Sunday, December 30, 2012

I Found a New Beginning


The year is rapidly coming to a close and so many of us will start Tuesday morning with a new beginning. 

Personally, I think I’ve experienced several new beginnings this year. I’ve asked for forgiveness and received radical grace for which I am undeniably grateful. I believe in a God that loves me and created situations and scenarios in which the lesson is lasting or relearned, again and again.

The new beginning started on a night as simple as this one about five months ago. I was writing a blog post on July 31, 2012 about friendships in a constantly changing world. In fact, I think that’s the title of the blog post. In it, you can tell there was a struggle to identify a constant in my life besides God.

I wrote, “Driving to work, while doing laundry, or even staring down the road of nothing on a treadmill, I’ll think of people and wonder if any of the people in my life are perchance the one person who makes all the torn seams come together.”

No one has to tell me twice that if you count on people for that, you’re destined for disappointment. We’re all imperfect and none of us can really be that one person. However, I do believe that Jesus shows up in disguise when we least expect it.

Also, in the weeks and months that followed, I saw just how unique and precise some friendships are and therefore, so are the people in our lives. 

A few days later, while evidently deeply internalizing that statement I found myself compelled to sit and write letters to people. When I got to the last one, a song by the Christian band The Sidewalk Prophets came on the radio. It’s called, “The Words I Would Say.” As I was writing, I unexpectedly wept. 


It had dawned on me, quite blatantly, that God had put people in my life for very specific reasons and I had been completely ignorant to it, and them. In a split second, a flush of moments came rushing back into my mind. I blinked, and shook my head, and couldn’t believe the intense cathartic response. 

God gave me a second chance, an intense nudging, to recognize who walked in when everyone else walked out, who encouraged strengths when I only heard others highlighting faults, and who was just so subtly always there. I had to humbly surrender to the unshakeable need to put pen to paper. All I wanted to do was say, “Thank you.”

What happened next took me by surprise, and resulted in a continued great sense of clarity and conviction of that still, small voice that guides me even to this moment. 

As 2012 comes to a close, the reverberations of that one night are still felt and heard. It is a resounding defining moment of the year for me and served as a turning point.

I humbly surrendered, again, knowing full well there is nothing in life I can do completely on my own, I need Him. I give all glory to God. 

I found a new beginning. I believe in second (third, fourth, fifth...) chances.

I found an inexpressible joy. 

So, to 2013, I say, “Bring it.” 


2 Peter 5:10 (NIV)
“And the God of all grace, who called you to 
his eternal glory in Christ, after you have 
suffered a little while, will himself restore you
and make you strong, firm, and steadfast.”

Joshua 1:9 (NIV)
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and
courageous. Do not be terrified; do not
be discouraged, for the Lord your God will
be with you wherever you go.”

I Kings 19:12 (NIV)
“After the earthquake came a fire, but the
Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire
came a gentle whisper.”

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Other Side of "Why?"


Why?

If you’re a parent or have been around children this is a question that comes up often. 

“Mommy has to go to work.” 
“Why?" 
“Mommy has a job so she can make money to take care of you.” 
“Why?” 
“Because she loves you and wants to make sure you have the life she wants you to have.” 
“Why?”

You get the picture. 

Then, at any point of our lives, there are incidents of great horror, wonder, or utter amazement that can shatter our being. We can find ourselves at a total loss and practically crying out, “Why?”

On Friday, December 14, 2012 the unthinkable happened at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. Someone murdered 20 children and 7 adults. It was horrific, and it still is. 

Humanly, there is just no way to answer some questions. 

There is darkness shrouding the light of this world, and there is often no answer we can spin to justify the actions that come out of this darkness. 

In the middle of inexplicable heartache, answering this question may not result in any comfort at all. In fact, it may just lead us to more despair. 

The Pastor at my Church said it quite well, all anyone will ever remember is if you were there for them and showed sincere love.

We can’t be physically or geographically there for all people hurting, suffering, grieving or asking “Why?” We can pray, and when we’re not praying, we can be shattered into remembering what really matters and that is the people we have in our own life.

Then, perhaps, we can stop and take the time to show them sincere love. 

And then, just maybe, we might find ourselves on the other side of “Why?”

Romans 15:13 (NIV)
May the God of hope fill you with all joy
and peace as you trust in him, so that
you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy.



