Where Your Treasure Is

Ah, Santiago… searching for the elusive “treasure”.

It’s always where we least expect it, isn’t it?

And, you know what the Bible says… “Your heart will be where your treasure is.” -Matthew 6:21

Yeah. Tis true.

Tonight, I leave you with a line from a book that will always be considered one of the Best Books Ever, The Alchemistby Paulo Coelho.

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Oh that humanity would strive for this:

“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”

Indeed.

To read other posts on the Best Books Ever series I’m writing for the Write 31 Days Challenge, click the button below.

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Time for a Tune-Up

Typing away in the other room while a playdate ensued, I heard the voices of my Sweetgirl and her friend carrying loudly in the air. They were singing along to a popular song about sunshine in their pockets. One of them was out of tune. Jarringly out of tune. But, singing along no less enthusiastically.

Isn’t that just the way we humans do, sometimes?

We become glaringly out of tune with what’s good, true, honest, or noble. And we can’t even hear it.

Maybe that’s just me.

Sometimes, Grace has to swoop in on the raised eyebrows of one forced to listen to each off-key note, to get my attention. Other times, Grace opens my eyes to the words set before me.

That’s exactly how He found me this morning, wedged between Sweetman and Sweetboy on the shiny wooden pew at church. Listening to a message about our very human and very real need for second and 432nd chances, I felt my attention shifting to the list of things to be done this week. Because, clearly, I am intimate with the notion of third and 303rd chances.

Soon, I began considering my lunch options after church was done. IHOP was firmly on the short list.

But Grace reminded me (yet again) that church isn’t ever “done”.

And nothing shakes me from my irreverent reveries like a call to worship.

The opening notes were strummed and I realized we were about to sing one of my favorite hymns, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”.

I stood up, perked up, and prepared to sing, thinking, “Oooh, I love this one!”

God wasn’t finished getting my attention, though.

Nope.

As we skipped to the third verse, my eyes read what my heart already knew.

“Prone to wander, Lord I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart Lord,
Take and seal it
Seal it for thy courts above.”

Now Grace had my full attention. Just some of what was out of tune sprang to mind:

  • The willingness to read one more chapter of the latest story over one more chapter of The Greatest Story
  • My eagerness to join conversations about others without grace even as that very grace was being heaped out upon me
  • Forgetting the joy that comes out of sacrifice as I stubbornly refused others’ needs for my wants

Friends? Forget about my inability to carry a tune, physically. Singing The Truth in that moment, my heart’s distance from the heart of God felt like a million spiritual miles away.

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Clearly, it was time for a little tune-up.

And God, in His boundless beautiful grace, whispered love. He tuned my heart to His, as He has countless other times.

Yes indeed.

I left church this morning reminded that I don’t need a tune-up because I’m bad, but because of my human ability to become dissonant. Oh-so-easily.

And, because Grace is always good, He tightens those loose strings. He replaces the frayed ones. He adjusts the pitch.

He gently brings harmony back to my heart.

Thank you, God, for binding my wandering heart to thee.

I Am the Unlovely

In the wake of the horrific tragedy that took place in Orlando, FL last weekend, I instantly noticed a disturbing trend. Maybe you did too? Posts in the blogosphere and Pinterest pins and Instagram photos started flooding my news feed.

And many of them pointed out ways Christians could “love the unlovely”.

It made me ill. And mad.

If you’re still reading, let me tell you why. And if you follow along here regularly, you’re already ahead of me, aren’t you?

I am the unlovely. 

This isn’t a slam against myself. Or self-deprecation. Or a result of low self-esteem.

No, it’s Truth, with a capital T.  And I believe in a God who so loved me, and you, that He was willing to die to show us the extent of that love.

And because I believe that Truth, and am so overwhelmingly thankful for His love, I long to love everyone like me.

Every unlovely.

So, you know, every human being.

Not just now, all of the sudden, since evil attempted to get an upper hand (once again).

Not just in the aftermath of any great “reveal” where we find out someone we know or love is addicted or afflicted.

