How to Deal With the “What Ifs”

How many times have you heard the saying, “God will not give you more than you can handle”?

If you said “too many”, same here.

Nothing can strike fear in my heart quite as quickly as any situation where the word “if” is involved. It can be one of the most terrifying words in the entire English vocabulary. I’m guessing it can be for some of you, too?

Often, if hangs in the air like a bomb waiting to detonate. That bomb might sprinkle confetti or rain down disaster.

But, OH! How terrifyingly if hangs there.

If this baby has a disability, too. If this precious egg sticks within me.

If I win the competition. If I don’t even place.

If the job ends. If I get the job.

If.

IF.

IF!

What’s your if?

Because, I can tell you this, whatever it is, there’s an answer to it. An answer that every religion, since religion became a thing, tries to answer differently.

And yet, each answer is essentially the same. Because The Creator of All knows our questions before we ask them. And He is faithful to answer.

In His timing, of course.

Ultimately, that’s what irks this If Asker, the very most. The plotter and planner and want-to-know-right-now-er in me is annoyed that I can’t always know what happens if.

I crave certainty. Stability. Dependability.

“If” provides none of those things.

Sometimes, an answer is for me to know. Other times, times I dread, it’s not. Anxiety could set in so easily, during those times. Two verses that I cling to during a time of waiting for an answer are:

“When doubts fill my mind, your comfort gives me renewed hope and cheer.”

“Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about what happens to you.”

Comfort comes in knowing The One who made each one of us does, indeed, care what happens to us. And, he knows what happens “If”. Not only does He know, He’s got a plan for whichever side of this two-letter word the answer falls on.

Remembering that truth provides a measure of relief, as I consider my desperation for the finality of an answer. It also lifts the burden of trying to figure it all out on my own. There is a time and place for figuring it out, of course. Someone has to decide if we are going to Dairy Queen for dessert or not.

psalm66_19_missindeedy

In the grander scheme of life, though, I’m able to breathe a sigh of relief as I remember that most of what I worry my heart over isn’t for me to decide. God’s ability is higher, longer, wider, and deeper than my inability.

So is His love for me.

And you.

He knows if this is what I can handle.

God knows if this is what you can handle.

“Blessed be God; he didn’t turn a deaf ear, he stayed with me, loyal in his love.”

I’m resting right there.

Yes indeedy.

One Wonderful Kindness

Jesus calls us to be light. Not to be liked.

The two words may sound the same, and I’ve done my fair share of confusing the two as I seek to be liked light in my community, but they are different. This side of Glory, they are so very different.

Those of us who long to be more like Jesus and less like us, are also called to a higher standard of caring for one another. Both the other that we know, identify with, and like, as well as the other that we don’t.

I come a little late to this discussion, but I’ve been giving The Pool Party incident a lot of thought. As I’ve wrestled with strong feelings about both sides of the story as it was initially presented in the media, I realized what it comes down to, for me. This is a story about the depth of our willingness to forgive each other and then pursue reconciliation.

And smack-dab In the middle of this whole news story, I find myself faced with the opportunity to, as a fellow writer I deeply admire recently wrote, “stay at the table”. As I read this article by Deidre, over at the Washington Post, I was reminded that we are invited to spread the Good News that Jesus came to restore.

By living that way.

By speaking that way.

And every single time we choose to love, by not engaging in an argument over who is on the right side of fence, and why, Love wins. Each time we lock eyes with the human on the other side of the table and stay in it, determined to find where our humanity intersects with theirs, Love wins.

Call me an optimist, but, I want Love to win.

Ultimately, of course, it does.

But, I’d like to see it win a few times here on this side of Glory, too.

On this side of the fence.

So, with each new conversation about who was where they shouldn’t have been, and when, or who should teach respect and who should learn it, I choose Love.

I choose to remember how many times I made choices that were so very wrong. Yet someone, somewhere, showed me kindness anyway. I choose to recall the times I should have been in control, but wasn’t, and was given grace.

And still are.

I choose to remember that it doesn’t have to be a “they’re wrong” or “we’re right” kind of discussion. It could be, it should be a discussion about how we can love one another better. It can be another golden opportunity to show wonderful kindness, much like we have been shown.

Not a dismissal of sin.

Not an ignorance of peril.

Not a diss of this or that or them.

But Love. And grace.

Like we first understood it, the first time grace was poured out over us and our own mess.

I might not understand the daily perils of being part of this group or that organization, but I surely do know that God’s grace is one wonderful kindness. I’ve experienced it a time or a thousand.

Have you?

