Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Fleece I Didn't Know I Needed

Sometimes I have put down fleeces.  I think God honors my efforts in the fleece if I put them down with a sincere heart, desiring to be in His will.

Sometimes He gives me the fleece I did not know I needed.

We have had a couple hard weeks here.  Raising a teenage boy is a daunting practice at best.  My oldest and I have been squabbling more lately as he tests his wings and boundaries, trying to negotiate this journey to manhood without the benefit of his dad's direction.  I was a bit discouraged when I arrived at church.  I sought the counsel of a couple male friends, but God was already working.

We have had a group of men visiting our church who have been in town for a few weeks for a training course.  Being the perpetual greeter-of-all-who-enter at church, I met them the first week they arrived and struck up a conversation.  Their first Sunday was the day the Giants played the Packers in the playoffs.  I remember specifically because Alex was "representing" (huge Giants fan) and the guys had already scoped him out for ribbing (one of them was a huge Packers fan and wanted to"belt" him--victory dance thing--guys will get it).  When they found out he was my son, they asked if they could tease him, and like any good mom I said, "Go right ahead!"

This began a relationship between my son and these men.  Being the kid he is, he has gone over every week to talk to them, tease with them, gloat over the Giants victories (good year for that), and just check in.

On Sunday, not long after I had been commiserating about the hard week, the guys came in and told me they had brought new guys with them.  I did not meet them then, but I did a few minutes later in the service.  I was introduced to "B."  I shook hands with him and worked my way down the line of guys.  When I got to the end of the line, one of the guys, Dan, asked me if I had met "B."  I told him I had.  He asked me if I knew who he was.  I said I did not.  Much to my surprise, Dan said he was a former NFL center!  Then Dan told me that they had made sure to get Alex over to meet "B."  Later I found out that "B" did not want his identity known, but did want to make sure that he met my son, and so these guys made sure that it happened.  Without my involvement or prompting, they acted.

Cool story in that Alex got to shake the hand of a former NFL player!  Even cooler that God has used these men, just here for a few weeks, to speak into my son's life, to give him man stuff that I could not give him.

 The fleece I did not ask for, but desperately needed!

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?  Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.  Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. 
-- Luke 12:6-7

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Insight into the Why

There is something special about sharing the burden of my sisters in Christ. 

I have the privilege of crying with two dear sisters at church over the past weekend, holding them while the pain and hurt engulfed them, letting it engulf me too so that in some way I could share it.

I've been there.  Different pain, perhaps, but I have been there.

When Keith died, friends would come over or call just to cry with me.  They came with open arms, prepared to help me carry the burden for a bit.  They knew they could not ultimately take away what was mine to carry, but they wanted to ease the burden for a time, bearing part of the weight, supporting me so I could breathe for half a minute. 

It was hard, but it was joyous as we grew closer together through that sharing.  It helped everything make sense for a moment, and that moment was enough to help me have strength to face the next moment.

Fast forward to today.  I am better attuned to my sisters in Christ.  I am more able to be that worker who shows up, knowing I have a load to lift, a soul to lighten, if only by catching cathartic tears. 

And for that, for my friends, for that privilege of burden-bearing, I am forever grateful.

Thank You, God, for that insight into why my life looks the way it does!

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  - 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Last Gift

Valentine's Day can really stink.  All the hearts and flowers and jewelry commercials on TV.  I remember when Keith was still here, I would say something at each jewelry commercial that came on, and he would pretend not to know what I was talking about, or pretend that he just could not see the TV at that moment.  I did not get a lot of jewelry from him, but certainly enough to last me.  I treasure those now.

Let me tell you about the last gift. 

Our anniversary is November 11th.  In 2007, Keith was very ill by the time November rolled around and had been home on disability for a couple months.  We had decided not to get each other anything for our anniversary, wanting to wait until he got better and then go away together. 

Keith died on November 9, 2007.  When I got home from saying goodbye to him at the hospital, I found waiting on my front porch a dozen roses.  He had ordered them online to be delivered, not knowing they would be delivered after his passing.

That is not the end of this gift.  The wonderful ladies in our congregation, hearing about the flowers, decided they needed to be saved in some way for me.  They found a woman in Ohio who freeze dries flowers and shipped them to her the next day. 

