Be Kind Not a Behind

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The Spotted Forget-Me-Not looks like it’s barely hanging on…like many people we come across.

“Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness.” -Lucius Annaeus Seneca

I kept peeking over the shoulder of the woman in front of me. Why do I always pick the slowest line? I don’t have time for this.

Finally it was my turn. I put my items on the conveyor belt and was mapping out the next stop in my head. When I got up to the cashier I threw out a Hey, how are you doing? Not REALLY wanting to know but just trying to be a friendly I wasn’t feeling. I expected a Good, how are you? That’s what your supposed to do, right? But no…

I don’t want to be here today, came her reply.

Whoa now. I didn’t want a real answer. Isn’t that the way of it? We politely ask hoping you’ll politely answer with fine

I’m thinking but not saying something like this: Are you serious? YOU are here to wait on ME not tell me you don’t want to be here. An ‘I’m fine. How are you?’ would have been the RIGHT thing to say. Pffftt, why am I not surprised. Why do I always pick the wrong line?

Nice, huh?

Fortunately for her (and me as you will see) I did not say what I was thinking. Instead, I made some joke about not wanting to be running around like a crazy woman but we do what we have to. Secretly wishing she would scan a little faster. I was, after all, in a tremendous hurry with a full schedule….did I mention this already?

She went on to tell me she got a call from Hospice a few minutes ago and her dad was in the active stages of dying. She was stuck here because she needs the job to pay the bills. She probably wouldn’t make it in time to tell him goodbye.

Thank you Jesus that what I was thinking before did not go from my brain to my mouth!(Oh but for the GRACE of God!)

I hadn’t noticed her lower than life countenance because I was watching her slower than snails scanning.

Why?

My day was overbooked. I was in such a hurry to get to the next thing, I wasn’t in the here and now. Sound familiar?

We live in such a fast paced, uptight, severely (over) scheduled world that noticing isn’t even an option. We can’t see the people we leave in the flurry of our hurry.

Our schedules are so full that there is no room for care, consideration or concern. Just watch people at the grocery store some time…sorry old lady trying to reach an item on the top shelf, I would help you but, you know, gotta go! Then we zip right around her thinking she should be glad we didn’t run her slow bum over.

I also thought MY day, MY schedule, MY to do list was way more important than that of a lowly cashier. Talk about arrogant. I may not have said anything this time but it was just a matter of time for pompous pride to make its way from mind to mouth.

What you say flows from what is in your heart. (Luke 6:45 NLT)

Later that same day, I was checking out at Michaels and the person in front of me was speaking her mind to the slow cashier. After huffy Harriet left and it was my turn, I told the cashier (who looked all of twelve) how sorry I was that she was treated like that. She looked so relieved, told me it was her first day on the job and that she was so nervous. Take a deep breath, you’ve got this.

I’m so grateful when God gives me an opportunity to redeem my jack-assery. The lesson that day? Be Kind, Not a Behind because you just never know what someone is going through.

kw

 

 

 

 

 

A New Wildflower

I found a new wildflower. It’s strange that I’d not seen her before. She’s where I walk every single day to feed the chickens. She almost looks like she’s smiling at me wooing me to take notice. Things have a way of popping in your path just when you need them to.

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Meet Prunella…she really wants to be your friend 🙂

Her common name is self-heal. Her botanical name is prunella vulgaris. The first part sounds an awful lot like pruning; the second like vulgar. Interesting.

If you’ve ever been through a season of pruning, you know it can be painful. Vulgar if you will. Not in the lewd sense but in the crude, raw sense. It hurts when you feel like all your blooms have been cut off, while every other flower looks lovely and beautiful. You stand there hanging on to your one stem barren and broken.  You wonder if you’ll grow again, if you’ll ever begin to bust out a bloom.

So how in the world is vulgar pruning self-healing?

Pruning the Suckers

 Many plants will develop what are called suckers…those low lying shoots that suck the energy from the main part of the plant. The plants growth is stumped (not completely stopped) until the suckers are cut away.

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Suckers on a Korean Dogwood that needs my snipper attention.

Ask anyone today how they are doing and they will inevitably answer with some manner of Busy. We’ve filled our work calendars, our social calendars, our kids calendars to the overflowing brim and wonder where our energy went. We’ve grown suckers without realizing it and for the sake of healing need to cut some things away to free up time for self-care.

Pruning the Dead

Last spring I got ahold of some sand cherry trees that were in desperate need of having the dead cut out of them. It’s growth and beauty was being overshadowed by the unsightly cadaverous branches. The pruning was harsh but the result was rewarding.

