My #Saywhat Kind of Morning

I spent last week on vacation visiting my family back in Iowa.

You know…Iowa.  Kind of like Grand Cayman, or Cancun.  But without the beach.  Or the ocean.  And with lots of corn.

Don’t believe me?

I’m not surprised.  People rarely equate Iowa with exotic beach locations, but that’s what it feels like to my husband and me every year as we wind our way over the mountains of Pennsylvania and across the Midwest back to our Iowa roots.  Because it’s there that we can truly relax and get away from it all.  (Plus, enjoy some family time.)

Anyway.

Upon our return home to PA last weekend, I gradually came to realize that I had neglected many things:  appointments on the calendar, bills in the mail, and my email, just to name a few.  Since Monday, these realities have pushed their way back into my life with an unrelenting force, and I’ve been running behind them playing catch-up ever since.

This morning, though, I was determined to start the day with a plan.  Get things back to normal.  Find our daily routine again.  At heart, I’m a planning kind of girl, and I knew if I could get back into my routines and write them down, I would feel better about moving through my day, especially since I am now really tired from playing catch-up all week.  Today, it was time to get ahead a little bit.

So, I sat down, as I do every weekday morning, with my Bible and read.  I prayed, and I wrote some thoughts down in my journal.  Then I did something that is really, really new to me.  It’s a new habit I’m trying out, even though I have my doubts.  You see, I signed up for this Online Bible Study that started the first Sunday I was on vacation.  (It got ignored too, in case you’re wondering.  Because, well…VACATION!)   But, before I left on vacation, I had started reading the book the Bible study revolves around (besides the Bible, there’s another book that leads us through the study, I guess.  To be honest, I don’t really know, because all the emails that are a part of the Bible study are lumped in with all the other emails I was ignoring, so…I will get caught up on that, too, and know more soon, but most people who come to read this today know WAY more about this Bible study than I do right now, so to spare myself the embarrassment of acting like I know more than I do about this, I’ll just come clean.  I read the first two chapters of Lysa TerKeurst’s book before vacation and then pretty much forgot all about it. So there you have it.)

Anyway, before vacation I had decided to try something that Lysa does every morning.  Like I said, I had my doubts, but I also knew it couldn’t hurt.  The something she does every morning could easily be added into what is already a nice morning ritual for me of reading scripture, journaling and prayer.  The difference was, this practice would require me to ask God a question (Well, nothing new there, really, I ask God questions all the time.)  The newness came in developing the habit of LISTENING FOR AN ANSWER. Now, that’s kind of new.  I usually “listen for an answer” through a trial of doing what I think I should do and then observing the results.  Kind of like a dance.  Only I usually take the lead, and step on God’s toes a few dozen times.  And then give God no other choice but to drag me across the floor because I’m going the wrong direction and about to spin us both right out the third floor window.

It’s not exactly efficient, but it’s worked for me so far.

Like I was saying, it’s a new habit.  And I liked the idea of asking for a “daily assignment” from God and expecting an answer.  This morning was my fourth morning of trying it out, and I was beginning to think it wasn’t so bad.  After all, the previous mornings had consisted of fairly painless things.  My assignments from God up until today had been fairly simple:  journal, pray, give to charity.  Pretty harmless.  I was pretty sure God was far less demanding than I’d ever thought, and was really beginning to wonder why I’d always thought that following God would be hard at all.

So, with my plan for the day written out in front of me,   I then opened my Bible, prayed, and wrote a quick journal entry.  My journal ended with my asking the question, “What is my assignment today, God?”   Then I waited.  I had every confidence that God would see how full my day already was and just give me a pass.  He’d say something like “take a nice, long bath tonight and relax at the end of such a busy day.  You’re worth it.”  I was sure of it.

So imagine my surprise when that wasn’t my assignment.

My assignment instead was to sit down and blog.

Blog??

But, I’ve barely blogged all summer!  I don’t even know what to say!  And blogging always takes me hours.  HOURS!!  I don’t have hours today to give.  I only have minutes.  Just a few.  If You want me to write this, You’re going to have to tell me!!!  Give me the words!!!  (I get real demanding with God sometimes.  This isn’t always a good idea.  But He tolerates my outbursts and demands and tantrums  with peace and kindness.  Always.   Which I just love.)

I waited.

“Blog about your reflection,” were the only words that came to me.

I still had my doubts.  I didn’t really understand the reflection I’d read today in my Bible.  I liked it, but I didn’t really understand it.  It was a reflection from Mother Teresa and the words that struck me the most were, “Love, to be true, has to hurt.”  I had wondered if that was true when I read it.  Had I hurt for my husband?  For my children?  For my parents?  For my friends?

It took some time, because when I think of loving a parent, or a child, or a husband, or a friend, I tend to think of the things they do for me.  And that’s what makes them easy to love.  But, in truth, I do things for them, too.  And at times, on both sides, we give of ourselves.

