Humility

Gifts From My Mother – Through Life and Her Death

Posted by on Sep 28, 2014 in Death, Gifts, Humility, Life, Love, Mother | 32 comments

#65 Linking of Moments

 

This past week I had the sacred privilege of sitting with my mother while she slowly and bravely made her trek through the valley of death. Watching her tiny frame prepare for its final breath was a holy invitation to reflect and give thanks.

Her body may have been the instrument offered to deliver me into this world, but our shared experiences – both the good and the bad – were God’s favorite tools to shape us both for the next.

She left me plenty of gifts. Besides a great spaghetti recipe, lessons in sewing and proper table manners – I also received deep spiritual gifts I’m convinced I wouldn’t have found any other way. They were more powerful than sermons or books – and delivered straight from our creator to benefit us both.

Through her, I learned about faith and forgiveness. She taught me grace, mercy, service and humility. Through our journey together, I learned to see Christ in all things and in every face.

She confessed to be an atheist most of her life and worked hard to hide the fearful little girl she really was. And yet God chose her to teach me about forgiveness – how it easily flows to mercy. And how fear really can transform into trust. I learned service isn’t an action – it’s communion.

Our relationship caused me to face my own judgmental and religious self. The bright light of God’s resolute love and limitless grace poured out for both of us continues to melt my pious heart.

She was a good mom, a loyal wife, a talented artist and gifted seamstress. But everyone knows the simple kind of life she lived fades easily and for the most part, will remain unsung.

Even though – I am confident her life never, ever went unnoticed or was considered insignificant. I’m also certain it was joyously celebrated by the grand welcoming committee in her Savior’s Kingdom. She will cry no more.

Tears are for me – for those of us left in this temporal world.

I will miss the journey of faith we shared. And I know I will see her again.

 

A special thanks to Emily Snider Re who generously shares her gift of photography with me. I picked her puzzle picture because life is never how it actually seems. We only see a small piece of the bigger plan at any given time and do best when we trust the complete picture will be as it should be.

 

 

 

 

 

Read More

Reflections from Renewal

Posted by on May 1, 2014 in Children, Divine Appointments, God Speaks, Humility, Words | 16 comments

with Wess Stafford 4

 

Last weekend will go down in my personal history book with a dog-eared marker and more memories than 72hrs should be allowed to carry.

I attended and participated in a conference with hundreds of early educators who love and serve children.

Worship leader Peter Neumann watered our parched souls. Inspirational speakers reignited our passion to press forward in doing what we know we’re called to do – serve our littlest with grace and humility. And nothing drove that truth home for me better than our keynote speaker Dr Wess Stafford, from Compassion International.

Wess Stafford understands service. He also understands humility and the upside-down economy of the Kingdom of God.

Children matter to Wess Stafford and people who invest in the lives to children do too.

I was mesmerized by his keynote address Sat morning – but it was observing his life behind the scenes that drove stakes of influence deep into my soul. I watched Dr Stafford attentively listen to each person who approached him. One by one they came up to him to share their personal stories.

His eyes sparkled and narrowed as he listened and tenderly conveyed to them, “I’m honored to be in your presence”.

When a camera surfaced for a photo, he would grab his new friend close like a proud dad – tilt his head into them, and with a gentle smile of familiarity thank them by name for the privilege of the meeting.

He listened. He invested. He expressed value through understanding and authenticity. He became Christ in the moment.

********

I had the privilege of speaking at the Fri evening service. I was told Dr Stafford might arrive early enough to attend. Of course I knew he wouldn’t – he’s WAY too important to be bothered. And his commitment began the next day.

The service was held in a dimly lit room which was beautifully decorated with dozens of candles. The sea of faces blurred into the overpowering soft glow of candlelight.

Minutes after we started it became apparent there would be no eye contact with the audience which actually aligned nicely with the direction I felt God wanted the service to go. It was also a good solution for my concern about the possibility of speaking in front of a big name celebrity.

God met each of us in the candlelit room – he listened. He valued and affirmed us.

********

The next day Wess Stafford came up to thank me for the previous evening service. I couldn’t believe it. He came and we both survived.

As I looked into his eyes, I understood. Yes, he’s a brilliant leader, advocate, author, and is known around the world – but he truly gets who he is. He’s just another one of God’s equally valued children – we all are. When he says children matter, he means it. I mattered. I will never forget the minutes he gave me and how it affected me.

I plan to reread my copies of Too Small to Ignore and Just a Minute.

After all, someone from my playground wrote them – and he’s my new hero and friend!!

********

What I learned:

  • It only takes a minute to make a lasting deposit in someone’s heart
  • God’s presence dispels our false ideas of what makes us grand
  • Affirmation without humility only affirms the person giving it
  • And – God loves us, truly loves us – because we are his

 

Linking up with #TellHisStory today.

