Great Expectations (a PINK Tuesday post)

Picture of Rocky Mountains

Image via Wikipedia

We arrived at our destination last night – months after beginning to plan for a week away in celebration of our wedding anniversary. Driving into the parking lot after dark, my husband asked the question we were both contemplating silently – does any of this look familiar to you? Hmmm… Not so much. Maybe? It’s dark – I’m sure we’ll recognize things in the morning.

It was, after all, 23 years and some odd months ago that we spent our honeymoon here, off of the beaten path at the top of the Rocky Mountains. Lots of life has taken the place of sweet memories – we ought not be surprised at the fuzziness. At the blurring of the lines.

Something memorable in place and time has been etched into selective memories where only certain details remain intact, woven together by a feeling here, a scent or image there, and a related situation or conversation or after-the-fact experience tacked on for good measure.

My husband and I had great expectations that the place we remember and the milestone it marked would be waiting for us in Colorado when we stepped from the rental car into the crisp autumn air.

How easy it is to set ourselves up for disappointment when our expectations take on a life of their own!

We walked into our vacation rental to find that it didn’t look a thing like our honeymoon memory.

  • Dated carpet, mirrored wall tiles (circa 1980’s) and a whirlpool bath with jets that don’t work.
  • The quaint little town we wandered around for hours in 1988 took all of 20 minutes to ‘explore’ today, since more than half of the shops were closed.
  • It was too cold to paddle-boat.
  • And the little one-room movie theater has long since closed its doors.

It’s dangerous to entertain great expectations which, when unmet, could very well sabotage something beautiful and… new.

New in the way that we can sit beside one another in silence and somehow still be on exactly the same page.

New in that we really don’t need to be entertained in order to find each other entertaining.

New because, unlike 23 years ago, we don’t have to work at or worry about whether we are (engaging) (exciting) (interesting) (important) enough for each other. We know who we are. We know where we stand. And we know that the future (and the past) does not hinge on how closely this new experience we’re having measures up to something we’ve already done.

Our great expectations will not be our undoing because we are content to let today unfold and stand alone, against the backdrop of our life and of our love.

Lamentations 3:25 says that “the Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.” This word ‘wait’ is the Hebrew word ‘qavah’ which means: to wait for, look for, expect, hope. Found at least 50 times in the Scriptures, qavah expresses the idea of waiting hopefully, as did the prophet Jeremiah, who had hope in God’s salvation and was willing to wait for it.

When our expectations are marked by the projection of our impatient and selfish desires onto people or circumstances, we stand to be disappointed with the results again and again. Yet, when we choose to have Great (qavah-esque) Expectations, we look to the Author of our reality and the Perfector of our faith for that which is not only worth having and doing, but worth waiting for as well.

May we choose a posture of hopeful expectation in the days and weeks to come – not for our own plans to be put into motion, but for God’s best to be revealed to those who are more than willing to wait for it. When we do, we can’t help but notice just how right Lamentations 3:25 was…

And how GOOD God IS!

The Great Efficiency (a PINK Tuesday post)

woman

Image by Alessandro Vannucci via Flickr

 

The Proverbs 31 woman is doing me no favors today.

While she was up before the sun, preparing breakfast for her family and organizing her day, I was nestled under cozy covers, recovering from another week of seeking that elusive state of being: The Great Efficiency.

What exactly is it that tugs at the heart of a woman, convincing her that there is no higher goal than to be eternally busy? Are we reading the scriptures correctly when we picture this industrious gem of a woman as she appears in Proverbs chapter 31 – the epitome of relational genius – famed possessor of The Great Efficiency?

We are told that she is trusted completely by her husband because of her goodness and generosity toward him. She is a bargain shopper and finder of treasures, both in the stores and in the real estate market. She is a gardener and homemaker who is never too busy to reach out and help the poor. She is moving from sun-up to sun-down, and apparently even then she’s in no hurry to call it a night. She wakes up ready to roll and burns the midnight oil, and somehow she always manages to face tomorrow with a smile.

Her words are filled with wisdom and her work is always worthwhile. She never doubts her usefulness or her importance in the life of her family. She is predictably kind, perpetually observant and possibly the most elegant woman who ever lived.

When our households – like hers – run like a well-oiled machine and our scheduled lives flow effortlessly from Sabbath to Sabbath, will we have arrived?

Is this how they will know we are Christians – by our smiling faces from behind sewing machines; the click of knitting needles in our nicely manicured hands?

Is this the woman God created ME to be?

Part of me wants to blame Ms. Proverbs 31 for the annoying Marthaic impulse that pulls me down this path. After all, wasn’t it Martha who inadvertently earned poster child status for the cause of The Great Efficiency when she made her famous scene during Jesus’ visit to her home, admonishing her sister Mary for an apparent lack of interest in the ways of the Proverbs 31 woman?

If Martha’s dedication to running an efficient household and making her guests feel at home was actually the best choice, the way to be, then how are we to take Jesus’ response to her temper tantrum?

“‘Martha, Martha’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’” Luke 10:41-42

Who told Martha that it was more important to be efficient than attentive?

Who tells us that we can somehow be all and do all, for all (and still have something left over to offer at the feet of the Lord)?

You see, the problem with The Great Efficiency is that we come to see ourselves as capable. And equipped. And completely able, by our own efforts, to meet the needs of those around us.

As we master living efficient lives, the danger is that we will begin to believe that we are the solution to the problems around us. If we just work harder; if we just put in longer hours; if we just set our minds to it, we can not only do it, but we can do it all.

