Saturday, November 8, 2014

When our trials don't benefit others

I have this expression that I heard from someone once.  It goes something like this: never waste a good trial.

It's been my life's adventure to continually find the good in the basic trials as well as the ups and downs in life.  Let's be honest here.  Life is filled with big crises, sprinkled with little trials.. stirred in with happy moments and punctuated by great big joys.  It's all snarled in together like a great big green smoothie.

I ordered a green smoothie at the Red Mango yesterday.  I know. I know.. most people get ice-cream there.  I can't eat ice-cream.  It's probably the only reason that I don't weight 800 pounds.  But I digress..

I ordered the smoothie on purpose.  I actually wanted something healthy.  I wouldn't just throw a mouthful of spinach into my tummy--without doing something to it first.  So, I was out-- far away from home-- and got my nutrition.

But if I were to think of the spinach part of the smoothie as the "trial" in the smoothie of life,  I would say this much: without the spinach, I would have just had  refreshment rather than nourishment.

The other ingredients add value to the smoothie, but they primarily help get the good stuff down.

So it is with a good trial.

When you have Christ, he supplies the grace, the joy, the needed rest in the midst of it.  It's the trial that teaches us the lesson, no doubt.  But the part that we can not explain.. the part that baffles others.. is really what gets us through it.

God provides comfort, resolution, peace.. in his way and in his time.

And the most important part of the trial.. is not the trial itself.  It's what God does in the process.

And just like we wouldn't suggest that our friends who want to embrace nutrition a little more probably would not enjoy just eating a mouthful of raw spinach.. randomly..  (instead of french fries, for example)..  we don't need to rush them to the conclusion of their trial before it has done its work in their lives.

It's O.K. if they cry.  It's O.K. if they are confused.  Sometimes there are no answers.
Let God work his deep work in them.. as you hold their hand and be with them.

Our trials (big and small) teach us one thing.  God is able.  He is always good and kind to those who trust in him.  Giving them a glimmer of hope is maybe all they need.

Let them taste the stuff that surrounds the spinach..  at least what you already possess.  It's hard to give what you don't have.

Finish your own trials well.  If you can't or won't, you've wasted your trial.  Whatever it is, learn it; embrace it; own it; and give it away.

God will use it.  He always does.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Cruiseline celebrity

About once a year, my sweetheart and I try to get away together.

Let me tell you what it is supposed to be like.  We are "supposed to" relax, reconnect, see some sights, disconnect from life, and just enjoy each other in a stress-free kind of way.  Easy enough?  Easy enough... for some people.

Except when you travel with a hedgehog.

How hard can this be, already?  I am not traveling with children.  This is not a business trip.  I don't even have to carry my own tickets or passport.  Mr. Pocket-protector does all of that stuff for me.  I think I'm in charge of like.. packing my bag and brushing my teeth.

So, we flew from Chicago to L.A.  At the Los Angeles terminal, we decided to make it "extra stress free" and pay the extra fee to have the cruise line pick us up right from the airport.  We say good bye to our bags, and they magically arrive in our room at some future time.

I think he left for a minute.  One minute.  I found our bags and gave them to the cruise line representatives.  I checked the tag on his bag and couldn't find the tag on mine, but it looked just like my bag, and it came right out of the shoot after his, so that was providential right?

When he got back, all we had to do was jump on the bus and get on the ship.

Fast forward a few hours.  The bags arrived in our room, and Mr. Organized got right on it and put his stuff away.  He probably matched up his "garanimals" with socks and shoes for each day.  My bag laid there, and I vegged out appropriately.

Finally, after a few hours after we left port, I got going with unpacking my bag.

And then I gasped.

I didn't pack this!  Bright purple polyester blazer.. a rain coat?  what???

Sure enough.  I took someone else's bag off the conveyor belt and.. we're at sea.  And I have no clothes..

and I wanted to cry.

You'll not believe how calm my "customer service engineer" was at that moment.  Solving problems is how he makes a living.  So, he very expertly went the front desk and started the process of making this right.

I knew right then and there that "this" was not going to be a "quiet, romantic getaway" kind of trip.

Most guys get upset at this point.  Most guys..  I'm just so glad I didn't marry most guys.  In fact, I'm still amazed at how he handles crises.  And the Lord knows, I certainly create enough of them.

At the front desk, they asked me if I would be needing "formal wear".

"Absolutely!"  I'll take whatever wear you have.  I went the jewelry shop.  I picked up the loaner shoes and a black top.  The pants, however, could potentially be worn by a 7 foot tall pregnant elephant, so I graciously declined.

In fact, I was considering making two evening dresses out of the elephant pants, but I was lacking a needle and thread.

So, I wore my black yoga pants with the scarf that my mother insisted that I bring.  (Thank God for mothers!)..

The next day, there was a Bible study that we attended.  At prayer request time, I mentioned my dilemma, and a lady came through with a bag of clothes for me.  Renee was her name, and she was most gracious, and it all fit!!

But I had this "hair issue" to take care of.  You know how I have hedgehog hair?  Well, I can do without a lot of things, but the curling iron and hair products are just hard to go without.  So, I splurged. I made an appointment with the stylist and had my hair washed, conditioned and styled.  At this point, I still didn't have a dress for formal night.

Wouldn't you know?  The sweet gal who did my hair loaned me her formal dress.

Now fast forward to dinner.

Just keep in mind that I was actually planning to keep this whole "stealing someone else's bag and wearing other people's clothes" on the down-low.  Not. gonna. happen.

Sure enough.  Someone complimented me on the dress.  "Uh.. thanks?  But it's my hairdressers.."??