One_Wonderful_Kindness_Missindeedy

Oh God…let me pass on your wonderful kindness to another.

Help us all to pass it on, one to another.

Yes indeedy.

You Gotta Think Positive

When negative thoughts rise within him, Sweetboy needs as many hands on deck as possible to redirect him towards hope. Sometimes, my earnest hugs and feeble words don’t come close to touching his darkest thoughts. Or, it might be a day where my mood might be a tad bit darker than his, making it even harder to help him move toward joy.

But God…

He provided me with Sweetman, who can pick up where I leave off. And He also saw fit to give us Sweetgirl, who carries hope in her pocket every hour of every day.

It’s within the safety net of home that we are able to be helpers to each other. We find ourselves dancing around each others’ moods with just the right steps. And we come to know which moves to use under what circumstances, the longer we have had to be in each others’ presence.

I’m grateful that Autism touches our family. It forces us to dance to rhythms we might never have chosen. It also teaches us to be patient as we learn new moves.

I’ve been giving negativity a lot of thought, lately; as in, wanting to give it the boot. And, when I read this blog post about the ill effects of negativity, by Michael Hyatt last week, holy cow! My determination to keep moving Sweetboy in positive directions got a major boost.

To that end, Sweetgirl and I made up a chant to help our Sweetboy think more positively. Our little ditty isn’t likely to win any Dove or Grammy Awards, but it surely does help to snap that child’s mind into a better place. And, while he does indeed groan whenever we fire it up, we’ve started hearing him hum it to himself as he bounces around the house, once in a while.

“You’ve got to think POSITIVE, POSITIVE, POSITIVE! And only think the BEST, the BEST, the BEST!”

(I totally stole that from God. In Philippians 4:8. Where He directs us to think about only the things that are good and worthy of praise.)

Progress – that’s all any of us can hope for as we go along. Certainly not perfection. There was only One who was perfect. And He longs for us to keep moving forward, inching our way as we crawl on our bellies, some days. But, moving forward, nonetheless.

One way to keep taking steps in the right direction is to keep our eyes on all that is good. Another way to do that is to surround ourselves with folks who look for the best in a situation. I see us, Sweetgirl, Sweetman, and me, as those people for our Sweetboy.

And, I pray God continues to surround him with those people outside of our four walls.

Ahab always told us to “plan for the worst and hope for the best”. Solid advice, that.

And I’d add, you gotta think positive!

Yes indeedy!

For When You Want to Go Down the Dark Road

I find myself in that halfway point between wanting what God wants for me and wanting what I want for me. Right now, anyway, it sure feels like those are diametrically opposed wants.

In spiritual reality, my want is His want.

But, the flesh wants what the flesh wants, doesn’t it?

It feels easy to share the parts of my heart that are dark, in the hopes that those of you reading with darkness in your own heart will know you are not alone. You all help me remember that I’m not alone. The rebellion stirring around in my heart is no less palatable to my spirit when I share it, though.

As if to prove to the rebellion that it doesn’t belong there, so many times when I go to write out of the emptiness, God swoops in and inspires writing that is more joy-filled. Light floods the recesses and all of a sudden, I don’t remember what darkness I was writing to banish, in the first place.

I want to live so that Your will be done, Lord.

Human hearts being the wretched things that they can sometimes be, I find myself returning once again to the words that I originally intended to get out. The ones my flesh want to write.  I string together the thoughts that most seem like they need to get out. I try to stay on the dark road.

He lovingly redirects me by way of joy. He makes hope overshadow all.

I’m able to stay there – in that hope-filled place, for a time. Inevitably, my rebellious heart starts thumping to its own beat again, completely out of tune with God’s heart. And before I know it, I’m headed back toward pondering the angst within me instead of remembering the joy of my salvation.

How long, Lord?

When I do try to head back to that wallowing place, grace always comes. We know this. Don’t we.

There is a verse that never fails to woo me back toward The Light of All Hope. It truly sings the song of my people.

And, I have a feeling it will for many of you, too.

You groped your way through that murk once, but no longer. You’re out in the open now. The bright light of Christ makes your way plain. So no more stumbling around. Get on with it! The good, the right, the true—these are the actions appropriate for daylight hours. Figure out what will please Christ, and then do it.” 

Ephesians 5:8 (The Message)

Brightest_Light_Missindeedy

No more groping along.

It’s the Brightest Light, for me.

Only The Brightest Light.

Yes indeedy.

Do I Look Sick?

We had plans to go visit The Italian sister-in-law, and family, one weekend. So, of course, it was only fitting that Sweetboy came home with The Big Question on his lips.

