#blessed?

I love the look of all the farmhouse lettered signs- the weathered wood, the scrolled cursive and imperfect typeset, the sweet sayings.  They feel simple, conjuring up welcoming feelings of home.  I have one or two, but there is always one that makes me pause.  It is the sign that simply says, “Blessed”.  The same momentary sinking happens when I see that word with a hashtag underneath a perfect family photo or a new car.  I cringe a little each time.  Somehow that word, used in certain situations, feels unclean, stripped of its intent.  Yet I believe in blessings.  I believe that God wants to bless his children.  So I suppose I should attempt to explain….

I feel blessed.  I have healthy children, a nice home, a job I enjoy, and other sundry items to list at the Thanksgiving table.  I also have unanswered cardiac issues.  My husband was recently diagnosed bipolar.  I ran over one of our kittens last week.  My savings is at an all-time low.  Do these events and items make me feel less blessed?  No.  I still feel blessed.  Can I hashtag a picture of my smiling 7-year-old holding up a sweet note to Mommy to describe that I am blessed?  Maybe.  Can I hashtag a picture of the tiny kitten grave Nick had to dig for Clover last week?  Maybe.  You see, for me, blessings are not dependent on situations.  I am blessed to know that whatever I face,God is with me.  I know when my bank account hovers near zero, I am blessed to have assurance that my future is secure.  I can quote Philippians 4:11-13 to myself, I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Somewhere in the social media world, #blessed seems to suggest that when life is great and we look good, we are garnering some special favor from God.  And I wonder what a friend recently diagnosed with a disease or an acquaintance suffering through a difficult divorce feels about God’s blessings.  When I am struggling, is God blessing me less?  Or worse- punishing me?  In my simplest, non-theological answer, I believe not.  God wants the best for me, for us, but we are fallen people in a fallen world.  His blessing for us as His followers is assurance, comfort, and strength.  2 Corinthians 4:16-18 reminds me to “not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  That is the message I want to give to the world, not the idea that I have garnered supernatural favor through some strength or power of my own, or worse, through a perfectly posed, hashtagged portrait of my life.

If #blessed becomes my status symbol, my shout-out to God that life is awesome right now, I am selling short my life with Jesus as just another “think positive” message among the throng of false happiness messages we receive every day.  I am blessed every day.  At Thanksgiving,  we focus on gratitude and abundance, and we see our many blessings and are thankful.  But if you are struggling, if it is difficult to find material or health or relational blessings this year, I urge you to consider that your blessing may be the strength God gives you to endure and the peace, love, and joy you can find in Him despite your circumstance.  

John 16:33 I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

Advertisements

Novelty: A Little Love Story

 It was a fall weekend, much like this, when a much younger version of myself met a much younger version of Nick. He had come on our youth retreat with a friend. He was immature then, even ingratiating. I didn’t like him, then I got used to him, then I grew to know him, and eventually I loved him. The years passed quickly, and that was (shocking to admit) 20 or more years ago. And time is tricky, you know. It bends and wrinkles moments and skin, it builds then devours memories of bliss and sorrow. But here we are, and our story continues to be made new. God works our partialness into wholeness together. Sometimes he is dragging me along through stress and unsureness, and other times I am holding him up out of depression and struggle. And it’s muddy, and tiring, but also hopeful and comforting, because whatever Time and the Enemy are doing to drown us, we are always pulling a life raft alongside…you know, the old “cord of three strands” (thanks, Solomon).  And sometimes, what feels like the “little stuff” becomes the definition that carries you through when life threatens to overwhelm. And today I need to stop and focus on the little stuff that saves us, over and over.

  Nick is a techie, an inventor, an ADD bundle of doing. So I was surprised after almost 14 years of marriage when he said, “I want to read your books. I want to know you better.” He had signed up for Audible, an audio book app, and he began to load it up with my favorites: Jane Eyre, Lord of the Flies, 1984, and more. He listened every day on his long commute, and he came home eager to ask about the lady in the attic, what happened to Piggy, or the modernity of Big Brother. We talked about culture, and society, or, while drifting off to sleep, whether Jane would find love. Let me tell you, ladies, there is nothing sexier than your man whispering some Jane Eyre to you. Seriously. More importantly, the talks built to something more than a run-down of the kids’ schedule, or a check-in about bills, or a momentary “hey” looking up from a pile of grading or sinkful of dishes.  Somehow he knew that what we needed to break out of the mundanity we had fallen into required a sacrifice of time and interest on his part.  

