Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Supernatural Expectations

(I wrote this while away last week.  The time I was given was a gift in every sense of the word.  I am glad I waited to post it because, now, I am back to reality with home, dog hair, kids, alarm clocks, school, meals, laundry, and a real calendar to keep.  My "beach thoughts" below were given to me for my "reality", but they seem much more challenging now that my feet are on the pavement and not in the sand.)

When my husband begins the monthly new member’s class at our church, one of the questions he always asks the strangers in the room is, “Without travel, money or time limitations, what would you choose to do on your day off?”  My answer is the same every time and by no right of mine, here I am.  I am at the beach with a bag of books by my side free to sit, to read, to listen, to think.  But there is more than I can still and capture in my mind, but I must or I will forget.  I just don’t know which thought to seize first and then, once in hand, how to hem it in with letters and punctuation.  As the waves crash into the surf with unrelenting power, my thoughts dart about like these little ghost crabs too close to my feet- in every direction.  Eventually, if time proves the thoughts are worth anything, they will be caught on the paper freeing them from my forgetful mind.
Before heading down to the beach yesterday, I “shopped” for a book on my friend’s bedside bookshelf.  I didn’t need another book.  I brought plenty, but my friend who is so generous with her beautiful seaside retreat is an avid reader of Christ-centered books not necessarily on the best seller list at LifeWay or Mardel.  My finger tips lingered atop a teeny book on a subject that draws me in often- The Fruit of the Spirit by Evelyn Underhill.  Of course, in my mainstream reading, I had never heard of Mrs. Underhill but my interest was pricked even more when I read she was a female Christian mystic-- like a Brennan Manning-- but PRE-World War II.  The 3x5 book didn’t burden my book bag and for the rest of the afternoon and early evening, I had a a great visit with this quiet, simple yet scholarly lady.
Tranquility.  For me, there is no more tranquil, more peaceful setting than the big wide ocean. Every summer when I return and finally sink into my chair to face the unique monstrosity of water, I say, whether there is someone with me or not, “There’s nothing like this.  This cannot be simulated. Thank You, Jesus.”  I sit and feel very, very wonderfully small.   And peaceful.  And quiet.  And simple.  And unhurried.  Yesterday, I read,  “[God] works in tranquility and tranquility seldom goes into partnership with speed.”  This is not Scripture, I know, but someone’s idea and I think she was onto something.  
Nothing can shatter a lovely morning more completely than being rushed about.  Nothing can raise the stress level in our home more efficiently than being hurried out the door.  “Tranquility seldom goes into partnership with speed.”  I like speed.  I like to do things fast.  I like to do our/my stuff until the last possible minute and then race on to the next thing.  If we do things fast, that means we can get more done so we can play more or nap more or read more or write more.  Right?  But at what cost?  Almost always, it costs our home and the people in it, tranquility.  Peace cannot catch up with fast moving people who have no time to think of anything but the task at hand and how quickly they can get to the next one. Over the years, coming to my own defense, I have called this frame of mind “task mode”.  Hmmm.....  No one likes it.  That should have been my first clue.  I could “hide” in task mode-- seemingly oblivious to all who surrounded me or needed me.  The "oblivion" should have been my second clue.  I am a wife and a mother.  Thankfully, I am needed. 
Longsuffering.  She begins with Christ’s dealings with Peter.  We see beautiful acts of patience.  Peter made me think of my children.  Peter had been taught by Jesus Himself and lived life with Him.  Christ poured His heart out in ministry to Peter for three years.  And Peter failed-- again and again.  Just like my children.  Just like me.  Jesus responded to Peter with patience-- a long-suffering love.  Mrs. Underhill says, “Christ shines------ but Peter is transformed.”  Could Julia and Brighton be transformed if I were more patient with them?  If I didn't rush them about?  If I overlooked their mistakes at times to see the bigger picture of who God is making them to be instead of who I think they should be?   If I were to respond with a long-suffering love instead of words like "how many times do we need to go over this?"?  And in turn, would this create a more peaceful, tranquil environment in my home?  Could my children or my husband feel a difference?  
“Here is a standard set for us in our dealings with the faulty.  The fruit of the Spirit is never rigorism but always long-suffering.  No startling high standard.  No all or nothing demands.  But gentleness and tolerance in spiritual, moral, emotional, intellectual judgements and claims.  No hurry and no exactingness.  That is not easy when we are keen, and see the work we love imperilled by someone else’s fault.  But God, says St. Paul, is a God of patience. He works in tranquility and tranquility seldom goes into partnership with speed.  God breaks few records but He always arrives in the end.  One of the best things we can do for our souls is to wait and one of the worst things is to force the issue.  God lets the plant grow at its own pace.  That is why He can bring forth supernatural beauty in and through imperfect instruments.”  
Unfortunately, for some of us, words like rigorism, high standards, demands, hurrying come to mind when we think of our home life.  Instead of waiting on God to bring forth fruit in our children, we try to “force the issue” through some of those not-so-warm characteristics of our homes.  Yuck.  Do I not believe that God is the One who is in control of that?  I have a new question, a new prayer after reading this little book.  I want to learn how to set expectations that don’t tempt me to sacrifice tranquility in our home or usurp the role of God in my children's lives.  There have to be expectations- practical and moral,  but they become demanding and forcible when they are mine and not His.  They are burdensome and irritating when I implement them without a long-suffering love that God extends to me EVERY moment of the day.  
I want to be the imperfect instrument who He uses to “bring forth supernatural beauty” in my family.  