Have you ever done something simply because it’s what you’ve always done? I’m guilty as charged. Sometimes it’s healthy to take a step back and evaluate the things we’re involved in or people we’re involved with, things we volunteer for, things we simply do on repeat to see if there’s any areas that have died a slow death and you’ve yet to notice it’s covering up your reach for the sky. There’s something therapeutic about pruning away all the dead to see what beauty lies beneath.

Pruning the Buds

Way back before my thumb was the least shade of green my father-in-law was down for a visit. As we were walking around the yard, I was showing him all the perennials I had planted and was shocked when he told me to pinch back the newly forming buds on the geraniums.

Say what?

He went on to tell me that doing so would increase the amount of flowers they produced. It made no sense whatsoever but I listened to his sage advice and he was indeed right. (Never mind that I planted part of my perennials in mulch instead of soil but that’s proof that anyone can become a green(er) thumb.)

Of all the life pruning this one makes the least sense and can be the most painful. Sometimes we are asked to cut out, snip off areas that sure look like they have promise. Areas that would bloom if left alone.

Here’s the thing, many times we settle for good enough when God wants to give us great. Is it because we’re afraid to prune the bloom? We can’t see the bouquet because we’re hanging on to a single stem.

Take heart my Wildflower Warriors…

Prunella Vulgaris, common self-heal can sure feel like anything but soothing.  It takes time to rest and reset, to recover and reveal the purpose. But when we trust the process we can be sure healing will happen.

kw

 

 

 

 

Girl in the White Bell-Bottom Jeans

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Not normally one to seek out adventure, I threw caution to the wind, got out from the safety of the middle and decided to try my hand with the faster, more experienced kids.

I should have known better.

But I’m getting ahead of myself so let me back up a bit.

My brother and I were the second set of kids my grandparents raised. Money was tight on Grandpa’s swing shift job working the burn off at Anchor Hocking. My Granny helped in all the ways she could cooking, keeping house, and sewing. She sewed most all of my clothes.

My younger self didn’t begin to understand things like single incomes, budgets and frugality. I just knew that nothing screamed poor like matching gingham shirts and pants. All I wanted to do was fit in. I wanted someone to notice my clothes, not because they were making fun of the homespun, but because I was setting a fashion trend. For once I wanted to hear the girls ask me where I shopped for such a cute outfit.

Much to my delight (and seven day work weeks for my Grandpa) I got to get a store bought outfit in the spring of my third grade year. I was the shizzle getting off the bus and walking in to class that day. I had the cutest little solid red top that fit perfectly. The pants? Oh my word!  White bell-bottom jeans trimmed with a red cuff and white polka dots. And not just any bell-bottoms. No. These were elephant bell-bottoms! Bell-bottoms that had bell-bottoms. Throw on some new white Keds and I was ready for the runway, setting trends and blazing fashion trails that left all things gingham-checked in my dust…

I was having the best day.

That is until I decided to get adventurous and push the (now banned death trap) merry-go-round on the playground. As you might have guessed, it didn’t go well. It got going faster than my little girl legs could go and since I wasn’t used to jeans with flared bottoms, well, I took a pretty good tumble. On a side note: It’s important to let go once you fall down, otherwise you keep going but not on your feet.

The boys laughed and the girls gasped and I got all kinds of attention I hadn’t bargained for nor wanted. My hands had rocks embedded in them and both of my knees and one hip were bloodied. That wasn’t even the worst of it. The school nurse could clean and cover those with ointment and Band-Aids. But what of my pants?

I felt a little like Ralphie from The Christmas Story who thought his mom wouldn’t notice his busted up glasses. My pants were shredded at both knees and down one thigh (remember to let go…) with so much dirt and blood you couldn’t tell there was a red cuff let alone white polka dots.

What was I going to tell my Granny? She asked all manner of questions: What was I thinking? Why didn’t I stay in the middle where it was safer? Better yet, why get on that thing at all?  Your Grandpa worked hard so you could have those jeans and you ruined them because you were goofing off  and being full of yourself.

I don’t know if these were the exact questions but it was the gist of what I walked away with. Somewhere along the way, that day translated into: being adventurous and carefree equals getting hurt and disappointing people. It equals falling and failing.

Unknowingly, that day followed me around well into my adult years.  Afraid to draw attention. Afraid to be brave. Afraid to get out of the middle.  Afraid to be carefree.  Afraid to let loose and go fast. Afraid to disappoint. Afraid to fall. Afraid to fail. Always playing it safe for fear of busting up my best bell-bottoms.

