck with me–and I immediately noticed the difference in translation of the first word:  “Bless the Lord” becomes “Praise the Lord” in the HCSB.

That’s the key, you know.  When we praise the Lord–in heart, in word, in deeds, in thought or in song–that’s when we bless Him.

When you look up the root word for the verb “bless”, you’ll find that it is eulogeo which literally means, “to speak well of”…and that’s what we do when we praise Him.

Speaking well of God is easy enough when things are going our way, but what of those times when they aren’t?  Are we as deliberate in our praise then?  Are we as determined to speak well of God when He doesn’t do things the way we would prefer or the way we think He should?  I’m convinced that these are the times of praise that bless God’s heart the most!  These are the ones that are based on what we KNOW and not on what we FEEL…the ones based in the unfailing truth of His Word and, indeed, they are the times when we need to make that choice the most.

No matter where you find yourself today, I hope you will join me in saying:

“Bless the Lord, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!”

 

 
 

Collecting bits of normal

Confession:  I had a bit of a melt-down this past weekend.  In the wake of yet another new medical wrinkle and another set of challenges for the two of us I came unglued.  My husband and I were reviewing the events of the past several months and talking about some of the hurdles we still have to cross and I just lost it.

“This is NOT my life!” I cried.  “This is NOT my life—and I am tired of it!  I want MY life back!”

It seems more than a little bit silly now that I see that written out on the screen, but there was absolutely NO humor in it at the time.

Obviously, this IS my life right now:  complete with significant stressors and serious health issues for people I love, difficult business decisions to be made and…in the midst of all the tired and the hurt and the frustration, God…showing up with His still small voice and His miracles both large and small and every other size even remotely conceivable.  This IS my life right now.

So, what did I mean by those statements?  The name of this blog may help shed some light on that.  Quiet ambitions.  I chose that title based on the life goals I’ve taken from 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 in which the Apostle Paul urges:

“…that you aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing.”

These verses inspire me to live a life of quality over quantity, to choose simplicity over the complicated, to use my strengths to build instead of spend and to seek to bless those around me instead of seeking the limelight for myself.  It is about choosing a life of deliberate pace and determination to reach for goals that have nothing to do with the chaos of perpetual drama.  It is about understanding that growing in grace and in fellowship with God is more important than becoming…well, anything else.

This isn’t about having an excuse not to try or to be excellent in any task I’m assigned.  On the contrary.  These verses challenge me to become excellent at life…no matter what that entails or what God sends my way.  It is my own personal challenge to seek out the beautiful and the overlooked in the midst of the mundane and the tedious…to realize that the opportunity to become is often a bigger challenge than the one that exists after you supposedly “get there.”

Obviously, I still haven’t arrived there yet.  I’ve still got a ways to go.  Along the way–for a time on Friday–I took a detour and I rebelled for a bit against the stress and the strain of recent days.  My cried out words were all about wishing for things that simply haven’t been possible for a while.

As crazy as it might sound, it was a cry to return to my regularly scheduled programming that lets me be able to do laundry and run a vacuum cleaner, cook a healthy meal or to pet a cat longer than on my way out the door.  Yep.  Wild and crazy stuff like that! (grin)

In His grace, God heard my frustrated cries and I was gifted—yes, gifted, I tell you!—with about six hours at home Saturday morning all by myself.  I put on some instrumental praise music…followed by some Tony Bennett, Ray Charles and a little James Taylor and it was ALL praise to my heart!  I opened up doors and windows and I turned up the volume and I changed sheets, cleaned bathrooms and did laundry, dusted and vacuumed, ate a healthy breakfast and sat in my chair covered up in purring cats while I re-read Psalm 103…and absolutely reveled in every single moment.

On Sunday morning, I entered our church sanctuary and I worshiped a God who revealed the very Psalm I had been reading and the songs I had been singing to the rest of the congregation and I exulted in the way He had prepared my heart for worship even in the midst of such chaos earlier in the week.

On Sunday evening, I led a Bible study about choosing to be thankful in the midst of difficult times and circumstances and I could say what I said and be real about it because this IS my life right now. Afterward, our home was filled with the aroma of a healthy meal and the laughter of friends and a piece of my heart landed back in it’s proper place.

Monday morning was friendship and sharing over another healthy breakfast and then a call to come and see my middle nephew as he participated in a school project.  I couldn’t wait to get there.  I love that kid—along with the other two!—and it was another gift of grace…another bit of ‘normal’ to be collected and savored and stored against the days that are already scheduled for us.

So, that’s what I’ve really been doing over this past weekend.  I’ve been collecting bits of normal to sustain my soul during what I’m told may be my “new normal” for a bit.  I’ve been storing up the scents of Spring and the sounds of wind chimes, seeing the faces of loved ones and using God’s word to put things in perspective again, singing praise songs and just being.  I’ve been working to achieve my quiet ambitions…and that’s all about finding God in the midst of whatever ‘normal’ He sends my way.

Why God made Mondays

“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 woke up this morning with guests in the house!  Beloved friends.  It makes me smile.

