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Letting Go Of Those Expectations


Photo credit: Google

 

The year 2014 has taught me to let go of expectations and just accept what is,

That has proven to be extremely liberating.

I had high expectations about many things going into this year. However, practically nothing happened as I envisioned it would.

In fact, a lot of things went wrong.

There was injustice and frustration.

My heart was broken and there were many tears and some sleepless nights.

Life was mysterious to me in a way it had never been before. There was so much I just didn’t understand.

Eventually, I gave up my need to understand, as well as trying to manage all my expectations and just decided to embrace what was.

I embraced it all: the good, the bad, and the ugly.  In the proces of doing that, the expectations died a natural death.

I began to count my blessings in the midst of the mess. I simply lived each day as it unfolded.

I chose to trust my heavenly Father’s heart, which is the safest thing we can do, as we have His promise that He can only do good to us and His specialty is turning ashes into beauty.

Life is lighter, even though troubles still exist and many questions remain unanswered.

As I approach a new year, I am not going to let my mind race  ahead about how things might go. I will accept what comes and trust that He will supply the grace needed for life in 2015.

Besides…His reality is much better than any expectations I could possibly have.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Power of Moments


 

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“Moments are strung together…carefully woven into the tapestry of life.”—Matt Knisely

I recently experienced two powerful moments that have deeply impacted me.

They happened within the same week and I wanted to record them in the hopes that they might serve to light a fire in your heart and wake up something that is asleep in your soul.

*****The first moment concerned my mother. She has lived with us since 2012 and it has been a joy to have her here.

I am not speaking out of line when I tell you that she suffers from severe clinical depression. (She is very open about that fact because she is passionate about making sure that people do not feel shame for taking medication that is necessary to live a rich and productive life).

It alarmed all of us when she suddenly seemed to begin to disappear into herself about a week ago. She became withdrawn, slept quite a bit, looked pale and did not have much to say. An appointment was made with her doctor to address the issue.

The night before she was to see the doctor, we all gathered for dinner around our big table. My husband had grilled some steaks, which is her very favorite food.

(Quick side story: This is a running joke in our family. On the way home from Disney World one year, we stopped at an Outback Steakhouse. Everyone was famished  and my mom ordered the filet. Once it was served to her, she proceeded to make a string of noises that signified her absolute delight in the deliciousness she was experiencing. This  prompted my brother to ask, “Would you like to be alone with your steak?” 🙂 To this day, we tease her about that. The woman loves her steak!).

However, this night was a different story. She exhibited no enthusiasm and ate very little, leaving most of the meat on her plate before going to bed. She did not join in on any of the conversation that swirled all around her.

At one point, our eyes met across the table and there was just nothing there. No sparkle, no joy, just a blank look. The moment passed when she looked away and picked up a piece of bread.

A lump formed in my throat, my eyes burned with tears, and my heart pounded.

“What if she doesn’t come back?” my mind screamed. “She HAS to! I have wasted too many days!”

Too many days when I have been too busy or too tired or too stressed or too distracted to spend time with her, to share a story or a laugh, to take a drive, to cook a meal.

I have been given this time with my one and only mother as a gift! How can I sleepwalk through that?! How can I treat that so lightly?!

I needed to WAKE UP!

And I have. I am delighted to report that the new medication is working and Mom has come back to us!

As I write this blog post, she is happily entertaining fellow widows from our church. It was such a huge joy for me to see her busily setting up the table with her favorite china and teacups earlier today. The sun shone on all the Thanksgiving decorations she has displayed and the lemon cake was proudly displayed on a decorative cake plate.

Mom has a tremendous gift for hospitality and entertaining and it truly is a joy to behold when she shares that gift with others.

I am so incredibly grateful to have her back with us and I am done taking these days which are sheer gift for granted.

Look around your life. Who are you tending to take for granted? Time with our loved ones is a gift. Don’t squander it. Be intentional. Pay attention. Make the effort. Tell them why you love them. Celebrate the moments. This time will not come again.