“Do I look sick, mama?”

This is one of his current perseverations, along with anything to do with shorts, and an abhorrence to any potential puking. (Although, to be fair, I don’t know anyone who loves the sound of retching!)

When the child is suffering from allergies, he will ask us 246 times, between the hours of waking and sleeping, if he looks sick. He will have us check his throat with a flashlight almost as many times. The forehead thermometer gets quite the workout, too.

Good times.

If someone in his class gets sick during his school day, he walks in the door informing us about it. He gets his snack wondering if he’ll get sick. He does his homework, pausing periodically to ask, “Do I look sick”? During dinner, he’ll stop eating long enough to ask if we think him eating his dinner will make him sick. As he showers, he pokes his head out of the shower door to ask us to confirm that he doesn’t look sick. The child will lay in his bed agonizing over whether he is going to fall ill next.

His preoccupation with the possibility of becoming sick, during these times, is so intense, that it’s easy to lose patience with him. I mean, by the twelfth time he poses the question (within one hour!), there aren’t many creative ways to say, “Nope”, left.

Ultimately, though, how could I get angry about this? Because, I ask this question of My Father, all. the. time!

“Remove that thought from your mind, child,” He wisely suggests.

“Show that friend the grace I show you, daughter,” He gently reminds.

“Practice hospitality for her even though you feel exhausted today,” He encourages.

I bristle at all the prompting, sometimes.

“But, God, do I look sick?”

I don’t, of course.

Not to the mamas waiting at the bus stop with me. Not to my exercise buddies as we huff and puff together in the mornings. Not to the cashier swiping my Devil Dogs through the scanner. Not to my online Bible study team as we reason out ways to best highlight an important principle.

No, I don’t look sick.

It doesn’t mean I’m not, though.

Sometimes, I’m sick at heart over hurting another who needed mercy. Other times I find myself sick to death of bearing incessant questions with patience. Even physical sickness, itself, rears its ugly head once in a while.

“It is not the healthy people who need a doctor, but the sick. I did not come to invite good people but to invite sinners.”  (Mark 2:17)

And so, as we returned from the urgent care with a positive rapid strep test the next morning, he didn’t even bother asking the question. He had his confirmation.

Just as I have mine.

Indeed.

A Catty Little Chat

Harboring bitterness in my heart toward a friend, I decided to vent about it with another friend.

I decided.

Because, that always works out so well for me!

And so, God waited.

While my friend and I had a catty little chat, God waited.

And heard every hostile word.

Later on that evening, as I poured a dollop of oil into the bubbling pasta water, I started going over the conversation in my head. As the water boiled, so did my envy.

But, God waited.

As I lay in bed that night, I began to feel restless. I turned my bedside lamp back on and pulled out my journal. I grabbed for my Bible and flipped straight to the back. I was on a mission, as I searched for a specific word.

And still, God waited.

When my eyes lit on the word “jealousy” and all of the verses He gives for dealing with that green monster, God finally chose to tap on my heart.

There are moments when the darkness, that resides within me, makes itself so glaringly evident that I’m left gawking at All The Ugly.

On_The_Rock_Missindeedy

God, Himself, tells me that all of His Words are summed up in one simple command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

One.

Simple.

Command.

That I get so wrong, again and again.

God was done waiting.

Patiently, gently, He drew my eyes here:

“But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.”

Do not deny the truth…

The truth was, the truth is, that I am envious of what comes easier to some than others. I am jealous of the special treatment I think I see some receive over others. It irks me to know that for some, recognition will be quick – and yet never at all for others.

Ultimately, it scares me to think that I might be in with the “others”.

Once again, God’s grace sheds light on my darkness.

You see, He decided a long time ago that He was going to show me special treatment and give me His recognition.

Thankfully, when God decides, it always works out for me.

It became pretty obvious that I needed to call my “other” friend and apologize. For the catty chat, yes.

But more, for not trusting our God enough to remember that there’s room enough for each one of us to stand on The Rock.

Yes indeedy.

Muddy Footprints and Stale Air

More routine doctor’s appointments, state-wide school testing, and illnesses have hit us upside the head than should be legal.

We’re muddling through.

Aren’t we all pretty much muddling through?

I keep putting one foot in front of the other – determined to see this school year through to the end.

The Lord has had infinite mercy on us, up here in New England, as we’ve been able to get away without another snow day tacked on to the end of our school year. This brings me indescribable joy. Indeed. As a former elementary school teacher, I know full well how desperate we all become for The End.

