Feeling Full

Belly

I don’t know what it is, but I’m feeling more full this year than I was last year.  No, I’m not referring to that “my pants are too tight after the holidays” fullness that we all feel when we’ve had way too many pieces of pie or popped one too many Lindt Chocolates into your mouth on New Years.  You know what that feels like – that awful feeling when you have to loosen your belt a smidge to keep from exploding and flying about the room like a wild balloon.

No, I’m talking more about an inner emotional feeling of contentment.  I feel like I am more successful as of late at trading all the shiny little things in this life that keep my attention for the more valuable things right before me that I so easily ignore.  Days when I’m less consumed with myself and actively looking or creative ways to build others up and serve others.  Now there’s a life lesson…..when a self-centered, prideful heart learns that she’d rather add value to those around her, mostly because it keeps her eyes off of herself…that’s a win-win and deserves a “yay God”!

John Fischer asks, “Can you imagine what it would look like if everyone found our fullness from being in relationship with the one who created them?  Not needing anything emotionally from those around us because we were so full of Him? Imagine if our peace and contentment and security was fed by the time we spent with Christ so that we weren’t needy, and only looking to add value to others around us.  If we were working out of His fullness – now THAT would be revolutionary!”

If that were possible, understandably there would still be times when we would fail…because we’re flawed people, but His grace would be enough for us.  No beating ourselves up with guilt, knowing that we are accepted by Him and since He is enough, therefore we are complete! When we’re FULL we’re free because we’re not working from a sense of deficiency.  We’re not looking for emotional deposits into our love tank…we’re the ones handing them out!  We’re not looking for handouts…we’re handing out confidence and grace to those around us like parade candy!

Imagine how much drama might be sucked out of the social and relational settings in our lives if we just accepted HIS fullness and let it invade our lives?  I was raised around drama, so that’s a lesson that took me many years to learn. So the question I continually ask myself is “do I have a sense of contentedness that doesn’t even compare to who I am, how I’m equipped, or my set of talents?”  That’s my daily desire – to live out of his completeness, and serve out of HIS completeness.  Knowing that I am accepted by Him and He is enough…so therefore I am complete.  Amen and pass the Reeses Peanut Butter Cups!

So I fumble through this life trying to do the best I can.   I’m on my knees a lot, asking forgiveness for the times that I don’t bring Him glory.  Asking Him to forgive me for the times when my pride, entitlement, arrogance and selfishness shadow His glory. But I also know that My Father wired me a specific way and that my tendency to keep my eyes on myself is part of my fallen makeup, and so my daily struggles are part of my journey to teach me valuable lessons.  That’s the “power in weakness” thing, and so these lessons are all a part of my heart change and transformation.  Filling me up.  Making me more full.

This might be the only time I don’t mind loosening up my heart belt.

Gift be with you

giftWow!  A new year is here.  Christmas has come and gone and the gifts have been opened, some returned, and the gift-giving has subsided…unless you’re like me who has a daughter with a January birthday.  How did you do with receiving gifts this Christmas?

In my line of work, I often hear conversations end with the phrase  “grace be with you”.  It sounds so spiritual, doesn’t it?  So Christianese.  I even sign my emails that way sometimes…mostly because I want people to think I’ve got it all together in the giving out of grace to those around me.  Ha!  Well, I recently heard someone describe grace this way….”take the word grace and replace it with the word gift…that’s another way to understand grace”.   Maybe I should end my emails with “gift be with you”.

We are nothing more than daily recipients of the gift.  The gift of grace.  We often don’t deserve gifts.  We never deserve grace.  For that reason I want to be a grateful recipient of it.  I blog because I want to orient my life around the gift….make it the theme of my life….no matter how I may bumble and stumble through it.   I’m right there with you.  Trying to figure it out.  I’ll be the first to admit that just because I blog about it doesn’t mean I’m great at it…but if I can point others to that pure gift – His pure grace – well then I can lay my head on my pillow at night content in the transfer.  That’s pure Jesus.

If we focus our lives on flaunting what we know…what we do….what we don’t do…that’s not what Christianity is supposed to be about.  It’s about knowing Jesus, and if its not, then we’re orienting our lives around our abilities and works.

With any gift…there is a giver involved.   I think when people say “grace be with you” they are saying “may you experience the life transforming gift of God – the giver – that will keep and sustain you.”  You’re nothing more than a recipient of the gift.  Daily.  365 days a year.  Be a grateful one.

So here’s to the anticipation of another 365 days of new possibilities and new opportunities for grace sightings and receiving.  Happy New Year!

Home For Christmas

Barbara S.

My friend, Barbara, died on Christmas Eve.

Barbara and I weren’t close friends, but God used Barbara to challenge and stretch me.  In fact, Barbara intimidated me up until a few years ago.  She was different than me and that can be intimidating.  She was older than I and reserved…I am not.  She was highly educated….I am not.  She was quiet…I am not.  So I found myself falling prey to preconceived ideas about who she was and what she must have thought about me.  Silly me.

About 3 years ago I realized that grace doesn’t work like that and if we both served the same creator, He wouldn’t want me avoiding friendships with people who are different than me.  I was being just as judgmental as I incorrectly thought she was, and so I decided that I was going to break down my walls and pursue her as my friend.  She was going to be my friend if it killed me!

