Like Raisins Soaked in Gin

Ahab’s mama, “Honey” as we were instructed to address her, used to swear by the health benefits of taking 5 white raisins a day, with your breakfast. But, these were no ordinary golden raisins. Oh, no! These had been soaked, patiently, for five or six long months. In gin.

To this day, I don’t understand what benefit they were to have had. And now that she’s dancing with The Good Lord, I can no longer ask her. But, she surely made a big deal about allowing them to soak for that 5-6 month time period.

And I can’t help but think that the grace God dispenses is kind of like that too. It has maximum benefit when I soak in it for long periods of time.

It’s when I forget that the grace is there for the soaking in, and maybe you can relate, that I do myself and others the most harm. God’s very Word utters promises and whispers tender affirmations of His boundless love for me. Of His fathomless grace for each and every one of us.

For a few years, I chose a word to hone in on. I am not doing that. No, I’m choosing a mindset.

This new year, this 2016, is the year I choose grace. For myself. For others who aren’t yet choosing it for themselves. And for each situation that doesn’t sit right at the start.

While I’m at it, I might pop a few of those raisins.

Yes indeedy. Because, it surely can’t hurt!

Happy New Year, friends. I pray God enlarges your vision for all the grace He gives to you. And maybe more than that, that we can always remember the grace we have to give to others.

 

I Feel So Ugly

Today, I woke up feeling ugly.  The mirror was harsh and my thoughts were harsher.

It’s awfully hard, sometimes, to keep moving forward with only a dim picture of what could be.

Here I go, grappling with that old question again! How long, Lord?

I want to see a glimpse, a clear glimpse, of the me You know I will be.

But, right now?

mirror_missindeedy

Well, right now, I only see this dim and very muddled reflection. It’s not pretty. It’s all smudged with “wish I never said that” thinking and “why couldn’t I finish that” questioning. It’s tainted by age that hasn’t been accompanied by wisdom near as much as I would like.

 “It is the same with us. Now we see a dim reflection, as if we were looking into a mirror, but then we shall see clearly. Now I know only a part, but then I will know fully, as God has known me.”

-1 Corinthians 13:12 (NCV)

Age aside, (way way aside, please), it’s worth noting that most days, I’m quite happy to only see my reflection dimly. If at all. The problem I’m experiencing is that as grace abounds more and more, the dimmer the image staring back at me in the mirror.

Maybe that’s exactly the way it should be.

Each time I think I think I’ve got a hold of what I look like, God changes something in me.

And each time He makes adjustments to the old me, I find myself staring at a new and unfamiliar reflection.

Even as I type out these words, I realize that there’s really no need to know exactly how I look. To myself, or others.

It’s got to be enough, His grace has to be enough to cover my lack with His all.

My ugly with His beauty.

Whether dimly or clearly.

Why does it take me so long to figure these things out?

He knows what I will look like. He loves the me that I am now through Perfect Eyes that see past this here and now and into the gorgeous eternal.

Those flaws we see in ourselves, that I constantly see in myself, the ones that glare back at us in the mirror? They are the same ones He uses to draw others toward us.

I’ve watched Him use my ugly to speak into someone else’s ugly, time and time again. He does it with such beauty. It’s staggering.

But then, the times I wake up and immediately hate what I see, I so easily forget that there is no room for hatred in His eyes. The disgust and frustration and disappointment, seen so clearly by my own eyes, are all crowded out by the affection and joy and delight, in His.

For the Lord takes pleasure in His people;
He will beautify the afflicted ones with salvation.”

BibleGateway Psalm 149:4 (NASB)

I am His people. I’m guessing that if you’re reading, you are too.

Or, you long to be.

The God who made us, sees beauty.

The One who sees me, sees beauty.

Oh God, how I need to cling to that! 

He promises that He will beautify.

Oh God, afflict us with salvation! 

I’m thanking Him for that promise, today.

Yes indeedy.

