The really spectacular day…

IMG_20170527_180617889It doesn’t take much to make us happy. Well, some days it does, but it’s usually stuff like spending time together and having both of us healthy at the same time and holding hands and having our cat, Smokey, oversee our every move. (As you can see from the photo, he thinks this is HIS blog today.) We have had just such a day.

We had planned a whole long weekend at home trying to kick the yuck of the previous weeks out of our lives and I had all the food choices figured out and ready for the grill, a slew of old movies and maybe a board game or two lined up along with the knowledge that we had a whole extra day to add to the mix on Monday. I woke up first and quietly made my way into the living room to break my way gently into the day. It wasn’t long before my husband joined me with a mischievous grin on his face. I could tell he felt better just by the way he was grinning. (MAJOR praise!)

“You know what I want to do today?” he asked.

“You want to go out for breakfast.”

He shook his head from side to side and began to spill out his plan for the day. Just the idea that he felt up to it made me want to join in the fun, so we made quick work of our morning chores and off we went. It took us off our beaten path and it was worth every single second.

When we arrived at our destination we giggled like school children. We held hands as we crossed the parking lot and shared one last (really big) grin as opened up the heavy doors and stepped inside…and then we parted ways. You would have thought it was Disney, but we had just entered the hallowed space that is the Barnes and Noble.

Let me pause here and let you exhale that great big breath you’ve been holding, ok? I know. That probably wasn’t even close to what you were expecting, but believe you me–it was a big deal to us. Even better? We made a pact to split up and go whichever direction we wanted and stay as LONG as we wanted…just because we could! Outside of a public library or a botanical garden, there’s just about no other place I’d rather spend some time than a room full of words all put in different orders and ready to share something new and pertinent with you if you just pick up the ones written in the right order to appeal to you.

We had traveled over an hour just to get to this one. Oh, there’s one about 20 minutes closer, but THIS one has a P.F. Chang nearby…and that cast the deciding vote on the matter. When our adventure–and yes, it qualified because we braved Atlanta traffic and survived all sorts of perilous drivers on the road there and back! In fact, I am actually the only one who made all the right moves on the entire trip there and back, y’all! It is harrowing to know that that many people who can’t drive actually do so!…ANY WAY!… When our adventure was complete, we each had a bag full of books and magazines with hours and hours of fun, entertainment, learning, and mind adventures just waiting to be started. We made another stop on the way home to get some minor fixes made to a recent purchase and then, to top it off we made a stop by the Sonic on the way home and purchased TWO Route-44 Fresh strawberry slushes…and if that doesn’t sound delicious to you, then we’re not sure you’ve really lived. (grin)

We heated the PFC left-overs from lunch while we got in our comfortable clothes. Actually, that last sentence should be more accurately translated into, “We then got into our pajamas at about 4 o’clock in the afternoon and settled in for the long duration!” Now that we’ve made sure Smokey has properly settled in for appropriate oversight and the delights of Crispy Honey Chicken with brown rice and the egg rolls have been consumed, it is here that we find ourselves…hoping and praying that one day you’ll manage to have such a splendid outing with someone you love this much and that you won’t let things like being over an hour away and not being on the schedule or feeling silly that if you’re going to go to all that trouble it better be something more spectacular than a bookstore and some really upscale Chinese food. (Fried green beans, y’all. Fried green beans. It would have been worth the trip just for the appetizer!)

The moral of this story is this: don’t wait to have a spectacular day until you can pay big bucks and do something stunningly grand to impress people. The little things actually make the bigger impact when you consistently fill your life with loving people, delicious food, and good words all written out in a way that makes you smile…and maybe even ones that will inspire you to get out and do something that wasn’t on your agenda at the beginning of your day, either.

Grace and Peace, y’all! I’ve got a stack of books to dig into right now! (happy dance, happy dance!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Word collector

I’ve always loved words.  One of my aunts tells the story of when I was around 3 years old and I “read” her my book…and how she was amazed that I was right as I flipped through the pages.  No, I wasn’t a child prodigy.  I had a mother who read to me so much that I had the book memorized so that it looked like I was reading it to people.  It amazed my aunt, however, and cemented in her mind that I was brilliant in the way that only a doting family member can be convinced.  She still seems to be convinced…and I’m grateful for that.  There’s nothing quite like words of encouragement from someone who loves you.