   And I felt more in those moments, talking excitedly about books with my previously non-reading husband, than I felt in our wedding vows and 14 years of marriage, how much Nick loves me and wants to know me. This man of quiet love and daily honor spoke more words than all those books together. He made our love new and novel.

  The story is not to tell you that love is easy, but it is simple. It is knowing what makes the other one tick and caring enough to learn it, or do it.  And when the hard days come, and we are grasping for the edge of that life boat, the reminder that knowing each other and loving each other is a priority keeps our head above water. Not long ago, I attempted to return the favor of all the time listening to those novels; I versed myself in table and chop saw usage and took over a never-ending flooring project so Nick and I could have more time together.  The differences that could separate us have become tools of intimacy, of knowing each other more each day.  And I don’t say it often publicly, so this is, in my own way, a thank-you letter back to Nick for wanting to know me, even at my worst, and striving to do so in myriad little ways.

Summertime, and the Living is….Easy???

Oh, summer, you two-faced fantasy.  You fickle beauty. You inconstant friend.  On harsh winter days, we dream of you.  We spend all of April and May waiting impatiently for you. In the pick-up line at school, or the hot, smelly waiting room at gymnastics, we pine for you.  And then you are here in all your glory.  We make bucket lists, visit the beach, buy s’mores and ice cream with abandon….until August, when the gluttony has us lying on the couch, the late nights have us lounging until noon, the entertainment (or lack thereof) has children bickering and whining, and we cannot wait to kiss you goodbye.

The topic in grocery store lines this week and the knowing glances exchanged between moms in the church foyer today reiterate the notion- summer is almost over- thank you all that is divine and relenting!  We have checked off activities, indulged in a multitude of ways, and we are…well, over it.  My teaching job has always afforded me summers “off from work” (usually meaning: reading up on new novels, thinking about seating arrangements, attending professional development- OK, different post).  In my early married years, I prided myself for the summer version of me: Summer Wife.  Summer Wife was fun- she stayed out late on weeknights, made hubby’s lunches, kept the chores up, and tackled other necessary problems.  Summer Wife was always relaxed and generally well-tempered.  The birth of children ushered in a new monarch: Summer Mom.  Summer Mom is fun.  Summer Mom cuts the crust off all sandwiches, drives across town to the beach sometimes multiple times in ONE DAY, indulges weird fantasies of strange slime concoctions, and rarely yells the word “HURRY UP!”  But Summer Mom is TIRED- tired of refereeing fights, tired of impromptu friend visits that last just a bit too long, tired of 4 or 5 different lunch requests (I only have THREE kids- where is all this food going?!)  Summer Mom reveled in the No Schedule months of June and July, but she is begging for a calendar so she doesn’t oversleep ANOTHER doctor’s appointment or forget to send ANOTHER house payment.  Summer Mom is grumpy- so many questions, so many outings, so many public bathrooms and grubby hands and crowded lines…..the stress level is creeping up while I revisit the underbelly of summer fun.

I am not complaining (well, not much).  I love summer.  I’m not known for sleeping in, but I am happy to stay in sweats until 9…or 10…or so.  I am thrilled to have time to read entire novels (I can jump right back into reading a novel a day in the summer).  I am satisfied to watch my kids cannonball into a pool again and again.  But I have a wandering soul.  The summer days eventually leave me looking for something to do, starting another project I likely won’t finish, and tiring of the constant questions of “what next?” from little munchkins who have grown used to entertainment.  I am ready for the expected schedule, the clarity of days outlined by lessons, practice, homework.  I am ready for the house to be empty long enough each day to remain a little tidier.  I am ready to not be a short order cook multiple times a day.  I am ready for the mundanity of daily life.  It has all become just a bit TOO MUCH for this Summer Mom.  You know the feeling?  It is like that last bite of cake that sits unsettled in the top of your stomach- it sounded good, it looked great, it felt right, but it is obvious that it was TOO MUCH!  I see that look, fellow Summer Moms.  You are in a long line at the fair in mid-August, your eyes glazed, your patience thin, your coinpurse empty, and you hear that whisper- IT IS TIME!  Time for September and the ushering in of school, sweatshirts, and pumpkin patches.  Bedtimes reminded by early evening darkness and mornings reinforced by a Trolls-themed alarm clock singing, “I will get back up a-gain!”