*****The second powerful moment occurred two nights ago when Mom told me about a conversation she had had with an old friend. This lady had always dreamed about being a writer. She published a few articles in Guideposts, but her big dream was to write a novel. She had joined writer’s groups, and done lots of research on her novel, even went so far as to interview various people on the subject.

But she never did write that book.

And now she is at the end of her life, living in a nursing home and she knows that that dream will never become a reality.

I felt like a bucket of ice cold water had been dumped over me in that moment.

I have a couple of very specific dreams for my life.

I will be 50 years old in a few months.

Have I made some progress to making those dreams a reality? Yes, I have.

However, once again, I was confronted with how much time I have wasted on the non-essentials, acting like I have all the time in the world.

I don’t. And neither do you.

I don’t want to be at the end of my life in a nursing home and have to live with the knowledge that I never achieved my dreams during my short run on this planet.

We ALL have a story to tell. We all have a God-given talent to share with this world. We all have a unique voice. We all have a passion. We all are His masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10).

I ask you today: What steps are you taking toward your dream? Do you even know what your dream is? If not, it’s time to find out.

Do not let the days go by in a blur. Stop just thinking about your dream and start moving toward it. Set manageable goals. Challenge yourself. Don’t let fear hold you back and steal your dream away from you. What do you have to lose?

This is your chance and today is your day! 

If you are what you should be, you will set the world on fire.”—Catherine of Siena

Poet Mary Oliver closes her poem The Summer Day with a question that is also the perfect ending for this post:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”

 

 

 

 

 

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A Teary Sunday Night


Photo credit: cincinnati.com

There is a nor’easter blowing outside our windows tonight. Winter is making an unwelcome early entrance.

In light of the weather, I am watching Christmas movies on the Hallmark channel. Hearing all that Christmas music has brought back so many wonderful memories of years gone by and I am already looking forward to  all the joy that season brings.

Just a short while ago, I was trading texts with our son Josh, who is a freshman in college. Through my husband’s best friend Mike, he was able to meet the former poet laureate of Pennsylvania this afternoon. He was incredibly inspired and excited.

I loved his Facebook status: “Had a very enlightening meeting with the former Pennsylvania poet laureate this afternoon. I felt absolutely illiterate and underdeveloped as an artist but all I want to do now is work my hardest and achieve whatever  potential I’ve been afforded. I’m excited for the future—feeling determined.” 

This was my happy frame of mind when a headline on Facebook caught my eye.

Lauren Hill Plays First (And Last?) Game.”

Intrigued, I clicked on the story.

And the tears came in torrents. We are talking the ugly cry here.

Lauren Hill is a college freshman, the same age as my son.

She got a basketball scholarship to a college in Ohio and her future looked bright.And then she was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor and was given only a few months to live.

Now that bright future is clouded with much uncertainty and unbearable sadness.

But Lauren is a fighter; indeed, she refers to herself as a “warrior.” With the help of her parents and coaches, the college agreed to move the first game up by two weeks so she could be well enough to play.

I could not escape the irony as I read that article. (Here is the link).

I had just been getting caught up in the excitement of discussing my son’s dreams with him and now I was reading about a girl his age whose future consists of days rather than years.

I found myself thinking of her parents. I simply cannot imagine what it is like to live in their shoes.

The entire family is focused simply on the present moment, taking nothing for granted.

How many times do I need to be reminded of this?

That tomorrow is not promised?

That my very good God has spread a feast of blessings out for me and how can I sometimes be so blind as to not see?

Oh, this life can be so heartbreaking sometimes. Always mixed in with the beauty is the ugly. A heart this is filled with happiness one moment can be broken in two with pain the next.

We are never so wise as when we open our eyes, stand up, and face life just as it is, living within the tension of “the ugly-beautiful” as Ann Voskamp calls it. Life will never be perfect. The brave accept that and determine to make their lives a treasure hunt, a quest to discover the echoes of Heaven that shimmer and shine in the midst of this dark and fallen earth.