 

Read More

In a Moving Vehicle

Posted by on Apr 24, 2014 in Aging, Control, Humility, Motherhood | 20 comments

carseat

 

For now, they share the back seat while I drive. A carseat and a walker. Time never stands still, but today, my personal timeline sits in my car. I hesitate to look in either direction – back or forward.

I have no recollection of ever occupying a carseat myself, in fact I remember being lined up in the backseat of a station wagon shoulder to shoulder – all four of us. Seven years separating the firstborn from the youngest.

The carseat era brought with it restraints and a need for front seat entertainment rather than management. No more playing the “she touched me” game for the thrill of watching a leg get slapped from the front. No more trying to be the one closest to the window for relief from smells, annoying tapping and endless questions.

Today is different. Today I’m the keeper of the carseat from the front. I wrestle and manipulate the wiggly little creature into it. I lock firmly and tighten for safety. I manage entertainment, but never slap.

The carseat holds hope, dreams, undiscovered galaxies. Next to it – the walker.

I remember the day we went to the Salvation Army to find an appropriate walker. She was sure she didn’t really need one even though all the health professionals told her she did. None of the gizmos seemed right. One was too short, one too bulky, they needed a basket for carrying things. They all made her look old.

I can’t say I was sympathetic, or patient. It was just one of the ten other tasks on my checklist to make my job a little easier.

Ten years later it gets thrown in the backseat like my appendage, the purse. It haunts me. I sit in front.

A stroll down our timeline is a stark reminder we’re trapped in a moving vehicle. Time progresses without our consent. We change seats and don’t even know it.

She was once a carseat dweller. Young, full of dreams. She didn’t concern herself with thoughts of walkers, purses, or days spent looking back. The world was her galaxy.

I can’t be concerned with where I sit.

One day the carseat will vacate and little one will move up front. My walker will occupy the back as she looks over her shoulder to be sure I’m properly buckled in.

Life is a vapor. Life is to be cherished, valued. Used up.

Mourning the loss of years gone by is as futile as anxious anticipation of the future. The young drink from the old. The old dry up. The driver sits in the front seat with misguided feelings of control and worth.

Life is a gift. Our value comes from the life given us, no other place.

“How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog — it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.” James 4:14

The smudgy fingerprints on the carseat will be the same that grip the wheel and eventually the walker handles. Some things change – others remain.. Our DNA, our gifts planted from above, and the tiny lines on our fingers never change – just where they land in the grip.

 

I’m grateful to be linking up with Jennifer Dukes Lee today and #imperfectprose.

 

 

 

Read More

Sacred Shears

Posted by on Jan 4, 2014 in Humility | 20 comments

pruning

 

 

When my husband comes out of the garage armed with clippers and a ladder, I know what’s coming. It’s that time of year again – time to prune the fruit trees. It hardly seems fair to choose winter for pruning. The poor trees are already stripped of everything that gives them worth and warmth. They’re barren and exposed.

With the skill of a surgeon’s hand, he trims each fruit bearing branch. Some, it seems to me – way too far.

I hate pruning. I’m always certain the tree won’t be able to recover from such brutality. And I don’t like the dreariness it brings. There’s nothing pretty about the brittle, stubby, sawed off limbs – nothing useful or lovely.

Pruning reminds me we’re headed into a long period of monotonous waiting. As a cloak of gray replaces the vibrant colors of summer, silence claims the inhospitable branches.

Unlike me, trees have no choice about pruning. They don’t have legs, or a will.

When I see pruning shears approaching I can choose to run away or resist them altogether. Often times I try to negotiate a better plan. I have choices within my prune-able circumstances.

A couple nights ago we were awakened at midnight by a loud scream and a bang when our neighbor’s car crashed into (and on top of) our front porch. The runaway car destroyed all the railings around the porch, chipped the deck and took out four camellia trees. Thankfully no one was hurt.

When I looked out the front door to survey the damages I saw him. There, along with our distraught neighbor, was my Heavenly Gardener. He carried his pruning shears.

Our bruised house and the ugly mess already challenged me. How could I allow him to trim the deeper places? His clippers rested on my self-centered heart. He wanted to clip the spindly branches of pride, judgement and of self protection.

To be pruned would be my choice – a hard choice. I didn’t like what I saw.

The exposure of my own emotions was grayer and colder than my wintery surroundings. My brittle branches were raw and inhospitable. Shame and vulnerability surfaced as he clipped and cut. I was challenged to drop the branches I thought gave me strength and stability. I was being called to embrace humility and grace.

Today I’m still pondering this winter scene. I yearn for signs of new life and fruit. And yet I know he’s a good gardener. His timing is perfect and his severing gentle and purposeful. Winter will pass – spring will surely come – and so will more pruning.