I started innocently via email.  In my line of work I have to email many folks who do ministry in my church, so when I would email Barbara about one of her many ministries like Divorce Care, or Stephen Ministries I started addressing her as “Babs”.  I think it made her smile.  I did ask her permission to do so and she said I was the only person she would allow to call her that, and certainly not in public.  I felt honored.  Walls came down.

Then 18 months ago Barbara was diagnosed with a horrible disease that imitates Parkinsons disease, although different.  It’s an ugly result of the fall that manifests itself at first with imbalance, slurred speech, and then disables muscles and nerves and eventually rendered Barbara speechless and bedridden in the final months of her life.  My fears about dying and disease told me that the investment I had made in Bab’s life wasn’t important enough to minister to her, but the voice that speaks to my inner heart told me that was unacceptable.  So I began to visit Barbara as often as I could.

Don’t think me a saint…there are others who visited Barbara consistently who I watched and learned from.  Cindy 1 went every Wednesday and ate lunch at Barbara’s table…supping on laughter and one-sided conversation for months and months.  Sharing her heart and getting Barbara to laugh – one of the bodily functions that lasted almost to the end – Cindy was a constant encouragement to Barbara.  Her prayer time with Barbara every Wednesday helped sustain her long days in bed.

Rachel, whose gentle spirit would be bedside with Barbara regularly, treating Barbara with such grace and respect with her reports of “life on the outside”- sharing what was going on with her children, showing her their latest projects, talking about what she was growing in her garden, praying with her, and asking Barbara questions and patiently waiting for her belabored answers.

And there were many others; caregivers who blessed her by caring for her every need, friends who cared for her plants and yard, and others who came to chat, and clergy who brought her communion and prayed with her.  It wasn’t easy to come but they did come, faithfully, day by day to walk Barbara through the letting go of this world that held her captive and on the lonely passage into the lasting beauty of the next.

The best part of visiting with Barbara was the knowledge that she was mentally there and understanding everything that went on.  You see, Barbara’s mind was intact to her final breath and so she was fully alive within and as sharp as a tack…something we tend to forget when someone is dying.  In the early stages of her home care Barbara could raise her left arm with a thumbs up to signal the word “yes”.  As her disease worsened she would communicate by squeezing with the one finger that still had movement for a “yes” answer.

Communication could be lengthy…having to spell out words one letter at a time.  It could also be pretty funny.  I once asked Barbara what breed of dog her dog Lady was and she spelled out “I”….”D”….”K”.  I sat there talking out loud saying “I, D, K….what breed starts with Idk?”…until I realized she was telling me “I don’t know”.  We laughed long and hard about that one.

Me…well I would read to Barbara.  Something she and I did share was that we were both educators, and so I read Henri Nouwen’s book The Inner Voice of Love to her.  It’s sub-title is A Journey through Anguish to Freedom which is exactly the place she lived in, tied to a bed, unable to speak her mind or share her heart.  I decided not to sugar coat things, as this book talks about dying, and loneliness, and fears, with chapters entitled Bring Your Body Home, Stand Erect in Your Sorrow, Say Often “Lord Have Mercy”, Cling to the Promise, Live Patiently with the “Not Yet”, Acknowledge Your Powerlessness, and Let Others Help You Die.  Sigh.  Those were all places Barbara lived in each day.  She was such a testimony to me in life, and even more in her death.

I got to play a tiny part in a little miracle shortly before her death, of which I am eternally grateful for.  The second to the last time I visited Babs, about 2 weeks ago when I had finished praying with her, (and wiping my pitiful eyes and hers as well cuz praying about death usually results in lots of tears) on a whim I asked her if she wanted me to play Santa for her and buy her two adult sons a gift from her for Christmas.  She squeezed my finger “YES!”.  After some questions back and forth she communicated to me that she wanted it to be something they would remember her by with a spiritual theme.

Yikes!  You can imagine the burden I felt!  What could I find or buy that could sum up a mother’s love for her children and say her last goodbyes adequately?  Then it hit me…one of our dear friends that preceded Barbara to Glory was a man named Frank James – a very talented actor and artist who had done ministry alongside Babs before he died.  He also has an equally talented daughter who is also an artist and who puts beautiful words to paper with thoughts and prayers, so I asked her if she might write something…as if in Barbara’s words…to her sons that she could leave them with.

Time passed, and Frank’s daughter (also named Barbara) thought and thought, feeling the pressure of writing words for someone when not sure of their true feelings, and as the days ticked by I assumed that it wasn’t going to happen.  So I purchased a beautiful stone plaque for each of them that listed all of God’s promises.  Promises like God will love you…God will always respond….God will never leave you…God will forgive you…God will redeem you….God will comfort you….God will strengthen you….God will provide for you, etc.  It seemed perfect, but still lacked the personal touch.

Then on Dec. 23rd I received an email with a draft of a letter that Barbara L. said she felt inspired to write on behalf of Barbara S…although she had no way of knowing if it expressed her heart.  It’s theme was HOPE.  I sent it to both Cindy 1 and Rachel asking for their input.  Interestingly enough, Rachel responded that she had asked Barbara if there were one word she could think of that expressed how she felt in the days approaching Christmas, and Barbara spelled out the word H – O – P – E.  Isn’t God good?  Doesn’t grace abound?