Humans don’t suddenly become “unlovely” in those instances. And I’m beyond sure about this, friends, because I am now, and always have been, unlovely.

From dust we came and to dust we will return.

Truth.

So the next time we are tempted to look upon another human heart as “unlovely” and worthy of being loved, let’s take a quick look in the mirror.

And remember…

If we call ourselves saved, well…

Jesus didn’t come to save the healthy ones.

And, I’m not good with if/then statements in science, but I get this one. If He came to save the sick, and He surely did save me…

Then that makes me one of the unlovely ones.

Oh, 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)

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No more groping along.

It’s the Brightest Light, for me.

Only The Brightest Light.

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.

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.

I’m Not Catholic, But…

Too often, this past year, I’ve been walking around looking only to the interests of those who are mostly like me. Far from keeping my heart tender, it’s starting to harden it toward those who don’t experience life the way my family and I do.

I don’t want my children to grow up thinking that treating others the way they want to be treated means anything other than treating everyone the way they’d like to be treated. It’s The Golden Rule, true. But, it’s one that I want to follow better in spirit and letter, this year.

I’m not Catholic, but I’ve always been inspired by the many stories centered around Mother Teresa‘s servant heart. She went into some of the harshest, grittiest, most detestable places and poured out kindness.

We can’t all head out to the far-reaches of this globe. And, as I’ve mentioned before, I don’t think every person should, either. In fact, anyone of us can look within our own city or town and find some “others” who need to be treated the way so many of us almost always are.

With dignity.

And respect.

And kindness.

Much the way I imagine Jesus to have tenderly looked on the woman who wiped His feet with her tears.

I want Him to be able to look upon me, and mine, that way.

As we embark upon a new year, I’m envisioning new family goals. This is one of them, for us. I want us to think more “neighborly” and less individually. Thinking through ways we can practice this in our community, I’ve come up with a few ideas. I’m sharing three of those, here, in the hopes that it will spark ideas of your own.

And as far as resolutions go, I think this is one that honors both the spirit and the letter of that golden rule so many of us claim to hold dear.

3 Ways A Family Can Treat Others the Way They Want to Be Treated

1. Draw pictures. Then, visit a local nursing home and share them with the residents. Share why we drew them. Just share our stories in written or drawn form. Give them encouragement to tell theirs. I’ll never forget the day I took a short story I had written with me to the nursing home I frequented in college. What started as a project for a class turned into a desire to continue fostering relationships with these frail yet fully alive elderly friends. Two of these residents had minds that were so sharp, even at 82 and 90. I brought the short story to finish it while I waited in the “parlor” for my visit with Margie. But, she snuck up on me in her wheelchair and asked what I was doing. After I told her, she demanded I read it. And then, she shared a completely unexpected story of her own. My life was changed that day. Her daughter, living in another country, wrote to me after her passing. She said that Margie lived for my visits. Just to feel connected to the world outside of that Nursing Home. I’ll never forget that. My children need to know that sometimes, the ones who need the most kindness are the ones you’d never expect.

2. Serve at a local Food Pantry or Shelter Kitchen. This is something I haven’t done in an embarrassingly long time. My children only know what it is to be served. Not to serve others. I’m being very honest. I don’t like writing that or reading that, but, it serves as a much-needed kick in the shorts to expose them to more postures of service. To help them take that chin down a notch or three and bend low to lift the chin of another. The blessing is one big boomerang of hope and goodness.

3. Ask at least one person in our house how they could be helpful to them, each day.
This is where we’ll be starting. “How can I help you?” Those are five powerful words, and I want each one of us to make them such a natural part of our vocabulary that they tumble out without prompting. I’ve made a Servant_Heart_Chart and included the picture below. It’s not fancy, but it does the job. #practicalforthewin

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My hope is that these children, of mine, will go about their days, weeks, and years with a heart bent on considering how they can treat others better than they deserve. This, to me, is the most difficult challenge a human undertakes.

Well, this human, anyway.