Every day I watch the women around me strive to live efficient lives. I watch them work multiple jobs to put food on the table in single-parent households. I watch them give up carnivals and cable in order to pay the rent and clothe their growing children. I watch them juggle To-Do Lists which, by virtue of their length, are disappointments just waiting to happen. I watch and I listen, and sometimes I hear words like these:

“I had been feeling frustrated and weighed down lately by society’s expectations of me: “Put your son in after school care and go get a job”, “quit needing charity and go get a job”, “work 9 to 5”, etc.

The reality of it is that I have a job. I have many, many jobs.  My first job is being a mother. The time and dedication and schedule that I am able to give to my child is not found in a larger paycheck… is not found in fulfilling my parents dreams… is not found by fitting into the box of society’s norm; rather, it is found right here in our home.  It is evident in that I am able to put his needs for consistency, structure, schedule, and routine above conveniences and material things… it is evident in his eagerness!

So it IS all a matter of perspective.  And it IS difficult to keep appreciating my gifts and joys when society wants to tell me I am poor, when society wants to shame me for having shut-off notices… I have a renewed perspective that each late notice is my reminder that I am staying true to myself and I am meeting my child’s needs.”

Whatever your wake-up call, it’s time to expose the lie of The Great Efficiency and embrace The Great Sufficiency of Christ.

I’m not enough, but HE IS.

I can never do it all, but HE CAN.

My light may go out before the day’s work is done, but even as I put my To-Do List to sleep, “He will quiet (me) with His love.” Zephaniah 3:17

His grace IS ENOUGH for me.

Hold On Loosely L4L.12

yes!!!

The WORD

“Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” Matthew 5:42 (New International Version)

Sounds… painfully simple.

“When someone asks you for something, give it to him; when someone wants to borrow something, lend it to him.” (The Good News Translation)

This philosophy on life and living must have been easy for Jesus – He owned the clothes on His back. We never hear about Him owning a house or a boat. He never talks about His possessions, which leads us to believe He didn’t have much.

No goats. No sheep. No business. No emergency stockpile of food and supplies.

Not really a stretch to live this text literally when the physical things that others may need just can’t be found in your garage.

We, on the other hand, have garages and cupboards and closets and houses FILLED with things that may be needed by others. When someone asks to use something you have, Jesus is saying that the only answer to come from your mouth should be, “Sure!”

The APP

Now, this works well in some situations – like when the borrowed item is a duplicate or something I don’t use every day. But what about when the item is important to me? Something that I need? A practical help in my home, or a treasured gift from someone I love? How could I possibly let that thing out of my sight?

You’ll cringe (as I am), but the idea of entitlement creeps into our best intentions to put these words of Jesus into practice. Entitlement and ownership. I made it! I bought it (after saving up for months)! It belongs to me!

Picture clenched fists. Picture hands on hips. The stance of an owner.

God knows this is an area where there is plenty of room for me to grow, and over the past months He has given me an opportunity to get it right. You see, the stuff that I possess is becoming easier to let go of. Material things mean less and less to me as I grow more and more in the image of my Lord. I would almost say I had learned this lesson, but I would be wrong.

Because it’s not just about things that come with a price tag.

One of my life’s passions is creating environments and opportunities for women to really connect with God. I have a number of retreat curriculum that I’ve created over the years, and I guess you could say they’re my babies. Born of intense research, gut-deep passion and the guidance of the Spirit of God, these materials are attached with a sort of holy umbilical cord to my heart. If you listen closely enough, you can hear my heartbeat in those pages. No kidding.

My vision for using these materials has always included me. Me as the teacher, me as the leader, me as the one who puts it all together. It makes sense that it would be that way, since God chose to use me as the vehicle to deliver them from thought and idea into function and form, right? I faithfully wait, then, for the right timing to be able to put these amazing teachings of God into events that will move women closer to His heart. Opportunities have come, but they haven’t overwhelmed me. I am patient, after all, knowing that God has a plan to complete the work He has started… and then an email arrives.

An email from a woman I have never met. She has heard about me and my retreats. She has been praying for an opportunity to reach out to the women in her church. She knows this is the answer to her prayers – our connecting over the idea of retreat. God has led her to me and the work I’ve been doing. This isn’t just her take on the situation – I see God in it, too. His Name is written all over it.

It’s not a stretch for us to meet – she even offers to make the drive to my home, for my convenience. I’m excited and eager to share with her about my vision for what God is doing in this work of my hands! Maybe this is an opportunity for me to bring all of this goodness to another group of ladies! Confirmation that I was right – this is my calling, after all!

There’s just one problem. The women my new friend wants to minister to only speak Spanish, and I don’t.

In spite of my gifts, my passion and my enthusiasm, it becomes clear that this is not my gig. And the beautiful woman of God who sits beside me on the sofa is practically oozing Spirit and energy for this ministry! It’s gorgeous! God Himself is visible in her love for the women in her church, and she’s asking to borrow the materials I’ve created, in order to make it into something He can use HER for…

I could clench my fists, put my hands on my hips and say, “But it’s MINE!” After all, I did spend months preparing the talks, the activities and the projects that this pile of papers represents. My prayers, my study, my willingness to be used by God made this curriculum possible, right? But to take an owner’s stance would be to claim the glory that is God’s alone, taking credit myself for something that GOD HIMSELF has done.

If all that I have comes from God, then nothing I have is really mine.

It was a defining moment in ministry for me, the day I handed over those valuable pages to one who will use them for the fame and renown of our Lord. In those moments, I chose a steward’s posture, opting not to cling to God’s work but to set it free.

Holding on loosely to that which wasn’t mine to begin with.

This Lenten season, in keeping with the challenge to take Jesus at His Word, lighten up! Loosen your grip on the stuff of this world and instead, choose to live generously out of the true abundance that is ours in Christ.

After all, this is exactly what Jesus did for us.

He held His life loosely so that we might receive the benefit when He gave it all away.

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