I printed out the letter for each of her sons, wrapped the stone plaques, and headed over to Barbara’s.  Because of the pain she has been in, Barbara’s last days were usually highly medicated and so as I walked in her caregiver told me that she was asleep.  But when I walked over to her bed her eyes were wide open, looking heavenward, and she was alert.  So I took her finger in my hand and was able to talk momentarily with her…and then had the privilege of reading the letter written on her behalf to her boys.  Barbara cried tears of joy, as did I.  After praying with her, I kissed her cheek, reminded her that she was precious to Jesus, and said goodbye…sensing this might be our last embrace.

She died the next day on Christmas Eve night.  On the eve we celebrate our Savior’s birth Babs went home to a new birth herself.  I don’t know if God was just waiting for Christmas to bring her home, or maybe He was waiting for the gift of that letter to put Bab’s mind and heart at ease for her boys.  Who knows.  Maybe it wasn’t as spiritual as that and it was just her time to go Home for Christmas.  All I know is that Barbara’s life was grace-filled….as was her death.

Cindy 1 called me today to tell me Barbara had gone home, and then she shared with me the devotion from Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling devotional for Dec. 24th, the day Barbara died.  Here is what it says:

I speak to you from the depths of eternity.  Before the world was formed, I AM! You hear me in the depths of your being, where I have taken up residence….I am Christ in you, the hope of Glory,  I, your Lord and Savior, am alive within you.  Learn to tune in to My living presence by seeking me in silence.

As you celebrate the wonder of my birth in Bethlehem, celebrate also your rebirth into eternal life.  This everlasting gift was the sole purpose of my entering your sin-stained world.  Receive my gift with awe and humility….

Barbara is Home for Christmas and if that ain’t amazing grace….I don’t know what is.

Truth Hidden Under the Christmas Tree

Christmas tree

I love Christmas.  It is really important to me.  Not unlike a baton, it’s full of traditions that remind us of who we are and where we came from, and it’s meant to be passed on to generations that follow.  I have such fond memories of Christmas Eve with my cousins – the cream cheese dip, the popcorn balls, the kids table at dinner, the olives on the tips of our fingers (OK…so we had whacky traditions) and especially midnight Christmas Eve services.  That’s why I want to take good care of Christmas here in my home so that my children can pass those traditions and memories that they choose to cherish, along with new ones they make in their own homes on to my grand kids.  That might be why I love to decorate our house in a festive way (10 Christmas boxes in the shed….really Kris?) and put up garland and hang lights on my tree.

Christmas day is right around the corner and the traditions are in full swing in the Glass house and I’m quite the busy bee.  As usual, Christmas music started playing in our home in mid-November (ummm…well really it started in late October but I don’t want you “early Christmas” haters to judge me), the tree was bought, lights and décor went up the first week of December, the baking has begun, and the finding or making of gifts for friends and family becomes my quest as I hurry and scurry to make sure I have all my bases covered.

I can remember Christmases growing up in Southern California when I was a little girl, where I would arrange all my gifts neatly into a pile on my bed after all the presents were opened.  It was always a smaller pile than I had hoped (that’s cuz I was a selfish little girl always looking for affirmation through gifts) but it was mine nonetheless.  Christmas, in spite of the joy and excitement, was always a little bit of a disappointment when it was over because the gifts ran out. Once that last gift was opened then there was nothing left of the excitement of Christmas.  Maybe, just maybe, my young heart was focusing on the wrong things?

Not everyone loves the whole gift giving schtick. Some (who shall remain nameless) have become cynical about all the gift giving because of all the over-commercialization of Christmas.  But as always, there is truth hidden in the bright lights and colorful boxes and the crowds of shoppers at the mall.  Me…I get a charge out of the crowds and the traffic at the mall.  It’s part of the experience.  But I realize not everyone has my whacky sense of adventure.  And where did all this gift-giving come from anyway?  Was it an evil plot of Sears Roebuck or Montgomery Wards in the 40’s?  Or is God really hidden somewhere in all these traditions?  Well, He did give us the most perfect gift for all seasons – the gift that brought light to the world and forgiveness of sins. But it doesn’t stop there.  His is a gift that keeps on giving.  It keeps on giving because His life is born in all who believe, and His presence in the world is re-gifted by the spiritual gifts that He gives all believers and by which we use (or should be using) to reach out to those around us.

A favorite author of mine, John Fischer wrote, “Think about it – there’s a big beautifully wrapped box that arrives for each one of us from God Himself – a personal gift with our name on it.  Inside is a special gifting through which we can touch the people around us by way of the words we say and the things we do.  It’s called our “spiritual gift” but it’s really a kind of gifting which enables us to do something for someone else.  This puts  a whole new slant on gifts, whatever the season.”

The cool thing about God’s gift to us is that it helps us become selfless receivers and selfless givers.  This is part of the scandalous grace I’m learning about.  His gift enables us to turn around and enrich others.  And God’s gift to us is just as attractive as the packages hidden under my brightly lit tree.  They come wrapped in mercy, faith, encouragement, wisdom, knowledge, healing and discernment and they flow out of the brightly colored packages we unwrap every day from our Father.  These are not gifts we pile up on our bed and admire.  These are gifts that reflect the life of Christ in us….kind of like the bright lights on our tree and the packages underneath it.  And they keep on giving for the rest of our lives, as long as we use them, even after the bright lights of Christmas burn out and the wrapping paper on the living room floor has been taken out to the dumpster.

