Monday, June 27, 2011

Messy Monday

Mondays can really be tough.  Today has been no exception.  Sundays are wild for us, with Sunday School lessons to teach, all these children to have bathed and presentable for church, hurried meals, hot afternoons at the ball park and then back to church again... All things we love to do, and we fly through the day and fall into bed exhausted, leaving dishes and laundry and messes for Monday.  I woke up bright and early this morning determined to accomplish just one thing before I left to teach a class of 2 and 3 year olds at day camp.  So I made the coffee, checked my email and somehow got glued to the computer long enough that I did not have time to do the ONE THING I meant to do...

I got to "school" (as the twins refer to day camp) to find that my precious class full of little ones had all apparently had the same kind of Sunday as me! They were tired, cranky, whiny, and frankly, so was I!  And so began quite possibly the longest 3 hours of my life.  My patience was thin as ice, my countenance could not possibly have been pleasant, though I was trying my best to appear cheerful.  We all survived, with some tears and a few time-outs. (Wouldn't it be nice if we could put ourselves in time-out once in a while?)

Back at home, I fed my little ones and laid them down for a nap, and laid down on the couch to "rest my eyes" just a bit.  Dear husband calls and asks me to look at his email for him, and I get glued to the computer again. This time, scrolling down my Facebook newsfeed.  And of course, it happens.  I see something that makes my heart start pounding, my blood pressure rise, and I feel the toxic defensive words forming in my mind and racing to my fingers to be typed in response to a "dig" at someone I care about.  And I would be justified, right??  Shouldn't we defend the ones we love?

So I argue with myself a bit, and decide to wait, to let it roll off my shoulders, so to speak... to choose grace and be silent. And the very next thing I read reminds me to dwell on "these things"... "whatever is true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling and gracious, the best, not the worst, the beautiful, not the ugly, things to praise not things to curse." (Philippians 4:8-9)  And then I remembered the thing I forgot to do this morning... I forgot to dwell on "these things" first. Before the morning rush, before the cranky little people, before the tired afternoon slump, before the reading of what ugliness others are "dwelling on"... I can't believe how easily I forget to do the most important thing. And what a profound impact that one thing has on my day, and those who are part of my life.

People are messy.  Life is messy.   And not one of us gets it right all the time.  God whispers to me constantly, "Give grace, Kari... Give grace..." And I want to.  I have certainly been given grace, and received it joyfully.  Why do I just want to hold on to it, all stingy and proud, like I had anything at all to do with it?  The rest of that passage in Philippians has a promise.  "Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into His most excellent harmonies."  

Harmony.  Isn't that my desire?  Learning with each day that it takes discipline, and choosing to fill my head with Truth, and choosing patience.  I read once that "Love always begins with patience." And if I have so little patience, am I really loving anyone well?  The hope here is this:  I am growing in the failures... I am learning to see with new eyes... I am changing.  Slow and steady.  And I am thankful.

Hoping and praying that I am less forgetful, more patient, more loving and more "me" on Tuesday! Prayers for your tomorrows too.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Looking for Miracles

What is a miracle?  Webster's defines it as "an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs."  I pray for miracles all the time.... When the mortgage isn't paid and the bank account is dry and when cancer eats away at those we love, but I ask with this doubt that says "I know He can, but I don't believe He will."  So my prayers are weak, ineffective, really just bouncing off the ceiling because of my unbelief.  It occurred to me yesterday, while wringing my hands and begging for some divine intervention that I had it backward... That God is ALWAYS working miracles in my life.    That my prayer should simply be "Open my eyes to what You are already doing."  Because truthfully, we rarely get the answers we seek when we seek rescue, or an easy way out, or relief from suffering... And this has always frustrated me, that life seems to always win out over faith.  But with a different perspective, could I begin to see the miracles all around me?  And in seeing those miracles that aren't the kind that make us wealthy or well or even comfortable, could I begin to cultivate thankfulness for even the hard things?  And wouldn't that be a miracle in itself?  Interesting thought...

I grew weary yesterday of wringing my hands in worry, so in order to fill the air (and my head) with something other than fear, I began singing to myself... "Blessed be the Name of the Lord, Blessed be the Name... You give and take away, you give and take away.."  What happened next was astonishing... I began to smile, then trying to remember the verses, I fumbled through the rest of the song with some wrong lyrics and some humming, and I realized, It's true!! Worship is the way out.  The way out of fear, the way out of worry, the way out of ME...   I have probably been told this, heard sermons on this, and frankly, I've always been one to  sing only with a full heart, not start with an empty heart to fill... Again, I just had it backward.  

