God cares about the little things

th[9]Sometimes it’s the little things that stress me out. . . like serving the perfect punch at a reception for my new boss.

I spent far too long sifting through recipes, trying to find a beverage that would be delicious, but easy to make.  A few of my brain cells got damaged while trying to calculate how many cups each one would make.

And then there was the question of how to serve it. . . use the beautiful decanter in the closet at work or go with traditional punch bowls?

(I know, I’m sounding like “Martha” in the “Mary and Martha” story.) [1]

I finally decided it would be easier to facilitate the beverage with punch bowls . . . (one could be out on the serving table while I prepared a second batch in the kitchen.)

Ah, but would there even be two punch bowls in my workplace’s kitchen by the time of the party?   I knew they had a way of disappearing. Continue reading “God cares about the little things”

15 Things I Learned From My Mom

17380_1241132102235_5613963_n[1]This time of year causes most of us to pause and think about motherhood. For me, Mother’s Day is a bittersweet time, not only because I’ve never had the privilege of being a mom, but because my own mother is in heaven. Her birthday always falls close to (and sometimes on) Mother’s Day, making May a month I find myself missing my sweet mama more intensely. But this time of year also provides a great opportunity to remember the tremendous influence she had on my life. In a spirit of celebration and gratefulness, here are fifteen things I learned from my mom.

1. Pray often. My mom believed in the power of prayer, and I am confident that her intercession helped make me who I am today.   Knowing that she continually prayed for me provided peace during many stressful moments. If I was taking a final exam, mom was praying. If I was struggling with a life decision, I knew she was joining with me in seeking God’s will.  I have no doubt her prayers for my safety kept me from many unseen calamities, and I  believe some of her requests are still being answered today.  Her example of “praying without ceasing” inspires me to do the same.

2. Value education.  As the eldest of 13 children in a farming family, my mom was forced to drop out of school in seventh grade. Even with little formal education and having to learn English as a second language, her aptitude to learn was obvious.  In her forties, she finally had the opportunity to obtain her G.E.D.  Although she never had the chance to pursue higher education, mom wanted all of her children to do so.  She was a key part of my education, teaching me to read by the time I entered kindergarten. She continued to encourage my education all the way through college, when she not only sacrificed financially, but even helped me study sometimes.  Perhaps it’s a fitting tribute to her that I work at a college today, helping others achieve their educational dreams. Continue reading “15 Things I Learned From My Mom”

Chronic Fatigue – Vanishing Spoons (Part 2)

thNVFN4H4ATo understand the full context, I recommend reading Vanishing Spoons (Part 1) first.

**************************************************************************************

I awoke the next morning feeling like I had been hit by a truck. My head ached and I felt an oozy sickness just asking my brain to process simple tasks. Getting ready for work took Herculean effort. I was clearly experiencing SSD (Serious Spoon Deficit).

Yet off to work I went.   It would not be the first (or the last) time I would press on despite feeling horrible.   Thankfully it was a quiet morning. Although my brain was crying out for reprieve, I urged it to keep performing. I responded to emails, worked on project details, and miraculously drafted coherent correspondence.   I was thankful I had survived the morning, but I knew I had pushed it as far as I could. The proverbial “wall” was fast approaching, and I was on a collision course with it. By noon, my gracious and accommodating supervisor understood that I needed to go home for the day.

That afternoon it all caved in. Continue reading “Chronic Fatigue – Vanishing Spoons (Part 2)”

Pain in the Greeting Card Aisle

Greeting card aisle

When I was younger I used to love browsing greeting cards. I found it entertaining to read the sweet sentiments and clever humor.   While I still enjoy the quest to find the “perfect” card for someone, I also find that perusing the wide array of cards can trigger twinges of sadness, too.

One of the first times I felt pain in the greeting card aisle was in May 2008. A bright display of Mother’s Day cards was positioned strategically in the grocery store to make sure no one forgot to say “I love you” to mom on her special day. I wouldn’t have forgotten. In fact, I always purchased a second card along with a Mother’s Day card because my mom’s birthday was May 11 (sometimes the two occasions fell on the same day)! The problem was, that year I had no mom to purchase Mother’s Day and birthday cards for. She had gone to heaven five months earlier. The cards ushered in a wave of sadness as a realized I would never purchase another Mother’s Day card again.

Today I made a trip to the Dollar Store, where the wide selection of inexpensive cards wooed me in.   As my eyes swept the different headings, I became painfully aware of how few categories I could buy from.   I jumped from section to section: Grandparent cards – no. Mom cards – no. Sister cards – no. Nephew or Niece cards – no. Husband or romantic connection cards – no.   Son or daughter cards – no. Grandchildren cards – no.   I also noticed the type of cards I had never received: bridal shower, wedding, anniversary, and birth congratulations, to name a few.

We all face reminders of what we’ve lost or of what we’ve never had. Sometimes those twinges of grief or sadness hit us at unexpected moments. While it’s probably not advisable to start bawling uncontrollably in the card aisle, I think it’s healthy to give ourselves permission to acknowledge the pain caused by a loss or an unfulfilled dream.   Let’s admit it; it hurts. To bury our feelings and pretend we are “just fine” is as artificial as some of the cheesy greeting cards on the shelf.