I’ve been a mom long enough to know better than to wish away the moments and the years.  But I have also been a mom long enough to know that our best times are not always long, hot vacations, but sometimes daily car rides after school.  Our most intimate family talks are not always around a campfire, but sometimes piled on the couch on a cold evening.  Our best selves are not always the fabled Summer versions that while away the time with abandon, but sometimes the stalwart daily versions that find magic in the mundane.

So this is my loving Farewell to you, Summer!  As always, our affair has been hot and wild, but I must bid you adieu.  Summer Mom must put on real pants (with a button and everything) and transform back into School Mom.  But I will try to take a little of your fun and freedom with me this year…I will drag out my summer silliness once in a while-write to me in late September to remind me.

When to Rest

I don’t always know when to rest.  I like to get up early; it is how I prepare myself for whatever may lie ahead.  I like to stay up late; it is quiet and I can gather my thoughts up and sort them into piles from most to least important.  I prefer saying “yes” to saying “no”, often finding myself at the bottom of a laundry lists of obligations and expectations that I chained myself to willingly.  I add miles to my jogs to keep going…and going…and going.  So it should come as no surprise that it takes a freight train to tell me to stop.

Last month, I got the message.  In the midst of a successful season of 10K training, my body started saying “no” when it had previously said “yes”.  I felt fatigued beyond the normal mom-of-3-teacher-runner fatigue.  I would sit down and my eyes would involuntarily close.  It felt often like a foot on my chest, bearing down and taking my breath away.  My always-low heartrate slowed, and slowed, and slowed, frequently dropping into the 30s.  I did what I hate to do then- I went to the doctor.  I was told to stop running.  I was sent for more tests, revealing an arrhythmia, and later, some leaky valves.  Neither of these are earth-shattering, or even particularly noteworthy, diagnoses.  I am fine. But I am still under orders to REST.

I am uncomfortable, itching to get back at it.  I am in the midst of essays, a looming graduation speech, and a couple of outrageously large cupcake orders.  Rest seems impossible and inconvenient.  But my body is still telling me- Nope, I’m not doing that today, lady.  I am waiting for one more test.  And while I do,  I am trying to take in the message.  I am taking it easy- which isn’t easy at all.  And in all honesty, I’m not even doing a very good job of it.  Just yesterday, I took on another task.  Some days, I feel pretty good, and I overdo it.  And then my body taps me on the shoulder and reminds me, Hey, not yetdude.

But I am going to try to take away a positive message this month and focus on shifting priorities.  I am going to form my lips into a clear NO until it is a practiced skill.  I am going to play badminton in the yard with the girls and leave the vacuum in the corner for a bit.  I’m going to listen to my heart, which is beating a tired reminder to slow down.  I’d like to stay I will lessen stress, but let’s face it, I have 2 1/2 weeks left in a room full of restless 17-year-olds punctuated by nights with a 4-year-old who hates to sleep.  So, you know, stress levels are sort of unavoidable.  Either way, I am following my post on running, which ironically I wrote right before I was told to stop, with a post on resting.  And I’m going to say to you, too, that it is OK to rest.  Our society makes rest seem lazy, careless, irresponsible.  But rest is necessary, healing, valuable.  Rest allows us to be the people we were intended to be.

Running After Myself (And 4 Reasons You Should Too)

My feet hit the pavement rhythmically while the wind plays in my ponytail.  Despising earbuds, I blare music from my phone for an audience of one and an infrequent passing car.  For the first 10 minutes, I feel like I am slogging in mud, slow, uncoordinated, flailing.  Then I find it…my pace and my breathing align in harmonic peace.  My body knows what to do, and I can focus on whatever is on my mind.  I have never been a runner, and this post is not to convince you to be one, either.  But one day, sometime after my third birth, I was feeling like an inflated beach toy bobbing around on an empty sea, and I needed both a physical and a mental reprieve from that encompassing ocean of others who needed me: kids, students, husband, bosses.  So I ran after myself, and I found myself, over and over, every time I needed some head space to consider some idea, or decision, or frustration.

There is something soothing about the physical ability to escape the everyday reality, and lacing up my shoes each time fills me with overwhelming calm.  As an introvert, I know that no one is going to bug me on my weeknight jogs, and I feel free from having to answer questions, justify decisions, or explain ideas.  I am free to explore the thoughts that bottle up while I am busy discussing literature, explaining why bedtime is still at 8 pm, and answering a seemingly endless list of emails asking for letters of recommendation.  I am free to talk to God, and to listen, without interruption.  I write and rewrite ideas in my head with abandon.  Starting to run gave me the gift of finding myself again.