Saturday, September 25, 2010

My 40th List




My Jeff affectionately called it “The 40 Days of 40”.  On August 7th, his carefully planned operation began.  For forty days, my friends and family sent notes or flowers or coffee or emails or left small gifts at my door or better yet, came for a personal visit!  How often does a good friend bring coffee on a Saturday morning and sits in the floor for a chat?  How often do we send notes or emails telling someone how much they mean to us?  How often do we fix up a little sussy just to bless a friend?  I wasn’t prepared for my heart’s reaction to the love expressed to me.  Nor how it would humble me.  All the focus on me was uncomfortable but a couple of friends continually reminded me to “receive it” and so I did.  I am full.  Full to bursting.  
My birthday has come and gone and the last of the celebration plans has come to an end.  Here is the list of things that I don’t want to forget:
My husband’s anticipation of all his scheming and planning
40 days of having love expressed in so many different ways
The party which theme I did not know until I walked up to it (Moonlight Serenade-- the 1940’s)
Being completely celebrated by Jeff and realizing his love for me makes me a different person
My mentor and dear friend, Denise flying in for a couple of days AND the party
Communicating my heart to special friends
A Bible with a personal note from my son’s namesake’s wife, Vonette Bright
A big brother’s letter to always treasure
Having the security of Julia about my neck as people “toasted” me at the party

Feeling sick the night before our beach trip
Packing for a week in a carry on
Feeling so badly when I arrived at the beach, I think I laid on the couch and watched Minnesota (????) play football
Thanking God for the power of a Z-pack by Sunday
Conversation that made me think
Reading books by authors I had never heard of before
Guacamole and chips on the beach

Not going to the beach without a handful of Kleenex and using every last one of them-- twice
Heartfelt prayer time
Watching JAWS
Books that surprised me
Closing down the outlet mall in Destin
Being outshopped by two men
Missing my kids
Feeling the need to explain to the FedEx lady I saw in the restroom why I was there in a bathing suit, at noon, on a Wednesday, in September.  I didn’t.
Leaving the beach because I was cold
Writing my first poem
Not being able to leave the Key without a whelk and moon shell
And after yet another grace gift of time alone at the beach, feeling the need and desire to go home




Jeff (and crew) transformed our carport (!!) into a perfect place to have dinner with friends.


Sultan, Jeff's partner in crime at Tarrant NET, and his cute wife, Kandice



Denise flew in from Georgia and stole the 1940's show!  When we texted pictures to her husband, his response was, "Will you marry me?"




Handsome hubbies




  He deserved a thousand kisses more!  Thank you, Jeff.  It was unforgettable!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Gifts

I have been absolutely spoiled by gifts over these days of turning 40.  Jeff has made sure I was celebrated long and hard-- by a host of loved friends and kin.  It's been my most fun birthday ever for many, many reasons-- some of which I cannot put into words.  One gift I received from Christy, a wise friend whom the Lord intertwined our lives in a most unique way, was the intriguing book, A Gift from the Sea by Anne Lindbergh.  My friend, TJ, posted about it yesterday and I will not pretend I could say it any better.  Enjoy.

