Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Much Grace

My family just returned from a grace-filled vacation. Many people wouldn't see it that way, but I do. Truly. Despite the 17 hour travel that turned into 27 hours. Despite the broken elbow and wasted day at a foreign hospital. Despite a five-year-old who had some pretty spectacular temper tantrums when we made her hold our hands crossing London streets. Despite the flat tyre (We were in Scotland...They have tyres, not tires!). And the 30 pound parking ticket (That's about $47 US, for a parking ticket!!).

Yes, all that stuff really happened. And there were certainly times when I was in enough pain from my elbow to make me miserable, but overall, we had a wonderful time. Looking back on it, I wonder how. How on earth could we possibly enjoy the vacation when so many bad things happened?

God's grace. That's the only way. God gave my husband and me insight into our daughter's needs amidst her horrific tantrums. God graced me with enough endurance to make it through the pain, and with enough wisdom to know when to say, "Not me. You guys go ahead!" (Like climbing to the outer walk at St. Paul's Cathedral or riding a horse in the highlands of Scotland.)

God gave my husband the grace he needed to become the caretaker of hair for both me and our daughter, even when I needed to have my ponytail fixed in public! God's grace filled our daughter as we searched endlessly (seemingly, anyway) for an open health care centre. She was able to play and sing happily for many hours.

We were able to see the blessings in a flat tyre: Being only 1/2 mile from a service station with a willing mechanic and knowing that nobody had been hurt in the process of getting the flat. There were times of breath-taking beauty, of quiet friendship with fellow travelers, and of complete exhaustion with a bed available. In it all, we were blessed and filled with God's grace. There is no way I could have been so peaceful about it all on my own.

God is Good.
All the time.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Fix-It-Up Chappie

First, a nod to Dr. Seuss' "The Sneetches" for the title of this post. The Fix-it-up Chappie was the guy who put stars on the Sneetches bellies (and took them off). I love Dr. Seuss, but he's not who I'm talking about today. God is.

I've almost caught up with glass orders, except for the repairs. I'm planning to work on them when I return from vacation in a couple of weeks. I've never had so much repair work in all my life as a glass artist! I have pieces with broken zinc framing and whole glass. I have pieces with broken glass. I have pieces in old window frames that need work on the glass and frame. I didn't know there were so many ways to be broken. I guess I'm the glass Fix-it-up Chappie, if a woman can be a chappie!

It's easy for us to think of God as the ultimate Fix-it-up Chappie. You know: "We ask; He answers." and "Those who are His can trust that their lives will be happy." Except that's not how it works. We know that, too.

I've been hanging around with/know several families who have been experiencing loss or grief. I know of a young boy who is going through chemo treatments for cancer; and I know another family whose young son lost his battle with cancer. I've been spending time with the family of a friend who has been in critical condition for over 2 weeks. Yesterday, our prayers were answered and she received a liver transplant. That doesn't guarantee a full recovery, but it's the first step!

I've learned not to expect that my prayers will be answered exactly as I asked. Bad things happen. Beloved ones die. I have usually been able to find a silver lining to the bad things, eventually. I can thank God for those silver linings.

Here's something weird, though: Sometimes I struggle to attribute the positive happenings to God. I know God is in charge and that He ordains all things, but if God doesn't go out of His way to afflict us with the negative happenings in our lives, does He go out of His way to bless us with the positive happenings?

As I ponder this question, I seek guidance where we should always seek guidance: God's Word. The ESV version of Mark 11:24 is, "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." To me, that makes it sound like God is the Fix-it-up Chappie and makes our every whim come true. The NIV version is almost identical. It's when I read The Message that I understand better. It says, "That's why I urge you to pray for absolutely everything, ranging from small to large. Include everything as you embrace this God-life, and you'll get God's everything."

If I embrace this God-life, I must trust God. And I do. I trust God completely. So I trust His reasons for the death of a child, even though it hurts desperately. I trust that someday I'll understand this agony. This part is easy for me, for some reason.

So for these positives, I must trust God. Completely. So I trust His reasons for providing a liver for my friend. I trust that someday I'll understand that this happiness I feel isn't selfish because it's what I want. It's unselfish because it's what God wants.