The author of the article on Lauren Hill shared that, “She doesn’t know how tomorrow will go, so she rarely allows her mind to wander too many hours ahead.” (Alyssa Roeinjk).

Wherever you are today, whatever your circumstances, adopt Lauren’s attitude.

Live and love today.

This day spreads out before you like a gift.

Open it. Live it. Face it head on. Celebrate what you can. Pray about what you cannot understand. Laugh. Count your blessings. Make the decision to be fully present. Don’t miss a thing. Be thankful.

Whatever you do, don’t waste it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On The Road Again


My husband, daughter and I just returned from a 3 day whirlwind trip to the Washington, DC area to tour colleges.

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Here are a few things I have learned as a result of those days:

1) Never, never, never travel through NYC and try to cross the George Washington bridge at rush hour. Those drivers are crazy! Add in an ambulance with sirens blaring trying to get through the gridlock and I nearly had a heart attack on the spot. I specifically recall thinking, “So this is where it all ends” as my life passed before my eyes.

I marveled as my husband remained calm, cool, and collected as he  skillfully navigated the madness. He is definitely someone you want to have around when a crisis hits.

Me, not so much.

2). Washington, DC is a beautiful city.

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I was surprised by how safe we felt walking around the city at night. We were surrounded by families, student groups, fitness enthusiasts, tourists, and guided tours.

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3). It is the perfect city for our daughter, who is passionate about political science and history.

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The last time we were there in 2004, she was only 6 years old. She was very excited to see the monument of her favorite president, Abraham Lincoln. She hurried to the area where the Gettysburg Address is carved into the wall. She took a seat on the floor and there she sat, cross-legged, and began to read. When she was done, her dad sat down to join her and they had a good, long talk about Lincoln.

I absolutely love this photo.

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Fast forward ten years and here they are in the same place…

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DC 2-0145I always get choked up every time I see this monument to such a great man.

Our next stop was to visit the Vietnam and Korean War memorials. My dad was a veteran in the Korean War (Air Force). The statues looked particularly ghostly at night.

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DC 2-01654). Old friends are such a treasure!

This is my dear friend N.

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Twenty-five years ago, we worked together as temps at a computer company for the summer. (Which also happened to be the same place that I met my husband!). We bonded so much that she was a bridesmaid in my wedding and we have kept in touch all these years. It had been twelve years since we had last seen each other, but we literally picked up right where we left off. We talked non-stop, commiserated over our role as parents, laughed a lot and reminisced.

It was a joy to have N. meet my daughter, who told me she felt like she was “meeting a celebrity”, as she has heard so much about N over the years.

5). I never want to take another college tour again.

We visited 4 colleges in two days.

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DC 3-0065The last college we visited was George Mason University.

Who is George Mason you ask?

I had no idea either.

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I felt better when our tour guide called him “the forgotten founding father.”

Turn out that he was one of the signers of the Constitution. He pushed for the Bill Of Rights, which George Washington didn’t care for, so they had a major falling out. In fact, this statue of George Mason faces away from DC, to illustrate the animosity that Mason felt for Washington.

After taking all the tours, Julia eliminated two and will apply to two.

I already feel weepy thinking about the moment when we will drop her off at college and drive away.

6). I loved the family time we had. It was a gift.

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Time is moving so fast, like water running through my fingers.  I am trying to enjoy the moments and concentrate on what is truly important.

Right after I snapped this photo of my daughter, these lines from a famous children’s book (one that I read often to both my kids) came to mind:

I’ll love you
forever
I’ll like you
for always,
As long as I’m living
My baby you’ll be.
—Robert Munsch

DC 3-0048I love you Julia and I am so proud of you!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Open Letter To A Teenage Girl


Photo credit: Google

Dear One,

I overheard you say, “Boys don’t like me.”

I am writing this open letter in the hopes that you will one day see it.