I don’t know for sure if they could see it, but I had the same quiet smile in my heart last night as others joined us and we gathered for spicy chicken chili and Patty’s banana pudding to cool us off and laughter and catching up on news…and just being together is such a gift!

It is good to have this spot of normal in all of our recent chaos.

Today the sun is shining, birds are singing and the greens of a Mississippi spring are too numerous to count as I look out my window.  It is a good day to start a week.  This may be why God made Mondays.

May your week–and your life!–have such a blessing!  Grace & Peace!

For your weekend…

SONY DSCSeveral months ago I wrote about finding a heart-shaped rock on my front porch.  I considered it a little gift from God.  Last week, I found another one while I was weed-eating…just laying there on the front porch…right in front of me…not four feet from where I found the first one.

Like the first one, it’s a bit rough around the edges.  Naturally, I started thinking about how it got there and when.  It really doesn’t matter.  It just makes me smile and reminds me that our real hearts–while they may often feel battered, too–are also gifts from God.

This week I’ve been sharing about miracles.  By definition, miracles involve a resolution to a significantly stress-full situation.  There is often significant change in situation, pain, or extreme distress involved somewhere in the process before the miracle finally occurs.

There’s something else you need to know about miracles:  no matter what size they are– they can only come from God.  People can do spectacular things, but only God can do the truly miraculous.

Sometimes we get in on what I call the ‘baby miracles’—the ones where the light changes just as you get to it and you can keep going without even slowing down or you look around and notice the perfect flower or gorgeous sunset– the perfect camera shot—right when you’ve got your camera ready to shoot…or when you find a heart-shaped rock on your front porch! (smile!)

Sometimes we get to see miracles in their ‘middle’:  those things that are in process and you can tell that it’s going to be something really special, but life doesn’t allow you to stick around and see it all:  like a rose bush covered in buds or a new marriage between two people who seem made for each other.

Sometimes we have the privilege of seeing the ‘end result miracle’—you know, the one where it’s all finally over and what we get to see is the big “Ta-Da!” at the end.  Those are great!  These are the ones where the baby is finally born or the report arrives that the cancer is finally gone…and we gasp!

We gasp–especially when we’ve been right in the middle of it all–because we’re amazed at the end result and we’re moved by it.  We also gasp, in part, because we’ve been metaphorically holding our breath as we’ve waited to see what God will decide and how it will all turn out.

You can go through life holding your breath waiting on the “big miracle” to happen just like you want it and ignoring all the smaller ones God grants you every day.  Holding your breath isn’t comfortable at all.  Breath is life-giving…it’s own miracle within the miracle of life.  I’ll tell you from personal experience this week that once you finally exhale, you’ll be sore from just the muscles holding tension as you held your breath throughout a stressful situation.

All that brings me to the weekend challenge.  No matter what miracles you’ve been surrounded by this week or those you’re still hoping to see, take some time to just breathe normally and get some rest.  Your heart will thank you and maybe, just maybe, you’ll be able to see all the miracles a little clearer next week.

Grace and Peace!

See you back here on Monday!

Timing

Yesterday I wrote of miracles of life.  Within just a few hours of posting, I was part of a miracle of timing.

You all know by now that I am a planner.  I plan out my day…my life…my…world—even though I know that there will be things beyond my control and my “plan” can often be de-railed.  I’ve done this life long enough to know that it is God who most often changes my plan even when I think I’ve made a pretty good one to start with…well, most of the time.

ANYWAY!  Yesterday I had a plan.  I was going to spend the day in the shop getting ready for some of our upcoming shows.  Then I remembered that I had some paperwork that needed to be mailed—and no envelope that size to mail it.  That meant a trip to town.  Then I got a phone call asking me to drop something at another location…and, oh, yes, a bank deposit…and then I really should pick up some…ok, this would require a longer trip to town…and a different direction.  Still, it was combinable and I could work it out.  New plan.

I completed my “town tasks” and headed back home.  On my way, I passed by my husband’s office.  He has a window and sometimes I call just before I’m going to pass by and we wave at each other as I go by, but I decided not to do that yesterday.  He had told me that he would be having lunch with some other employees on-site and I didn’t want to disturb his lunch meeting.

Less than a minute later, my phone rang.  It was my husband.  I hit the speaker button and heard his voice.  When you’ve loved someone this long, you know things about them before they even have to say them.  You can tell a lot simply by hearing their tone, inflection and speech rhythm.  I knew immediately that something was wrong.  I was right…and I was needed at his office immediately.

Within moments I had turned my truck around and was pulling back into his parking lot.  We were able to address the suddenly escalated health issue—thanks to the dedicated health professionals!– over the course of the afternoon and evening and he is feeling better this morning.

No, it isn’t an earth-shaking story of timing as you read it, but it was still pretty important to us.  It shook our world.  God knew exactly when I would be needed and He knew exactly where I needed to be in order to respond quickly and get my husband the help that he so desperately needed.  He allowed the medical professionals to be extremely close by (less than a city block away!) and He provided all of that because HE CAN and because it was part of HIS PLAN to bless us yesterday.

Never discount the details!  God is there!  Timing really is everything and I’m so grateful that I serve the One who is in charge of time…and everything else, as well.  It was another ordinary day of miracles, indeed.

