The Letter that Stole my Joy

Today’s post is late. I had it ready, but as I’m still settling into my new job and I was exhausted when I came home last night, so I forgot. But, here it is 🙂

I’m changing up my Saturday schedule a little. With the new job and other things in my life, I’m having a hard time cranking out a story each week. So I will plan on posting a story on the first and third Saturdays.

Without further ado, here’s today’s post…

 

Last week I received one of those slips from the post office that an item needed my signature for delivery. It gave no information about what was in the package, but was marked as a letter with a return receipt for merchandise, and that I had to sign for it in person.

Since I wasn’t expecting anything and I haven’t purchased anything recently, I had no idea what this could be.

I found the slip on Tuesday night and had to be at meetings out of town the next day, so it was Thursday before I could get to the post office to solve the mystery.

The thing about me is that I hate surprises like this. If there had been a package of fun stuff in my mail box that would be great, but knowing there’s something there and not knowing what it is makes me crazy. My siblings can tell you how bad I was at Christmas time, and sometimes still am!

For a day and a half, this dilemma meandered through my brain poking and prodding at odd times. I woke up in the middle of the night and considered what it might be. On my drive out of town the next day, I pondered what it could be.

I posted on Facebook hoping the person who sent it would come forth. I called my dad and asked if he’d bought anything for me. I texted my siblings. I told several friends on Wednesday.

No one knew anything about this. My mind went to the worst.

ceramics-490822_1280_CC0Truth is, it worried me that I didn’t know what this whole thing was about. I tried to let it go, but it kept coming back to me.

Finally on Thursday, I had the time and went to the post office. The post office clerk presented a simple envelope bearing the name of my doctor’s office.

No merchandise, no gift. Nothing but a simple reminder of a needed appointment.

Apparently the wrong box got marked. A mistake. And it drove me nuts for too many hours.

In the midst of my worry the words of Philippians 4:6 came to mind.

These situations are worrisome because I forget that the Lord has everything under control. He knew what was in that envelope and if it was meant to harm me.

I often forget that this is the case with the Lord. He knows. He’s got this. My worrying about it changed nothing. The only thing it accomplished was to steal my joy.

It was just a letter in the mail, but it taught me a lesson. One that I often need to hear. It reminded me that no matter how mature in Christ I think I am, there are still things that I allow to draw me away from his love and presence.

Each Day has Trouble Enough

 

ducks

I don’t know about you, but I like to have my ducks in a row with their tails all lined up nice, and pretty. I’m not one for surprises and just letting things happen is tough for me. A friend once told me I need to let go a little.

“You’re a type A-,” he said.

What?

Not totally anal, but just enough to need to loosen up when it comes to some things. Like planning my days, years, my life. I often tell God, “If you’ll just tell me what’s going to happen it will all be good.

Ah, but God knows better.

He knows that my mind works over time with considering the possibilities and I get all worked up about stuff that hasn’t even happened.

I did this recently and I thought I knew exactly what would happen, but surprise! I had it all backward. I spent a lot of time thinking and planning. Time wasted. My peace was shredded in the process.

And, I then had to convince myself that God’s plan really was better than mine. I’d been so sure, but it wasn’t to be. I think this is human nature. The wanting God to come alongside us instead of being willing to come alongside him.

It may be, but it’s not what God expects from us. His word says tomorrow isn’t promised, so trying to come up with a plan he will bless is really just wasting the time we have today. This is something I don’t know if I’ll ever have under control, but it’s something I keep striving for because it’s in the letting God be in charge that the peace that passes understanding is found.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of it’s own.  ~Matthew  6:34

 

Are You Weary?

The pace of life these days is frenetic. We rush from one thing to the next, until finally dropping into bed at the end of the day.

I’m just as guilty as the next person. It always feels like there should be more time. I’m constantly saying, “I thought I had plenty of time. This just snuck up on me.” But that’s not really true. Things don’t typically just sneak up. We—I—put things out of my mind so that I can do something more pressing. Then that one thing sneaks up on me.

I think we can only blame part of this on our society and the push to do more and be more. For me, the lions share of the blame lies squarely with me. I listen to society’s lies and push. Or, I feel inadequate and put off. Either way I end up paying for it in the end.

The thing is, I know the answer for this. I’ve known it for a long time. I just often forget the answer.

This is the answer:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Matthew 11:28

If we—I— would just remember to rest in the Lord I wouldn’t be so apt to over schedule, be paralyzed with indecision, or push too hard.