Granted, I am nearly half a century old, far removed from the angst of the teenage years. You may wonder what I could possibly have to say that would be helpful to you. 

I have the wisdom that comes with age and the clear eyesight that experience gives. I see life in a way that you cannot see at this point. 

So here goes…

The truth is, most high school boys have no idea what to do with you. 

***You are a young woman of substance.

You are passionately engaged with the world around you.  You are well aware of the serious issues at work in our world today. More than that, you intend to do something about it. You know deep down that you have the passion, the intelligence, the drive, to make a difference in this world. 

And you will. 

You have big dreams that reach far beyond this sleepy old town. This little town in this little state will never contain you. 

***You respect yourself and and insist that others do the same. 

You will not allow a young man to use your body to satisfy his own self-centered lust. That is good and right.

You must insist that any boy who is interested in you get to know your heart and your mind because you are more than the sum total of your body parts.

If he does not show a willingness to do this, he is not worthy of your time…and he certainly does not deserve access to your heart. 

Frankly, most teenage boys do not have the maturity to appreciate this. (Of course there are always exceptions). They are driven primarily by hormones at this age and the cold hard truth is that most teenage boys will be drawn to girls who make themselves easily available for sex. They are not interested in their minds, their feelings, their hopes and dreams. They are after one thing: their bodies. 

This is NOT the type of boy you want.

You may think you do. You see these boys with those girls and you wish that you could be part of a couple because it all looks so glamorous and fun. But things are not always what they seem.

I have heard you mention girls in these seemingly happy relationships who have been blindsided by the boy’s callous disregard for them when they break things off via text or an abrupt phone call. You have seen the bewilderment, the hurt, the devastation. These girls had given their bodies to these boys and were now tossed aside like yesterday’s news. It is a tragedy. They may have been in “relationships” but they were never truly seen, never truly respected, never truly known. What a lonely and sad place to be in. 

You want more than that. In fact, you demand it. You are not someone to be used; you are a person who is fearfully and wonderfully made by your Creator and you deserve to be cherished and adored.

So hold fast to your standards. Expect to be treated with dignity and honor.

 Show compassion for those girls who have bought the lie that in order to be liked, to be validated, to be wanted they must grant access to their bodies to those who do not have their best interests at heart. They don’t know that they are too precious to give themselves away so cheaply. Tell them that there is another way.  

***You do not suffer fools. 

You can spot a phony a mile away. You realize that talk is cheap and your head is not turned by pretty words. You are not afraid to call a spade a spade. 

Anyone looking for an easy  target can move right along. 

You have been given a voice and you intend to use it to boldly state what you believe in and why. You are not easily intimidated.

You have been given a sharp mind and you have no interest in hiding that fact. 

Trust should never be given before it is earned. Do not take anything at face value. Never stop asking questions. 

***You have the strength to face life head on.  

You do not need to blunt the hard edges of life with alcohol or drugs. You do not need to fuel your body with foreign substances to have a good time. You have a sunny spirit and a strong faith that will serve you well when the hard times hit.

Life is hard. Only the brave can look adversity right in the face and keep moving forward.

You are brave.

**********

I will leave you with this: it’s a huge world out there.

Life is so much bigger than high school.

There is going to come a day when you meet a young man who sees the special girl that you are and you will totally enchant him. The silly boys of high school will be a distant memory. 

You will not intimidate him; you will inspire him.

Your strength of character will be something to admire.

Your joy and your light will blaze brightly in this dark world and you will be a blessing to all who know you. 

With the unique gifts that you have been given, you will make your mark on this world. 

You, dear one, are a remarkable young lady. 

Believe it. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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No Church Ladies Here


Credit: Google Images

I had lunch with a new friend yesterday.

She and her family recently started attending our church and we are just in the early stages of getting to know each other.

At one point, she lowered her voice and her eyes and said, “I feel like a hypocrite walking into that church sometimes.”

When I asked why, she said, “Everybody there is so good. And I’m not.”

