Ten Second Grace Period

Ten seconds seem like a sweet forever when you want something Other than what you need.

As any recovering addict can tell you, every second that you are able to stay away from the thing that you crave is a second of victory. And any God-loving addict will also tell you that every second you move closer to Him and away from That Thing That Beckons is a gift of grace.

I pray for a ten second grace period, often, throughout my day. Indeed, there have been 24-hour stretches, around here, where I probably spent more time begging God to provide those seconds than I did anything else.

Some days, you need a whole heckuva lot more than a few extra seconds to get your act in gear. Other days, it only takes a split second to make the better choice.

Or, not.

In her new book, The Best Yes, Lysa TerKeurst says you “steer where you stare”.

Today, God, grace me with a few extra seconds to fix my gaze on You. Tweet that!

I don’t know what you specifically need a grace period for, but I know that we humans? We all need one for something.  I pray you get that, today, my friend.

Oh, how I do!

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This post is day 10 in the Write 31 Days challenge.

If you’re just tuning in now, click here to go to the page that has the link to the previous 9 days.

 

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Out of the Rain

Kicking and screaming – that’s how I finally went off, this morning, to engage in the women’s ministry offerings at our “new” church. This being the official One Year mark since we first started attending regularly, you might be picking up on what a struggle it’s been for me to fully embrace this place.

I rushed into the building resentful, late, and dripping wet.

Resentful that I had to “start over”. Late because I found every possible last-minute “forgotten” chore to take care of before walking out the door. And dripping wet because, well… rain was pouring down.

To match my mood.

Scanning the room, I quickly sat down at the way way back, in the first free chair I laid eyes on.  As I scooted into the open chair, I determined to keep my heart closed.

But, I made a grave error… I breathed.

And a prayer escaped, unbidden.

Despite the feeling I’d had this past year that God forgot my need for flesh-and-blood fellowship, a fresh Hope blew in.

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Instantly, I realized that I was sitting with a small group of three women that clearly already knew each other. And, they didn’t seem to be very open, themselves.

But, because I’ve never met a stranger, thank-you-very-much, I started chatting this group up.  In my mind, I was drawing them out.

As usual, God had something altogether different, and altogether lovely, in mind.

From the moment the first one started speaking about the dark places she’s been, I realized she had a story that I wanted I needed to hear. Hers was so completely different from mine. And yet, the same in all of the important places. As the next woman spoke of past entanglements that I full understand, hers, too, became a story of redemption that my heart desperately needed to hear.

Redemption comes softly and not.  But, He always comes. And only Redemption, Himself, knows exactly when we will be ready to fall at His feet and welcome union with Him.

I’ve been giving this passage a lot of thought lately.

Exodus 13:17-18 says, “When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, ‘If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.’ So God led them in a round about way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea.”

Recognizing their inability to face a challenge at this early stage in their freedom journey, God routed them differently than expected.

I am no different.

God knows how susceptible I am to a setback at the beginning stages of a new adventure.

Oh God, You knew! You knew that I desperately needed to sit next to a group of women who so recognize their need of you that I couldn’t help but be reminded of my own.

And You knew, too, that had I attempted to join in last Fall, it would have been a detour that my heart wasn’t ready for.

But. For. Grace.

Thank You for opening my ears to hear Your whisper, and my eyes to see your outstretched arm through these beautiful women this morning.

Maybe, even more, for loving me enough to pull me out of the rain and into Your Holy arms, once again.

I so needed that fresh Hope.

Calling All Apples

The dreaded triathlon swim was last weekend.

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I survived. No, no, no – better than that! I did pretty darn well, considering I’ve a) Never competed in anything ending in -athlon before, b) become firmly entrenched in the 40+ age range, and c) been sporting a muffin-top to beat all muffin-tops for the better part of a decade.

And, it’s that last one that I feel the need to address.

Online.

For all the world to see.

But first… You know how you sometimes think you don’t look half bad? And perhaps you’ve even been working toward some fitness goal and are therefore convinced that you might even be looking pretty good?  And you live in your perfectly crafted delusional world for as long as it takes for someone to snap photographic evidence declaring quite the opposite?

Yeah.

Sigh…

An unfortunate side effect of All The Devil Dogs is, apparently, a spare tire.

Around one’s middle.

This picture below?  I’m putting it out there.  My friend Janet is grinning on my right.  She’s the toad friend who made me swim laps with her every day to prepare.

I’ll “spare” you the bottom half of the picture. Just know that I am now well aware of the effects of all of my Devil Doggery.

