Life Lessons

 

Through an event this past weekend I learned that I still have a lot to learn- about me. About people. And most importantly, about God.

I’ve spent most of my life learning. Drinking in knowledge. About life, the universe, everything. About God, about what a Godly woman/wife looks like, about Godly mothers, daughters, friends.

Yet, a painful discovery of how I can {still} make life miserable for everyone around me has hit me in the face.

I won’t expose the details here. It was not pretty, just downright ugly.  Most others would just shake it off and move on. Not me. If life doesn’t go as I expect, if others don’t do exactly as they said, my applecart is upset. And MY apples are ruined-at least for that moment in time.

This is not just due to my elevated expectations, but a lack of trust.

My entire life up through 2008 was spent dealing with an untrustworthy parent.  I can hear you saying: “surely not.” Maybe it is an exaggeration. 

Let me rephrase that: In a world where, if we truly trust God to be Who He is and that, like Joseph, things meant to harm me, God intended for good, then we can bear up under most anything thrown our way. 

For most of my adult life, someone managed to throw harmful things my way. Whether intentional or unintentional-that’s what my parent represented in my life. Lies, accusations, victimization, manipulation of circumstances, all were a daily part of the interchange with my parent.  It was standard operating procedure to try to control through deceit.

Expectations by me that said parent would change, maybe this time it will be different…. Went unmet… There were the occasional times when a surprise glimmer of the person I wished for would show, but those fast faded in the next sentence spoken or question asked. I kept believing that eventually there would be a place where everything would fall into place, but that was not to be.

I had a functionally insane parent who re-wrote the rules of behavior every morning.

The erosion of trust in my heart began long ago and continued until death us did part.

Fast-forward. I find myself still operating on those same expectations. I just want people to do what they say they will do, exactly when they say they will do it. When they don’t there’s another erosion in my trust bank.  How sad is that?

All that time God intended for good, was to mature me, to teach me to trust Him for everything and depend on Him only. Yet, I find I still haven’t quite learned the lesson well enough that it has stuck. 

I still try to trust that my expectations will be met. My skepticism and cynical nature have not served me well in that department. I still want to believe that, someday, everyone will do what they say they will do and when they will do it.

So, this lesson is being re-taught. Again.

From my earliest recollection in nursery school{preschool to the younger generation}, the first two Bible verses I memorized were:

What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee. Psalm 56:3

 And

 Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

Trust. In. Him.   

Know. Him.

The preschool lesson I am still learning.

 Is He still teaching you a lesson you haven’t learned yet?

 

 

Five Minute Friday: Close

 

Close

That’s the prompt. I usually don’t read Lisa-Jo’s post before I write mine just so I won’t be influenced by greatness.  😉

But, not sure of the usage I thought I’d read a line or two to see if I could figure it out.  She used it in the meaning of proximity. I was actually thinking of the meaning “to shut or end”.

So, onward and upward… I recently closed one season of my life and opened a new season. It happened as quickly and surely as it happens when one reaches the end of a book. The last line is read and  “The End” pops up and voila, you’re done.  Book closed.

The season where I was employed, working full time, in a place of authority and responsibility closed abruptly when I made the decision to retire. Most of the people contributing here are still in the babes in diapers season of their lives. And, that’s ok. But I’m past that except as a grandmother. 

Retirement involved a lot of closing. Closing my desk, my office, my email account, and my professional address with professional organizations among other things.

Now, some of that may seem like a sad or glad experience depending on perspective. But, what I’ve found is that when one season closes another opens. We all know this but to experience it, say, like an empty nest when the last birdie flies, there’s a tangibly felt door closing on our faces. 

 I have found that close is a good thing. A completion. A finish. An end. 

And a beginning!

…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

I’m adding my 5 minutes to all those who write for the same 5 minutes at Lisa-Jo Baker’s.

 

Five Minute Friday: Break

Today Lisa-Jo Baker is taking a break. We continue to write, and the subject this week is:

Break

I unwrapped some articles that had been in storage this week. One box was from my husband’s mother’s things when we cleared out the assisted living apartment she had spent her last years in. The boxes weren’t marked; I had no idea what was in them. I popped open the first one, and began unwrapping glass after glass- her everyday tea glasses. Surprisingly, none were broken. As I continued, there were sounds of glass as some of the wrapping paper shifted-breakage. I slowly unwrapped the next item and found one of her special occasion glasses- broken. In all there were 4 broken. She would have been sad to see her things dumped into a box and taped up and thrown into storage only to have them retrieved and found damaged. 
That is what we all are, once revealed, broken.
Until God.
He comes into our lives and repairs the breaks. He sands down the sharp edges, finds the missing pieces, glues back our hearts, cleans us and makes us useful. We can still see the evidence of His mending- the trailing line back to our past, the faint sign of a chip off the edge. But, once we are whole we have purpose and can be used as we were designed to be used. 
“For it is God who acts in you to will and  to act in order to fill his good purpose.” Philippians 2:13

 

The 5 Dollar Spiritual Sacrifice

Reading 1 Peter this morning.

