He Loved Me The Best He Knew How

That first Christmas morning after my mom died, my dad struggled with gift giving. Yet, as I shared in this post, I knew my dad was simply doing the best he knew how to do, much the same way I knew the words, “keep one in the chamber” at the end of all our phone conversations were synonymous with “be careful, I love you.”

The other morning, on the drive to work, the radio station I was listening to was asking listeners (in honor of Father’s Day) to call in and share the best advice their dads had given them. I smiled because I wondered how well the two examples I immediately thought of would go over if I called in and shared them on air. “Keep one in the chamber” that was the first one I thought of… I wouldn’t necessarily call it the “best” advice but it was certainly advice I have never ever forgotten.

The other example, in comparison, was much much better advice… “If you don’t start, you’ll never have to stop.” My dad grew up with an alcoholic father and he’d often tell me this. I wish I’d heeded his advice. I haven’t had a drink in nearly 17 years…but “stopping” was, hands down, one of the hardest journeys I’ve ever been on.

My dad was far from perfect. He had his share of racist attitudes and was highly bigoted towards anyone who didn’t share his excessively right wing beliefs. And yet, there was never any doubt in my mind that he was loving me, his daughter, the best way he knew how.

As I sit here this morning, reminiscing, I don’t ever want to forget the times along the journey when my dad’s love for me shined brighter and more beautiful than all the cracks, flaws, and dysfunction. Here are two of those times.

When I developed a horrible case of strep throat in college. The University medical clinic prescribed the wrong medicine and the infection continued to get worse and the pain became excruciating. While curled up in a fetal position, I called my dad and groaned…”I am in so much pain; I don’t know what to do.” He drove the 80 mile trip up to rescue me, took me to the emergency room, and then drove me back to his house and nursed me back to health for the next several days.I wrote about it here.

When I finally became willing to divulge just how bad things had gotten in my first marriage. I picked up that heavy phone and through trembling tears I cried out for help.  Dad, I’ve got to get out of here. There was no “I told you so” lectures, although I deserved them. Instead, he met my pain and desperation with compassion…I’m here for you…let’s figure out what needs to be done.

I am grateful for the imperfect dad I had in my life.
He loved me the best he knew how.
Sometimes, as you look back, that’s more than enough.

Before Understanding

“Take up your cross and follow Me.”

Take up your cross…

I’ve been reminded lately of how the peace doesn’t show up, the doubt doesn’t begin to subside, and the joy struggles to burst through… until we do.

In His Kingdom, obedience comes before understanding.

It’s in this journey when we begin to see how the cross that we bear or the thorn in our side is being redeemed and used for His Glory. He gives us eyes to see and we begin to scratch the beautiful surface of His redeeming love, the depths and the lengths of His mercy and grace.

Take up your cross…and follow 

Watch as scales begin to fall..
Watch as new paths are carved out through the wilderness…
Watch as springs of living water appear along your desert path…

Eyes open wide

feet firmly planted

His joy becomes your strength

Take up your cross…and follow

The Best Wine

I have one coworker in particular who regularly inspires me to pray more than I worry. There’s been countless times when I’ve bumped into Michelle at work, expressed a concern on my heart, and she will right then lift up the need in prayer. It’s not even a bow your head, close your eyes moment but more like Jesus is standing right there next to her, right there in our midst, and she is simply including Him in our conversation.

Last weekend was Memorial Day weekend and the beginning of summer vacation for kids in the area. Sundays and summertime are always a little interesting at church and at my job. So many of the wonderful volunteers who help to make things flow smoothly are enjoying family vacations away. We couldn’t “do” church without volunteers and the Lord always has a way of using holiday weekends and summer schedules to remind me of all the beautiful hands and feet who dedicate their time and use their gifts every week.  Did I mention  we  I couldn’t do church or my job without all the help they provide?  So grateful for them!!

And nothing reminds us how grateful we are of something than when we experience a shortage of that something. We tend to remember the great value of something when what we value is suddenly not there. The absence or shortage reminds us that we don’t ever want to take the fact that needs get met and jobs get done for granted. We recognize that when needs are met and jobs get done it is truly a gift…and we praise the Provider and Giver of every good and perfect gift!!

I wanted to share a cool God moment with you all from last weekend. I knew, because it was a holiday weekend that it would be a challenge to find enough volunteers who were in town and able to serve. On Sunday morning, as I was driving to work, I received a text from a family of four who couldn’t make it to greet because a tree had fallen across the main road in their neighborhood…it was the only way in and out of their neighborhood. I had also received a couple of other last minute calls and texts throughout the weekend of folks needing to be out due to sickness. Instead of going directly to my knee jerk reaction of worry, I decided to send two of my coworkers a text message, telling them the situation and asking them to please say a prayer.  In true fashion, Michelle immediately replied to my text with a prayer.

And in true fashion, Jesus responded.

A few minutes later I receive this text from one of our rock star volunteers…

I shared this text with the coworkers who had prayed and simply shook my head in awe at how the Lord hears our prayers.  I then had this thought come to mind.