The Sweetkids are up to their springtime tricks, tracking in an endless stream of muddy footprints.  Their preoccupation with the green stuff sprouting underneath the finally melting snow is almost as keen as mine is for us to finally be able to get this stale air out of the house!

Out, stale air! OUT!

Vacation. That’s what I keep telling myself that I need. And I am indeed blessed to be able to take it, coming up here in a couple of weeks. But, I can’t shake the feeling that this intense need I feel for a get-away has more to do with the stale feeling in my heart than with winter’s remnants in my home.

God, as always, is able to show me what I need to see.

Heart_Space_Airing_Missindeedy

He’s showing me that my heart space needs an airing out.

The desperation I’ve been feeling has far more to do with what I haven’t spent enough time cultivating. Just like the blades of grass become greener with each day nearer to the son, my heart is much the same.  The deeper spiritual choices are the ones that have been neglected.

I have found that nothing alleviates the labor of breathing in thick stale air such as the Fresh Wind of Grace does. To feel it blowing so near to where I need it most makes me fall to my knees, in relief.

And instantly, He reveals what is needed.

Grace.

Again.

This just makes my grasp on the human condition all the more firm, though. Recounting the number of times I have need of the grace He offers me… it could make a human feel hopeless.

Until…

I receive His beautiful Word blowing through my heart. Yes. I welcome Him in and gulp down each fresh breeze sent my way. He revives me. And inspires me.

Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us. The Scriptures give us patience and encouragement so that we can have hope.”

Watching that stale air move on out, I can get to work sweeping out the dust that has settled too thickly. While I’m cleaning, I’m just gonna head over there and attack some of those muddy footprints, too.

Yes indeedy.

 

The Back-up Hairbrush

Sweetgirl sat still (SHE SAT STILL!) while I brushed her hair the other night.

She had come to me, moments before, clutching her beloved purple hairbrush. The one with the gigantic, princess-sized, colorful gems glued to the back. The one I bought her on a whim. No wrapping paper adorned it. She didn’t request it. It was one of those “Sweetgirl would love this!” purchases.

And, oh, how she did!

This sweet child of mine, so girly in her ways, so foreign to my own, adores this brush with every strand of her fine golden hair. Each time she asks me to “Brush, please, mama!” I stop mid-whatever and sink down to do it. Each brush stroke another fleeting moment spent with this cherished girl child that hardly ever holds still long enough to allow me this gift of time.

As she walked over to me, this particular night, the brush slipped out of her hand. I dove, volleyball style, to get my hand underneath and break the impact.

I’ve still got it, because I surely did save that brush from destruction.

Immediately, I thought, “I need to buy a back-up brush!”

And, why?

What if she drops it and breaks it and we can’t fix it and she’s inconsolable.

Yeah. That.

I resolved to head back to the store where I bought it as soon as possible and pick up another one. The next morning, I had a quick hour of freedom and made a break for it!

But, a funny thing happened on the way to the store.

God got a hold of my human capacity for worst-case scenario planning. He whispered into the midst of it, “There is no plan for death. Save, mine.”

And I heard it.

But, I didn’t understand it. Not really.

So, I kept driving.

Broken_Hairbrushes_Missindeedy

Pulling into the parking space in front of the store, I felt this check in my heart. A nudge to just sit still, like my Sweetgirl did, and soak in some valuable moments of listening.

You already know where this is going, don’t you?

“You can’t save her from heartbreak. I couldn’t save my Son from the very same.”

I was listening. God’s Holiest whisper finally penetrated my human understanding. “I gave you this little one not so that you could save her, but so that I could. Show her that I can save her. Show her that broken hairbrushes will not break her.

Oh, y’all. I’m crying as I’m typing because… I needed to hear that so very badly.

Do you, too?

I want to take each circumstance in her life and Sweetboy’s life and control it and maneuver it and make it right and straight and copacetic and pain-free.

But, I can’t, can I.

And, that’s not even my job.

I’ve been trying to do Someone else’s job.

Clarity can be startling. It surely was, for me, in that moment.

I may have put the car in park, but it was my mind that God needed to pull over. I’m so thankful that He did.

I’m never more aware of my continual need for His grace than when He’s whispering a lesson into my heart that He’s only had to teach me eleventy times over.

Indeed.

I didn’t end up going in to buy the back-up hairbrush.

She doesn’t need it.

I don’t need it.

Gemstones may crack. We may crack.

But, He’ll put us back together in exactly the way only He can.

I’ll just keep showing her.

And He’ll keep showing me.