I stopped doubting.  God was asking me to blog today, not because He needs me too.  But because love—true love—hurts.  And today, on one of the busiest of days, when I had lots of other (better?) things to do, I needed to show my love to God by giving of my time,  even when I thought there was no time to give.

I was confident now it was a test.  Would I do it?  Would I do what God was asking me?  After all, “God” to most of us is an invisible voice in our head or in our hearts.  Easy to ignore.  Easy to brush off as crazy-talk or just plain ridiculous.  I could brush it off, and there really would be little to no consequence for me.  Or anyone else.  The world would not kink up on its axis.  The sky would not fall.  America would not collapse.  My lawn wouldn’t turn black.

No one would know.

No one.

Except me.   And God.

I would know.  And God would know. And suddenly, I wanted to do it.  I didn’t know what I would say exactly, and I knew whatever I said would probably not make any sense.  And I’d look like a fool.

But that’s another side of love, too, isn’t it?  Be willing to go the distance.  Be willing to look like a fool for the one you love.

So, I heated up another cup of green tea and plunked down on the computer.   My heart was committed.  There was no turning back.

Just one thing first, I thought…let me check my email. (After all… He didn’t say I couldn’t.)

And among the randomness of the emails I felt a twinge of guilt as I saw another email from this Bible study that I’d signed up for and ignored thus far.

I clicked on it.

It was an invitation for a Blog Hop, a chance to put my words out there for more than my usual half-dozen faithful readers to see.

This was no ordinary test.

It was pass-fail.  And God was letting me know, before I even began, that I’d already passed.  I was giving of myself, at a time when I didn’t think I could, to share His words, not mine, with others.

It wasn’t about me anymore, so that made it so much easier.

It was about showing others who God is to me.

How I know Him.

How I love Him.

How He loves all of us the same.

Truly.

But the only way any of us will know that for a fact, is if we stop and take the time to ask Him what He wants us to do.

And much of the time, it will probably be easier than you think.

Some of the time it will be hard, because love—true love—hurts.

But when you say yes?

When you say yes to that voice in your head/heart that is God?

Even when you *know* you can’t?

Well, I will testify to this:   it will benefit you in ways you never dreamed possible.

Piloting Through the Storm

image

Summer break has officially arrived at our house today!!!

(And wouldn’t you know, it’s raining.)

((So the youngest one is already bored and it’s only 9:20 AM.))

(((Oh, goody.)))

Lucky for me, though,  this gloomy weather provides me with the perfect backdrop for what I wanted to write about today:  storms.

My sister-in-law captured this great photo from a midwest storm brewing near their house a week or two ago, and I thought it was a great illustration of something that is easy to forget when those more invisible, but equally– or sometimes even more severe–storms start to churn on our insides.  Whether it be a spiritual storm that tests your faith, a social storm that tests your integrity, stormy thoughts that test your attitude, or a physical storm that usually tests all three,  I thought this photo was a great reminder of something I read in Marianne Williamson’s Return to Love a while back.  In it, (and I paraphrase here) I read that in every storm, the sky does not go all black or all gray, the gray or the black temporarily blocks out the blue, but the blue is always there.

Now, maybe you’d realized that before, but I hadn’t really thought about it until just then as I read it.  It made me think of the few times I’ve been on an airplane and left the ground in the middle of pouring rain.  It’s not long until the pilot pushes the plane right through the storm and  finds that blue sky– making it a smoother ride for all of us on board– that I realize the vastness of the sky itself was a calm, constant blue all along!  I felt like this photo was such a great illustration of that very thing:  you can see the darkness beginning to creep in and cover the bright light, but you can also see that the light really isn’t going anywhere…it’s just getting covered up!

I thought about this as I walked with my family during the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life this weekend.  I was privileged this year to be joined by my friend, who has survived (and thrived) after a breast cancer diagnosis 18 months ago, along with her mother, a survivor who has been cancer free for 19 years!  I had just gotten to know my friend around the time of her diagnosis a year and a half ago, so I doubt I was much of a “blue sky” in her time of darkness.  But, I know of other friends of hers who were.  And I watched that process as people flocked to take care and help out where they could.  Today, she is healthier, stronger and arguably, “more alive” than ever after her difficult “storm”.

And while it didn’t seem related at the time, as I look back on it now, I realize there were two other events from this weekend that I’ll share because in my mind, they are relevant to this same idea.