Oh, this memory wasn’t like a cash transaction where I purposely handed over money in exchange for fear. It’s more like an auto-pay where you don’t even think about it until you see the withdrawal on your bank statement. I simply kept forgetting to cancel the auto-ship on a package I no longer wanted.

I began to recognize that little girl in the torn and now bloodied bell-bottomed jeans was embedded in my thoughts like those rocks in my hands. Always reminding me. Silently berating, shaming. Once I understood it was her that was whispering like the wind… don’t venture too far too fast, you’ll fall down, people will laugh, better play it safe, you don’t want to disappoint… I began the process of picking out the lies, of healing the hurt, of mending the tears, of telling her it’s alright. Ever so slowly I began to inch my way out of the middle, to put myself out there, to know I could fall and fail but also get up and try again. I could have fun and go on adventures. And it was okay.

The girl in the white bell-bottom jeans?

She is me. Only better. Maybe she is you too?

kw

 

 

 

In the Weeds With Me

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I cannot believe it’s the last day of July! Where has summer gone? Here’s what’s gone down ‘round here…

In the Library

Here’s what I read this month…

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The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

This an excellent book if you like World War II history. It’s based off the lives of some unsung heroes. The author blends several stories of real accounts and rolls them together to create a beautiful fiction depiction. One of my favorite quotes is But love has to be stronger than hate, or there is no future for us.

Create vs. Copy by Ken Wytsma  

Everyone is born with God-given creativity waiting to be unleashed. When business slows, when funding dries up, when the home environment is tense—these are the moments that call for creativity and imagination. Are you ready?  I needed this book as a reminder that I am made in the image of God, a Master Creator, who created, creates now and will continue to create in, around and through me.

The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor

Shawn is a psychologist who lays out seven principles or strategies that help us wire our brains for positivity and optimism. He doesn’t come from a Polly-Anna-life-is-always-wonderful approach but from a life can be hard but here are some ways to rethink the crappy parts approach.

The Giver Lois Lowry

One of my goals is to read more books off The Great American Read Top 100 List sponsored by PBS. This is the first one. The haunting story centers on twelve-year-old Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory does he begin to understand the dark, complex secrets behind his fragile community. It did not disappoint.

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

She never disappoints! Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are. Brene lays out ten guideposts to what she calls wholehearted living. This is a re-read for me with new underlines and highlights for where I’m at right now. Must read!

The Fiery Cross  by Diana Gabaldon

This is the fifth of eight books in the series. If you are an Outlander fan you will know this is the continuing story of Jamie and Claire. He is an 18thcentury highlander from Scotland, she is a time traveler from the 21stcentury. This has been the least favorite of mine in the series so far. I got bogged down in some of the details but you cannot not finish it due to all the new characters etc. Anybody else read(ing) these and not care for this one as much?

Here’s what I’m getting ready to read…

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In the Garden

There’s just something about growing things that tickles me to no end. To think that you can put a seed in the ground and a few short weeks later you have something to eat for dinner is amazing…oh the wonders of simple things.

We’ve grilled zucchini, made chocolate zucchini bread (this makes eating your veggies a breeze!), eaten and canned green beans and crunched on cucumbers. Nothing tastes better than eating the results of your blood, sweat and tears.

But not everything has done well…

In the Weeds

My basil is a bust this year! I planted it in the same pots, used the same soil, same seed company and it is wimpy at best. Being determined to grow some, I moved off the patio and out to the garden boxes where I planted an entire box of basil, five rows with even wimpier results. I mean the green beans are right next to the basil and are going gangbusters. There’s neither rhyme nor reason for it to not grow. My final conclusion? This just may not be the year for basil…at least around here. But I will continue to try.

As I was thinking this conundrum through while out weeding other areas of the garden, I realized that parenting can be much like this: You provide the same environment, pour out the same love and nurturing, the same discipline and determination and the results aren’t always what you thought they would be. Some kids bust a move and grow. Some bust up your heart. (Some just plain wear you out at times.) It makes not an ounce of sense.

My final conclusion? This just may not be the year for the growth you wanted but DO NOT GIVE UP! Keep trying. Keep loving. Keep providing. Keep nurturing. Keep pouring in.

Hang in there parents. Eventually that seed will produce the harvest you knew it could.

