A Gift Indeed

Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote Gift from the Sea back in 1955. Here’s what astounds me about good books written by good authors: they are timeless. The principles hold despite the changing tides of culture.

And it’s certainly true of Gift from the Sea.

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The fact that she names chapters after shells she finds during her weeklong vacation, alone, immediately drew me in.

Getting alone and digging in to the deep places that hurt or peeling back the layers of doubt is the only way I have ever found to alleviate the angst that doubt brings. Or maybe more importantly, to begin the healing of hurts.

“It is only in solitude that I ever find my own core.”

It surely is. Is that true for you, too?

I remember reading this book the summer I was to be married. It was the month before our wedding and I had a treasured handful of blissful days reading on the beach in my hometown before becoming Mrs. P.  I soaked in each sentence, with the sun, as the ocean waves lapped at my feet.

The day is burned in my memory. Literally. As I neglected to slather sunscreen on the tops of my feet that morning. I hobbled around for days full of the stirring words Lindbergh littered each chapter with.

One sentence in particular held deep significance to me. As a soon-to-be bride, I was buoyed by my relationship to this soon-to-be husband. He kept me afloat on many levels. His logic to my feeling. My adventure to his stability. His calm to my storm. When I read the following, I exhaled with a truthful knowing:

“The light shed by any good relationship illuminates all relationships.”

Jesus did this for me. My husband, as well.

Those good, healthy and loving relationships that provide a guidebook are vital. Lindbergh highlights the importance of taking care of self by replenishing, forgiving, and loving. And then, she provides beautiful imagery to spur on the pouring out of all of the filling up.

Love, once again. And I took it in and tucked it into my heart as I headed out on the grand adventure of marriage.

This book was a gift indeed.

 To read other posts in my Write 31 Days Challenge series of the Best Books Ever, click the button below.

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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!

 

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?

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

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

Yes indeedy.

I’m a Big Fat Liar, Too

Every time I say I won’t do something again, like eyeball – or worse, eat – another devil dog, I’m lying. I know it. Sweetman knows it. Even the grocery store cashier knows it. In fact, maybe she knows it most of all. One of those dear souls will half-jokingly ask me if everything’s okay if I haven’t been through with a box of my sweet treats in more than a couple of weeks.

Oh, I say I won’t eat another one again. I may even mean it. The point is, I lie.

And, not just about my eating habits.

Here’s the truth: I’m one hot mess of a human.

I need God.

I need His grace.

I need to keep rubbing shoulders with others who can remind me that I don’t have to keep apologizing over and over and over again for sins of gluttony, slander, covetousness, and the host of other things I constantly find my humanity bumping up against.

Because, Jesus came so that I could keep putting one foot in front of the other.

And trying it all over again with the next breath He gives me.

Jesus came so that I could see, so that you could see, how desperately we humans are in need of grace throughout our days.

All of these thoughts are swirling around me this past week, as news of Brian Williams’ audacity to lie about news he was delivering, to lie to us on national television, is broadcast through every media outlet possible.

As if, there are no other lies on National Television.

Do I even need to go there?

Are we all so righteously living, and grace-less, that we can decide how awful a man is without thought to how thoroughly hypocritical that is?  Aren’t we all staring down the tube of our own RPG’s daily? Even if only in our minds?

He screwed up.

I don’t know about you, but I do this daily.

Hourly.

Yep. I’m a big fat liar, too.

I thank God for the grace to keep trying again.

I’d like to think that we can extend grace beyond where we feel comfortable.

Lord only knows how often it’s done on our behalf.

Yes indeedy.

Why The Little Drummer Boy Still Rocks

Sweetman came home, the other day, with a boxed set of “Christmas Classics” DVDs. We only wanted Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeeryou see; but, we missed the buying boat for just that one. Everyone else had already been there and bought that.

Because Sweetman is brilliant (and really, because he knew coming home without the movie in-hand would cause a mutiny), he bought the boxed set. All for the low-but-actually-not-so-low price of 2 Many Dollars. It includes Rudolph, of course, and Frosty the Snowman, and The Little Drummer Boy, and Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, and a couple of other “original” classic Christmas movies.

Except, I don’t remember some of these movies as being classics.

In fact, two of the movies included are Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol and Cricket on the Hearth. I’m sorry, but I’m pretty sure I would have remembered a “classic” about a young woman going blind from shock, and a crow sent out to murder a sweet little talking cricket, and Brandon Thomas’ toothy grin as he narrates it all. Oh, I especially would have remembered that. That’s the stuff of nightmares, folks. Oh, yes it is! No matter how delightfully Mr. Thomas croons about the birth of The Savior.

Anyhoo, one of the movies that I had plumb forgotten about, was The Little Drummer Boy. We snuggled in and began watching. Five minutes into it, though, I considered the choice a mistake.

WHY did they kill his parents, Mama?” Followed by, “But WHY does the little boy not have people who love him?”

And then, the tears!

I’ll be honest, I wanted to have a stern word with the folks who thought this kind of story line was a good one for children. Until, of course, I realized I’d likely be yelling at a bunch of dear elderly persons in a nursing home.

Sweetboy interrupted my imaginings by innocently asking why the little drummer boy wanted to be alone with the animals and why he hated people?

And, I realized with a start that I had one of those rare golden parenting opportunities. We, parents, only get this kind of opportunity every-so-often. I wasn’t about to let this one go by with a shoulder-shrug.