This holiday season I’m going to try to share truth and be a bright light to those around me.  I’m going to think about giving gifts that will warm someone’s heart. Gifts that come from my heart and that keep giving all year long.  Patience.  Time.  Attention.  Trust.  Love.  Forgiveness.  Grace.  And I’m going to be just as intentional about gracefully receiving those as well.

Happy gift giving and receiving!

Christmas Lists

Xmas list

I’m such a list person.  I make lists for everything; it gives me a sense of being organized.  Hah!…who am I kidding?   In reality…lists keep me sane. There’s something spiritual about making lists with little boxes and then checking them off when you accomplish something.  No, actually, that might actually fall under the “works” category.  Anyway, I find great fulfillment when I can check off my boxes and cross off a list.  Now that the holidays are here I’ve started making all sorts of lists; gift lists, Christmas card lists, party lists, cleaning lists, dinner lists, and event lists.  I’m in list heaven.

As far as gift lists are concerned, I’ve made my gift giving list, checked it once or twice, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s more blessed to give than to receive.  Not only more blessed, but more fun and way cooler.  And way more rewarding.  I didn’t always think this way, since one of my “love languages” is the receiving of gifts. I like presents….a lot!  I’m not ashamed to admit it.  It use to make me feel loved, but as I’ve let Christ take center stage in my life the need for affirmation through others gifts has faded.  Lately, I’m beginning to enjoy it backwards.  When I think of the favorite gift I give this year, and then compare it to the favorite gift I will receive I’m quite sure the one I give will bring me greater joy.

I think giving is one of the things that gives purpose to our lives.  A certain carpenter reminds us that it might be really great if we were to carry over some of the giving that we experience this holiday season in His honor, and see how we can incorporate more of that purpose and thought into our daily lives – keeping in mind that giving is an attitude.  It doesn’t always have to be a material gift with a price tag on it.  It can be the gift of our time or talents, sometimes our grace and forgiveness…even our thoughts and prayers.

If there were any value in the commercialism of Christmas it would be this – that giving far outweighs receiving.  It’s spiritual!  It gets us thinking about what someone else might like for a change, and it gets us into the selfless giving mode. We spend our money on someone else.  We take the time to make something special for them from our heart. We step into someone else’s life.  We make someone else important. Whenever we give we are taking part in the very nature of God.  It isn’t natural for us as humans to give; rather it is completely God-like.  After all, God was the first gift giver.  I know…that sounds very Christianese…but I just can’t help it.  It’s CHRISTmas for crying out loud!

Being reminded every year of the joy and value of unselfish giving is a great gift in-of-itself to all of us.  It’s the heart of the Christmas season that’s well worth carrying on into next year.  Our nature tells us that the more we hold onto, the more we will have but its really the opposite that is true.  Whether it’s money, or time, or love, or forgiveness…the more we give away the fuller and richer our lives will be.  That’s grace for you…getting something wonderful back that you never expected by giving something (and sometimes it’s undeserved) to someone else.  Do you know someone who needs something from you that they don’t deserve?

Wouldn’t it be just revolutionary if we could think about the joy that giving brings this Christmas and look for ways we can carry that spirit on into the New Year?  Maybe we shouldn’t stop making lists.  It might keep us thinking along the lines of what others need…maybe forgiveness.  Maybe grace.

Knowing that I love gifts, here’s what I want for Christmas:…more reems of paper!  I’m gonna need a lot more of it for all my lists next year!  Either that…or maybe an iPad (hint hint).

Happy list making!

Three Things

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, I’m thinking on things I’m thankful for as I journey through my week.  That’s a bit contrary to what my normal bent is – I tend to want to focus on what’s wrong with my little world but I’m learning that a thankful heart opens doors to learning new and wonderful things about myself.  As Sarah Young says…”it takes the sting out of adversity”….and it “opens your heart to God’s presence and your mind to God’s thoughts.”   Now that’s the place I want to be.

I wasn’t brought up in a home that communicated thankfulness, or the importance of family or relationship. It was more focused on performance and success, so I had to learn those things by watching other positive examples in my life.  So to think on things I’m grateful for is something I have to practice intentionally now.  I’m not always great at it.  But just like the practice of occupying my mind with things to be thankful for helps my negative thoughts weaken and the positive to flow  more richly….the same goes for appreciating the people around my table this Thanksgiving.

My friend Sara is such a great encourager.  She is at least 20 years younger than me, completely opposite from me on the personality charts, has 2 small children and is always such a shining example to me of what a kind word can do for someone’s heart.  She once gave me a note that said “Three Things I Love About You” on it…and then she listed some lofty and sometimes undeserving words about me.   They were….

  1. You always make people feel welcome.  Just your smile and enthusiasm make people feel loved.      (OK…I’ll give her that)
  2. You are honest.  There is nothing about you that is false or fake.  You don’t try to be someone you are not.     (After a brief period of my life where most of it was a lie…I decided to try another route.  It’s not always what people love about me – what you see is what you get.)
  3. You really want to serve.  You seek ways to care for people and to engage with others.  It is not a surface “how can I make this easy for me ” attitude.  It is a “how can I extend myself for others” attitude.   (I’m not sure we’re talking about the same person, but I’ll take it!)