These verses leapt off the page:

” As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:4, 5 NIV)

What have I offered as spiritual sacrifices? Does it depend on what I consider a spiritual sacrifice or what He views as a sacrifice? 

I don’t know that it’s ever crossed my mind. How can that be? 

I’ve seen things as sacrifice: relationships, jobs, living situations, time, desires, stuff. 

It occurs to me that everything in that list is of this world. Somehow I’ve missed it- spiritual sacrifice- I don’t even begin to know what that looks like in my spirit.

Or do I? 

Fast forward….

 I wrote those notes above in my phone while I was drinking my vente non-fat latte outside of a STBX in downtown Phoenix last week.  Little did I know, God was preparing me for a momentous demonstration of spiritual sacrifice.

In. My. Life.

I’m still processing and trying to understand why and what motivates me towards or away from spiritual sacrifice. This, I have discovered, is a struggle and will be a struggle for a while because I’m trying to come to terms with it. Sometimes, I just want my own way. {alright-most of the time}

I I finished my coffee and started walking back to the hotel. I had noticed that there were more than just one or two homeless folk around the neighborhood. Some walked with purpose, some aimless, some conversed with themselves, and some just sat-as if waiting. For someone. Something. 

I passed by the metro station where a woman and two men and a small dog were sitting. She looked up and called out, “Ma’am, could you spare 50 cents?” I said, “I’m sorry.” Shrugged my shoulders and picked up the pace. She said, “thank you.” {I’m thinking: for what?}

And then, God got right down into the middle of that thought fast and furious.

This was what His world was all about- “If you love me, feed my sheep.” “Sometimes it’s not about feeding them scripture, it’s just about providing for a need.”

I got to the corner. Still arguing with myself and Him. I get frustrated with the duplicitous way my brain works sometimes. I see things from both sides of an argument and am rendered inoperable. This was one of those moments and in the brief crack of time of my next breath, He said, “Go back. Now.” And I’m saying, “How can I do this?” All the while thinking about the subject of my being an enabler. {oh the mind and its workings} He said, “open that wallet and take out a $5 and go back and give it to her.” 

I crossed the street to the opposite corner.

I stopped. 

I looked down at my wallet.

It was true that I didn’t have 50 cents. But, I had so much more in my life than she. I opened my wallet and took out a folded $5.  Thoughts were flying through my head: yes, no, but, what if, why, why me?

Then: “Yes.”

I walked back across the street, down the block to where she sat, now arguing with one of the guys.  I stopped, she looked up. I said “I don’t have 50 cents, but here’s a five.” I pressed it into her hand and said something like “have a blessed day” and turned away before she could see the tears welling up in my eyes. But not before I saw the disbelief, gratitude and fear cross her face in that instant when she said “thank you”. Again.

Who was I kidding? “Have a blessed day.” Really? That was all you could think to say??

Now the reality is this: I didn’t tell you this story to have you verbally pat me on the back in the comments. This isn’t a ‘congratulations, you finally did something outside your comfort zone’ moment. 

This is what I want you to know: I struggled all the way back to the hotel with God. Because I did what He asked of me and I didn’t want to. 

And I felt helpless. 

Over the past few days the realization came to me that this was my spiritual sacrifice. Obedience when I didn’t want to be obedient. Obedience when it grated. Obedience when I actually listened and did what He asked. well, duh Obedience when all the arguments about panhandlers are running amok in my head and I just did not want to do this. {dumb-I know}

The act of submitting my will to His even when I’m not willing. Ohh, that sounds awful now.  To come to understand deep in my gut that He really does mean it when he says “when you do it unto the least of these…”

Please try to understand I have never had a problem saying “Yes” to God when it was actually what I wanted anyway. Do any of us? Of course not.  

Youth camp? I’m there. Teach Sunday school? Sure. Work the nursery? Yep. Donate funds? Absolutely.

It was that pushing and nudging and pleading of the Holy Spirit to my spirit that made my heart skip beats, my skin flush with heat, the arguing with myself and coming to terms with the fact that I’m trying to say “no” to God.  I don’t like myself very much when I’m this way. I’m sure He is saddened by my thoughts as well. He didn’t make me turn around and go back. But, He did make me see it would be impossible for me to live with myself if I hadn’t. This was a crisis moment for me- to subjugate my will to His. And it wasn’t the first.

This was not the go to Haiti as a group to help or send money/clothes/things to missionaries in Africa or support a friend who was going on a mission trip to spread the Gospel.

 This was up close and personal: “Make a choice. Do you love Me? Feed my sheep. This sheep.” It was what He wanted me to do.

I know the five didn’t go far in the world we live in. But maybe, just maybe a seed was planted or a seed already planted was watered. And definitely, I found, hard as it was, it was meant for me. To learn again- spiritual sacrifice = obedience. Peter knew what he was talking about.