Oh honey. That is so NOT true!

Our pastor from our Florida days,  the incredibly gifted Tullian Tchvidjiian (here is a link to his sermons. Do yourself a favor and go watch some of them. His sermon series on the book of Romans was life-changing!), has taught me more than any other teacher about the miracle and wonder of God’s breathtaking and scandalous grace. 

Here are some of my favorite quotes from him on this subject:

God only saves bad people because bad people are all that there are.”

I know one thing: I am a great sinner and Jesus is a great Savior.”

“God’s message to the worn out and weary is this: ‘God’s demand: Be righteous.
God’s Diagnosis: No one is righteous.
God’s deliverance: Jesus is our righteousness.”

Once this good news grips your heart, it changes everything. It frees you from having to be perfect. It frees you from having to hold it all together. 

Because Jesus was strong for you, you’re free to be weak.
Because Jesus won for you, you’re free to lose.
Because Jesus was Someone, you’re free to be no one.
Because Jesus was extraordinary, you’re free to be ordinary.
Because Jesus succeeded for you, you’re free to fail.

“Grace is unconditional acceptance given to an undeserving person by an unobligated giver. It is one way love.”

Grace is love that seeks you out when you have nothing to give in return.”

Jesus came to liberate us from the weight of having to make it on our own, from the demand to measure up. He came to emancipate us from the burden to get it all right, from the obligation to fix ourselves, find ourselves, and free ourselves. Jesus came to release us from the slavish need to be regarded, right, rewarded, and respected. Because Jesus came to set the captives free, life does not have to be a tireless effort to establish ourselves, justify ourselves and validate ourselves.”

When you read those words, do you sense the wind of freedom blowing into your life?!

For so many years, I lived as if all of this Christian life depended on me. I constantly felt the need to do more, to try harder, to perform, to pretend to be be something I wasn’t. And in the end, it left me feeling empty and hypocritical.

But then Jesus opened my eyes to the freeing fact of His incredible grace and I have never been the same!

He has done for me what I could never do for myself. My identity is no longer in external things: the size of my bank account, my looks, my possessions, my career. Rather my identity is in who I am in in Him.  Among other things, I am unconditionally loved, fully forgiven, chosen, beloved, free. That makes all the difference.

 I am no longer bound to “shoulds” and “oughts.”

I have made the choice to accept the free gift of grace that He offered me at the cross. (I just read a fabulous quote about what Jesus did at the cross for us from author Mark Batterson: “Jesus said, ‘I’ll take the blame for everything you did wrong and give you the credit for everything I did right.”). 

Grace is a free gift to us but it cost Jesus everything He had to be able to give it to us. 

When you live in the light of that kind of love, your life is filled with a joy that circumstances cannot touch and a liberating freedom that no one can take away. 

I had no interest in playing the role of Church Lady with my new friend during our lunch. I was very honest about the fact that I am as much of a mess as anybody else. I have my own baggage and struggles and trials and heartaches. I told her that every single person she sees in church on Sunday morning is dealing with their own stuff. (As Tullian likes to say, we are all train wrecks in our own way).

 There is not one person who would willingly volunteer to have all their inmost thoughts displayed up on the screen for everyone to see. None of us are perfect. That’s why we need a Savior who is perfect on our behalf. 

We are all broken people living together in a broken world.

Years ago, I may have wanted to leave her with the impression that I had it all together. That is the last thing that I would ever do now. I described how I used to be. She expressed amazement and proceeded to rattle off a list of lovely words that she would use to describe me now.

I smiled wide and said honestly, “If any of those things are true, that is Jesus who you are seeing. That shows you the difference He has made in my life. I’m not the same person that I was anymore. You can’t walk with Him and stay the same.  In fact, to quote Patsy Clairmont, ‘Without Jesus, I’m not even nice!!'” 🙂

Very true.

The last thing my new friend needed was to leave that restaurant thinking how great Susan is. 

