Sunday, August 26, 2012

Just a Phone Call

This afternoon I got a phone call from my husband's brother, saying that their dad was in the hospital. At this point, none of us knows what the problem is or how serious it is. I had a difficult time getting the news to my husband, and when I did talk to him, I had frustratingly little information for him.

My father-in-law's illness comes just after I found out that my step-dad received bad news from his oncologist this past week. My heart is heavy with sadness, thinking about our parents' aging and illnesses. I don't want to lose any of our parents!

Sometimes it seems like chaos is just a phone call away. The phone call in the night that reveals your teen has been arrested. The phone call about the death of a grandparent. Is our hold on "okayness" so fragile? Or are we anchored more deeply?

In the past, I've spent many years afraid of what could happen. "What If?" chased me in my nightmares and my daydreams. It seemed that my hold on wholeness was tentative at best. My faith has grown and matured over the past decade. Fears no longer rule me, and my hold on "okayness" is strong.

I am anchored more deeply now than ever before. How? By the grace of God only. He has asked me to trust, and I have. He has provided more faith than I ever knew possible. My life is not perfect, but I am no longer concerned about making it perfect. It is not about me anymore.

I still worry when we get those phone calls. They aren't "just" a simple phone call, but my security isn't jangled or dislodged by just a phone call. Thank God.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Dare I Claim?

Awaking very early this morning, I read my devotional, Living the Message by Eugene Peterson. Today's devotions led me to Galatians 3:1-7. The Word speaks of living our lives in faith, just as we began our Christian lives with faith. Specifically, Galatians 3:3 says, "How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?" (ESV)

And oh, that's me sometimes! I fear that I am not faithful enough, not good enough, to reach God. Silly me, this scripture says! Silly me, to think that I need to reach God. He is ever, always, reaching for me! Because he loves me. And you. We do not have to be good enough, strong enough, faithful enough, because HE loves us and wants us and calls us.

So, as this truth struck me this early morn, I asked, "Dare I claim this to be true for me?" Me, whom I know intimately to have many, many faults and shortcomings? Me, whom I know hasn't lived up to what God would have me be?

And I reached for my Bible to read on a bit... with my left hand... my broken elbow... I could not lift my Bible that way! My elbow is too weak, too painful, so I let go immediately and reached with my right hand.

I realized in that moment that my broken elbow is an apt metaphor for this passage of scripture. I know my limitations physically... why not in faith? My physical strength is in my right arm; my spiritual strength is in Jesus Christ's finished work of love for my redemption.

Dare I claim the promise of God? YES. I claim the truth that Philippians 1:6 states so clearly, "And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns." I, by myself, am not enough to become perfect, finished, God-worthy. But through Jesus Christ, I have been redeemed, and I trust that God will complete the work He has begun within me.

I can see little pieces of His work in me. I can feel little bits of the fruits of the spirit growing, but it is not my doing. God is at work in my life. And yours! Trust Him to continue His work. Amen.

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Glimpse of Glory

I have been limited in many ways since I broke my elbow a month ago. I began walking again last week, and it's been lovely to be outside again. Today I had a great opportunity to take a long walk while our wee one was in an Arts Camp in a neighboring town. I didn't know my way around, so I asked the leader of the Arts Camp where to walk (and to tie my shoes, please!). She sent me to a lovely, quiet, secluded path through a wood along a river.


Now, I didn't take my camera, so these pictures are actually from Scotland and England, from our vacation. But they convey the same feelings of solitude and beauty that I experienced today. I have missed this. As I walked, I drank in the babbling of the small river, the low hoots of a great blue heron, and the whistling call of an unknown bird. I relaxed... and realized that this quiet beauty and peace is a glimpse of the glory of God.

And what beauty it is! I came across at least 10 turkeys as they milled around the path. I heard a deer in the woods, just off the path. And the sun shone through the leaves, something like the ferns above (in Scotland). The wildflowers were shining, wet with dew. It took my breath away.

And this is just a glimpse of the glory of God! How brightly is the son going to shine then!? How lovely will the forest be? If this earthly beauty takes my breath away, how much wonder will I hold when I see God? It's exciting to imagine!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Weighty Burdens and Blessings

I have walked a couple of miles a day for well over a decade, usually carrying and wearing weights. I have a 12 pound weighted vest that I wear to maintain my bone density, which has been an issue for a long time. I also have a 6 pound hand weight that I lift as I walk. Needless to say, my broken elbow and torn ligaments have changed this routine! 