I so often hear friends talk about losing themselves: in a relationship, in parenthood, in careers, in expectations.  Losing yourself is scary; you feel helpless and alone, grasping at whatever vestiges remain of who you were and who you thought you would be.  Running was my way of regaining my foothold, my promise to myself that I wouldn’t get lost again, leashing myself to my thoughts and dreams and hopes in a way that kept me going.  The physical act of running gave me confidence to pursue other dreams long left on a back burner: writing for an audience, for example.  It felt like a measurable, concrete activity that reminded me that I am strong and capable and independent.

If you are feeling like I was four years ago, metaphorically lost at sea, here is my effort to convince you to run after yourself, either by literally running or by figuratively finding yourself through some other method.

1.  You need yourself.  Yes, I realize that sounds silly.  But you may have forgotten over years of needing others and/or being needed by others that you also need yourself.  I lived alone my first year of teaching, and it was an experience that showed me so much about myself.  After years of living with family and roommates, I was forced to become self-reliant.  I became my own friend (DORK alert).  And then I got married, had three kids, taught hundreds of students, and sort of forgot that I actually like spending time with myself- until I made it a priority again.

2. You need time.  So much of what we do today feels mission-critical, especially parenting.  Every decision must be made immediately, and often under the duress of crying or screaming offspring.  I become a stuttering fool in these stressful moments…sometimes I can’t even string together a coherent sentence in the peak of the chaos.  Give me a minute! I find myself saying/yelling/pleading.  If this is you, you need time, an opportunity to walk away, to gather your thoughts and your sanity.  I don’t mean this in a selfish, leave-me-alone kind of way, but more a I-can-do-this-better-in-five-minutes kind of way.  Scheduling that time alone allows you to control this pressure and manage your responses.

3.  You need personal goals.  For me, running was full of measurable goals: distance, time, pacing.  Even the simple act of controlling my breathing or surviving side cramps gave me something to focus on.  Certainly the physical aspect makes running a positive goal, but anything you enjoy doing can have measurable goals for you, and meeting those incremental goals reminds you that you are capable of more that what you may feel you can do in this moment.  Every time I meet a new goal, I feel confident that I can face whatever else the week may hold.

4. You need peace.  Many days feel less than peaceful in one way or another.  If it isn’t an issue at work or at home, it is stressful news or worries about a potential future issue.  We certainly know how to borrow trouble, and our poor little life rafts are sinking under the weight.  Finding yourself in the midst of trouble gives you peace.  I mentioned above that I use this time not only to be alone with my thoughts, but to be alone with God.  For me, running feels meditative.  My mind is lulled by the rhythm of it. I am able in that quiet span of time to focus on peace.  Of course, it helps that I run in the country, past sheep, horses, and open fields.  But I think you can find peace anywhere that you can focus inward.  I mean, my husband hides in the bathroom, and that seems to work for him, so to-each-his-own, I guess.

Run after yourself.  Uncover your forgotten dreams and chase them with abandon.  I can speak with some experience that running after myself made me better equipped to be present for others in my life without feeling lost and overwhelmed.  It gave me freedom to explore my ideas again and to find peace amidst chaos.  And it can do the same for you.

Raiser of Women

 shoes    The weight of it sits on my shoulders, but the lightness buoys my soul. I am a raiser of Women. Women who, I hope, will have every opportunity to spread their wings and feel the freedom of wind ruffling their feathers. To get there, my girls will need me to be strong, to be wise, to be present.  Just today, this International Day of Women, I was reminded of the dirt that keeps us grounded when an acquaintance suggested, without any attempt at veiled politeness, that there is some lacking in my gaggle of girls, and did I ever think about trying for a boy?  She seemed slightly stunned when I said no, I was happy to have my girls.

    I don’t know how to describe in this passing conversation how I am watching Womanhood grow in every possible way. With one daughter, her growth is an understanding of her deep feelings and her power is her empathy. Another’s future is wrapped up in an energetic, never-say-no courage. The last is still unfurling, but I can see power in her eyes and in each feisty jump. And I am blessed, and tasked, to guide them, to protect their fragile hearts and bodies without stifling, to build responsibility without breaking innocence, to encourage confidence without creating self-centeredness.  More importantly, I am responsible in some small part to create a world where each of my girls can flourish. I want their world to be a beautiful garden of potential. But I know the adage that every rose has its thorns, and certainly I recognize that every garden is built in dirt, so while I can’t create utopia, I can help grow their bravery and shrink their fear. Then, when they find themselves in a muddy patch, they will have the self-reliance to keep slogging through. And while the world will sell them the lie that they are completely self-sufficient, I will never stop reminding them that they are the beloved of a God who created them uniquely to fulfill a purpose seated deep inside their souls.