So, here, in the middle of the week, won’t you join me in seeking the rest the Lord promises?

 

Wordless Wednesday

Elisabeth Elliott

Yesterday morning a great lady passed through the gates of splendor to spend eternity with her Savior. Elisabeth Elliot inspired thousands of Christian women in her lifetime.

From everything I’ve read about her, she was an unassuming woman. Her desire was to love the Lord and love people, and she spent a decades doing just that.

Perhaps the greatest thing the world can learn from Elisabeth’s life is the power of forgiveness. Her first husband, Jim, and five other missionaries were brutally murdered at the hands of the Ecuadoran Indians that they were trying to help. As a young widow, Elisabeth returned to Ecuador and became friends with two of the women from the tribe. Despite her loss, Elisabeth forgave those women and loved them. She knew that those Indians needed Jesus just as much as she did, and she wasn’t willing to stop until they’d heard the truth of the Gospel.

Hearing of her death left me with an empty spot in my heart. I didn’t know her in real life, but I knew her through her writings. The world is definitely less for the loss of Elisabeth.

 

“The fact that I am a woman does not make me a different kind of Christian, but the fact that I am a Christian makes me a different kind of woman.”

Elisabeth Elliot

1926-2015

Moms Irises

 

What I Remembered this Week

Life is sometimes, well, often, hard. Nothing new there. I’m sure you all know that by now.

Yeah, I know, but I’ve been pondering this recently. Okay, so I ponder it a lot. Deep down a part of me really thinks that it should be easy. I’ve had enough hard. I’ve paid my dues. Isn’t it time for easy!?!

The logical side of me knows that there’s no such thing as paying enough dues to have it easy for the rest of my life. That side also understands that some people’s lives would make mine seem like a walk in the park. In the grand scheme of things, I have no right to complain.

Still there are times when the car needs expensive repair work and the faucet is leaking and that cranky woman ran over my toe with her grocery cart and traffic is backed up to there and oh, yeah, I need a root canal.

traffic  jam

Want to know what I do when I have weeks like that?

I whine. I tell God and anyone who will listen how unfair it is. Sometimes I even cry into my pillow at night.

This week in the midst of my self-righteous rant about the unfairness of life, I remembered that God didn’t promise it would be easy. He promised eternity with Him would be easy. That’s my reward for trusting Him through anything this life throws at me.

And I remembered that my strength isn’t enough, it’s God’s strength that builds me up. It’s there. I just need to ask for it.

It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure. ~1 Samuel 22:33

From a Wise Friend

So, last week I told you how I ran away. I went to a writers conference. And, truth be told, I’m having trouble getting back into life and wrapping my mind around everything I learned. I’ve been pondering all week what to write. I’m still working on that, but a friend wrote this amazing post today and I wanted to share it with you.

I think stories are important. I believe that God put us all here for a purpose and telling our stories is tied up in that purpose. I love the way MB Dahl puts it so eloquently in her post. So, if you will, pull up a chair,  pop on over to her blog and read about why The World Needs Your Stories.

 

Fairy Tales

Beauty for Ashes

To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes. Isaiah in Chapter 61:3

lights-163883_1280 CC0That morning I lay on the bed next to Mom. While she rested, I watched the trees blowing in the breeze outside the window. There was one tree at the back of the yard that had begun to change to brilliant shades of yellow and gold. As the wind blew, the leaves would catch a ray of sunlight and send out a shimmering flash. The effect was that of twinkle lights on a Christmas tree. It was a beautiful sight. I was encouraged by the fact that the leaves are dying, as it is their time, but still there is beauty in that dying.

As I lay there enjoying this display of God’s beauty, I was reminded of the verse in Isaiah. My mother had a chronic illness and there was nothing beautiful about the disease process. My family mourned for her. The loss came slowly and stealthily. It was very hard to watch her suffer.

Despite this, I was able to find some beauty in this situation. This came as a shock to some people. They didn’t understand how I could say that I won’t ever tell you that I am happy with what happened to Mom. However, I took comfort in the fact that God was in control, and I looked for beauty as a reminder of His promise to give us beauty for ashes.

There is incredible beauty in my parent’s love story. Always evident, it was much more so during those days of Mom’s waning. I saw the love that lasted for more than 47 years reflected in Mom and Dad’s eyes as they interacted. I saw how patiently and lovingly my Dad lived out his wedding vows. He kept going despite his own grief.

There was beauty in Mom as she laughed at our silly jokes and crazy things the dog did. The changes the disease brought cannot change the fact that Mom was a beautiful person inside and out.