As I was maneuvering my way through motherhood I pride-fully thought that I was a pretty awesome mom when my kids were small.  It wasn’t until Sara told me that she tries to tell her kids every day three things that she loves about them that I thought…OUCH…gee, I could have done so much better.  God loves to shoot holes in my pride now and then.  Can you imagine how different our world would be if we all practiced telling our friends and family members three things we love about them every day?  Or even every week?  Even if we ‘d rather hammer them with the ugly stuff?  Now that’s grace.

Maybe as you sit around the table this Thanksgiving…along with passing the turkey and the giblets you might pass around a few positive thoughts by saying Three Things You Love about everyone around the table.  It’s the language of love, and everyone needs a scoopful of that on Thanksgiving.  Go ahead…give it a try – and let me know how it goes.

Borrowed breath

I woke up this morning with atrocious breath.  I personally call it “mung mouth”. You know…when your mouth has been wide open for nearly 7 hours – unless you’re menopausal which means you’ve only slept for like 4 hours – and drool has been sliding down the side of your cheek which is like an invitation for all sorts of creatures and germs to “come on in”…make yourself at home in my mouth.

I think about breath and I am grateful each day I wake up and have been given its generous gift – even if it starts out mungish.  Think about it.  Another day of breath. God breathes his breath into me daily – kind of like a loan to me – borrowed from Him. And I’m dependent upon him for it.  We tend to take it for granted – oh, I’ll wake up tomorrow as usual,…but tomorrow isn’t promised. It’s that same breath that he breathes into me that he breathed into Adam’s soul and gave him life.

I listened to a sermon recently where I heard that human beings are the only one that God breathed life into.  Not dogs, not elephants, not zebras, not cats, not crocodiles and certainly not ostriches. I still don’t get why God created ostriches – that’s one of the first conversations I’m gonna have with God when I get to Glory. And we humans are the only ones that have a choice in how we respond to God’s gift of breath.  It’s called free will.  And we sometimes do a sucky job at responding to the gift.

We’ve sort of messed things up in terms of caring for this world but one day the earth is going to be restored to its original state. I believe that every living organism is anxiously waiting for it’s designer to return and restore them to the way they were meant to be.  Rocks, trees, flowers, dirt. They praise him on a daily basis.  They don’t have a choice – it’s in their DNA and nature to return their breath back and honor the one who gave it to them.  It’s what they were created to do.  All for praise.  All to point back to their creator.

So if God’s breath gave Adam his soul and his breath gives me my soul, then it makes sense to me that it’s my responsibility to return that breath back to him to give him honor.  It’s in this exchange that I think I’ve discovered true life and how to become fully human.  It’s that place where my soul finds its ultimate purpose.  Just like the rocks and the trees it makes sense that that’s where the most sophisticated of His creations belong – pointing others back to him.  It’s why we were created – to praise him.

What does praise look like?  I think it’s when your insides (your soul) are blessing the Lord.  By being grateful. By being thankful for the breath that is within you – all that makes you YOU – be grateful and thankful and honor your creator.  That’s when I’m most at home and most healthy.

For me, I think praise is giving your gifts back to him.  Some folks put praise in a box and it has to look a certain way to be acceptable to them.  I think you praise Him with all your abilities. Your painting.  Your poetry.  Your air guitar. Your lawn mowing. You certainly praise Him with your voice in song.  Me…not so much.  I’m more of a “joyful noise” kinda gal., but I praise him when I’m singing in the car.  Or the shower.  I praise Him when I laugh.  I praise him when I cook.  When I blog.  I praise Him with my mouth when I speak to groups.  I like to say “when God gives you a big mouth you use it for Him“.   Praise is the way you “do life”.

When am I fully myself and fully human?  When I’m praising Him.  That’s when I feel the most at home.  When I am using the borrowed breath of God to praise him.  So what are you going to do with your borrowed breath?  Try it.  Go ahead – bless the Lord.  Bless the Lord with your job.  Bless the Lord with your vocabulary.  Bless the Lord with your time.  Bless the Lord by spending time with your kids.  Bless the Lord with your finances.  Bless the Lord by talking kinder.  Bless the Lord by saying “no” to some of those things that dirty your heart and mind.  Bless the Lord by saying “yes” to those things that will point others to their creator.  Bless the Lord with the grace you offer others.  This is why he made mankind.  I can tell I have so much work to do to be a better Lord blesser.

When was the last time your soul went home?  When your soul blessed the One who created it – who breathed life into it?

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!    Bless the Lord, O my soul!

Psalm 103:1-2

Did those words leap into your heart?  If so…then you’re healthy.  You’re home.  Isn’t that just so like grace – being given the highest office we can hold in God’s economy when we’re the least deserving?  That’s your assignment – go have fun with being a Lord blesser?

Cell Phone Case Grace

This falls under the heading of “Some of my classic flub ups”….. or “Lessons learned about how much I still need to learn about grace”.

I recently got a new iPhone and decided I needed a better protective case.  I’m known for setting my phone on chairs – the arms or seats – and knocking them off accidentally and cracking the screen. I’ve probably had to have my friend Matt replace at least 3 glass screens, so I found a website called Zazzle that has a variety of products, but they also make personalized cell phone covers.  So I poked around and decided to order one that I could create myself with a personal photo on the front.  Even better, I could write whatever I wanted on it, so I came up with a take off of the “Keep Calm and Carry On” phrase created by the British in 1939 for motivational posters for World War II  (that were never used and were re-discovered in a box at auction in 2000) and I created a work of art that says “Keep Calm and Offer Grace“.  Get it?  I blog about grace!  I write about how people should give grace to one another.  Aren’t I clever?  And won’t people be so impressed that I do?  And won’t people think I’m so good at offering grace to others?  Yeah, well….wait till you hear the rest of the story!