When Tunnel Vision Becomes Good

I’ve never had tunnel vision, physically. But, whoa Nelly! I’ve had it mentally. And emotionally.

Actually, I take that back. I have experienced tunnel vision! For my beloved devil dogs. And, it gets me into trouble in the pants department.  Every. Single. time.

Otherwise, there aren’t many instances where tunnel vision is all that helpful. Or good.

Well, unless we’re talking about the intense desire to lose the spare tire that All The Devil Doggery has created. Then, I guess tunnel vision can be a positive.

And science. Science definitely benefits from the researcher intently focused on finding a cure for The Disease! Yes, then all of that tunnel vision pays massive dividends to society. And, to the world.

Valuing self over others, though, that is exactly the sort of tunnel vision that my heart has been railing against. Concentrating on whatever, whoever, will promote me over Thee… I notice far too much of that, lately.

In myself.

And, in others.

A wise mentor once told me that what I most dislike about another person is very likely a thing that I strongly dislike about myself.

Touche`.

We want to be liked. We want to be noticed. We want to matter.

So, we set about marketing ourselves. We push this profile picture. Or tweet and Instagram The Thing or The Thought that we hope might catch someone’s eye. We Vine our video vignettes and harbor a desire to go viral. Motivation to stay on top of the Importance Pile gathering with every click, like, follow, and repost.

But, we already are liked. We already have been noticed. We already do matter.

To the God who formed us.

He likes us very much.

He notices our every thought.

He declares that we already matter.

Come what may.

Or not.

I’m thankful for His patience, on the days and in the moments where I forget that.

Do you forget that, too?

Tunnel_Vision_Missindeedy

It is no small gift that God’s love endures forever. That He is for me.

For you.

And as He waits patiently for us to behold all that He places in our line of sight meant to bless, we continue to seek and search for significance where there is none to be found. When our search turns up empty, again and again and again, He is there. Our worth is validated and invalidated, in a vicious never-ending cycle. Each time we seek significance that seems hidden from us, He is waiting for us to remember that we already are significant.

To Him.

And in that moment when we finally do remember, and do see what we’ve not been willing or able to, our gaze can again become focused with an intensity that only sole devotion can bring.

Then, that tunnel vision becomes Good. It is a grace.

We are known. And loved. And our importance becomes irrelevant.

Because, we finally seek Thee and find thee.

The Most Significant of all.

Yes indeedy.

I Heard This Wonderful Quote

Listening to the line-up of speakers through the LiveStream of the IF:Gathering, recently, a theme emerged for me. A heart hears what it’s ready to hear. After 19 years of following after this God I often write of, I was truly ready to hear this one wonderful quote from Jen Hatmaker: “If you believe someone, you begin to believe what they say about you.”

I don’t believe in ghosts. But I believe in the Holy One. And y’all, I felt Him right there, in that moment, staring me down, saying, “GIRL…do you believe what we say about you? Do you really?”

My pen stood still, midair, as I took in the question and hesitantly answered.

Again, I felt that check in my spirit. “If you do, beloved, then live like it!

If you’ve ever been on the edge of some physical place, knowing you needed to jump, but not really wanting to jump just quite yet… yeah, that feeling. It’s scary, daring, terrifying, and exciting.

And, convicting.

Because, I feel like that one quote sums up grace and glory, the law and all of the prophets, too.

I’m ever-so-grateful that God opened my heart to finally hearing. Lord knows He’s been trying to tell me for an awfully long time.

I_Heard_This_Quote_Missindeedy

If God is Who He says He is, then everything He tells me, about who I am, is true.

And what does He tell me? (And, just so you know, He tells you, too.)

When there’s trouble, I have the peace of God that passes all understanding. (Philippians 4:7)

In my infinite weakness, He reminds me that I am more than a conqueror through Him Who loves me. (Romans 8:37)

When all I see is my dirt, He declares that I am forgiven of all my sins. (Ephesians 1:7)

For those times when I see how much of a hot mess I am, He comes alongside me and reminds me that I am exactly what He made me, and he created me in Christ Jesus for good works that he planned for me. (Ephesians 2:10)

If I’m feeling unlovable, He whispers that I was chosen by Him, holy, even, and beloved. (Colossians 3:12)

Those are some mighty powerful truths.

Truths that could transform a person. Indeed!

For today, I choose to live like they’re true.

4

*If you’d like to check out some of the other impactful quotes from the IF:Gathering, head on over to The Twitter and type in #IfGathering2015.

**Have no idea what I’m talking about, every time I write “If:Gathering”, head over here for more info about them and what they long to accomplish.