Lord, you don’t simply turn water into wine…You turn it into the best wine!  (John 2: 1-11)

I’m sharing this moment with you all today because I hope it encourages you the way it did me.

It reminded me of a few important truths about the big God that we serve…

He hears our prayers.
He likes to answer our requests in ways that exceed our expectations. (Ephesians 3:20, John 6:12)

Keep blowing us away Lord!

i can’t explain it


I’m convinced that it’s God’s redeeming, relentless love that eventually cracks open the eyes to a heart
Once you see it; there’s no way to unsee it
Once you taste it; there’s no way to un-taste it
And those things that once only tormented you like thorns
now
somehow, someway
also
become treasures for the trip
I can’t explain it
I can only embrace it

Hopelessly Stuck on Hope

 

I was out on my run yesterday and was thinking again about how I’m often compelled to write about the same thing over and over. I’ve gotten to the point where I just go with it.

Lord, if I sound like a broken record, then let me be a broken record stuck on hope.

After hearing about the death of an old family friend this week, one of the first things that came to mind was the note my mom left behind for my family after her death. It’s the last few sentences that have stuck with me through the years.

“I am not alone. I have crossed over from death to life, and at this very moment, as you read these words, I am with my Savior, our Lord Jesus. I’ll be waiting for you here.”

I’ll be waiting for you here…
Those words encourage me so much. Those words are powerful, comforting and courage inducing.

You know… that person plans to cheer you on as you cross finish line…I’ll be waiting for you…

You know… that person plans to be at the airport to give you long overdue embrace as you get off the plane and arrive home again…I’ll be waiting for you

This morning those five words made me think of this scene from my favorite movie, The Shawshank Redemption, when Red finds the red box and letter Andy left behind for him to find.

“I’ll keep an eye out for you, and the chess board ready. Remember, Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things and no good thing ever dies.” – Andy

I then had this thought cross my mind. Red had found a treasure buried in a field and that treasure was worth pursuing. For some reason this made me think of the verse in Matthew 13:44

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure, buried in a field, that a man found and reburied. Then in his joy he goes and sells everything he has and buys that field.”

Red “buys the field” that he found by purchasing a bus ticket, courageously leaving his old life behind, and grabbing hold of the hope waiting for him across the sea.

Not Home Yet

“All I know is I’m not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take this world and give me Jesus
This is not where I belong”

I can’t shake the sense I’m supposed to write about this. Sometimes, in my quiet time, I’m hoping the Lord will place other words on my heart other than the ones that have taken root overnight. Sometimes, I’m just not sure how to share the words.

My husband’s work had a team outing yesterday afternoon to watch a Lookouts baseball game together. Family members were invited to join in the fun. It was my first experience with sitting in the comfort of box seats at a baseball game. It’s definitely like first class on a plane minus the warm washcloth to wash your face and hands off. 🙂 We enjoyed watching the home team win in the shade and under a fan. It was a pleasant and relaxing way to spend the afternoon.

It was also a nice distraction after hearing the news the night before of an old family friend who was recently diagnosed with tumors in her liver and rapidly declining. I shared this news with you all yesterday.  Over the speakers, motivating and upbeat snippets of songs would play in between innings or at bats.  One of snippets they played was actually a Building 429 song called “Where I Belong”. They would play it as someone went up to bat and one of their teammates was on base trying to make it home.  Pretty clever, I think.  Most of the time, the person in charge of the music would fade the music out and we’d only hear…

All I know is I’m not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take this world and give me…

On one occasion when they played it and stopped it short again the little boy behind us continued to sing the final word of the verse…take this world and give me Jesus.  

There was only one time during the whole game when they kept it playing longer and we heard the final word in the verse get played…Jesus

The final word is Jesus.

As I sat there taking in a relaxing ball game, I was grateful for the reminder again this week that even when the score seems lopsided or painfully unfair today, love wins in the end.

“For it is written:
As I live, says the Lord,
every knee will bow to Me,
and every tongue will give praise to God.”~Romans 14:11

Friends That Are Family

I sat on my couch last night brainlessly scrolling through Facebook until I came upon a post from an old friend that jolted my brain back to the reality of life. The post was written by her husband, Leon, giving everyone who hadn’t heard an update on Susan. Susan went from feeling tired for a few days earlier this month to being diagnosed with liver cancer a week later. After spending 3 days in the hospital, she is now home on hospice to spend her final days with Leon and her beloved dog in the place where she loves the most.

After reading this news, I sat in disbelief, crying, as his words sunk into my heart. I reached out to Leon, left him a message and cried some more. I’ve broken down in tears multiple time in the last 12 hours as I think about these dear family friends and the hard and painful road they are now walking down. I want the Holy Spirit to give them that peace that only He can give. I want them to feel His presence in such a personal way that there is no doubt He is walking through this valley with both of them. I write these words this morning through tears.

I’ve known Susan and Leon since I was about 8 or 10 years old. I remember the first time they came to our house and being introduced to them. My dad and Leon worked together for years; Susan and Leon would often stay with us whenever they were in town visiting. They were several years younger than my parents. My mom and Susan became great friends. My dad and Leon were like their own little comedy show…they fed off of one another and always kept my mom and Susan laughing or just shaking their heads. Occasionally, after my mom’s death, Susan would share stories with me about my mom. I would love getting to hear about conversations she had with my mom.