Another ordinary day of miracles…

I woke early again this morning.  Another day to see God at work and be grateful is not something to take lightly.  After praying for several loved ones, I headed downstairs to face the day.  As I progressed through my morning routine, I checked out the emails and found the following notices:

  •  “Took the feeding tube out today. He ate 2 cheese burgers as I watched in awe how God has doubled up on his healing power.”
  • “We have a new addition… she decided to make her entrance to the world a bit early. She was born today by emergency c section… She is 15 1/2 inches long, 2 lbs 15 oz breathing on her own with an apgar score of 9.9. Momma and baby both doing ok. They said her little head was the size of softball. She is holding her own but could use some prayers if you can handle that. She is in nicu–I think she will be there 6 wks. I think she was at 28-29 weeks along. Thank You!”

 I stopped reading after that.  There.  Right there!  If I see nothing else that holds me spellbound in awe today, it will still be more than enough. 

 You see, the first email was about a cousin who fell from 3 stories up on a construction site just a few short weeks ago.  I don’t mind telling you that God has been busy there in an amazing way—healing, caring, providing and sustaining life.  Since the news arrived of the fall and the rapid helicopter ride, our whole family has been praying for God’s best in this situation and, along with C.S. Lewis, we’ve been “wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”  That doesn’t mean that we weren’t confident in our prayers!  Though we have prayed with expectation based on the greatness of our God, we are always aware that the decisions—and the answers—are His alone.  As the hours became days and then weeks, we’ve seen God show up over and over again in amazing ways as a testament to His power and His great love for those who serve Him.

 The second email is self-explanatory.  LIFE!  New life…tiny life…thriving despite her early entrance into this world.  Oh, Father, help her to come to know You in her early days and depend on You throughout all of her days!

 In His grace, God has given us days upon days of miracles.  Every day is full of them if only we will look and see!  They’re all around us.  I’ve come to expect them and I look for them, but I don’t want to take them for granted.  I want to revel in them, celebrate them, dance and shout and cheer over them!  I want to share them and see God use them as beacons of His greatness in the lives of those who hear…and yet still have a hard time seeing.  Oh, how I want you to see them!  Oh, how I want you to see Him!

Father God, thank you for this day and the miracle of life!  Thank you for choosing to give us all of the beauty that surrounds us and the additional gifts of our senses to experience it fully.  Help us to use our vision to see more than what is just in front of us today—help us use it to see You at work all around us.  Give us grateful hearts and loving souls to bless those around us today…and always, always, always give us more of You.  Amen.

Aftermath: knowing what you can not change

I entered my bank this afternoon and was greeted by a very friendly teller with a great smile: “How are you today?”

“Excellent!”

“I like the way you said that!” she said.  “‘Excellent!’–all confident like that!”  She smiled before turning away toward her station.

“God’s in charge.  Is there any other way to be?”

She stopped, turned around and came back to the counter.  “You know, I needed to hear that today!  God is in charge.  You can’t change the other person, can you?…(she seemed to be thinking about something in particular)… But God is in charge, isn’t He?”

I looked back at her and said, “No, you can’t change the other person, but you can know that God has a plan and–no matter what else happens–He says the plan is for our good.  He loves you and He has a plan and it’s for your good.”

We completed our business and I headed out the door.  I love it when God lets me in on His plan to minister to people I meet during the day.

Two hours later, I was standing in the check out line and my eyes found the TV screen up front streaming pictures of a chaotic scene in Boston, Massachusetts.  Two bombs had just gone off near the finish line of the Boston marathon and, far from being the ‘happiest day in Boston’, the scene was raw and ugly.  I saw faces filled with fear and uncertainty, determination and a desire to help where needed.

I found the news channel on my truck radio on the way home and I listened as the reporters tried to make sense out of all the massive amount of conflicting reports that streamed into them in the wake of the violence.  It was obvious that so much was missing, so much was unknown. 

Here’s what I knew then…and what I still know now:

  • They didn’t know everything.  They still don’t.  It’s going to take time to find out all that we need to know about this situation.
  • Some of what we need to find out about this situation isn’t about the people in Boston…it’s about us…wherever we live.  Finding out how we will react, respond and how we resume our lives in the aftermath of such waste and destruction, such malevolence and lack of regard for human life will take time.  It will take courage.  It will take faith.
  • You can’t change the other person.  You can’t change the one that is filled with hate or fighting mental illness, the one on a personal ‘holy war’ or the one finally responding to years of abuses–real or imagined, the one who just decided they want to be famous, thinks they’re in a movie or the one who just doesn’t value life any more. 
  • You can change yourself.  You can choose to be a beacon of hope even in the darkness, because–honestly?–that’s where we need them the most.
  • Hope comes from God.  You can’t give what you don’t possess.  Look to Him for answers…they may surprise you, even in this.
  • God is still in control.  Don’t ever think otherwise–not even for a second. 
  • God still has a plan…and it’s for our good. 
  • We need to follow that plan now…more than ever.

Grace & Peace…to all of us…and especially to those personally affected by the events in Boston.