Wednesday, December 12, 2012

We Have to Do the Work, Too, but Don't Worry


When I was younger, I wanted so badly to do well on an exam that I put my notes under my pillow. My belief was that if I held the notes close to me, the information would just seep into my brain, while I was sleeping.

Of course, I knew that wasn’t possible and I’m embarrassed to admit that I was old enough to know that it wasn’t. 

Believing that it would work was one thing, but in order to actually do well I needed to the work. I should have also studied a little bit more than I did, and then believed I would do well.

Sometimes, when there are things we hope for, need, or want, we’re also called into action to assist in the “making it happen” process.

I could pray until I am blue in the face for additional finances to help me make ends meet, when God knows I probably can limit some of my expenses and make my income last more.

I might also think about going a vacation, but unless I actually budget it out, make connections with the people involved, and ask for the time off, I’m not going to magically end up on a plane to this destination! 

Everything does happen for a reason, and I believe they are more than coincidences.

I have found a direct connection between that which we hope for and what actually happens. Most often, there are two connecting dots. 

The first is in praying, hoping, or believing in “it”. The second, is in actually doing something about it. 

I’ve also learned, that sometimes the answer is simply, “No.” 

Jeremiah 29:11(NIV)
“‘For I know I have the plans I have for you,’ 
declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you
and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Surrendering to What We Don't Understand


A colleague of mine almost missed a deadline which would have impacted my work and its execution.

Stressed, but they didn’t and everything was actually fine.

The flight I was on experienced turbulence while climbing into the atmosphere at a level I hadn’t experienced in years. I gasped. My heart leapt from my chest and into my throat as I looked at the people sitting near me and we all said, “Are you OK?” 

Shaken, but I was alive and the turbulence was gone, and soon we were laughing. 

After waiting more than an hour for a rental car, I hit the road, and a car I passed it was going the other direction on the freeway caught on fire.

Stirred, but it wasn’t my car and it was going the other direction. The person in that car was also alright, albeit without a car, but alive.


My cell phone was at 15% battery as I drove and I received text messages I couldn’t reply to and worried, for a moment, about not being able to answer.

Sad, but settled knowing that everything was fine and the delay of answering wouldn’t have a longterm negative impact. 

I wandered through a grocery store for 45 minutes carrying enough for a shopping cart in my arms until I asked an employee to get me a basket. When he brought it to me, I dumped everything in and then asked where the travel size toiletries were. I proceeded to then walk through the entire grocery store again putting everything else away.

Setback and delayed, but I was still awake and got what I came for. 

Then, I walked into a hotel room where I saw a friend I hadn’t seen in a few months and I proceeded to talk at him for about fifteen minutes before asking where I could charge my cell phone. Instead of waiting for an answer, I bursted, “It’s OK, I’ll use the kitchen.” Long pause. It’s a hotel room, remember? There is no kitchen.

Scatterbrained, but mostly tired and in the company of someone who had already seen me at my worst (and this was not it).

The next day, I backed my rental car into a lamp sitting on a 15 inch tall brick wall, nearly tearing the bumper off, and then I slammed my arm in a door, and narrowly escaped getting caught in a DUI checkpoint (good thing I hadn’t been drinking)!

Surrendered

Everywhere I looked this weekend you would think all I saw was the negative. 

But that’s simply not true. I actually only saw the silver lining, and the in-between of all of those moments were moments that I will carry with me at least through the entire next year. The above and the in-between moments were all opportunities to hope, to be thankful, to pray, to teach, to accept responsibility, to move on, and to praise God for an answered prayer. 

I borrowed the sentiments of my last post and shared them with someone new. I said, “This is my philosophy: Expect something wonderful (don’t worry about what it is or who it involves and it will happen!”

Two minutes later, I walked into a room and met someone who I could talk to and felt connected with unlike I have with most people in my life. I may have left on a journey stressed, but I came back completely surrendered.


Acts 1:7-8 (NIV) 
“He said to them: ‘It’s not for you to know the times
or dates the Father has set by His own authority.
But you will receive power when the
Holy Spirit comes on you.’”

2 Corinthians 12:7 (NIV)
“To keep me from becoming conceited because
of these surpassingly great revelations,
there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger
of Satan, to torment me.”

John 13:7 (NIV)
Jesus replied, ‘You do not realize now what I
am doing, but later you’ll understand.’”