  I pray that like the strong women who were there for me I will have the perseverance to always be there for them. I hope I can slog through my own puddles with grace to show them it can be done. And this beautiful, and scary, idea of mothering girls reminds me of what is wonderful about being a woman.  It is strength and softness, intuition and intelligence, grace and grit. Moreover, I am overwhelmed by the wonder of being a raiser of Women, for what better task could there be?

Reprieve

landscape-2089850__480The sunset purpled the sky as an unusually warm breeze whipped around my jacket, and I breathed deeply this February blessing. I can be a hibernator, and by February, I am often simultaneously lonely and yet desirous of solitude. The snowy cold is an acceptable excuse to temporarily disappear. For me, historically, January and February have been rough months. Somehow when the calendar flips to the new year, all the sad stuff lets loose. Sickness, bad news, even death seem to congregate in the dreariness of these dark months.

This year is really no different. Some tragic events have left me feeling quiet. Sometimes there is no voice to give to the pain that peoples our world.  I have withdrawn. Facebook, where I usually watch my faraway friends’ pictures pop up, became a breeding ground for argument and intolerance, so I avoided that technological outlet. Blogging felt too difficult; I questioned what words the world might benefit from, but came up empty again and again. Then sickness took us out for a week. Feverish kids watched Netflix while I read and disinfected.

But last week, God sent the sun. The days became springlike, and I felt hope humming under my feet.I chatted with neighbors. I jogged my favorite route past my horse friends. I felt it in my soul: a reprieve. I reveled in days of warmth during what is often a frigid season. The pain, worry, and sadness isn’t gone, but its frosty hold is melting.

And this is how we survive the pain of a broken world- days of hope that arrive just in time. Moments of happiness that warm the cold and lonely corners of our minds.  God knows just when to send us a reprieve. It reminds me of an exercise I used to do in lifeguard training. Swim a brick to the bottom of the deep end, come back up for air, then return down to the depths to retrieve it.  That brief moment at the surface determined my success or failure. I needed just the right amount of air to accomplish the task.  And so it is in life; I need just the right amount of peace to survive the sometimes overwhelming experiences of life.  I go back to that well-remembered Psalm, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul: he leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (Psalm 23)

So let it snow, or rain, or hail (this is Michigan, after all), I will rest assured that a reprieve is always on the horizon.

 

Chasing the Prodigal

fog-1209205_640

Recent news, and stories that hit closer to home, have me thinking of the prodigal. So many of our worldly troubles lead us to drift, or run, or hide, to escape. Our minds or hearts or histories whisper the need to go. And some of us follow. And some of us, left behind in the cloud of questions, chase. If you are chasing a prodigal, I see you. I feel the intense pounding in your chest every time the phone rings. I sense the tension of each hair follicle when someone asks the innocent question, yet? I know the fear when the prodigal is away and you don’t even have an address. You consider driving in the dark scouring parking lots, but you are paralyzed by the vastness of possibility. I understand the void of a prodigal heart, which may share a dinner table, or a bed, or a life, but the distance is palpably wide.

  We have just read Cry, The Beloved Country in AP, and I am struck in every reading by the protagonist’s valiant search for his family members in a violent and bitter Johannesburg. And in the finding of each loved one, his inability to save them. His wrestling with God over the release, His faith for the future, His heavy hold on restoration. I am left feeling emptied and filled, a part of the journey to reach the prodigals.

  And really, we are all chasing prodigals. Maybe not our children, or spouses, or siblings, but someone. A friend who is traveling a dead end road but has closed herself off from communication. A coworker we watch self-destruct day after day, but we feel paralyzed by a distance imposed by cultural propriety.  And we follow at a safe distance, or watch from afar, but we feel powerless.

  God is in the business of pursuing prodigals. Hearts that stray, minds that wander, feet that falter. He is not afraid to follow. There is no propriety that prevents Him from calling even those furthest from Him back to His fold.  And as we run after those we love, we can be reassured by God’s faithfulness.  He does not forget us. He does not become weary in His pursuit. Like the shepherd leaving the flock to find the one, so is God concerned for each of us.