Thanks for hanging in the weeds with me!

kw

 

Faith > Fear

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Fears. We’ve all experienced them. We’ve all wrestled with them. Some have conquered many of them. Others still struggle. Sometimes fear pops up quicker than an Eggo waffle out of the toaster. You thought you had worked through that thing but nope, there it is joining you for breakfast…pass the butter and syrup, please. Is there any coffee left? What kind of creamer did you buy at the store? You know I like French Vanilla.

Fear lives with you like an old friend, like you are some sort of bed and breakfast just waiting to serve her every need. You’ve become so familiar with her presence you don’t know what it’s like to not have her company.

But is it sin as was stated on a social media thread when I asked what kept my girlfriends up at night with worry? Nothing shuts down a conversation quicker than the blanket statement Fear is sin. (Emphasis on the period.)

The Bible talks about it a lot (Some say there are 365 “fear not’s” written. One for every day.) Maybe God knew we would have much to fear in this wacky world we live in. Maybe “fear not” is meant as an encouragement and not a command. The only thing he tells us to fear is him. Maybe that’s so our focus shifts from the thing we fear to the One who can help us fight our fear. Maybe fear gives us an opportunity to actually grow our faith.

Here’s what I know about my own dealings with the things I fear or have feared.

Trauma

Some fears seem unwarranted or silly. For example, I do not like being in the middle of a crowd if I don’t think I can get out. So I sit as close to the end of a row as I can get and know where the nearest exit is. We won’t even mention car washes…

We can have all kinds of experiences that plant a seed of fear within us. Death. Divorce. Disease. Abuse. Abandonment. Anxiety. Worry. War. Family. Loss. Sickness. Natural disasters….and not even realize a root of fear started to grow because it.

It wasn’t until I sought help that I realized where this fear of being trapped came from. It was something that happened to me as a young girl. The counselor gave me tools to deal with the fear, to talk myself through it, and breathing exercises so I can go to crowded places and enjoy myself without (too much) fear. (I even went through the car wash by myself…once…)

If “fear is sin” then I will sit in the middle of a crowd thinking I’m a bad person for feeling paralyzed by fear and never ask for help.

It’s ok to talk to someone about your fears. It’s ok to reach out for help.

Truth

Some of my fears are bathed in lies. Fear of not being good enough, thin enough, perfect enough, smart enough, talented enough, tough enough, pretty enough, loud enough, soft enough, adventurous enough, smooth enough, delightful enough, lovable enough…you get the picture. Did I hit any of your “not enough’s”?

Some of my fears have been or are my identity. I’m just a worrier. You are no longer you, the person. You suddenly become your fear. Anybody else ever said those words?

How about fear of failure, success or loneliness?

Then there’s the fear that we’re gonna mess our kids up beyond repair?

I hate to break it to you (and remind myself): we can’t mess up so bad that God can’t fix it. We aren’t that powerful. He is the best Repairer, Redeemer, and Restorer of all times.

To combat the lies, seek Truth. Find scripture verses that are opposite of the lies you believe. Read who you truly are based on what God says and not what your fears say. Satan is the ultimate accuser and wants you to sit in those fears, afraid. Get ticked and do otherwise.

Maybe fear isn’t sin but a subterfuge from Satan to keep us from living the full life God has for us. Just a thought.

Trust

I love/hate when God gives me current examples. I really want to share those things that have healed over nicely so I can show you there’s barely even a scar from battling with fear. But…

I have had an opportunity to fear the past couple of weeks. I have to admit, I sat in it for a bit, stewed on it for a couple of days and invited it to breakfast. And just like that she was back like a comfortable old friend, asking for French Vanilla creamer and a muffin.

We had conversations around this thing and the more we talked, the worse the fear became. Doesn’t matter about what. It could be anything really. The point is I let her stay way too long before I remembered she wasn’t a welcome guest in my home.

My reminder? God. I remembered I hadn’t talked to him about it. I had spent so much time playing every what if…scenario in my head, running them by my familiar friend (foe?) and allowing thoughts to run amok that it completely slipped my mind to simply pray about it.

I was trying to control it all and played into the lie that I had to. Did I trust Him with it? Would I give it to Him?

So in the middle of pulling weeds in the garden, I confessed my fears, my dreadful what if’s and doomsday scenarios. I conceded control and felt way better.

I don’t think fear is a sin. I think it lets us know we are human in need of something bigger than the thing we fear. It helps us to recognize the frailty of our fears when put next to the enormity of our God. Maybe the bravest thing we do is let God know when we are afraid. Then let HIM deal with your guest who is no longer welcome.