Shortly after that, my cell phone case arrived and to my dismay the words were off center to the left.  Ugh.  I told you about how linear I am, and it was unacceptable to me that the words weren’t perfectly centered.   I blame my dad – he was a mechanical engineer, had perfect printing, and had I known when I was young that I would have his neurotic linear-ness I would have made a great architect.  So I called customer service at Zazzle to hold them accountable to their 100% Satisfaction Guarantee and can you believe it…they completely took responsibility and said they would fix the problem and send me a new cell phone case at no cost to me.  I was impressed.

Within a few days I received my 2nd cell phone case in the mail….and guess what?  It was exactly like the first one….off center to the left.  Double ugh!  Well….I was going to get to the bottom of this!   So I called back and spoke to Megan in Customer Service. She was a delightful and helpful gal, and she was able to dig a little deeper and found that the way I had designed my cover had actually left some residual designs on the outskirts of the design area which pushed up against my design and affected the margins and kicked the words off to the left.  It wasn’t anything I could see in the proof, but it was there underneath the design.  Hmmm…..this was awkward.  I certainly didn’t want to have to take any responsibility for the fact that my design might have caused the lopsided finished product, so I asked her why the first customer service rep had not dug deeper and found the issue?  See how masterfully I placed the blame on someone else?  Oh brother.  When she readily agreed and said “that certainly wasn’t very professional of us” I jumped at that opportunity to tell her that I wanted them to correct the issue and send me another corrected case.  This would be No. 3 this time.

Let me just say again that Megan was kind and caring in how she spoke to me.   Even grace-filled.  I’d even venture a bet that she might be a believer because of the gracious way she spoke and showed grace.   Not that every grace-filled person on the planet has to be a Christian…its just that we’re supposed to be better at it, aren’t we?  Well, I wasn’t feeling so gracious when she said the words “I wouldn’t feel good about just sending you a new replacement……”   (WHAT?)… I didn’t even let her finish her sentence!  WHAMO!….and with the picture of my beautifully designed cell phone cover staring me in the face on the computer screen in front of me……

Cell Phone case

….I cut her off mid-sentence and said…..”well then I want to talk to your supervisor!…or the President of the company!”   I mean I was entitled, wasn’t I?  As soon as the words flew out of my mouth, it’s as if those pious words on my cell phone cover started flashing like a neon sign in my face and all of a sudden it hit me that I was such a hypocrite….talking and advertising grace….and yet being so unwilling to practice it if my rights weren’t upheld.  Sigh.  My ugliness was staring me in the face.

What makes it worse is that Megan gently and tactfully (and way more grace-filled than me) said to me….”if you’d be OK with me finishing my thought, I’d like to tell you that I think the best way to handle this is to give you a credit to your account, and then I’ll just reorder it.  There will be no cost to you.”  Oh thanks Megan!…make me feel even worse about my hypocrisy.  Triple ugh.  Don’t you hate it when people are nice to you (grace) when you’re snarky to them?

Sometimes I think that’s all a part of learning grace.  Crashing and burning and watching others offer it to you when you are so undeserving.  That’s who and what I was.  Undeserving of grace, and yet Megan was a perfect example of God’s grace to me.  I am so underserving of it.  And yet….he offers it to me even when I argue my rights.

So if you see my cell phone case you’ll know how undeserving I am of all that it represents.  All that I blog about.  But it’s still what I’m committed to learning more about and getting to the bottom of – trying to get better at showing it to others around me each day. And thanks Megan for showing me cell phone case grace.

Celebrations of Childlikeness

I’m the only middle-aged gal I know who still runs her shopping cart into the parking lot at Walmart, jumps on the rails and rides it all the way to the car.  It’s one of my celebrations of life and in order to grow and learn about grace I’m finding that I sometimes have to return to childlike ways.  Like singing into my hairbrush microphone.  Or jumping on the bed when I stay at a hotel.  Or blowing bubbles in your chocolate milk.  Or having marshmallow fights with my husband. They are practices that I embrace and refuse to let go of because they remind me of a time when I wasn’t expected to act a certain way.  And they remind me that sometimes I just need to return to that childlike place in other areas of my life.

When I was young I was desperately trying to figure out where I fit in the world and then find acceptable ways to seek love and the attention that I so desperately craved.  I quickly learned that if I was “funny” then people accepted me, so I resorted to humor to gain affection.  My parents thought I was incredibly immature.  They were right.  And I’m pretty sure that my siblings thought my faith in a God that I couldn’t see, touch or feel was childish.  But approaching God in that way was the simplest way that I could – not over thinking it and with a childlike trust.  When I stopped trying to look at faith through an academic lens, not over think it, and come to the place in my life where I didn’t necessarily have to have all the answers to all the big questions…then I was able to trust in the one who created me.  It was that simple.

Sometimes our lives become routines of deeds and doing and working.  Our little life box where we’re safe. But if someone asked you to take a step back and find your childlike trust – well that’s easier said than done.  There are walls and defenses that we’ve learned to put up over the years to manufacture a wiser and more mature version of “you” that would have to be climbed over.  Yikes.  Is it too much work?  It’s do-able, but it’s all a matter of trust.