She needed to walk out of there thinking, “Wow, Susan is a mess. Susan is broken. But Jesus has met her right there in that brokenness and He is making her whole. He is giving her beauty for ashes. He is bringing redemption and restoration to a life that desperately needs it. He is taking a rebel and transforming her into someone who loves like He does.”

 She needed to leave that place marveling over the fact that it is the beauty of His grace alone  that has the power to set her free. 

Give that same gift to those who come across your path today.

Show them Jesus.

His love for us does not depend on our loveliness. It goes one way. As far as our sin may extend, the grace of our Father extends further.”

(All quotes taken from Tullian’s book One Way Love: Inexhaustable Grace For An Exhasuted World. I highly recommend this book).

 

 

 

 

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Why Not?


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Recently, my friend Janet suggested that I read a book called Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. It is the first in a wildly popular series that is a unique combination of history, romance, intrigue, adventure, and even some science fiction (in the form of time travel).

I loved it.

I finished the 640 page  novel in two weeks and am already into the second book in the series.

I was intrigued by the author, so I checked out her YouTube channel and listened as she talked about her writing process. She shared that she had always wanted to write a novel since she was 8 years old.

Several years later, she just decided to begin. The time was hardly ideal: her husband had just started a new business, she had a full time job as a college professor, and her children were small.

She seized the one time of day where she had time and  quiet (which happened to be 12-4 in the morning) and she started to write with only a vague idea of a character. She had no expectation that anyone would ever see this work, but she was willing to try.

What I loved most about that story was that she did it!

She just didn’t talk about it; she just didn’t  think about it. She certainly didn’t wait for the perfect time to begin (is there really such a thing? I think not).

She simply took the first step toward her dream.

I find that so inspiring!

That day was different from all the rest because she took action…and that was the first day of the rest of her life. Eight books later, she is successful beyond her wildest imaginations.

But that isn’t truly the point.

The point is that she wasn’t afraid to attempt her dream.

We only get one turn on this planet.

What is your dream?

Will you let one more day go by without taking a step toward living it?

What do you have to lose?

Nobody else has your vision, your experiences, your unique way of seeing this world. If you don’t release what is on the inside, we will all miss out.  You have a creative voice! Decide to use it.

Try.

So what if it isn’t perfect? If you wait for perfection, you will never begin. Trust me, you will learn something valuable from every attempt.

Let no one else define you. Be who you are. You have been created in the image of God. In fact, He declares you to be His masterpiece. (Ephesians 2:10).

Don’t get to the end of your life and be filled with regret for never chasing your dream.

Make the decision to take one step toward your dream today.

Who knows where that first step will lead you?!

“Don’t die with the music still in you.”—Wayne Dyer

 

 

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Releasing Expectations


 

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This past weekend, I joined a friend and her daughter on a trek to my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA.

My friend’s daughter had been accepted at the prestigious Carnegie Mellon University summer theater group. They had never been to Pittsburgh before so I offered to go along to show them the way. (There is no rhyme or reason to the streets in Pittsburgh and it can be quite daunting to navigate).

My expectations were that we would travel as my family travels when we drive to Pittsburgh.

Knowing what a long drive it is, we focus with laser-like intensity on one goal: getting there. We make as little stops as possible. If we stop to eat, it is strictly fast food. Sometimes we don’t even bother to get out of the car. We just go through the drive-thru and eat in the car as we whiz down the highway.

(There are also some in my family…perhaps someone who is writing this blog…who sometimes tends to take the speed limits as suggestions and perhaps occasionally may go a tad faster than the posted signs allow).

That isn’t what happened on this trip.

The pace was leisurely, unhurried. Every meal was at a sit-down restaurant. There was a visit with another family. There were sightseeing and photo opportunities. And the speed limit was observed rigorously.

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It was really quite lovely and I enjoyed it a lot.

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However, at first, I was extremely freaked out.

My thoughts went along these lines: ” What are we doing?! We have such a long drive ahead of us! We don’t have time for this!!!” 