I have his promise, “Jesus is the true vine, and his Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. If I remain in him and he in me, I will bear much fruit; apart from him, I can do nothing.” John 15:1-5

 

 

 

Read More

Dirt, Work & Waiting

Posted by on Oct 11, 2013 in Humility, Married Life | 6 comments

fall for blog dirt post

 

My husband and I spent the bulk of the day yesterday working around our house. He worked on it and I worked in it.

Our jobs were nothing alike. He labored to encase electrical wires in a tube on the side of our garage while I cleaned inside. I dusted, waxed, vacuumed, climbed step stools, washed windows, scrubbed toilets and did laundry.

It’s probably safe to say we both worked equally hard. And at the end of the day, we both felt like our day had been productive.

The blaring difference between our tasks however, is the obvious. His job will most likely last more than a week. He can walk away from his investment of time and energy with a different kind of satisfaction than I can. If he did the job well, it will probably never need to be done again. I have to say I envy that.

I honestly detest housework. If there was any way to eliminate it forever I would pay whatever price necessary to do it. Take away all the furniture – even make me walk through a sterilization chamber to get into the house – I would do it. At face value, cleaning house offers me no lasting satisfaction.

I often wonder what life would be like without dirt.

Dirt does however – even the cleaning the house kind of dirt – remind me of my mortality. Nothing we do is truly lasting. Even my husband’s job will one day be obsolete or forgotten.

Every day is a sacred gift and no task is menial or without purpose.

While visiting a skilled nursing facility the other day I overheard one women talking to another. They were reminiscing about the life they once had. They didn’t mention missing their jobs. They didn’t talk about their accomplishments or titles. They didn’t even miss their youthful bodies – they missed the ordinary tasks of life. They missed cleaning their houses. Imagine that.

When I consider the privilege God gave us to care for the soil of this planet, I’m humbled.

When I remember the large portion of the population who do not have homes to clean, I’m pricked with conviction for my own complaining. Dirt, even dust, reminds me who I am and where I come from.

Some days are filled with moments and projects that give us a sweet sense of accomplishment. But other less meaningful days feels as though we’ve done nothing more than remove a layer of dust no one even sees.

God has saved the dirt-free environment for our next home. His world will not simply be sterile and absent of the menial tasks we’ll regret leaving. Whatever substances his kingdom will consist of, I am certain it will be life producing and perspective generating, just like dirt does in this life.

God has a way of transforming our dirt into life-producing soil.

Work can become worship in the temple of our temporary while we wait for his invitation home.

 

Digging up an old post to link up with #TellHisStory today.

Read More

My Evil Twins

Posted by on Sep 22, 2013 in Humility | 12 comments

new

 

They come to visit frequently, and admittedly mostly by invitation. No matter how hard I try to keep them under wraps, I’m forced to admit they’re my evil twins.

Every time they come to visit I cringe. I know what they represent. They terrorize my orderly house. They infiltrate my closet where unfortunately, they fit into everything I own. Parading around town people mistake them for me. It’s horrifying.

I try to suggest they just keep a low profile. You know – at least keep their mouths closed. We discuss proper manners like, ‘speak when you’re spoken to’ or ‘be seen and not heard’. But their tendency is to leave their mark wherever they go. They crave influence. Somehow it makes them feel worthy. They thrive on safe superiority. But the superiority comes at the expense of people they meet, even people they don’t know. When they flourish, I diminish.

Don’t get me wrong – we are close. I just prefer to keep them in their place. We love to commiserate behind closed doors. It’s the public presence that kills me.

If you see them – please don’t acknowledge them. Don’t entertain them.

Their names are Cynicism and Criticism. They do serve a purpose – but not to you. My evil twins are good for one thing. When they surface in my life I know I have some digging to do. Some re-outfitting of my wardrobe.

Their whispers and quiet influence can be hushed by inviting other guests to visit instead. Truth and Mercy belong in my home. My closet should be a comfortable place for them. Truth and Mercy know how to speak in public. They’re welcomed by my community. I don’t need to hide them or be ashamed of them.

My evil twins do have an innate ability to activate my heart gauge though. Their whispers and subtle influence allow me to consider the deep secret places of my heart. They are a warning light to my soul. When tempted to extend an invitation to them, I remember the sweetness of my better guests.

Yesterday ALL FOUR OF THEM SHOWED UP.

Each one had a strong opinion as I passed a young couple and their baby begging on the street corner near my supermarket.

Cynicism started the dialogue with, “Good choice guys – no one begs in our town. You should make a killing”. Criticism chimed in, “The dad looks healthy to me, healthy enough to work”.

But as I stared at their baby, Truth reminded me that they were exactly why I was here. They were no more or less loved than me – no matter why they were begging. Mercy softly guided my car to a stop as Cynicism and Criticism slithered away in the shadows.

Mercy mends. Truth stands. My heart swells with peace.

 

(Please hit READ MORE for the Comment Box to share your thoughts. We’d love to hear from you)

Read More