Sometimes I Forget (a PINK Tuesday post)

Blue wooden bench.

Image via Wikipedia

Today’s blog includes input from my friend and guest-blogger, Jen Haefner.
 

It is funny how much I take for granted. I know I am blessed, but I think sometimes I forget how incredibly blessed I am.”

My friend Jen took the Trek to the Manger with us during Advent. Her Trek baggage was heavy this year – heavy with the weight of unresolved health issues and the stress that those unknowns can create.

Even more than the discomfort of not knowing your diagnosis, Jen says that “…pain is a vicious monster and can make you turn into someone you don’t recognize or like very much.”

Ouch. That one hits mighty close to home.

Sometimes our pain is physical, like Jen’s.

Sometimes our pain is emotional, maybe even caused by the panic that rises up in us as we try (yet again) to describe what we’re experiencing to another doctor in a series of doctors who don’t seem to ‘get it.’

Sometimes our pain is leftover from what we didn’t do that we should have done; or what we did and now wish desperately we could un-do.

This vicious monster has reared its ugly head in the lives of many, including the life of Martin Luther. In the pages of Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas, we read that “As [Luther’s] health declined, everything seemed to set him off. When a congregation sang anemically, he called them “tone-deaf sluggards” and stormed out. He attacked King Henry VIII as “effeminate” and blasted his theological opponents as “agents of the devil” and “whore-mongers.” His language waxed fouler and fouler.”

For all of his memorable reforming, it seems that even a church father can turn into someone you don’t recognize or like very much.

Given the opportunity to look back over the path she has walked these past months, my friend Jen realizes “I now find myself at a crossroads as I’ve gotten some answers and still have more testing to do. I’m finding that some of my joy has been lost during these past two months.

But of course, none of us can relate with Jen on that… right? (sarcasm)

It’s just that, sometimes I forget that joy is within my reach!

Sometimes I forget to hold onto those flutters and glimpses of joy, only to find that when I need them most, my hands are empty and my joy is gone.

But the story doesn’t end here – at least not for Jen.

“Luckily, our minister must’ve know the perfect quote to put into our church bulletin, by Mark Twain, which is: ‘Grief can be solitary, but to reap the full value of joy, you MUST share it with another!’ This quote literally WHACKED me across the face.  It’s like God was speaking directly to me.  What I heard Him say was, ‘Get up, don’t let life and the things in your earthly walk get you down. Stand up and know that I love you.  On earth you will hit hurdles, road blocks and make detours along the way, BUT keep on going.  Feel the joy in everything and be present in every moment because I am in CONTROL. When you trust fully in me, you won’t have grief, but perfect and steadfast JOY!

After the church service my mom, step dad and I went to walk along the Boulevard. There I watched seagulls flying, kids chasing seagulls, kids putting their feet in the 50 degree water, people walking, rollerblading, biking… there were just so many different things going on around me that it literally took me out of myself for a few minutes as I sat on a wooden bench and observed the world around me.

I knew, without a doubt, that God put me there on that bench; He put those people and activities around me; He wanted me to be WITNESS to the joy around me!

I do know that He is right and I need to be thankful for my health, for every sunset, every breath, every moment with my kids, and not take for granted a single thing on this earthly walk.”

Sometimes Jen forgets, as do I, that with each simple breath comes an opportunity to inhale joy and to exhale praise to the One whose presence guarantees that we are never, ever alone.

Sometimes Jen forgets, and more than anything in those absent moments she needs the witness of our inner Twain to remind her that joy is incomplete if not shared.

Sometimes I forget why I’m doing what I do, day in. Day out.

Sometimes I forget how incredibly blessed I am.

On this PINK Tuesday, don’t let me forget!

Don’t let me forget to be a partner in joy by simply being a partner to another in their pain.

Of course sometimes I forgetbut that is why I have you.

(Thank you, Jen!)

 

 

Freshman Orientation (a PINK Tuesday post)

UCLA dorm room (of Hedrick Summit)

Image via Wikipedia

This week I’ll head off to Freshman Orientation with my freshly-graduated daughter.

Once at the University we will be given the ‘scoop’ on everything college

where she will LIVE

where she can PARK (providing we send the car with her)

what CLASSES she can take

what to pack into her DORM room

how to handle the PRESSURES of living away from home…

Colleges (I hope) do a pretty admirable job of preparing incoming students for life on campus. For life away from parents. For life away from home.

I wonder how well we do this with those who are in transition all around us, every day? How well do we prepare people for what is coming next? How diligently do we work to foresee the challenges and obstacles the people around us are sure to face? How organized and purposeful are we when it comes to communicating and teaching and empowering others to deal with life as it unfolds?

How do our families do Freshman Orientation? How about our churches? Our schools?

Are we sending children, graduates, new parents, retirees & widows out into the world to fend for themselves when we actually have the tools and the experiences from which they might learn and through which they might become equipped for life in their changing scenarios?

I don’t have the answers today, only questions.

May you question the role that your life plays in the ‘Freshman Orientation’ of others on this PINK Tuesday; and may the answers you find spur you on to good works. Not because you should.

Because you CAN.

 

HIJACKED by the SPIRIT

Just a few of the Tuesday girls!

There goes another Tuesday morning Bible study…

13 women armed with coffee cups (correction: 12 coffee cups, one tea cup) and Bibles were once again hijacked by the Holy Spirit.

This phenomenon, happening with increasing frequency, takes the entire circle of women in my living room on one WILD ride through a full range of emotions and subjects and stories that would make the faint of heart… well, FAINT.

Don’t get me wrong! We come into each session with a shared objective – to cover the assigned material of our current study – but as the conversation begins and the very real needs of the group emerge, our agenda is often hijacked for a GREATER ONE.

Sometimes there are CONFLICTS that need to be resolved, or at least understood so that we can move on (strained relationships with difficult family members; run-ins with people who try to derail our attempts at loving those on the fringes; threats made by our own selfish nature that are at war with the Spirit of generosity God wants to fill us with).

Sometimes there is COMFORT that needs to be shared (when we’re losing our homes to the bank; losing our kids to addictions; losing our minds to menopause; losing our loved ones to cancer; losing our focus to the mind-numbing busy-ness and noise of the world around us).

Sometimes there is COMMUNITY that needs to be built (reminders that we’re NOT ALONE, that we are part of something greater than our own tightly wound bundle of nerves & needs; opportunities to realize that we have something the others NEED and that we can’t be faithful AND continue to keep it to ourselves!)

This week’s hijacking was marked by TEARS, answered (and unanswered) QUESTIONS, hysterical GIGGLING and moments of awkward SILENCE. Climbing off of the ride and into the study at hand, we realized almost simultaneously that what we had already experienced/wrestled with/discussed WAS the topic of this week’s chapter.

The “lesson” had begun – it just looked so much like our real lives that we hadn’t even noticed.

Romans chapter 12 begins with these words:

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.” (the Message)

God’s plan is likely NOT going to look like what YOU have in mind for today, and trading in your ordinary life for a God-crafted one probably isn’t for the faint of heart…

It’s RISKY!

It’s CHALLENGING!

It’s even a bit UNNERVING!

But go ahead – give up your NORMAL for His distinctively COUNTER-CULTURAL and make like a Girl Scout (be PREPARED)!

A Spiritual hijacking is coming your way, and it has YOUR NAME written all over it.

 

Special thanks to Barbie, a Tuesday morning gem, who used this phrase to describe our women’s group to a friend.