I texted my husband about the latest turn of events and this was his response: “Look at it as a chance to practice not being in control.”

Not exactly what a Type A person wants to hear.

But it was exactly what I needed to hear.

As we meandered along the highways and byways of Pennsylvania, I thought a lot about expectations. Expectations have a unique power to cause tension in relationships, sour an attitude, ruin a situation, and create unrest and unease. Expectations can choke joy.

How tightly do you hold onto your expectations? How willing are you to let them go…and perhaps discover a detour that delights your soul?

A wonderful gift may not be wrapped as you expect.”—Jonathan Lockwood Huie. 

There is a time in all our lives when we have just sit back and enjoy the ride.

The truth is, the ONLY thing that we can control is our own attitudes.

I was not in the driver’s seat during this trip. I was strictly a passenger. So, I accepted my role…and immediately relaxed. I was along for the ride and I intended to enjoy the journey.

Even when we got to  the hotel in the middle of the city after midnight. Did I mention that there was a water main break, which did not allow us to shower?

Good times. 🙂

 

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Present And Thankful


Be present in all things and thankful for all things.”—Maya Angelou

 

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I have written many times on this blog about my deep love of Ann Voskamp’s book 1000 Gifts.

Counting the gifts that I am blessed with everyday has revolutionized my life and multiplied my joy. It has caused me to be awake to my life, to recognize the beauty of the moments before they pass away forever.

I was given a wonderful gift this evening, one that I will long remember.

Today was my son’s last day of high school. He celebrated by hiking up a mountain with some friends.

Meanwhile, my daughter and I went to see the movie The Fault In Our Stars. We both loved the book and in one of life’s most satisfying moments, the movie was just as good as the book.  The casting was perfect. There were plenty of laughter and tears. It was brilliant.

We pulled into the driveway at the exact same time as my son, who was just returning from his hike.

He made several trips into the kitchen with the contents of his locker, as well as his instruments that he had kept in the band room. My kitchen counters were littered with the assorted and random stuff that makes up an entire school year.

Then he walked in with a tall wooden chair that swiveled all the way around. He put it down in the corner of the kitchen. Turns out that one of his favorite teachers was getting rid of it and granted his request to take it home with him. Apparently, it is also going to college with him in the fall. 🙂

I took a seat on it and spun around a few times. And that’s where I stayed for the next 45 minutes as I talked with my kids.

My mom was at prayer meeting and Doug was at a business dinner. It was just the three of us.

They each sat on top of the kitchen counters while I spun. We talked and we laughed. They joked with each other. Josh showed us a book that his favorite English teacher had given to him. They discussed their favorite poets (Maya Angelou and Robert Frost). Josh read some of the things his fellow classmates had written in his yearbook. He expressed delight that nearly everyone said that he was one of the funniest people they have ever met. The talk turned to the upcoming graduation and subsequent parties we were all invited to.  Josh made fresh lemonade and we all nibbled on jellybeans.

And I paid attention. 

I was simultaneously participating in the conversation and savoring the moment, knowing that times like these will be fewer and fewer in the days ahead.

I gave thanks for all the years of homeschooling, when it was just the three of us during the day, sharing learning and adventures. Those days, while some of them were very difficult and trying, were such a gift.

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I see that so clearly now. I didn’t always, then.

It ended all too soon. The kids went their separate ways and the downstairs got quiet.

And my heart was full as I watched the sky open up and pour down rain.

 

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Ministry In Aisle 7


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If you are a Christ follower, did you know that you are a missionary?

Missionaries are not limited to those who live in foreign lands in order to share the gospel. You are a missionary right in your own town.

I was reminded of this last night.

My husband and I ran into the local grocery store last night in response to our daughter’s text informing us of her urgent need for shampoo and conditioner. And as we turned the corner, there was a fellow parent from our son’s senior class.