The first event was a rather ordinary one for us, because after Relay for Life, we went to our usual Saturday evening Mass (the only difference being that all five of us looked more casual than usual in our flourescent green RFL t-shirts.   But, last year on RFL day, we arrived in rainbow tie-dye, so I think the congregation is getting used to it!)  At any rate, the homily by our deacon that day was about the miracles of Jesus and the variations in the understanding and explaining of these miracles over the last 2000+ years.  I know I’ve heard explanations before that some people feel takes away from the “miracle” of these events– particularly in regards to the feeding of the thousands.  That explanation is that it was through witnessing the action of Jesus’ sharing of the loaves and fish, he prompted others to take what little food they had hidden away in their cloaks and share it, too.  For me personally, I like this second explanation every bit (or maybe even more!) as much as I like the idea of  Jesus  mysteriously and miraculously multiplying the loaves and fish himself.  Because frankly, to me, whether we are fed miraculously by God, or we collectively come into the heart and mind of Christ to feed each other, a miracle has occurred as far as I’m concerned.  The details don’t really matter much to me.

Finally, the third event was the sharing of a story by my husband that one of his co-workers had shared with him.  It was a beautiful essay by Robert Fulghum, the author of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.  The essay is a great illustration for learning the difference between an inconvenience in life and a problem.  And the essay summarizes the difference like this:

“One of life’s best coping mechanisms is to know the difference between an inconvenience and a problem.   If you break your neck, if you have nothing to eat, if your house is on fire, then you’ve got a problem.  Everything else is an inconvenience.  Life is inconvenient.  Life is lumpy.  A lump in the oatmeal, a lump in the throat and a lump in the breast are not the same kind of lump.  One needs to learn the difference.”

And in that moment I thought of my friend, a survivor of breast cancer.

And I thought of Jesus working his miracles.

And I thought of my sister-in-law capturing this photo of the darkness temporarily moving in to cover the light.

And I hoped and I prayed that the next time I find myself in the middle of one of life’s storms, God sends me someone (or several someones) to help pilot me through that storm to be an earthly illustration of his constant light for me.  Because even though I claim to have the faith to get me through anything, like everything else in a storm, even my faith can become lost in darkness  from time to time.

And then I hoped and I prayed that during all the other times– the times of sunshine and brightness and peace in my life–that God gives me the strength and the wisdom and the courage to help pilot others through their storms.  To be a pinpoint of light for them in their darkness.

Because when it’s all said and done, whether I’m piloting others, or they are piloting me… being able to weather any storm life throws our way with the support of others?

Well.

That’s miracle enough for me.

My Blog Posts…They are a-Changin’

Oh, boy. Looks like I fell off the blogging wagon again.

*sigh*

I apologize.

I gotta tell you, this blogging thing? It ain’t for sissies.

I must confess that after a year of blogging, taking the time to write is still sometimes harder than I think it should be.  But that being said,  last Lent when I suddenly got a wild hair to blog every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I thought my ability to do that would last forever!

Still, alas, here we are,  a full week gone by without an entry.  (And I still have no real idea what to say.)  But the bigger issue is that I’m finding I don’t really want to make the time right now to do it.  Blog, I mean.

But please know this:  it’s not because of you.

It’s because the kids’ school years are winding down, and their activities are winding up, and I find myself twisting in the wind trying to hold on to every moment between now and their final day before celebrating their summer freedom, and lamenting that another year has come and gone so quickly.  You know, just like I do every year.

SO, on that note, I want to say that I am realizing I can’t keep up the pace of a thrice-a-week blog right now.  (Or I just don’t want to.)  Either way, I’m only committing to one post a week for a while.

I hope you understand.

And because I like to try not to leave my readers hanging (but mostly because I need to have a commitment in order to fill it) let’s say from this point forward to look for my blog on Mondays and I’ll let you know if that doesn’t work for me down the road, OK?

Whew!  Glad to have that cleared up!

In other news, I have to tell you what I was so excited to come across last weekend.  It’s one of the BEST things about moving out here to good ol’ PA.  It’s a massive book sale held once a year at our local college campus.  And for the past two years I have totally SCORED at this sale!

I have such a good time there, that I just walk in and march my little ol’ self up to the religion section, and I start throwing books in my bag.  I hardly have to even think about it…you know why?  Because the books are DIRT CHEAP!  (And by dirt cheap I mean if it’s $3.00, I may just put it back!)

Here are the great books that will keep me company this year, from the sale:

IMG_4619

They cost me a whopping $29.50.

I know!  (Try not to be jealous.)

Anyway, I get so excited about all I find there that I seldom realize how different my “favorite” selections are from those of my younger years.   I’m no longer among the people clamoring for the best sellers.  (In fact, it’s likely I’ve not even heard of them!)  Which may just explain why I’ve been asked on a few occasions  (usually by someone while I’m waiting at the doctor’s office) if I’m reading the book for a class.  (I guess they mean as in college?)  (If so, I’m certain they must think I’m back in school…not in it for the first time!)  Anyway, it’s happened enough times that I’m not as surprised by the inquiry as much now, and I just usually laugh and say, “Nope.  I’m just a big nerd.”  Which usually makes them laugh and we can both just move on from the awkwardness of the moment.