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Here’s the thing – I’m a textbook apple shape.  I’m talking, circle resting on toothpicks, People! I’ve always been that way. Even when I was at my leanest, I was a more slender kind of apple. Is there such a thing?

Well, I’m calling all my apple friends! If you don’t already know, we have the most dangerous body type, as it relates to obesity and heart disease.  Decreasing our weight as little as 5 pounds can provide amazing health benefits. Working off even 5% of our body fat can extend our life span significantly!

I know this.

And yet, I’ve still managed to run around town ignoring the ever-expanding inner tube around my waist.

No more!

Seeing that picture of my waist, even if it was while marching down to a quarter mile swim, scared me straight.

As in, rectangular.

Yup. I’m aiming to change my shape.

I’m setting some goals and giving myself plenty of time to slowly meet them. I’m going to make some dietary changes (no Devil Dogs will be harmed in this process). I’m going to add in some (some – let’s not get too crazy, now) consistent exercise each week.

And, God-willing, change will take place.

Yes indeedy. I’m going to work on becoming less circle-y and more oval-y. Any other shapes want to join me?

First order of business is to get a food plan going.  What works (or has worked) for you in the past?  Share in the comments.

The Worst Four Letter Word

Fear can instill some mighty heavy feelings in this heart of mine.  I keep kicking the can down the road, where some of this fear is concerned. But, dang it all if it doesn’t so one little thing to help soothe that erratic heartbeat of mine!

If I know anything, (and let’s just agree that I know next-to-nothing), it’s that when fear grips, faith grows.

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Faith in being an Overcomer.

Faith in The One who overcame all.

Faith that this grand story that I get to be a part of turns out Beautiful.

Next weekend, I will be swimming that quarter of a mile that I committed to swimming, a few careless weeks ago.

Sweetman asked me if he and the kids could come cheer me on.

I said no.

I’ll let that hang in the air a minute.  It’s okay.  I’m as ashamed to write it as I was to be feeling it.

Why in the world did I say no?

Fear.

I didn’t want them to see me fail.

I didn’t want them to see me struggle.

I didn’t want them to see me come in last.

Fear really is the worst four letter word, isn’t it?

How dare I say that My People can’t come see what all of these morning “work” swims have been all about.  Why shouldn’t they see me work hard and follow through on a commitment? Why shouldn’t they watch as I try?

Because, actually, to try is to win. I’m halfway there just by giving it a go!

And, you know what? I want them to see me give it a go!

Did you see what just happened there?

My faith… it just grew.  It out-gripped that fear and overshadowed it and made my heart beat a little more steadily.

God, you tell me that I can do all things through you. And, that it’s You who gives me the strength to scoop and cup that water and slice through it with enough power to see me through to the end.  Get me there, God. See me through, in Your power.  Let my family see that I can indeed do all things through You, who strengthens me.  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen!  (taken from Philippians 4:13)

Oh God, what you can do with some Words.

My no has become a yes.

Oh, yes indeedy!

What Lurks Beneath

In honor of the close of “Shark Week”, and, For Captain Ahab and my family – blood and other.

My brother is brave.  Military, kinda-brave.  I’ve not seen him shaken up but once in my life.

On our illustrious Bimini trips, all of us kids would take turns jumping off the docks into the crystal clear blue waters of the marina.  That water was stunning.  I didn’t realize it then, but the pure joy of jumping into water that you can see clear through to the sandy, starfish and sand dollar strewn bottom of, was a gift.  We took it for granted.

Youth is wasted, and all that.

We also took for granted that there would ever be anything in that water that could hurt us.  The marina felt safe.  It was a haven, not only for the boats that would make the trek over from South Florida for their various fishing and diving ventures, but for us kids, too. We knew only safety in the incessant jumping in and climbing out of those waters.

One of the most majestic sea creatures that you could ever encounter are the giant Manta rays that glide through the waters of the Bahamas.  They are massive.  And docile. But, massive.  The “babies”, alone, are from three to five feet across.

One fine afternoon we all ran down the dock, taking turns jumping into the crystal waters.  When it was my brave brother’s turn, wild and reckless, even at 8 years old, he took a gigantic flying leap out into the marina. And promptly walked on water right back up onto the dock.

We all came running to look down and see what could possibly instill fear of that magnitude in my brave brother’s heart. Four gargantuan Manta-rays gracefully passing through held us transfixed.

It took a couple of minutes for my brother to get his color back. And, you can be sure that we all looked before we leaped from then on out.

We would also waterski everywhere when we were in the Bahamas. If the boat could fit into the area and the stretch was long enough to get a decent run in, then we would go for it.