I think that's it! I think the reason I have a hard time attributing the positives to God is that I feel like I'm being selfish! It's what I want, so it's selfish. But if it's also what God wants, how can it be selfish? I will work on trusting God in ALL things. Even the good ones (as weird as that sounds!)

Thursday, July 5, 2012


Endurance is a virtue we should strive for, right? I mean, Roman 5:3-4 says, "We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know they help up develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation." And Mark 13:13b says, "But the one who endures to the end will be saved."

In more secular terms, endurance is prized as well. My husband is a marathon (and ultra-marathon, occasionally) runner; he knows endurance. I have great endurance in dealing with children and their behaviors. 28 years in public school classrooms have taught me that endurance is sometimes the only way to get through to a student or group of students. My own children have opened that door regularly, too.

Our current living situation has been a test of our endurance in some ways. We sold our house very quickly and moved into our rental home before the landlord was really ready for us. When we moved in, one bathroom was completely gutted and the other had only a very small shower with very poor water pressure. I opted for showering at the local YMCA most days, but my husband showered every morning without complaint.

There have been other endurance challenges in our home: very low water pressure (It took over an hour to fill the washer for EACH wash/rinse cycle); lots of spiders; a leaky roof in several places, including my side of our bed! In each, we have patiently practiced endurance, and our landlord has diligently sought solutions... and found them!

Overall, I think my endurance has been okay.


I no longer have any endurance for it. I have gone swimming, kayaking, played in the sprinkler, laid on the floor in the kitchen (The only room in the house that is truly COOL, despite our two window air conditioners), taken multiple showers each day, and taken refuge in the local public library, among other places. 

I'm still hot.

I'm past my endurance for heat; now I'm simply enduring. Yesterday, my husband ran two races and my daughter ran one. I was a good sport, cheering them on and taking pictures, but I wasn't peaceful about it. I was enduring it. We went to the fireworks display last evening, and I tried to focus on how much cooler it was (It was 91 degrees at 8:30ish.). But I wasn't really enjoying it; I was enduring it.

So what's the difference between having the virtuous character trait of endurance and merely enduring? I think when I am focused on "WHEN will this be OVER?" I've entered the land of merely enduring the torture. It's not virtuous, that's for sure!

Endurance seems to me to be more about being sustained by God's grace. Enduring seems to be in the range of barely tolerating. For me, it certainly includes being slightly (I hope that's all) irritable.

I pray that God will give me more endurance. That He will transform my enduring to endurance. (And that maybe, just maybe, He will see fit to lower the temperatures by 20-30 degrees...)

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Life is Good

Life is really going well these days. It's summer, and we're having lots of carefree summer activities. My glass work is just right, too. I have enough work to keep me busy, but I've caught up a bit so I don't feel overwhelmed. We continue to wait for a church call, but I'm enjoying this time of waiting. Our family is planning a trip to Europe in July. Life is good.

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I often say, "I'm blessed" about my life. And I am. I wonder sometimes if people know what I mean when I say it, though. I don't mean that all is going well. Being blessed isn't about the circumstances in my life. Not really. God blesses us in each and every day, in every single circumstance. I was blessed during the time that one of our daughters and her two children lived with us in our three bedroom house because the daughter was hit by a car while crossing the street. Life was crazy, and I was blessed. I was blessed during the times of my broken marriages, when I hurt so badly I could hardly breathe. Life was awful, and I was blessed.

So what does being "blessed" really mean? In Deuteronomy 28, blessings are given for obeying the Lord your God. In Matthew 5 (The Beatitudes), God blesses those who are poor, mourn, humble, merciful, persecuted for doing right, those who hunger and thirst for justice, those who work for peace, those whose hearts are pure.

For me, being blessed comes down to being at peace with my decisions and my life. And that happens when I obey the Lord my God. It happens when I live within God's boundaries for my life. It happens when I ask for God's blessing as I am in agony at the pain a family is feeling when facing the death of a loved one. It happens when my life is easy and carefree... and when my life is filled with anguish.

When I think about my "blessedness," it's about feeling the touch of God, knowing the peace that surpasses all understanding. It's not about winning the game, making a lot of money, or any other circumstance. It's the peace within the circumstances, whatever they are.

God bless you.