When You Just Don’t Understand Yourself

“Stay open to conversations instead of confrontations.” – Nicki Koziarz

Listening to a session about how to engage millennials in our churches, I was struck by the quote, above, by this wise young speaker. (Ten years younger feels like forever ago young!)

Each word she poured out was filled with exceptional wisdom regarding her generation. I felt, by turns, convicted, encouraged, and hopeful. And, as you can imagine, I’m especially thankful for that last one.

Grace equals hope, for me. Listening to each point made, I realized how many opportunities for connection I’ve passed up. But, mercifully, there is grace. And every time I move toward conversation and away from confrontation, I speak Grace a little more fluently.

That quote, though? Sweet Moses! I was also made fully aware of just how quickly I am prone to launching toward the confrontational aspect of an issue. While the speaker made a special point to encourage us to be wary of doing this on social media, I instantly saw how this behavior could carry over in my relationships.

Has carried over into my relationships.

Ouch.

I recalled words exchanged between Sweetman and myself. During one particular and recent incident, hurt layered over my words in ugly ways. I winced as I remembered details of my portion of our discussion. Leaving the conversation on the floor, and opting instead for confrontation, I felt justified.

At first…

I didn’t give near enough thought to my end game, though. Harmony in the household is not achieved by angry confrontation. We all know this. I know this. And yet, I don’t do this! And this frustrates me.

I feel like Paul.

“I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.” (Romans 7:15 NLT)

Paul’s admission reminds me that I am human (hate that), and that I’m not the first person to experience this dilemma (love that).

He also rightly points out that we don’t fully understand ourselves.

I think this is the part I keep forgetting. We humans can have all the self-awareness in the world. We can be deeply introspective and highly conscious and widely informed about our foibles and propensities.

But, God…He fully understands us.

And loves us anyway.

What delights me is that He continues to use things, like this speaker’s talk on engaging millennials, to reach into my ignorance and show me better ways. He takes what I am and makes me into something kinder. He shepherds me toward grace when I chase after confrontation.

Oh, thank you Lord!

And, when I’m feeling like I just don’t understand myself, I can rest knowing that God surely does.

Yes indeedy!

I Want to Be a Warrior, Not a Worrier

Recently, parents in my little community found out that the long standing tradition of “Step Up Day” (finding out what homeroom you would be in, and what students would be with you) would not take place on the last day of school, as it had in the past. This day always caused much excitement, and more than a little anxiety, as anxious students AND parents awaited The News when their student arrived home on the last day of school.

In certain situations, especially those that pertain to Sweetboy, I can be one of those anxious parents.

I’ve always assumed Sweetboy needed to know these sorts of things to appease his own angst over the possibilities.

But, in true “out of the mouths of babes” fashion, when I told Sweetboy about the change, he said, and I quote, “That’s actually kinda good mama because then I don’t have to worry all summer about being in a classroom with a not-nice kid or teacher.”

Clearly, this was a lesson that I needed to learn. Yet again.

You see, I had worked myself into a bit of a frenzy over the many negative possibilities that this change in notification could produce. I had convinced Sweetman that we needed to assert ourselves into the process to help “guide” it more positively, for Sweetboy’s sake, of course. I had discussed the reasons this was so not a good idea with other special needs parents.

But, what I didn’t do, was take it to my God.

I’d say “shame on me”, but I’m too aware of the grace He constantly throws me, and will continue to.

Why is it that I still, still take my problems to God, last?

He promises to work on my behalf. Every time. Sometimes, He’ll work in ways I can see and feel. And sometimes, it will be in ways I can’t fathom. But, He is working. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

When we take our worries to God, as He asks us to,then we become Prayer Warriors, instead of worriers.

Warrior.

I rather prefer that title. Don’t you?

Yes indeedy!

While we wait to receive news of which classmates and teachers Sweetboy will be with next year, I’m lifting this prayer up to The God Who Is In Control Of It All:

Dear God, thank you for loving Sweetboy more than I ever could. Help me be patient while I trust You for his future. Take these anxious thoughts and turn them into reminders of how able You are. Thank you for your grace. I surely need it. Amen!

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.

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.