From time to time, we would actually have one of us in the water getting skis on and ready, while someone else was making a run. If we were the one waiting to be taken on a run, we’d sometimes have to wait for 5 minutes or more for the boat driver to circle back around.  Once in a while, if it wasn’t shallow enough to stand, we’d just lay on top of our skiis until it was our turn.

And so, one cloudy day, that was me.  Bobbing around on top of the skis waiting to be picked up. Happily.

Until I saw a fin. At fifteen, I was plenty old enough to know that all of the many sharks we had seen over the years had been incredibly kind to mind their own business.  I knew how much pain a shark could inflict. I started to breathe in and breathe out, keep my eye on that fin, and pray to hear the motor of the boat approaching.

The fin seemed to be about 40 or 50 feet away.  I still have no idea. I’m not very good at gauging distances, and even less so when I think a shark is eye-balling my person. I decided at some point to just lay on top of my skiis, stop watching the fin, and hope for the best.

And about that time, I was so zoned out that I completely missed the approach of the boat. I only knew rescue had come because Ahab had reached down and pulled me up into the boat, all calm-like.  No one said a word and we hustled back to pick up the other skiier.

But I’ll tell you this – I never offered to be the sitting duck again, I’ll tell you. Oh no I did not.

And we were all more aware of what lurked beneath.

Oh, yes indeedy.

Heaven Is a Warm Ocean

I am an ocean lover, through and through. The warmer, the better.

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I like pools. The warmer, the better. (Unless it’s because you couldn’t make it to the potty in time. Then, not so much.)

And then, there is a special spot in my heart that is reserved for all the things I tolerate.

Lakes.  Lakes are there in that spot – right next to lizards.

And cold pools.

We have an ocean near-ish. We get there as often as we can, in the summer.

It’s cold.

We also have a town pool. We get there as often as we can in the summer.

It’s mostly cold.

This Floridian still can’t muster up the courage to jump into our town pool before July 30th or after August 30th.

If you’re doing the math, that equals up to Not Much Pool-time.

During this thirty-one day stretch, I must continually remind myself that I chose to move to New England because, Boston!  And because, Sweetman!

So, I was thrilled to find out that one of my sweet friends, who also happens to live in our neighborhood, is planning to have a beautiful new pool put into their backyard.  It’s one of those super fan-cee salt water ones. It will have the standard stairs, to get into and out of, of course. But, the best part about this pool?  It’s soon going to be heated. Oh, yes it is!

I’ve come to the conclusion that this is necessary for anyone who chooses to live above the Mason-Dixon line.  Otherwise, you might just find yourself jumping into a pool that is barely pushing 65 degrees.  Even if it is 98 degrees outside.

And people?  That is just not right.

I should have taken a clue when I began teaching water-skiing in the Berkshires of Massachusetts some twenty-odd summers ago.  That first crisp summer morning, when I jumped into the lake to begin instruction, it took less than 10 minutes for me to tag the other instructor because I was too cold to stay in. Plus, my foot touched something slimy.

No. Just… no.

Therefore, it might surprise you to learn that I was somehow convinced to become part of a three-woman relay team, as The Swimmer, in a local women’s triathlon sprint. Yes, you read that right.  Come early September, this girl, right here, will be doing her darndest not to die as she competes in the swim portion of a women’s triathlon sprint.

“It’ll be so much fun,” they said.  “You’ll have so much support,” they promised.  “We’re not doing it to win,” they assured me.

The part they forgot to mention?

Training.

In the local lake.

Or town pool.

Neither of which are heated.

Oh, and…the race itself? In a lake.

I don’t have to wonder about what hell is like.

I think I’ll stick with my plans to go to heaven.

There will definitely be warm ocean water there.

Yes indeedy.

Putting Our Eggs in The Basket Carrier

While we’re over here rejoicing that we survived camp week, I have dear friends in the midst of a precarious and precedent-setting job situation.

While praying that Sweetboy would be able to stick it out each day from eight in the morning until five at night, we were also praying that there would be a resolution in this acrimonious situation that our friends find themselves in the midst of. A situation that, supposedly, business schools across the country are intently observing.

Sometimes, it’s hard to realize that there is a whole world beyond what goes on within our Sweetfamily’s four walls.

Despite the media attention being drawn to the circumstances surrounding their plight, our friends have been faithful to pray. And, even though there have been, and continue to be, underhanded schemes at work, I’m asking the God Who Cares About People to make Himself known here.

Would you join me?

I don’t often ask folks to jump on the bandwagon with me. But I’ve watched this family put their livelihood on the line for what they believe to be right.  I’m honored to be able to gather some prayer warriors on their behalf.

You can learn more about what’s going on at Market Basket here.