Oh and pour out that creamer…she is not the boss of you!

kw

 

 

 

 

Real Ladies Don’t Have Tattoos

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The Atlanta airport was crowded as people were waiting to board the plane to New Mexico. I scanned the area looking for a seat.

Excuse me, sir. Is this seat taken? I asked with a smile.

The man looked up, smiled back and said, No, help yourself.

After settling in with my Starbucks and Kindle, I noticed the man began to fidget just a bit. He looked over at me and said Real ladies don’t have tattoos.

He then got up and walked off.

This wasn’t my first rodeo with someone who had thoughts about tattoos but it had been awhile so I was taken aback for a minute. My first thought was Real gentlemen don’t act like jackasses either! (Of course this creative comeback was after he left…probably just as well…sigh)

My second one was Dear God, please do not let him be seated next to me on the plane! (In His mercy, God forgave my first thought and granted the second.)

This man had no idea who I was, where I was from, what I did for a living, where I was going. Nothing. Except that I had a tattoo and he had an opinion.

Kind of ticked me off a little.

I wasn’t going to share this story but then I read an interesting passage a few days later in Luke 7 with a line that caught my eye.

Jesus gets a dinner invitation from Simon who was a Pharisee. While there, a woman of apparent scandal comes with her alabaster jar of perfume. She kneels down and washes Jesus’ feet with her tears, wiping them with her hair then proceeds pouring the perfume over them.

Instead of recognizing this intimate act as one of asking for forgiveness or one of worship, the Pharisee was disgusted that a.) she is a sinner and b.) Jesus seems to be oblivious to that fact. Maybe this Jesus guy wasn’t who he said he claimed to be after all. (v39 paraphrased)

Jesus then turns back toward the woman and says to Simon, Do you see this woman?

Funny question. I imagine everyone SAW. But did they really SEE?

Simon looked at this woman and only saw a sinner. Jesus looked past the sin and could see a woman.

How many times have I looked at someone and not been able to really see them because I couldn’t get past the outer appearance or my preconceived opinion or my own arrogance? How many times have you?

In her book Braving the Wilderness Brene Brown talks about how the dehumanization of people starts with calling names and forming opinions based on assumptions. (Everyone should read this book!)

The moment that man in the airport looked at me, saw my tattoo and immediately summed me up as not a real lady…I became less human in his eyes. He didn’t really see me, only my tattoo.

Dehumanizing happens when we jump to judge and no longer lean in to learn.

I can think of several ways that people are being made to feel less than. The following are just a handful, maybe you can share more. It’s when we…

Look at an overweight person and assume they are lazy.

Walk past a person of a different color than us and clutch our purses tighter or assume they think they are high and mighty.

Look at a person whose lifestyle is different than ours and not see them, only their “sin”.

Walk past a homeless person and assume they don’t want to work.

Look at the single Mom paying with food stamps and tsk, tsk.

Look at a person’s political stance and immediately assume you are either a snowflake and stupid or cold hearted and callous.

We form opinions about people as whole groups without ever getting to know any one in particular. We look but do not see, without ever hearing their story.

Why? I really don’t know. Do you?

Maybe it’s easier to judge than to learn. Maybe if we got to know someone we would have to get down off our high horse (everyone has ridden one at some point), change our opinion or, heaven forbid, our way of thinking.

Maybe if we really took the time to see the person and not be so quick to critique we would realize that they are more than their weight or sexual preference or political side or skin color. Maybe there’s a story there that you have no idea about.

Maybe if we took a minute to listen and learn we would understand how the homeless came to be living under a bridge or the addict got to where she was or how that Mom became single.

Maybe if we stopped looking and started really seeing, we would show more kindness, compassion and learn to love people who think different, who look different, who act different, realizing we are ALL human beings needing to be seen, valued and loved.

Since practice makes perfect, let’s practice this…

No more name-calling.

No more jumping to judge…let’s leave that to God.

Stop LOOKING and start SEEING.

Imperfect progress is still progress and sure would make the world a better place.

kw

 

 

Roundabouts, Reason and Realization

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Does anybody else find roundabouts confusing? There’s a new one close to where I live and I was trying to picture in my mind where the exits would lead but simply wasn’t sure. (There is nothing logical about my sense of direction…)

One day when I had a few extra minutes, I took one of the exits to see where it would lead and ended up where I still recognized where I was but it wasn’t where I thought I would be. At least I wasn’t going around in a circle afraid to exit for fear of getting lost anymore.