It only took a few days, and I became known (all over the ship) as the lady who steals suitcases.. and wears: the ship's shoes, her hairdressers formal dress and someone else's bra?

By the end of the cruise when I met someone, they would say "Yeah.. we heard about you.."

Everywhere I went, people were either complimenting me on what I was wearing or just asking me if it was mine.

One guy said, "Hey.. is she wearing my mother's jacket?"
His wife said, "Yeah.. I just threw a few of your mother's things in the suitcase right before we left.."

I will say this.  I am pretty sure that I met more people on this trip than all of our other trips combined.  There were a few opportunities to share the Lord, give counsel, to laugh.. and to just enjoy life.  I met some really nice people.

As far as reconnecting with my sweetheart.. well..  I think if someone has a cabin.. perhaps a cabin that is about 50 miles away from everything and everyone.. that might happen.  For now, I'm just going with the "I'm so glad I have someone who puts up with me"  kind of thought.. and I'm not.. just not going to worry about getting away or even being romantic.

How about just lighting a fire in the fire place and having a cup of tea?  That's about our speed right now.  pretty much. pretty much.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Identity crisis: part 1

It doesn't take long for circumstances to change.

You wake up one morning, and you realize things are different than they were from some other part of your life.  And it's not a bad thing--it's just a different thing.

One day you have a child clinging to your leg wanting dinner, and the next minute.. (or so) he is driving himself home from basketball practice.  And it's that blink-of-an-eye experience that causes you to view time as transient.  Time is just where we are now in relation to where we have been and where we are going.  But it's nothing. and everything.  but really nothing.

And if our identity.. that elusive thing that causes us to have any level of self awareness.. is something as shifting as the wind, or time itself.. we probably have misplaced something in our priority cycle.

Simply put-- we don't have it right.

Who are we... already??  Who am I?  Do you know who you are?

If you had asked me that as recently as a year ago, I would have answered this way:

I am an organizing mommy.

And it would have encompassed all that I think goes into that.  I am a wife, a mommy, a busy mommy of five kids.. and then listed in order everything that I do to make my life "happen".. and of course, the defining crown over it all would be: a Christian.

And that's not bad.  I've made some good choices in this life.  But my choices for better or worse.. are not my identity.  My wife status, my mothering, my homeschooling, my organizing, or pilates teaching.. do not define me.  They do not cause my identity to happen.

Am I saying that I don't want to identify with these excellent things?  Am I somehow embarrassed by them?  No. and not at all.  I do identify with them very strongly.  But they do not make me who I am.

Let's take the obvious.

A wife.

At times, in my past, the identification with this role has reached the level of idolatry for me.  I can't put my finger on when or how it happened.  Was it an over-correction of where the world falls short? Was it just my justification for not pursuing a career, so I needed some job title?  I'm not even sure.  As much as I enjoy fulfilling this role, it is just that--a role.  But if my entire identity is wrapped up in this, what happens when a death of a spouse or (God forbid) a divorce happens?  Am I shattered as a person.. forever??  Or what if I am just unhappy as a wife?  What if I've made a bad decision and I'm stuck with it? Then what?  And what about the other 85% of the world who are not happily married wives?  Do they feel like second-class citizens in my presence because I have elevated this role to idolatry?  (probably they do..?)   Alas.   I need much growth, Lord.

A mother.

If being a wife did not reach full-scale idolatry, certainly being a mother has.  Yes, we in the Christian community celebrate motherhood.  We are making up for the scores of media messages out there demeaning this wonderful role.  But have we, in the process, damaged ourselves because of it?  If ever there was a precarious precipice to place your identity, the motherhood pinnacle reaches unprecedented heights.    And why not? Let's celebrate what the world cuts down, right?  Except..  ugh.
The child misbehaves, dishonors, disobeys.. or is just a human (in any way) it is a direct reflection of us and our identity!!  Wow!  Can you imagine being a child in a family where the mother's entire self esteem rested on her perfect children??  I shudder at the thought of it.  And let's not even go into issues like: teen rebellion, drug abuse, criminal activity, divorced children, etc. etc.  And what about death? Children die.  Children make decisions.  They are little humans.  And they become big humans who are capable of making decisions that are very different from the way you would do it.  And then what?  Are you shattered for life because everything you had was wrapped up in being a mother?

A homeschooling mommy.

This is the one area of my life where I can say that is changing, and perhaps.. that is the impetus for this discussion.  I'm starting to realize that too much of my mothering was wrapped up in this precious gift/ calling of being a homeschooling mommy.  When something is all consuming, such as homeschooling, it is so easy to get the cart before the horse.  Did homeschooling fuel my identity? absolutely.  Did I see that as bad? no.  It's what I do.  But it's not who I am.  If it were my entire identity, I would cease to exist since my journey is basically on its tail end.  Did I live it? breathe it? enjoy it? thrive on it?  absolutely!!  It was a precious time.  But I exist beyond that.

These are hard concepts to get my own head around, and I am not even sure that I am communicating it properly.  I don't want anyone to get the impression that I am throwing caution to the wind and disrobing myself of my precious roles.  Actually, it is just the opposite.  I am finding my identity so that whatever roles I find myself in, whether presently or in the future, will be grounded in true greatness.

And I know that you know where I am going with this.  Our identity needs to be in Christ.  But I'm not going directly there.  We're taking the circuitous route.  And here's why: it looks different for each person.  Identity in Christ is possibly for anyone, but it does not look the same for everyone.  It is uniquely mine, as it will be uniquely yours.  We can rest confidently that God will help us find it.