When my dad had his life changing stroke in May 2012 that left him paralyzed and in a wheelchair, Leon and Susan would visit my dad on a regular basis and, sometimes, take him out to lunch… just to give him a break from staring at the walls of his caretaker’s home. They were the only local friends he had. My dad would often call each of us at random crazy times, not realizing that not everyone is wide awake at 2:00am. Susan and Leon made time to talk to him. Prior to my dad’s death, I would come home to Arizona for a visit and Leon and Susan would often meet me for lunch. We share a bond. My parents.

I guess this is why the news of Susan’s health has hit me so hard. Susan and Leon are like the aunt and uncle I never had.

Dear Lord, I lift Susan and Leon up to you today. Thank you for the way they loved my parents. Thank you for all the ways they’ve loved me.

some thoughts on broken handles

God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume. It is Peter, weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever. ~Vance Havner

I remembered this quote again as I thought about a coffee cup I broke yesterday morning at work. I was hurrying along with an armload of items and the bag holding this cup slipped from my grip. I heard the breaking sound as it met the concrete floor. I knew what I was going to find even before peering into the bag. The handle had broken into several pieces. The cup itself was fine.

I thought about how often this happens when coffee mugs break. The handle of a mug is the most vulnerable section of the whole beautiful creation. However, even though we tend to toss these cups into the trash, the truth is, a broken handle doesn’t make a cup unusable.

Broken handled cups have seemingly lost their “curb appeal”but that doesn’t mean they can no longer serve the purpose for which they were created. A broken handled cup can still be filled up; it can still hold that which gets poured into it and out of it.  A broken handled cup can still provide those who thirst…a drink.

Our broken, imperfect, and flawed journeys still serve a purpose.  A life that has slipped from your grip and has broken into pieces very well might turn out being the most necessary (dare I even say most beautiful) part of the whole journey.

Pain, Popped Bubbles, and Truth

I wouldn’t want what works unless I’m also convinced that it’s true too. I need both.

I had this thought while reading through an article in my email inbox titled When They Ask “Does Christianity Work?”.

What I found interesting was the article explained how college kids growing up in today’s world aren’t necessarily asking “Is it true?” like students in the 60s would ask. Instead, the overriding question they want answered is “What can help me deal with my pain?”

The more I thought about this desire to find an answer to pain apart from or regardless of whether it’s true, it dawned on me why I’m so passionately against this method of journeying through life:  I lived my life that way before and all it did was lead me down a dead end street.  More on that thought in a moment.

I want you to imagine a scenario:  What if you got married to who you thought was the perfect husband. He said all the right words. He treated you (at least from what you could see) the way you wanted to be treated. He was the perfect husband, the man of your dreams.  However, 20 years into the marriage, you find out that all of it was lie. Your husband had only been playing a part, acting so to speak, to cover up the fact that he had a whole other family he had been spending his life with too. Yes, for 20 years the marriage “worked”. And, based on what you saw and what you were being told…you had lived a relatively pain-free, happy, blissful life up until this point.

How would knowing the truth change things? Would you want to disregard this new information and just continue on with this “workable” life?  I hope the answer would be a clear no.  Learning the truth changes things.  When our eyes and our heart are opened to deception we begin to see that just because something works doesn’t mean it will lead us to the ending or the results we are desiring.

This is why what seemingly works must always be placed under the “is it true?” microscope.

After my mom died when I was 18, I ran from truth and went searching for things that could ease my pain and numb my grief. A decade later and I could sum up the journey with this familiar cliche… I had jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire. Yet, this journey ended up teaching me a life long lesson: Looking for what works apart from truth doesn’t last and will not supply the peace, joy, and love that your broken and grieving heart longs for. What works must always be joined with authenticity and truth or we might wake up in 20 years and discover our pain-free bubble has popped because it wasn’t built on truth.

Wilderness Wooing

“And now, here’s what I’m going to do:
    I’m going to start all over again.
I’m taking her back out into the wilderness
    where we had our first date, and I’ll court her.
I’ll give her bouquets of roses.
    I’ll turn Heartbreak Valley into Acres of Hope.
She’ll respond like she did as a young girl,
    those days when she was fresh out of Egypt. Hosea 2:14-15 Message

Some mornings I like reading scripture in the Message translation.  Eugene Peterson has this way of painting a picture with words.

The beauty jumps right off the page.

Can you see it too?

There’s a sense of familiarity that comes over me when I read those words in Hosea
deja vu
I can see my Redeemer in these verses
I can see His relentless
always redirecting
forever pursuing
ever present
love
He leads us to a barren land
not to abandon us
not to punish
not to leave us for dead.
No
He knows the truth about our prone to wander hearts.
In a world
full of noise and distractions
The wilderness
is where our senses our heightened
It’s here where we can recognize His voice again
a love song…
serenading us back
back to that place of sweet surrender.