It’s why I require so much grace for my days.

But it is given. Oh, how it is! And I intend to make pouring it out a priority – for myself, and for my family.

Yes indeedy.

Do you have an idea for how to teach children to treat others with kindness?  Or, do you know of a great book with ideas for family service or servanthood? Please, share!

 

Two Steps Right

A little change in perspective is so good for the heart sometimes, isn’t it? I am no dancer.  The Nana called me “Grace” growing up and it surely wasn’t because of my ability to be graceful.  Not even remotely.

But life is, I’ve found one great Dance.

I have found myself doing a little dance that I don’t like, lately.  Maybe it’s one you can relate to?

Make a To Do List, dosie-doe;

Work to accomplish it, around I go;

Measure myself by another’s stick

Dip and loop, feel downright sick;

Guilt and Shame weigh down this heart,

Drag myself back ’round to start.

But, lately?

Lately, I feel my Dance Instructor teaching me some new dance steps. Steps that require less of my effort and more dependence upon Him. Moves that don’t involve me watching “the rest of the class” to see what they are doing and follow suit.  No. He wants me to move the two steps right that will be best for the dance He’s created for me, only.

He started planting these moves in my heart some time ago – around the time that He reminded me that I am never going to be enough – without Him.  That I am never able – without Him.  That I am never alone; or – without Him. He’s been modeling these steps in His Instruction Manual for thousands of years. But, at the time that I first read them, I wasn’t concerned enough about what He said to do.  I was looking more towards my fellow dancers.

Not now.

No.

Now, I am looking at my Teacher and I am eagerly awaiting the next dance moves that He meant for me.  You see, I have found that my heart is filled with a new confidence in His ability to direct my moves and steps.  They are so much more graceful – with Him.  They are far more powerful – with Him.  They are accomplished far more easily – with Him leading.

I know, now, that my Dance Instructor loves me with an everlasting love.  I know that His mercies are new every morning that this clumsy dancer needs a fresh start.  I am sure, now, that if I fall, He will be there to help me up.

And that dance that I spoke of before?  It is a thing of the past.  As my heart continues to gain confidence in my Dance Instructor’s love for me, I trust Him and dance with abandon.

For Him.

With Him.

In Him.

And, although I may never be called “graceful”, I will be called Loved.  Redeemed.  Worthy.

Yes indeedy.

And I can dance to that!

How about you?  Do you find your heart racing for all of the wrong reasons lately?  May I encourage you to sit, rest, and look to The Master Dance Instructor again?  He longs to direct your steps and make them straight. Oh, how He does!

Today, I am linking up again with the community over at Proverbs 31 Ministries’ Online Bible Study.  Weekly, we meet together to discuss “A Confident Heart” by Renee Swope.  Click the button below to see what other heart confidence is growing as we study together.

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Doing It Scared

There are just so many things.

So many things that I, daily, do scared.

Want a “short list”?

  • Attempt to walk in heels higher than an inch
  • Cook
  • Wear anything white
  • Exercise

And then there’s the more serious stuff:

  • Parent
  • Believe in the promises God whispers through His Word
  • Speak up on others’ behalf
  • Make choices about media, attention and adoration
  • Trust that it really is all Good for those that love Him

And, friends?  That’s the Short List.

I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, about how super-confident others perceive me to be.  And yet, how very little confidence I truly possess. (I do believe some folks confuse the Gift of Gab with the trait of Confidence, but that might well be a different post for a different day.)

I can’t help but wonder if God is allowing me glimpses into all of these things I hold so fearfully in my heart because He is preparing a way for my heart to gain more confidence. True confidence.  In my heart. Where it needs to be.

Proverbs 31 Ministries is beginning their next Online Bible Study on October 13th.  It’s called…

Wait for it…

A Confident Heart by Renee Swope. 

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Can I even tell you how God-orchestrated this study seems to be for the current health of my heart?

Will you consider joining me? And a “couple” of other women from around the world?

Click here to sign up.

And if you’re doing it scared, know that we’re in this together!