When was the first time we learned to trust?  I think as a baby we really didn’t have any choice and we learned to trust our parents for our basic needs.  For most of us they were our first comforters, our safety, our providers.  They were God’s example to us as children of how we were supposed to be cared for.  Not everyone had good experiences in that area –  I’m sorry if yours was not.  But now that we’re adults we need to figure out the balance between our adult selves, and relying on our childlike faith (before any baggage infiltrated our lives) and to seek out the one who originally gave us to our parents.   So for me, I’m learning to reject some childish ways, like the way I sought after love and acceptance, and still find that childlike trust.  I think it’s still OK to jump on the bed though.

Do you ever think about how hard it must have been for our Father to release us into the care of our earthly parents ?   I thought it was hard to release my children when they were first born back to God’s ultimate care.  I had to take a backseat and just be their caretaker for a season, and I’m such a backseat driver!   Then when they grew up and left home, again, it was heart wrenching to trust God to care for them.  I so want to take the wheel again.  So I think about how much harder it must have been for God when he placed them in my arms and put them in my care.  There was so much room for human error.  Would I be good enough?

I oftentimes struggle with thinking I’m not good enough or smart enough to be a theologian.  I’m just a simple gal who has simple thoughts but who is pretty introspective about life, love and faith issues.  But simple people who have simple thoughts matter to God.

My heart is not proud, Lord my eyes are not haughty;  I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.     

But I have calmed and quieted myself,  I am like a weaned child with its mother;  like a weaned child I am content.

Psalm 131: 1-2

So I’m at a place where I’ve calmed my fears about not being good enough to have something valuable to say, and so I blog.  I do it for me, and I do it to honor the one who created me.  And I’m content with who I am, knowing that the one who cares for me is on the job 24/7 doing just that.  That’s so grace!  And I want to know more about him and the grace he offers.

Whether you’d like to admit it, we all have built into our DNA an intuitive desire and need to know the one who created us.  For whatever reason some of us deny that and say that we don’t.  Or we suppress it and shout louder than it’s call to our heart.  But nevertheless it’s there.  The one who created and designed us made that as a default in each and everyone of our hearts – a yearning to know the one who created you.

So I think having a childlike mindset when it comes to how I live my life makes me more open to the simple things of life.  Like trusting.  Like accepting.  Like receiving.  Like being willing to embrace grace and admit that I have a lot to learn about practicing it.  Like riding the rails of the shopping cart or jumping on the hotel bed.  When was the last time you practiced childlikeness and did any of those things?  That’s your assignment for today.  Let loose and be childlike with your trust, with your grace, and with singing into your hairbrush.  ROCK ON!

“It”

I knew I’d have to write about this someday.  In thinking about this title I thought about calling it The Always Distracted Dane (cuz I’m Danish).  Or A Disturbing Dilemma.  Or Another Distracted Dynamo.  Some clever and catchy acronym for what I would consider to be the painful thorn in my flesh that I believe the One who created me has graciously allowed me to walk this life with.

“So to keep me from becoming proud, God allowed me to be given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from the evil one to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.”

~ 2 Corinthians 12:7

 However you want to describe it, all those titles describe one of the most frustrating issues that I have had to deal with in my life. But on the flip side it also has been the most eye-opening into who I am as a person, and it has been a rich blessing for which I am grateful for as it has helped shape my life and had much to do with the person God has molded me into today.

It’s medical diagnosis is A.D.D. or more accurately Attention Deficit Disorder.  I’m not sure how I feel about having a “condition”…or a “disorder”…but if it helps others learn to walk through life with it I’m all on board!

I love a good story.  The interesting part of my story is that I didn’t get a diagnosis until I was in my 50’s – for which I am thankful – when I thought my son had ADD and was I doing research and trying to find a way to break it to him that he was “special”.  A dear distant cousin (who is also an RN and wouldn’t just jump on the ADD bandwagon at the drop of the hat) shared with me her journey with ADD and how it affected her children, and little by little it began to dawn on me that in reality, I was actually the one who had the disorder as well.  I am so grateful to her for helping me come to that place.  Now I know that I’m special.  🙂

Growing up I was labeled “the dreamer” in the family – never really coming down to earth.  Some in my family might have attributed my faith as falling under that dreamer heading – believing in something intangible – being so optimistic about life when I was expected to be mature and realize that life wasn’t a rose garden and how could there be a God who created us and yet allowed so much pain.  I actually really like being optimistic – I think it has kept me young.  But I was also the goofball – looking for validation through humor and fun because I couldn’t really settle down and focus on anything else.

Very few people even knew what ADD was in the 70’s when I was finishing high school and heading off to college, and I think had I known about “it” I might have used “it” as an excuse to live a less driven life.  What did happen was that “it” ticked me off so much that I took on the attitude that I wasn’t going to let “it” (whatever “it” was) define my life so I strove to teach myself skills that would help me function well in life.  I drove myself to be the best I could be – yet knowing I had limitations, and to be happy with the results.  I guess you might call it making the most of what I had.