I saw the beauty of God’s plan for my life that allowed me to minister to Mom and Dad in a very tangible way during that time. In January of 2007, a lay-off took my job. I met with the HR Director the day after I found out and he asked me, “How are you doing, Tamara?” I responded with the truth, “I am doing just fine.” He then asked me how I could say that considering my circumstances. The truth is I trusted that God was working in this and there was beauty in that trust.

It’s hard to lose a job through no fault of your own. Not only was I thinking about how I was going to go forward, but 22 of my coworkers were losing their jobs also. There is no beauty in having your only source of income cut off. Yet, it was this lay-off that opened the door for me to take nine months to give Mom and Dad what they needed most, time. The beauty of God’s design for my life was evident.

We all will have times of ugliness in our lives. We will have times of mourning and suffering. James tells us to expect trials in the very first chapter of his book. There is no hiding the fact that in this world there is suffering. I encourage you, though, to keep looking for the beauty in life. When you least expect it God just may give you twinkle lights on a fall tree to encourage you. He has promised He will exchange your ashes for beauty. Hold tight to that promise.

Turtle Girl: Learning to Give Love to Hurting People

Once there was a girl who had been hurt by one, two, a lot of people. She tried to grow a shell thick as a turtle’s to keep out the hurt, but the hurt lived with her inside the shell.

 

turtle-406977_1280 CC0

 

The hurt mocked and taunted her and she searched for ways to drown it out. She tried drugs, alcohol, sex, food, and even hurting herself, but nothing worked.

People prayed that she would know Jesus and they prayed that she wouldn’t be so mean, but no one prayed that she would be able receive love. That would mean giving love first even while the hurt filled up her shell and spilled out on them. No one wanted to give her love because she couldn’t give love back.

She was afraid to receive love because so many had let her down. She was afraid to trust Jesus because so many preached fire, brimstone, repentance but forgot to preach love. They forgot that Jesus is love and so she never saw his love and never opened herself to it.

Then Jesus spoke into one heart that they should pray for the turtle girl to be able to receive love. That’s what Jesus does; He calls us to give love first. Jesus calls us to love those who live in turtle shells. He calls us to love them until their shells crack open so that the hurt runs out on the ground and dries up in the light of the Son.

It is only when we have done this that the turtle can learn to receive love and be changed by that love.

 

This post has been inspired by the book Blue Like Jazz written by Don Miller. Don writes of praying that people are able to receive love. This thought really niggled its way into my brain and made me think about giving and receiving love. I think what Don was trying to get across in this book is that faith is rarely lived out in perfect churches with just the right worship, or perfect little Bible study groups. Rather faith is lived out in the nitty gritty daily life. It’s easy to love Christians because they understand and know how to receive love. It’s the rest of the world that needs to be loved until they can receive the love of Jesus.

Life after Losing a Loved One

“Thou art the Iris, fair among the fairest, Who, armed with golden rod And winged with the celestial azure, bearest The message of some God.” — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, from Iris

Moms Irises

Years ago, Mom brought home some irises and planted them in the yard. They’ve been moved around a lot over the years, but they are still there and come up every year. Each year, seeing the purple-blue flowers blooming Dad’s backyard, I smile and remember the happy times with my mom.

 

Mom died almost 8 years ago. As a teenager and young adult who had never really experienced losing a loved one, I couldn’t fathom being able to continue living and breathing with my mom or dad. I imagined the grief would overwhelm me and drag me down into an abyss.

 

When the time actually came, I had found that my soul was stronger than I imagined in those days. Grief still weighed me down, but I knew that I could get through this.

 

Part of the reason I was confident is because my hope of heaven. I know that someday I will be reunited with my mother in heaven and that makes it easier to go on.

 

The hard part was the relearning of how to do life without my mom being just a phone call away. It was a slow path that I often didn’t want to travel. Since death is a fact of life, it’s a path we all have to walk at one time or another.

 

I found that holding on to the little reminders of Mom helped me when times were toughest. The silly songs that made her laugh during her last years will often bubble up from the depths of my spirit and bring a smile with them. Sometimes it’s just wearing that scarf that was hers. Or laughing at a joke that we shared.

 

Carrying on after the death of a loved one is never easy. Having reminders of the happier times is a help. Each spring I look for Mom’s irises to pop their heads up from the soil. For me it’s like a message, a special reminder that life goes on here on earth until we meet our loved ones again in heaven.