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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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*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.

I Want The King for My Friend

I’ve been working my way through a book that has done something incredible in my life.

It has dried up my words.

And, honestly? I’m okay with that.

Reading Keep It Shut, by Karen Ehman, has been life-altering. My brain, and by extension, the mouth that’s connected to it, have experienced some blissful radio silence. I’m not even going to try to guess the number of people around me, who also consider this new frequency blissful.

I’m a gap-filler, you see. If there is a lull in conversation, I’m your girl. When the small talk at a party dwindles, I jump right in. In the midst of an awkward situation and not sure what to say next? Count on me!

Usually, these aren’t necessarily bad things.

But sometimes, they aren’t really good things, either.

The abundance of words that accumulates within me doesn’t actually mean that I need to voice every single one of them.

Amen? (Not you, Nana. We all know you’re saying “AMEN!”)

Not much is added to a filling-the-gap moment that is true, noble, right, pure, or lovely. Certainly not much is admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy. So, what exactly am I adding to conversations?

That is the ultimate question I’ve been asking myself, lately.

For the first time in probably ever, I see that many of my words aren’t attaching anything of benefit to the discussion. And, that’s not to discount the meaningful chats I have with people I care about. Nor does it mean that I need to throw out the fun back-and-forths I might have with friends and acquaintances.

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It is, however, a fantastic reason to do a lot more pausing before piping up. It’s also a great reason to do a little more listening with those two ears of mine and a lot less talking with that one mouth.

The more listening I do, the more I see what I haven’t seen as my lips were moving. The hurting neighbor. The angry relative. The hesitant friend. There are hearts that I am hearing, that I’ve never even known were trying to talk.

Allow my inner 80’s teen to re-emerge, please? DUDE!

There is no small beauty in a heart that is finally heard.

Don’t we all know this to be true? What relief, what joy, what profound satisfaction in our souls when some beautiful ear finally bends to hear?

Maybe the most amazing thing of all is that as I speak with more grace, which means more listening before speaking, my friendships will deepen. Friends that I long to connect with – deeply hear from and be heard by – will appear.

How do I know?

“Whoever loves pure thoughts and kind words will have even the king as a friend.”

Even The King.

I don’t know about you, but, I want The King for my friend.

Yes indeedy.