Today, those flowers hang on the wall in my bedroom, a tremendous reminder of my sweet husband, but also of a gift of love that is precious in my sight from my sweet sisters in Christ.

The gift kept giving, though.  A young woman wrapped them up to send at the packaging store and was told the story of the flowers.  Later, when the flowers came in but had a loose bloom and had to be sent back, the same girl packaged them up again, and asked how we were doing (she remembered the original story).  My sweet friend was able to share the work God was doing in and us and through us with this young woman whose name and face I will never know here on earth.  I hope that she understood the joy of the gift, and the joy of the loving Father who brought it all about!

Here is the point:  acts of kindness, big and small, have an affect on all involved:  the giver, the receiver, and ancillary people we will never even know were touched.  And that is God's love here on earth.

And that is the most important thing about Valentine's Day.

He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  --Acts 1:7-8

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Best of Books

One of the best books my boys read in Kindergarten is The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson.  The lessons in it are not just for them.

In the book, the old tramp (a homeless person of yesteryear), Armand Pouly, enjoyed sitting outside the restaurants of Paris in the evening, dining on the odors coming from inside them.  He had quite a routine, and could almost, almost, feel like he was inside dining in reality.  He would even wipe his face when he completed his "meal."

Through the course of the book, however, he realized that rather than merely dining of the memories of meals, he needed to get out and work so that he can have the real thing.  This realization came when he began to care about the young Calcett family.

There are times when I merely "dine" on my memories.  I remember what it was like to be married, what Keith looked like, felt like, smelled like, sounded like.  These are pleasant memories.  I had a wonderful husband, and I miss him.

Then, like Armand, I realize that I cannot dine on the memories forever.  I am in the land of the living.  I am not done with my jobs here.  I must care and I must raise my family and I must carry on, not just for Keith's sake, or the boys', but for my own.

I want to jump into my new life with both feet, eyes wide open, and dine on each and every moment as it happens.  I don't want to be on the sidelines, waiting for life to happen, enjoying simulations of happiness; I want to feel the real thing, and I won't unless I am willing to dine on the life I have been given.

God doesn't always give us what we want, but He ALWAYS gives us what we need...HIM!

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. - John 10:10 B

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

I Muffed It

I muffed it.  Please don't tell me I didn't because I did.  And now I have to deal with that.

I was singing for dear friends as they renewed their vows.  And I forgot the words.  Not emotion, not nervousness.  I muffed it.

Then I came off the stage and my teenager decided that was the time for some "constructive" criticism. 

My first thought was, "I miss Keith."  Weddings are hard enough, but without my biggest fan there when I sing, it almost seems more trouble than it's worth.

Perhaps if Keith was here, it would not have happened the way it did.  If he was still here, I would not be in this over-committed position.  He was so good at knowing my limits, and he was good at telling me, in a loving way, when I had reached them.  He caught me most of the time before I was over-committed and stressed and muffed things.  That is one of the things I miss most.

It is harder to hear from God.  It is harder to have my ears attuned to the Heavenly voice of my Father and the Lover of my soul.  It shouldn't be, but it is.  I take back my life, feeling like I am in control and in charge and can handle adding one more thing.  I feel like Super-Woman! 

Then I fail.  I feel like dirt on the back of a flea.  I don't forgive myself easily.

Why is it that forgiving yourself is so hard?  Why do I hold myself to standards that even the Lord does not hold me to?  He knows I am not perfect.  He knows that I will continue to sin, continue to be human.  He made me that way. 

Why?  Why did He make me so frail, so prone to fail?  So prone to overstep, over-commit?

One of my favorite lines in the movie "Facing the Giants" ( comes from the young kicker, David, who asks why God made him so small and weak.  His father answers that then He can show how mighty He is.  Maybe that is why.

Maybe it is to keep me humble and close to Him.

Maybe it is to give me a gentle nudge, since Keith is not here, that it is time to slow down, that I have taken on too much.

Maybe it is to show me just how much He loves me.

I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have continued to extend faithful love to you.  Again I will build you so that you will be rebuilt, Virgin Israel. You will take up your tambourines again and go out in joyful dancing.-Jeremiah 31:3b-4