I got stuck on a roundabout in my brain recently that had me sucked into the circle, confused as to which exit to take for fear of taking the wrong one. For a couple of days I felt as if I were on a ride where the gravity of spinning keeps your back against the wall. It does keep you from falling but also from going anywhere but around in a perpetual circle.

I could choose the road marked Picture Perfect for People. I have taken this exit before. It leads to a subdivision called Show Well Way. And even lived on Legalism Lane for a short stint.

In this neighborhood, you go to church every time the doors are open and work at every event offered, otherwise you will a.) “miss the blessing of God” or b.) get ostracized the next time you go. The verse to not give up meeting together (Hebrews 10:25) gets layer upon layer of rules added to it.

Condemnation is king. I once heard a lady say as she was walking out the door, I love to hear him preach. I feel so condemned when I leave. I thought she was joking at first but sadly she was not. (The Holy Spirit convicts not condemns…there is a difference.)

Perfection is preferred. Fight with your husband, spank your kids in the car, be depressed and deal with your junk on the way to church but when you walk through those doors…coiffe your hair, smooth your skirt and put a smile on your face. When someone asks you how you’re doing simply say, fine. You don’t want to be the one who puts the scratch on the vinyl of perfection.

All the while, people are hurting. People are struggling. People are wondering if they are the only one.

No. That’s not the exit I want to take nor the subdivision I want to live in. I sold that house long ago.

So I go back around the circle. I can choose the exit marked God’s Grace is Good.

When I first met people who were grace extenders…those who don’t purse their church lady lips and tell your daughter that it takes one sip of alcohol to be on the road to an AA meeting…it took awhile to let my guard down, to let them in, to simply be me.

But I’m so glad I did.

I am not perfect. My family is not perfect. We struggle. We fight. We have had renegades and seasons where depression almost won. I have a tattoo, (read more about my experiences with that here:     ) drink wine on occasion and call the deer flies a bad name when I’m mowing and they’re biting.

And I love the Lord more now than ever.

Some will say, this is blasphemy, tear their clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes. They will say that I’m taking advantage of God’s grace. I don’t think so. Which is worse…

Giving the false persona that I am a perfect Christian woman who has her act completely together. Or admitting where I’m flawed but always pointing the way to the One who is not.

When I was living on Legalistic Lane, I was worried about what people thought of me, but not necessarily what God thought of me. Perception was everything no matter how I was actually living. I tried to be good for the sake of show. Now I’m just me. I’m not afraid to admit where I fall short knowing his grace is enough for me in this moment. If I’m struggling in an area, I ask for help.

But aren’t you abusing grace? some may ask. God’s grace isn’t a ticket to sin. In fact its affect has just the opposite. It’s this grace, not people and their doctrines, that now drives me to continue to grow…in my faith, in my love for him and the people he puts in my path and yes, strive to be more obedient to what His Truth says to do. (And ask for forgiveness when I mow!)

I am a work in progress. And will continue to be until the day I meet the Lord face to face.

And so, for a hot second, I thought about taking the exit of picture perfect and moving back to the old ‘hood. But then said, nah, there’s no reason to be afraid to take the exit of the goodness and grace God has for simply being me.

The funny thing is whether you resonate with the first exit or the second; both are in need of Grace. So…

Just be you and I’ll just be me. And together we’ll be ever thankful for Grace.

kw

 

Letting Freedom Ring

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Happy July! On this day in 1776 Congress voted to declare independence from Great Britain’s tyrannical king, George III. Two days later, on July 4th, the adoption of the Declaration of Independence was commemorated and has been celebrated in the United States ever since. Freedom fighters fought long and hard, blood was spilled, lives lost so we could live in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

I’ve been thinking a lot about freedom, freedom fighters and what it is to be a people who live free. I keep going back to this verse…

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1 NIV)

What does it mean to live truly free? Jesus’ whole mission was an operation of liberation. People were living under a heavy yoke of oppression with no hope of ever being able to live out the law. Besides that, the Pharisees kept adding to their load making the weight of it unbearable. We don’t begin to have enough space to talk about the Gentiles and their issues.

Jesus is the ultimate freedom fighter whose death lifted that yoke by fulfilling the law. Jews (and the Gentiles who thought part of following Christ was following Jewish law) were no longer under this laborious load of impossible rules and regulations. He had a new way, His way.

What does it mean to stay free? You would think that we would bask in this burden free way of living but as Timothy Keller says, our freedom is fragile and can slip from our grasp. (Galatians for You) Jesus brought with him a message so foreign, so unfamiliar to them (and us?) that I’m sure at times it was easier to slip that yoke back on. At least they knew the feel of it, heavy as it was. Anybody else go back to a comfort zone for the sake of the familiar?