I’ve collected words for years.  Quotes, verses, songs, poems, fiction, books and books and stacks of books…tomes of collected wisdom and entertainment, visits to foreign lands where I will never go, travels to times I can never live in this life—all of that, ready for me to choose my adventure at any given moment.  Heady stuff!

 Since my family was full of educators and pastors, we were always reading and we were often in church.  We were that family that was not only there every time the doors were open, we opened the doors.  Was it any wonder that I grew up with Bible stories that were as fresh in detail to me so that they all felt like my extended family, too?  I’d heard these stories all my life just like I’d heard the one where my Uncle Cotton…well, that’s another story…we’ll wait on that for now.  My point is that I grew up always surrounded by love, always encouraged and always cherished as I grew up.  Words were everywhere and they brought life to me.  Eventually, they brought the Word of Life to me.  I could relate to one who was called The Word.  That made sense to me and I never questioned that He was who the words of Scripture said He was.  I’d seen Him—and unconditional love–in action since I was a child.

 Maybe that’s not your story at all, but it doesn’t change His.  God loves you.  He thinks about you constantly.  He’s preparing a place just for you and He wants you with Him forever.  He’s got His own collection of words for you and today just might be the day that you need to spend a little time checking it out.

If only she’d known…

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“Becky, if you could punctuate, you could write books!”  That was the comment written in bright red ink at the top of my high school senior term paper…right beside that “A+/F++” that was also written in red.  The top grade was, of course, for content and the bottom one for punctuation.  Pat Coffey was making a point.  She’d been making points all year.  That was the 3rd time I’d had her as a teacher, so she knew me pretty well and she wasn’t about to let me slide on anything.

The complete content of the paper with the theme personally chosen for me by her (“because the ones on the list would be too easy for you”) no longer stays with me, but her confidence in me remains.  She had no idea that her influence would extend into my college years where my first English comp paper resulted in my being asked to stay after class so the professor could ask where I’d gone to high school.  “You’re one of Pat Coffey’s students, aren’t you?  I can always tell.  Keep it up.”  Without a word from her personally, Pat Coffey’s influence had shown through and insured that my next instructor of writing would also expect more from me.  As a result, I was soon inundated with other student’s papers to proof-read.  Apparently, I’d found the formula even when it didn’t always show up on my own papers.

Grad school found me assigned to my main professor…who just happened to be editor of our profession’s most illustrious and technical magazine.  Seriously?!  The man edited his own notes to himself!  My job, in part, was to find anything he might have missed.  It was the easiest hardest job ever.  He didn’t miss anything unless it was on purpose and his purpose was to make me pay attention.  He helped make me a better clinician by making me attentive to the details that might otherwise be missed.  The up-side was that my thesis was returned by the Graduate School Department with only 3 small errors for correction and their stunned declaration that they had never before seen such a clean first draft.  Dr. S and I declared the required corrections to be matters of opinion, but changed them anyway to keep the peace.  At the end of our time there, he threw a party at his house for me and the other audiology student who had managed to survive our tenure.  It was the first time in years that anyone in the department remembered being invited to his wonderfully hidden and beautifully planned abode.  I think it was because we had somehow managed to exceed even his exacting expectations…either that or he was really glad to get rid of us!

I won’t promise that Pat Coffey or Dr. Moore or Dr. Sheeley will be excited about what might show up here…or about the punctuation.  I will tell you, however, that their attention to detail has shaped my life in ways they could never imagine.  They enhanced my already deep desire for the written word and they sharpened my focus on the world around me.  Because of them I am loathe to miss the details of life, I adore watching for the small blessings that surround me and escape the notice of others, and I am eternally grateful for those who’ve dedicated their lives to teaching.

Like the distant mountains in the photo above, the educators of my past helped create a more beautiful world for me.  They granted me differing perspectives and were secure enough in themselves to encourage (and endure?) the forming of a world view often differing from and challenging of their own.  I am forever grateful to them and to the God who chose to grant me such gracious gifts.

Here’s to the teachers and the young minds of which they will forever be a part!  I can’t wait to see what ambitions–quiet and otherwise–will result.