During high school I did well in school – keeping a 3.6 gpa but having to work harder than most.  I had tutors when I needed them, and I was a visual learner.  Once I entered college and had bigger responsibilities “it” came crashing down over me.  “It” was like the elephant in the room – knowing something was there and wrong with me but that couldn’t be identified, which by the way made me feel like my elevator wasn’t going all the way to the top floor.  The best way I can describe “it” is to say my life was fuzzy….out of focus….and unclear. “It” was a shame that I carried with me all of my adult life and one that I didn’t talk about to many people.  I didn’t want to admit that there was something wrong with me and because I couldn’t identify “it” I tried to ignore “it” and pretend that “it” wasn’t there.  The effects of “it” forced me to drop out of college and I returned home with my tail between my legs.

Knowing I would eventually have to write about this, I recently went back and looked through my journals from my college+ years and found that, unbeknownst to me at the time I was very aware of my condition and referred to “it” many times in my journals as a cloud that I felt hanging over my head.  And just to clarify…I’m not talking about the kind of cloud where you store all your digital information somewhere akin to Heaven.  No…it was more like a cloud that settled around my head that I couldn’t see through.  It would be 30 years before I would find out what that cloud was.

Had there been a diagnosis for ADD back in the 70″s I probably wouldn’t have wanted to be labeled with it either, or I might have used it as a crutch or excuse for my lack of motivation.  So I see God’s providence in His timing in revealing it to me as a gracious gift….notice the root word comes from a place of  grace.  God holding off with the truth until I was best ready to receive it.

Depression was “its” partner – how could it not be when you are constantly doubting yourself – trying to figure out what the heck is wrong with you – paddling like crazy beneath the surface trying to appear like you have it all together when you know you really don’t.  But because of my tenacity and faith in God I chose not to let “it” rule my life.  I taught myself skills to survive and excel in life, and people never knew of the shame that part of my life carried with it.  I learned to compensate for areas where I was weakest and learned to use my strengths to my advantage. That’s not to say there weren’t huge identity and personality things to figure out…but that was all a part of my journey.  I’m not gonna lie – it did affect my life in so many ways, as I recognize when I occasionally play back the movie reel of my life now and then since my diagnosis.

The good news is that it has been absolutely freeing to find out “its” name a few years ago as it signaled – at least to my own heart – that I was not a failure, that there had been a reason for my struggles.  Most of all it validated what I knew all along – that I wasn’t crazy. Well, at least not medically.  If you know me at all you know I definitely have a little of crazy in me, but I’m proud that I’ve actually been quite successful in life walking hand-in-hand with ADD.  Uh oh….there’s that pride thing again – the reason God allowed me to have ADD so that I wouldn’t become prideful!  Ugh….its a vicious cycle!  I still have so much to learn.

One of the most frequently asked questions I’ve gotten since being diagnosed is whether I take medication.  The first few years after learning I had ADD my answer was “no…but if I were going back to school and had to read textbooks without feeling the crippling pressure to focus and take in a huge textbook in a short amount of time, maybe.”   In the past year my answer has changed to “yes…I do take medication“.

Just over a year ago I began to experience some of the same symptoms I felt overwhelming me in college.  Besides the basic distractive nature of ADD, the typical demands of life can be overwhelming.  18 months ago I started noticing that with all the balls I was trying to keep in the air with work, being a wife and mom, running a household, and the greater the demand on my abilities to organize, focus, and remain calm….I was beginning to feel panicky.  It reminded me of the feelings I had in college and it frightened me.

After a little research, I realized that being an athlete is like self-medicating your condition.  Exercise is one of the best medicines for ADD and I had always remained very active as an adult playing competitive softball, biking, golfing and walking.  However, the overwhelming feelings that had resurfaced coincided with the time in my life where I had begun to slow down a bit and wasn’t quite as active with my sports.  In essence, my  dosage of self-medication was now dwindling and so the overwhelming emotions began to return.  So in conjunction with my doctor I now take a low dose of medication that seems to work for me.  I describe it’s result as taking a camera lens and bringing everything into focus – and I’m able to keep those feelings and emotions in check.

My story has a very happy ending…but its not without it’s critics.  Not everyone wants to embrace my diagnosis and have (as my mom use to say) “poo poo’d” it and have said to me “you don’t have ADD…everyone is distracted”.  I’ll admit that hurts.  I agree that it’s good not to jump on the ADD bandwagon and use it as an easy way out for laziness or for a lack of motivation.  It’s true that everyone is distracted at some point – especially with the world of technology that we live in today – and it’s good to be discerning about the latest diagnosis that comes down the pike.  But my encouragement to you if you have a loved one that either has, or might have ADD is to learn all you can about the condition.  Don’t make them feel less than validated as a person because of your lack of knowledge.

(For some suggestions of books that helped me understand ADD better, check out the “Good Reads” section of my blog).

So “it” has shaped who I am – but it doesn’t define who I am.  God does that for me.  His grace is enough for me for today – His grace was enough for me 30 years ago.  His grace in the diagnosis – His grace in the truth – His grace for my sweet parents who had trouble understanding their little girl ~ His grace for my husband as he has walked through a distracted marriage not always feeling he had all my attention – His grace for my sweet son as he tries to figure out the part ADD plays in his life – His grace for my family and friends as they love me and all my whacky ways – His grace for people who ridicule me – His grace for tomorrow.  Maybe His grace is enough for you and what the “it” is in your life?

 

Here are a few myths and facts about ADD that might help you understand and encourage those around you who might have ADD:

ADD myths