It will be a long time before I can carry the hand weight, but I wore the weighted vest this morning for the first time in almost a month. Talk about a heavy burden! And it got me thinking about burdens this morning. The kind of burdens life gives us, like a broken elbow on vacation or a lifetime of paralysis because of an irreversible moment. 

Each of us has burdens to bear, but Jesus says (ESV, Matthew 11:28-30), "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Emphasis mine) 

I started thinking about Jesus' burdens, wondering if/how they are different from life's burdens. I believe that God can help us carry life's burdens, no doubt. I know that prayer had a great deal to do with my being able to enjoy our vacation, despite the pain and limitations of my elbow. I don't believe that God "made me" fall and break my elbow, though. It was simply an accident. Not directed at me personally, just something that happened. I was grateful to have God's peace in the aftermath, but I don't believe that it was God's will that I fall and hurt myself.

However, there are certainly "burdens" in my life that are God's will. I have to say "burdens" in quotations because I don't consider them burdens, but blessings. And that's not my wishful thinking or Pollyanna attitude; it's because they ARE God's will. The clearest example is our dear, sweet five-year-old. 

My husband and I had only been married for a year and a half, and we were enjoying our empty nest together. Each of us has two older children, and we never expected to raise any more wee ones. We did enjoy our grandchildren very much, when they were able to visit! Then came a life-changing phone call asking us if we would be foster parents to one of our grandchildren, with the possibility of adopting her.
At first, I could only see the burden of how very different our life would be with a two-year-old, but after some prayer, I realized this is what God was calling us to do. We didn't accept because it was noble or the "right thing to do," we accepted because we deeply believe God was calling us to take this little girl into our home. We did end up adopting her, and she is now 5 1/2.
And our lives are vastly different from that first year and a half. Some people would say we are "burdened" by parenting our grandchild. Not us. You'll never find us wishing she were somewhere else because she is our greatest blessing! The yoke is easy and our burden is light. Truly! Not that she is always easy, but being family with her (and her extended family) is a blessing beyond measure.

Sometimes I see a need within our church or our community, and I wonder whether I should fill the void. I have learned to weigh the "burden" to help me decide. If my skills fit well, AND it is a joy to fulfill the need, then I usually volunteer. If my skills fit well, but it feels like a heavy burden to complete the task, I usually don't volunteer. THIS DOES NOT mean I only do the jobs I like or that are easy!!!! It means that when my abilities and God's will coincide, the burden will be light and the yoke easy... no matter how difficult the task. It means that the doing will be a BLESSING, not a burden.

I thank God daily for the blessings that abound in my life!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Broken, Waiting, and Prepared

Broken. And I'm not talking about glass this time. Or the brokenness that each of us knows because we're human and fallen. Nope, this is much simpler: I broke my elbow. On the first day of our vacation in Europe. The FIRST day! (We had a great vacation anyway, traveling through England, Scotland, and Iceland.)

So, now there is no glass work, no swimming, no kayaking, no bike riding, no lifting anything heavier than my iPhone with my left hand. (Which means no dishes!) At this point, they don't think I'll have to have surgery, but I'm going back in a couple of weeks for another round of x-rays to be sure.

It means another form of waiting. Waiting to be able to continue my glass projects. Waiting to be able to go without the brace on my arm (I graduated from the sling above to a brace when I saw my doctor at Mayo). Waiting to take our little one swimming again before summer is over... hopefully! Waiting to be able to lift my weights and swim my laps.

When you add this waiting to the fact that my husband is still waiting for a church call so he can be a pastor, which he spent five years preparing for and feels called to do, it's a LOT of waiting! And I know I've said before that I'm not a good waiter... I'm pretty impatient, really.

However, God has somehow prepared me well for this waiting period in my life. I'm not anxious about my arm's progress; I'm doing okay. And as for waiting for a church call, I wait with anticipation of a call, but I am able to enjoy where we are right here, right now. I find many blessings here and now. My parents are nearby, and my older daughter and my brother aren't too far away. My son is within driving distance. We're living in a fun place with just under 6 acres of land to play on. I'm able to stay at home and create art and homeschool our youngest child for kindergarten. This is a good place and time.

When my frustration mounts regarding my limitations with my arm or regarding the uncertainty of our family's future, I turn to God and ask for more peace, more patience, more awareness of the blessings of here and now.  And He provides. Every time. Not always in the same way, but in the best way for here  and now.  I rest in Him.