TJ's Post on Gift From the Sea


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

He Leads Me

It was the spring break of my senior year.  I was 17 and sitting in one of the piano rooms at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary when I first heard this song.  My mentor (one of them) who was also my high school Physics teacher had invited me to fly to Texas with her.  She was a Baylor graduate and wanted me to make the Waco/Fort Worth rounds with her to see some old friends.  Getting to spend a week with one of the people I admired the most, I was out of my mind with excitement.  The whole trip was filled with her pouring her mature faith into my baby one, but that was life with Jill-- wherever you might be.  I remember when she began to play the piano in the small white practice room, my heart stilled.  The words of the hymn "All the Way My Savior Leads Me" were slightly familiar, but the music Jill had written for the song made the prose come alive.  It was spring 1988 and just four years later, she sang it in our wedding.  I hardly ever get to see her now-- this thousand miles between here and Georgia-- but when I do, I do my best to find a piano and ask her to fill the room with music.  
I was 17 that afternoon at Baylor, and now, I am a couple of days from 40.  As I have watched women I love and admire turn 40 (50, 60 and so on) over the years, I do agree- age is a number.  You never FEEL the image you have placed on a certain age.  In raw honesty, we may LOOK it, but we don’t necessarily feel it-- at least at 40 we don’t....... yet.  I have nothing new or fresh to share about aging, but it does make you think, reflect, or maybe just sit in unbelief.  Just like the question we ask from our front row seats of watching our children grow, where did all the time go?  Forty years?  Yow.  For me, in 2010, I need to answer that.  Because, yes, it’s gone, but how remiss I would be not to remember His divine thread woven through these forty years.
All the way my Savior leads me,
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who through life has been my Guide?
Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well;
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well.
No doubt, He has led me all the way. I see His hand, his PERFECT hand, all over the steps of my life.  The implications are enormous.  Too big.  Too intertwined for me to cover in any detail.  Here are the thoughts I am having-- the wonderful parents He gave to me, having the kind of big brother every little sister wants (selective memory comes into play after forty years), the town my parents chose for our family, my home- down to the room my Mom chose for me which fostered my need for solitude, having a "salt of the earth" best friend in high school, my loving church family, my teachers, my schools, my friends, my wise mentors, the college I chose, where I lived, my degree, how I chose to spend my summers which evenutally led me to Jeff, Jeff’s choice of seminary, our move to Texas, the homes God gave us, our neighbors, a church plant in our teensy living room, our different seasons of friends, how He brought our children to us, our churches, Tarrant NET, our decision to homeschool-- some of this was expected, very normal, very safe, but other parts hit us like a kick ball..... in the head ..... from behind.  The key is, though, it was from God’s hand- or foot.  His hand can’t deliver anything other than His best.  In the past, I have argued about it being good, but it didn’t change anything.  It just was.  I learned it’s just best to let it all settle in its new place for awhile and then you begin to see it.  The design--His best and His beauty.  Truly, what have I to ask beside?
All the way my Savior leads me,
Cheers each winding path I tread,
Gives me grace for every trial,
Feeds me with the living Bread.
Though my weary steps may falter
And my soul athirst may be,
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see;
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see.
I don’t think I ever knew any significant “trial” until I learned in my late 20’s I couldn’t get pregnant.  I’ve written plenty about that, but the bottom line is I praise God for it.  I don’t grieve that I’ve never been pregnant.  I grieve the possibility of missing these two..... words fail me here..... “rare and beautiful treasures” I have BECAUSE of my “trial”.  Some trial.  He sustained my weary steps at every turn into the face of pregnant friends and strangers.  He cheered me after every horrific newspaper article about an abandoned baby or some crazed woman who took out her problems on her children.  And at every weak moment of waiting, He fed me with the Living Bread.  Right or wrong, I’ve never been quite as “parched” as I was then and He was FAITHFUL to be “gushing” whenever I was in need of a good soaking.  In January 2002 and in October 2004, I was able to hold in my arms the “spring of joy” He had for me.  From the quote I love so much, sorrows had come to stretch out space for His kind of joy. 

All the way my Savior leads me,
Oh, the fullness of His love!
Perfect rest to me is promised
In my Father’s house above.
When my spirit, clothed immortal,
Wings its flight to realms of day
This my song through endless ages:
Jesus led me all the way;
This my song through endless ages:
Jesus led me all the way
This last verse always causes a little catch in my spirit, which then becomes a catch in my throat.... and I can’t sing it.  And if I remember correctly, neither can Jill.  Unless Jesus comes back, I am sure I will have more to say about this last verse in 40 more years.  How precious and what a comfort.  What a provision for me, this sinful yet redeemed person.  It’s written so beautifully that nothing more can be said except just repeating it, “When my spirit clothed immortal, Wings its flight to realms of day, This my song through endless ages:  JESUS LED ME ALL THE WAY.”  
So be it.




Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Rain

It seems appropriate to record her words today as the heavens seemed to have sprung a leak the last couple of days.  Sometimes we go so long without rain that we forget the lovely sound it creates as it drips upon and pelts our home sweet homes.  There's no better sleeping than under the soakers we've had the last forty-eight hours.  It makes rolling back the covers and putting your feet on the floor an Olympic challenge.  Or is that just me?  So in celebration of rain this morning and its refreshing, glorious sound (and my ability to be upright at the moment)---from my dry chair to wherever you are-- Julia's very eight year old words.

The rain is coming 
down-
 down- 
down-
On roofs, on grass, on roads, on cars.
The rain is coming;  what will we do?
Will we hide or will we stay inside?
Which would you choose?
I hope you decide soon 
because it has 
not 
stopped
raining.