In addition to admitting the pain to ourselves, it’s often helpful to share how we’re feeling with others. The first place we can go is to our Heavenly Father. God is immediately accessible and we can whisper a prayer anywhere, anytime and be assured he is listening.   He is an ever-present help in times of struggle, and encourages us to cast our cares upon him.

We can also seek out earthly friends. Recently I was carrying (and trying to hide) my deep frustration about an ongoing struggle. In a moment of vulnerability I shared how I was feeling with a trusted person in my life. While my friend couldn’t “fix” the situation, the simple act of verbalizing how I felt lifted my spirits. In return, I need to be that safe place for my friends when they need to share their areas of pain.

The reality is, very few people have a reason to buy cards from every section of the Hallmark store. Each of our lives unfolds differently, and everyone skips certain sections of the card racks. In addition, most of us end up receiving cards we wish we didn’t have to, like those that arrive when we are ill or have lost a loved one.  In truth, the greeting card aisle can be a reminder of painful things. But, it can also be an indicator of life’s blessings.

My scrapbooks and file boxes are overflowing with cards from precious people over the years . . .birthday cards, holiday cards, graduation cards, congratulations cards, encouragement cards, thank you cards, sympathy cards, and “just-because” cards. They remind me that my life has been rich in experiences and in relationships with amazing friends and family.  And I have sent oodles of cards in return, celebrating their joys and expressing my support during their losses.

The next time I go card shopping, I won’t be afraid to admit it if a sneak attack of pain comes along with the task. If it does, I know that God and my friends are available to get me through it. I’ll also strive to be thankful for the opportunity in front of me. As I hunt for the ideal card, I will think of the intended receiver – and be grateful for that person’s presence in my life.  And I’ll remember that the simple act of hand-picking a card, writing a personal note, and sending it may be just the encouragement my friend needs to deal with the greeting card aisles in his or her life.

——————————————————————————————————

“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you . . .” Psalm 55:22 (NIV)

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18 (NIV)

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up . . .” I Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)

“Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2 (NASB)

 

 

 

Trusting God in the Dark

 

ultrasound machine

It felt like the walls were closing in. A dim, recessed bulb cast a faint ray of light from the ceiling. The only other illumination was the eerie glow from the high-tech machine just used to perform a test on me. I was alone, lying on a paper-covered exam table. A white towel covered the suspect part of my body and a medical gown barely covered the rest.

The unsmiling technician had routinely performed the test without emotion, lending neither comfort nor revelation. “I’m going to get the doctor to discuss the findings,” was all she said as she closed the door behind her.

I knew the specialist could walk in and announce that I had a deadly disease. I had waited weeks for this test after an earlier exam revealed something suspicious. Only in my thirties, fear clutched at my throat as I tried to brace myself for what could be the worst news of my life. I instinctively began praying: “God—where are you? Please help me not to be afraid. Please help me feel your peace.” Fear’s grip didn’t loosen, and I felt utterly alone. I prayed with more determination. “God, you say that you will never leave or forsake us. Please take away this fear!” Still, the calming sense of peace I cried out for refused to permeate the sterile environment.

The doctor arrived, and though he delivered good news, joy escaped me. I was exhausted from feeling as if I had borne the stress alone. And I was hurt and confused because God had not responded the way I thought he should. For several days afterward my faith was shaken. But gradually I began to see that the rattling was for my own good. My concept of God was being jostled right out of its tiny box.

After being a Christian for many years, I thought I knew God. I thought I could predict how he would respond to my cries for help. My experience in the exam room reminded me that God is much bigger than my understanding. While I rest secure in His goodness, faithfulness, and grace, His ways will always be higher than mine. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8). He is all-knowing and all-powerful, and does what he deems best, even if at the moment it might not feel comfortable or “safe.”

C.S. Lewis captured this aspect of God in hisAslan portrayal of Aslan, the character who represents Christ in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Mr. Beaver describes Aslan to the four children: “Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh!” said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.” “That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver; “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.” “Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy. “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

As I grappled with the dual concepts of God’s goodness and his untamable nature, some of the peace I craved in that dark room showed up. I learned that I cannot approach God with a vending machine mentality (insert prayer, immediately receive the answer to my specifications). I now realize that even though God didn’t instantaneously take away my fear when I asked Him to, it didn’t mean he wasn’t there. Psalm 34:15 confirms that “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry.” He was there even when I couldn’t “feel” him.  He was there even when he didn’t act the way I thought he should. He heard my cry for help—but in his wisdom he allowed me to experience a situation that stretched my faith.   I learned the important lesson that I can never control God—only trust him.

In his book, “Knowing God,” J.I. Packer states, “We may be frankly bewildered at things that happen to us, but God knows exactly what he is doing and what he is after. Always, and in everything he is wise. We shall see that hereafter even where we never saw it here. Meanwhile, we ought not to hesitate to trust his wisdom even when he leaves us in the dark.”

Like he did with me, in that exam room. It was right where I needed to be.