I'd love to tell you that miraculously, my circumstances changed,  but you won't be surprised when I say that the only change was in me....For the moment though, it was enough.  I eventually stopped singing, and the worry and fear rushed back in, and I cried a little and got through the rest of the day and went to bed not really thinking of anything at all.  I woke up remembering, though, and seeing the miracle that I almost missed... And then taking a mental inventory of the miracles happening that don't really feel much like miracles at all... And so today, I am trying to remember to not ask for the scenery to change, but for new eyes, and while I wait for that sight I will sing... "I lift my hands to believe again, You are my refuge, You are my strength, As I pour out my heart, these things I remember, You are faithful God, forever...."

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Silent Treatment

I use a lot of words.  I like words, how there are so many ways to say something and give it just the right effect or connotation...  I blog because the words leaving my head are like therapy to me, a way to "get it out" so I can let go.  I wish I could say that my words are always "seasoned with grace", but it would be far from the truth.  I want them to be.  But often what comes out is the frustration, impatience, the steam that has built up over all the "little messes" a day holds.  This week has been filled with opportunities to give grace to others, by speaking in love or by just not speaking at all...  I have failed almost every single time.  And every time, I have hung my head, asked God to forgive, and asked for another chance or two to get it right?  A dangerous prayer to pray, friends! But I WANT this change, this transformation, and how else but to practice? So this post of carefully selected words is just a girl digging her trench for the battle, trusting God to finish what He started in my heart, this path to a grace-full life.

What God has prescribed for me, to cure this mouth, these hands, of these toxic words, is a Silent Treatment of sorts...  Now, ask my husband and he will laugh, telling you I am not capable of being silent.  I realize a lot of women use the "silent treatment" when angry, but not this girl.  I talk, and text, and talk, and text some more until I am satisfied my point has gotten across.  Then I think about all the words I wish I'd said, and look for opportunities to say them! (I am not advocating this approach, as it has a way of making a bad situation worse.)  The book of Proverbs is filled with instruction on how to use our words wisely, and the dangers of reckless words.  What is a reckless word? Any word I say that isn't flowing from a heart of grace and compassion, any word I say that is merely an emotional reaction, any word I say that I haven't carefully chosen in order to reflect Jesus and His love.  I have spoken (and texted) many reckless words this week, and in the moment, felt justified in speaking them.  Today, in hindsight, I am filled with regret and shame that I could be so self-righteous, so superior, so arrogant... But the words are out there, and I can't get them back.  So what is a girl to do? I think I will follow God's instruction and learn when to speak up and when to shut up!

Here is my plan... It might prove to be the single hardest thing I have ever done... I am going to be quiet.  I am   going to make a concentrated effort to identify the anxiety, frustration, and impatience that often lead to my recklessly spoken words.  And when I am feeling those things, I am (with God's help) going to be silent! I will leave the room or situation if necessary, pray for grace, and just not say anything.  Honestly, I can't remember a time when I have said anything of any value when my anxiety level was high.  So the obvious solution is to just not talk. Or text.  Or email.  (Might still blog, just not publish? You know, to get it out...)

So many times this week, I spoke (or texted), then immediately realized I had just blown it. Royally.  Again.  And wished I could rewind and get a do-over.  But it takes more than wishing, doesn't it? It would be nice if we could just wish to be Christlike and that was enough.  Or just pretend that we are until we really are.  But I would rather live authentically, be honest about the fact that I am a work in progress, because, if we are honest, aren't we all muddling and struggling and learning this straight and narrow?

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, so this week I think I'll keep what's left of my sanity and try something new! I have practiced a little today, and found that it takes great concentration to keep my mouth shut.  And I even looked up several key verses on word-wisdom to memorize.  Hopefully that will keep my mind too busy to replay conversations, imagining all the things I could have said to cut someone down to size or get the last word. And above all, I am praying that God will fill me with His grace and true compassion, and that I won't be so easily distracted by the messiness of life and forget who and Whose I am.  Of what value is proving a point or being "right" if I have made someone feel unloved, unaccepted or devalued? Makes my heart hurt to think I have been guilty of those things, because I have certainly been on the receiving end enough to know how it feels.  It hurts to feel like LESS.  But when my words cut down, I am making someone feel like LESS.  Aren't we called to build one another up? Is that just a guideline for our easy relationships? I am beginning to see that it is all the more important to build up those that are the HARDEST to show grace to, because the hard relationships are the ones that teach us how to make less of ourselves, how to walk humbly and justly, with compassion and mercy. Like Jesus.  He showed us how. With the woman at the well. With you and with me.

Following His lead this week... Speaking only grace-words (because I can do EVERYTHING through Him who gives me strength).  Wonder if you care to join me?

Proverbs 12:18 Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Proverbs 10:19  When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.

Proverbs 16:24  Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and nourishing to the bones.