Since that is my “normal” experience,  I was tickled by the response of the older gentleman running the register (OK, it’s really just a calculator) at the book sale as I was checking out at last weekend’s book fair.   He’d either read them and loved them, or really wanted to read them, it seemed.   I couldn’t help but smile at his comments as he was ringing up my tab.   He marveled over and over at what great books I had found.   (Clearly he was a kindred spirit and not just “blowing smoke” as he’d not seemed nearly as fascinated with the previous person’s finding of Raising Cats and Household Handyman.)  No.  He seemed genuinely astonished at all my finds as he put the last book in the bag for me.   I think  it was in an effort to try to understand his and my “reading connection” that made him ask, “Are you in school?”  I chuckled a little but his question caught me a bit off guard.  He’d asked it differently than I’d been asked before, not just in his wording, but also in his tone.  He really seemed like he wanted to know.  (Any past inquiries had all been veiled ways of saying, “That book looks so boring you must be reading it for a class.”)  I was just as curious and impressed as he that we had these books in common.  So how should I answer?

I thought for a moment and flashed him my biggest smile.

“Well…just the School of Life,” I said.

And he smiled then, too.  Understanding, it seemed.

“Ahh…the School of Life, ” he said, “I like that.  The School of Life.”

It wasn’t until I walked away, still thinking about that moment, that I realized the Absolute Truth in my response.

Random Quotes from the Book I’m Reading Now

In an effort to follow through on my one word for 2013 of “Simplify,” I’m reading another book by one of my favorite spiritual authors, Richard Rohr, called Simplicity:  The Freedom of Letting Go.

The title alone is telling, but in classic Rohr style, his words bring not only a sense of peace, but also unrest.  Often at the same time.

From my reading this weekend, here are some of the thoughts he shares that stood out to me and had me either screaming with a resounding “YES!” or thinking, “Oh, boy.  I’d not thought of it like that before.”  In either case, his words resonated with me, on a very  deep level, and have given me much to think about as I continue to try to simplify not just from the standpoint of trying to simplify my life more by going “without,”  but also by taking a good look and “cleaning house” on my life from “within.”

From Richard Rohr’s Simplicity: The Freedom of Letting Go:

41bTs9+PQTL__SY300_

  • First you agree to give yourself, and then you will understand it, not the other way around.
  • Don’t be afraid!  Fear comes from a need to control.  And we are not in control anyway.
  • When Jesus healed the sick people, he always said:  “Your faith has made you whole.”  He never said, “Your correct doctrine, your orthodoxy, your dogmatism have healed you.”
  • That is the problem of the soul.  I have to do my work and leave the judgment to God.
  • Jesus is a person and at the same time a process.  Jesus is the Son of God, but at the same time he is “the Way.”  He’s the goal, but he’s also the means, and the means is always the way of the cross.
  • The way of the cross looks like a way of failure.
  • The way inward demands that you build bridges with your own soul.  But anyone who builds a bridge always runs the danger of being trampled from both sides, of being misunderstood by both sides.

And finally, I will close with my personal favorite:

  • We become like the God we adore.

Happy Monday, all!

Overcommitted

With sincere apologies, I am sorry to be so late in typing today’s post.

This has been one of those weeks where no matter how much I get done, there’s still more to do.  You know what I’m talking about?

I have overcommitted myself with volunteer work.  And blogging promises to myself.  And exercise promises.  And lunches with friends.  And planning new events.  And chores.  And running here and there.  And motherhood.  And wifedom.  And such.

It’s been exhausting.

But I don’t want to complain because it’s also been wonderful, all at the same time.  For instance, I am working on some posts for next week already, and have successfully left Monday’s calendar slots BLANK to make sure you all don’t get ignored.

Or lost in the hustle and bustle of it all.

Or forgotten.

After all,  I know I said on Wednesday that I’d show you around here on the new blog design, but now the thrill of it is gone for me.  This is home.  I think you can find your own way just fine.  Feel free to sit back, click on things that interest you, and if you’re looking for a challenge, try to hunt out my typos and mistakes…it probably won’t take long for you to strike gold.

Speaking of gold, let me share with you a treasure I found this week.

This:  IMG_4554

It is one of those books that has changed my life.  You know what I mean?  It has in it the kind of words that veered me slightly from the course I was on, back to the course of my destiny.  It asks many great and wonderful questions.  It bravely shares many challenging and deeply thought-provoking sentiments.  It took me to the wilderness  (from which I’d just returned), and it framed it for me in a new light.

I think my favorite thought of all from it was this:  “At the core of me is God.”

Think on that for the weekend.

Or for the rest of your life.

Whichever.

You let me know what you decide.

Until Monday…

Lisa