We pressed pause.

As two expectant pairs of eyes stared at me, I realized how many directions I could go with this conversation. Anger is an emotion all humans experience. Death is an experience all humans will eventually meet with. And, hatred is something none of us ever wish to encounter, but far too often do.

Where to start? How far to go? What words are appropriate for a six and eleven-year-old?

The words I chose were the ones that were the simplest. And the most truthful. I asked them if anyone had ever hurt their feelings. When each said yes, I asked them how it made them feel. One said sad, the other said angry.

Ah, yes. Emotions that we all feel.

We talked through some of the ways people respond to others when they are angry. Or hurt. Or sad. Because, really, sometimes they’re all bumping up against each other. Right?

I asked them why they thought Jesus came to earth as a baby. That was a tricky one for Sweetgirl. But Sweetboy? He nailed it. “So we could be in God’s family.”

Oh, child… YES!

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The Truth. It’s the best place to start and the best place to end.

Always.

They both got antsy, after that, and asked me to press play. We watched on as, in the end, that little drummer boy was able to give away his most prized possession out of love. Love that was placed in his heart, and is placed in ours, for the purpose of overcoming the anger and the hurt and the sadness.

Thank you Jesus!

What grace!

It turns out, The Little Drummer Boy still rocks! He may be stilted in his movements, but the heart behind his story beats strong among us all.

Oh, how it does!

Yes indeedy.

The Gold of Repair

Nourishment comes in many forms. For the body, we can all point to the brilliant spectrum of colors that we should be eating from. For the soul, though, a different kind of care and feeding are required. We sometimes seek the physical to fill the spiritual, and find that we never quite feel satisfied. On the other hand, the line between filled and overflowing can sometimes be blurred. And it is good.

One of the Internet homes that I visit is called Be Small Studios. Although her artwork originally drew me to her site, it was her words, though written infrequently, that held me captive. And, although this post of Annie’s was written back in April, it is one that I have bookmarked to read over and over.

Lately, I’ve been thinking on the ancient Japanese practice of Kintsugi and wondering how much more beautiful the cracks that only Jesus can repair.

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When others, who watched us shatter into a hundred pieces over the affair, the death, or any other number of life-altering events – when they see that we are restored, what must they think?

Do they see the grace in the golden overlay?

Almost like a wounded animal, I find myself hunching over my cracked places and trying my best to hide them. Don’t we all turn our hurt places away, even just a bit, when others come too near to them?

Then, someone comes along, modeling Jesus with their kindness and gentleness, grace and compassion, and attempts to bind that cracked place. I find my soul deeply nourished in the process. Even just the sitting with me, the not-leaving-even-though-they-see, is taken in as much-needed sustenance.

Afterwards, I find myself treating those places, that have been bound up, with extra care. Knowing that I’m cared for, despite my crack-pot ways, seeing that there are others willing to stand next to me as they cup their hands under All The Leaking…that is the very best goodness for my soul.

God, working through the prayers and ministering shoulders and softest touches and endless hand-offs of tissues, shows me that He will make beautiful the cracked places.  And watching others go through bitter battles that they never wanted in the first place – seeing how Jesus can, and will, woo a hardened heart back to Him in the midst of it… that is like seeing the gold of repair melted down and drizzled out.

I look for the cracks in others, a little more intently, now. Certainly, I recognize them far easier. Some of those little fissures zig and zag almost exactly the same way some of my own do.

And, I long to come alongside, gently, with my cracks outward facing. Exposed. So that they can see. How I long for them see how The Only One Who Can has repaired some of my own broken places!

With restoration comes the ability to be filled and nourished. Sometimes, even, full to overflowing! With goodness and mercy spilling over the sides and spreading all over that gold of repair.

What grace!

 

 

Thirteen Times, and Then Some

If, as the famous movie line goes, “Love is never having to say you’re sorry,” then I might be in big trouble with the ones I supposedly love. I get the wording all wrong far more often than I get it right.  My intentions may well be good, but my heart truly is deceitful above all else.

Even when I will it not to be.

Especially when I will it not to be.

And, I can’t tell you how often I wrestle with the knowledge that, while I am indeed saved by grace, I am also a sinner. Still. And always. Walking in the grace of The God Who Forgives doesn’t mean that I never sin again (which is painfully obvious to those whom I love). But, it certainly does make me more aware of when sin is crouching at my door.

It’s a push-pull that is ever-present within me. That knowing of how base I really am, bumping up against the desire to be good… it can throw all of my best intentions out the window with All The Trying.

And then, I remember that base describes Someone else. As in, my Foundation. My Rock. My Standard.

My Jesus.

He is the opposite of those things that I can most easily identify in myself. He is honorable. Right. High. And, Good.

And I’m thankful that He shines Light into my dark.

John Bradford spoke my heart with these words, “There but for the grace of God, go I.”

Oh, indeed!

The man who uttered those words knew of his brokenness, as do I. And because I’m broken, there are days when I lay waste to the mission field within these four walls. How? By doing or saying something that requires an apology, on my part. This week alone, I’m sure I’ve said “I’m sorry” thirteen times, and then some!

However, My People throw out grace like confetti.

Because, they know that love is always willing to say “I’m sorry.”

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This post is day 13 in the Write 31 Days challenge.

 *Also, this is WAY late. After wondering why my post didn’t come out at 8:30 this morning, like I scheduled it to, I realized that I set it for P.M. Oh Mama…*