But Paul says we have to stand firm against going back there. Living under the yoke of the law (spiritual) or the bondage of sin (physical/mental) are both enslaved ways to live and is the very thing Christ freed us from.

I sat down yesterday afternoon (this was not originally today’s scheduled post but it won’t leave me alone so here you go.) and came up with a list of what walking as free people in Christ looks like.

FREE PEOPLE…are forgiven

  • and forgiving
  • live loved
  • aren’t controlled by the past
  • or scared by the future
  • laugh more
  • rebel against the establishment (Jesus was a rebel!)
  • aren’t chained to bitterness or resentment
  • aren’t afraid
  • aren’t easily offended
  • see beauty in the broken and worth in the wounded
  • are for the outcasts, misfits and least of these
  • don’t judge
  • are dangerous to some (the Pharisees who don’t like free)
  • aren’t afraid to speak the truth
  • let go
  • don’t harbor, hoard or hate
  • don’t manipulate
  • be self-controlled not controlling of others
  • listen long
  • simmer slow
  • love the unlovely
  • know their worth
  • give more
  • notice
  • don’t take anything for granted
  • appreciate differences
  • don’t feel the need to always be heard
  • breathe easier
  • sleep better
  • are kinder, gentler beings
  • know meek ain’t weak
  • love lavishly

…just to name a few!

Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you. (Galatians 5:1 MSG)

Be a freedom fighter. Bust out, be brave, live free!

Feel free (see what I did there) to add your thoughts on what living free in Christ looks like in the comments section below.

kw

 

Aquanet, Cicadas and Fear

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Glamour Shots Circa 1980’s

We were traveling down the flat stretch of Highway 22&3, cornfields on the left, the outskirts of my small hometown on the right. The water tower stood tall in the center and was painted with school color pride, orange with Home of the Aces written in black. It was the 1980’s version of GPS guiding folks home.

I was with my then boyfriend turned husband in his ’67 VW bug. She was a real beauty, several colors of oxidized red with a lone blue fender. It was a four speed on the floor with lots of pep despite the rusted out floorboards that were hidden by galvanized plates. (My man would like me to mention here that she was undefeated in races….whether this was his skilled driving or her verve is still talked about today.)

We had not a care in the world that summer day. With the windows rolled down (God’s air conditioning) and blue skies ahead, life was good! I don’t remember where we were going or from where we came when it happened.

The ping ping-ing of the VW engine was met with another, different sounding ping. A bug had hit the side mirror. No big deal. Except that our windows were down. All the way. Still, no big deal, right? Until…

It started singing the song of the summer cicada in my ear because that thing landed in my hair! And not just any hair. It was mile-high, permed with thick curls, Aqu-netted to get you through a storm, ‘80’s hair. (See photo above…oh wait…how could you not…that’s some big hair!)

I flapped my hands, shook my head and jumped (hurdled?) into the back seat of that ’67 VW faster than drive-in movie date night. My screaming turned to whimpering as I curled up in a fetal position and cried. Why?

FEAR.

I loathe cicadas. Of all the bugs in all the world, it had to be a cicada to stick its landing  with a perfect ten in my hair. My brave boyfriend is driving and weaving all over the place to try and find this vile creature that I had shook (or scared) out of my hair. Not until it was found and flung outside did I come up to the front seat. He was my hero that day and probably the main reason I married him.

We laugh about this now. But fear is no laughing matter. We have ample opportunity daily to be afraid. In a recent Facebook post I posed the question: Friends, especially of the female persuasion…I am curious to know…what do you struggle with or fear? In other words, what keeps you up at night?

Nearly 50 of my girlfriends commented. That’s a lot of angst. The reasons were wide in range… Kids was the number one reason whether young or old we parents worry about them…their safety, their health, have we done more harm than good in the way we raised them? Have we ruined them beyond repair? Then there’s our health and the health of our families…mental, physical and spiritual. Feeling out of control and not liking that one bit. Fear of failure and not meeting the needs of everyone. Finances. Future. And those dreadful iffy’s.

Yes. Opportunity to fear knocks quite rapidly.

I was at a conference recently where we sang a song that said, I’m no longer a slave to fear. I am a child of God.

 So why do we? I stood there singing these words knowing I do fear. Sometimes it’s a fraidy cat fear, other times it’s paralyzing.

Notice it doesn’t say, I no longer fear. But rather that I’m no longer a slave to fear.