If I ride the wings of the morning,
   if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
even there your hand will guide me,
   and your strength will support me.
I could ask the darkness to hide me
   and the light around me to become night—but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.  Psalm 139:9-12

  If you feel like giving up, rest in assurance that God will not. If your prodigal does not return in the time or manner you have hoped, God already knows. He was with them all along. If you are the prodigal, you are not alone. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

 

The Word of the Year

 If hindsight is 20/20, then I can clearly see my failings and falterings from 2016. Too much sugar, too little exercise; too much yelling, too little grace; too many messes, too few checked-off tasks. We can see the political circus and the social drama. But after 35 New Year’s Eves, I have learned this proven truth: there is no going back. The only opportunity the past holds for you is regret, and you don’t want to set up camp there.

   I’ve also celebrated enough January 1sts to know that it is full of well-intentioned resolutions backed up by lack of action and determination. By February, many treadmills and bank accounts are empty again, despite the desire to lose weight or gather savings.

   This year, I’m avoiding resolutions and clinging to a word, a mantra, that I am confident will help me live a more fulfilled, less stressful, life. You are hanging on the edge of your seat by now, right? Katie is about to reveal an Oprah-book-list worthy idea to revolutionize our lives. Nope. The word is simple, the execution difficult. The word is: wisdom.

  Think of the worst situation you experienced last year. If you look at it in retrospect, likely it could have been avoided or mitigated through your own, or someone else’s, wisdom.  A few months ago, the girls and I ran out of gas about half a mile away from home on a busy road. After numerous unanswered calls to Nick and my parents and some muttered frustrations, I dragged the girls out of the car and we slogged along the shoulder as cars whipped past. I was mad, at my gas tank that failed me, at my husband who I pictured blissfully napping with his phone on silent, at the world for its cursed unfairness. But you know what? I should have filled the gas tank days ago. Wisdom would be prepared and preplanned. This walk home was just a small analogy for all the times I failed to make a wise decision: a fight I found myself in with a daughter that pitted us against each other in ugly ways, a missed opportunity to share Christ with a loved one, a pile of papers stacked up to a tight deadline because I had put them off, all revealed within me a lack of wisdom.  

  I think 2016 was a banner year for revealing the lack of wisdom on a larger scale in our society.  I don’t need to rehash political failings and public embarrassments caused by people’s lack of wisdom.  I don’t need to harp on the public policy decisions that seem to go against every wise form of forethought I can imagine.  And I certainly don’t want to join the ranks of finger pointers who are quick to focus on the failings outside of themselves.  Instead, I am going to focus on the small step of wise choices that I can make.winter

  Wisdom is the intersection of intelligence and integrity, the place where our decisions reveal our inner desire for truth.  Seeking wisdom will make us better workers, better parents, better spouses, better citizens, and better people in general.  I also know that left to my own devices, just like in my car analogy, I will fail.  Wisdom is not an innate part of my makeup.  For me, wisdom has to come from a close walk with Christ, who reveals in a multitude of ways what choices are best.

I want to pray like Solomon:

 “Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.” ( 1 Kings 3:7-14)

     My desire is to have wisdom and discernment, because life is hard, and 2017 is going to be full of decisions and difficulties that I will not be able to face on my own.  James 1:5 promises, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”  I am clinging to that promise, because this world needs all the wisdom it can get.

 

   

Being Bethlehem

   The city was overcrowded and understaffed. The census was straining it at the seams. That dark night, Mary must have questioned God’s timing. This was no place to bring a baby. There was no room, no preparation here for Him. Certainly a larger city, or a quieter moment, could better accept the birth of a Savior. But God spoke then, and there, and Jesus was born. In the dust kicked up by the busyness of the census, people were not watching this young couple ride into town. There was no expectant pause in Bethlehem. It was full, but oh so empty.

  And so are we- full, but oh so empty. There is no expectant pause for us in the midst of violence, politics, pain, and self-serving idolatry.  And even in calm moments, we overrun our lives with complication. Every day is a census of sorts- a counting and recounting of achievements, of money, of importance. And somewhere on the fringe of all the being and doing is a stable, and a manger, and a tiny Baby that coos softly amidst the noise.

   Don’t be Bethlehem today. Be the innkeeper. Find a place for Jesus. Always be aware, be expectant, be looking for opportunities to open your heart and life. Jesus walks the earth today through us, and we are given many moments to give Him room.  As the holidays pass and the calendar turns, remember the manger that represents a place on earth for Jesus, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:6-7)wordswag_1482638168126