She was widowed at the start of the school year. We had walked with her through the dark days of her husband’s diagnosis, his grueling and heartbreaking treatment, death, and funeral. Many tears were shed and sometimes when there were no words, we were able to give the gift of our presence. Our sons are both very actively involved in school activities so our paths have crossed often.

It can be so hard to know what to do in situations like this. Everyone responds to grief and stress differently.

So I did what I could.

I picked up my camera and took photos of her son at every school event that his dad was too weak to attend so that he could see what he had missed and feel like he was there.

When he was well enough to attend things, I took photos of him with his wife and his son. I snapped the last photo of him before his death: standing by the lake in the bright late May sunshine, proudly  wearing his hat that represented his 20 years of service in the Navy. After I clicked the shutter, I pretended to examine my camera so he wouldn’t see the tears in my eyes.

I offered to take walks with her and we covered a lot of territory in this small town.

One afternoon, I had been at the grocery store and drove all the way home before I realized that I had forgotten something. I admit that I was irritated as I ran into the store, bought the one item and rushed into the parking lot. It was cold and it was getting dark and I was anxious to get home.

This friend was just pulling into the parking lot next to my car. I could see that she had been crying, having had to escape her sad home where death was stalking her family, if even for a little while.

I knew then that this was a divine appointment.  We must have stayed in that parking lot for an hour that night. She poured out her pain and her questions and I listened.

I invited her to church. She politely declined the invitation.  I shared the hope of the gospel. She was not interested. I told her that I pray for her daily. She thanked me. We invited her and her son over for a family dinner at Christmastime and she was brave enough to try my cooking and lived to tell the tale. 🙂

In this, her son’s senior year of high school, she has shown up to every event, every awards ceremony, every band concert alone. We have arrived early to save seats, greeted her with a friendly wave and a smile, and rejoiced with her at her son’s many achievements and successes. I have continued to take photos, documenting her son’s senior year for her.

And last night, my husband and I stood in the shampoo aisle for nearly an hour as we talked and laughed and she & I predicted that we would be sobbing messes on graduation day next week. We agreed to do a lot more walking in the never-ending quest to be healthy forty-somethings.

On the way out of the store, we see one of my daughter’s classmates at the end of our aisle, cheerfully bagging our groceries. This girl lost her mama at the beginning of the school year. She has been to our home, eaten at our  table. There is never any mention of a father. So, I pick up my camera and I document her events and post them to her Facebook page since her mama isn’t here to do it. I ask her about her summer plans and encourage her as she gets ready to embark on a new adventure. We leave her with a smile.

Ministry can absolutely happen at the local grocery store.

This morning, I logged onto Facebook and saw that my friend  had written on my wall, thanking Doug and me for being “little bits of sunshine in my day whenever I see them.”

I felt led to share all of this to remind anyone who reads it that we are all missionaries. We all have a ministry.

As you can see, I did not do anything extraordinary here. I listened. I walked, I took pictures. I cooked a meal. I prayed. I shared the gospel when He led me to do so.

You can do the same.

All Jesus asks us to do is show up. To be available. To use what we have to bless others. God has gifted you with unique talents, experiences, and abilities. It is no accident that you live in the town you do and know the people you know. He is at work all the time.

There is so much need out there. There is so much pain and brokenness.

We are all broken somehow and we need each other.

In today’s Jesus Calling, Sarah Young writes: “Look at other people through the lens of Love; see them from My perspective…be radiant with the Light of My Presence.” (p. 168).

This world is a dark place. We know the One who is the Light of the world. Love people right where they are. Do what you can and leave the results to Him.

Shine for Him right where you are.

“…Get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God has called you to travel…Say only what helps, each word a gift…Keep company with (Jesus) and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of Himself to us. Love like that…Make the most of every chance you get…Forget yourself long enough to lend  helping hand…Do everything readily and cheerfully! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society: Provide people with a glimpse of the living God. Carry the light-giving message into the night.” (excerpts from Ephesians and Philippians, The Message version). 

This is the rich, blessed life.

 

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