We live in a fallen world where the sky is blue one minute and a cicada is in your hair the next. How I react is key.

I can allow the enemy a victory (because we know, according to 2Timothy 1:7 fear is not from God so guess who it’s from) and be enslaved by it. (Who wants to let the devil win? He’s just dumb.) Or I can be like King David, admitting when I am afraid and run to the arms of my Father.

When I am afraid, I will trust in you. (Psalm 56:3)

Fear not appears many times all throughout scripture, not as a command so much as it is an encouragement that WHEN you feel fear, admit it, confront it, control it. Often times it’s followed by a for I am with you (our Father has our back.) Don’t let it win.

Being set free from something (anything) doesn’t mean the disappearance of it. It means we can face it head on, trusting God will give us the strength we need WHEN we need it.

I have a Father that could crush cicadas with a mere thought. Shoot, he’s even bigger than my ‘80’s hair and stronger than Aqua-net in a tornado. I’ll bet he’s bigger than anything that you fear too.

We’ll keep talking this through some more. Because that’s what we do…encourage, empower, engage…in the meantime, I’m watching out for cicadas because ‘tis the season and I’m a work in progress.

kw

Gifts, Rifts and Solace

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It’s hard to believe I’m six months in to this year of Solace theme. The older I get, the faster time goes. It’s been good with lessons learned…some fun, some hard, some in progress.

We celebrated my man on Father’s Day. He got the most diverse gifts from the kiddos this year…. a speedboat for the pond, two sassafras trees and a pedicure. (He kept asking all of us girls about what it was like to get one so…) He will be the fastest boat racer with the best looking feet in Warren County, standing between his sassafras trees and alongside his sassy wife.

(On a side note: If you read about me traveling with my man, aka Mr. Diamond, in the Speaking My Language post I must confess…he DID offer me his seat in first class when they bumped him up. My internal dialogue went straight to the not good enough. I don’t fit in with first class people because I am not a first class act. I wouldn’t even know what to do to be “proper.”  Sigh. I still have work to do on me.)

For Mother’s Day I got a kit from Ancestry.com. You can learn a lot from a little spit. I am 58% Great Britain (with a wee bit of Ireland/Scotland/Wales thrown in for good measure) and 23% Scandinavian (my love for burning things as therapy makes total sense now…Viking pyre anyone?)

My sister (who has her own dad drama to tell) asked if I doubted that Dad was really my dad (which she found out in college was not her Dad…you guys…visions of a Super Soul Sunday outside, with a backdrop of fall foliage and peaceful sky while sipping hot cider turns into a Jerry Springer beer brawl real quick with our upbringing.)

And though this wasn’t that kind of kit, I told her yes. He had often “teased” through the years that he wasn’t sure I was his. My sister and I both agreed that at this point in our existence it really wouldn’t do either of us any good to find out for sure who’s your daddy. We had step-dads but they sounded more like the beginning of a bad joke…a gambler, an old man and a drunk were sitting at a bar…

She made the comment that she has been pretty much fatherless her whole life and didn’t need one now. But then again, have we ever truly been without a Father? Earthly? Perhaps. Heavenly? Never. We just didn’t always recognize (or allow) him to be at times.

God has shown himself faithful during these six months of solace. But why am surprised? It’s who he is.

So much to learn.

I also discovered if you write enough words for people to read, you will (eventually) offend someone. I got a message from a friend who wrote As a dear friend please take this critique knowing it comes from my heart. I started to read your blog this morning but you lost me at the word “bejesus.” She goes on to tell me why and then asks this question: how do we as Christians become all things to all people in order to save some and at the same time not be conformed to this world?

I replied Thank you for caring enough to share your thoughts. I guess I don’t think of that word as offensive or a bad word. I certainly don’t mean it as such but could maybe find a different way of expressing that idea. I do try to be the real me when I write though so balancing all that is a delicate dance for sure. I do have more thoughts but am heading out for a walk…

The word bejesus is an exclamation attributed to the Irish, used to express surprise or for emphasis. It has nothing to do with Jesus, the One I love. But that’s not the point I suppose. Where is the balance of being me yet not offending? Of being a work in progress and yet not making that be an excuse? My friend admitted to being legalistic at times and asked Am I being too rigid?

All good questions that I hope to write about next month so we can have some discussions around it.

I also learned that we (my girlfriends and me) live in fear of many things. Way too many! So along with the above topic to discuss, I am writing a series titled Freedom From…

How appropriate for the month of July!!

Here’s to six more months of Solace, writing and the adventures of faith!

kw