If you click on the link below, you'll find an article I wrote recently for Hope Notes, Food for the Hungry's magazine.
With love and gratitude,
I Saw it In His Smile
Clip 1. His little legs teeter and wobble as he makes his way across the grass. He pauses, regains balance, and resumes his mission toward the gravel. He loves rocks.
As he approaches the edge of the lawn, he stops but keeps looking at his goal. His left arm shoots up, palm open. He wants me to hold his hand while he transitions to the pavement.
Clip 2. This week I had day-surgery to remove two large kidney stones. As the general anesthetic wore off, the nurse kindly stated, “Okay, it’s time to get you up walking” and then proceeded to give me instructions on how to do so.
“Scoot your bottom to the side of the bed and drop your legs over the edge. Now sit there for a few minutes until you get your bearings.”
I followed orders. When the spinning room slowed to an agreeable pace, I told her I was ready to carry on. “Okay. Stand slowly and hold my arm. When you’re upright, hold onto the IV pole for balance. I’ll walk right beside you to the bathroom. Let me know if you’re feeling dizzy or light-headed.”
And off we went at a blistering snail’s pace, with me relearning how to walk again, after 50 years.
Clip 3. Our grandson is not quite 18-months old and explores his ever-increasing world, eager to try new things, and makes clear when he can do it all. by. himself. I admire his tenacity to keep getting up after lawn divots trip him, to persist with poking the squirming noodle until it’s on his fork, and climbing into the dry tub fully dressed to remind me of his love for baths. He’s becoming his own little person.
And, he also knows when to ask for –and receive – help.
My spirit is wired toward independence and toughing it out alone. Thankfully, God and life have continued to teach me the power of giving and receiving help. There is healing in community where one assists another by providing meals, phoning to encourage, praying faithfully.
But it’s difficult to support one another if we aren’t willing to be open and vulnerable about our need.
How might you reach your hand out today to negotiate a bumpy lawn’s edge, or post-anesthetic daze?
With love and gratitude,
We missed her birthday.
For the last ten years, I have met fairly consistently with a small group of women for book studies, prayer support and social outings.
In February, I set up a coffee date for the three of us to meet on the 19th. We sat around the table, shared our hearts, laughed and left knowing better how to pray for one another.
A few hours later I got a text from one of the women sharing that she’d just been reminded that it was the other woman’s birthday. On the 19th. That day.
We didn’t just miss her birthday. We were together and we didn’t acknowledge it at all! We blew it.
It feels like there was plenty of room for our friend to be offended.
I now know that she did not leave our February date brewing and pouting over our misfire. Rather, she said she chose to accept things as they were and give thanks for the chance to be with us on her special day!
When we recognized the error of our ways and apologized profusely, she admitted that she was surprised during lunch that we weren’t acknowledging her birthday (a new version of “surprise party,” I guess), which I appreciated. She didn’t deny her feelings and sugar coat the reality, and she also didn’t attempt to “make” us feel worse. Just honesty, authenticity and grace.
The experience reminded me of a sermon our pastor recently preached on giving up our right to be offended.
Pastor Craig shared an illustration from Andy Stanley by placing three music stands on the stage. The left one held a sign saying, “Expectations,” the right, “Experience,” and the middle a placard with “Believe the best” on one side and “Assume the worst” on the other.
He explained that when our experiences with others don’t line up with our expectations, we have a critical choice to make. When your friends don’t even say happy birthday, a decision is required.
Will I believe the best or assume the worst? (I do appreciate Stanley’s proviso that we continue to believe the best until it’s unwise or unsafe to do so.)
Fortunately for us, our friend chose to believe the best. She knows that we love her, that we had no ill intent, and that we simply forgot her birthday. We’ve apologized, talked it through, laughed heartily and… set reminders in our phones for next year.
It’s been a bold reminder how every day I get to choose: to be offended, or not to be (and extend grace). Having so recently been a recipient of extravagant grace, I hope I can offer the same to others.
With love and gratitude,
Take good care of yourself.
I wonder how many times I heard that phrase as I hacked and coughed my way into 2018.
I suspect people were hoping I would rest, drink lots of fluids, slow the pace of life, and maybe eat some homemade chicken noodle soup, all reasonable responses to being sick. All ways to take good care.
But what about when I’m not sick? Is there room for this sentiment in everyday life?
I believe it’s now called self-care and it is actually big business. Do a Google search of the term and you’ll be flooded with sites like: “45 Simple Self-Care Practices for a Healthy Body, Mind, and Soul”; “Coping and Self-care” and a roster of products designed to pamper oneself beyond comprehension.
I suspect there are many good tips to be found in such a search and I’m certainly not opposed to a hot, relaxing bath on a cold winter night. But is that the answer to self-care? Is it really about pampering, treating, and escaping?
Recently I bumped into an article by Brianna Wiest with a fresh take on this topic. She proposes:
Self-care is often a very unbeautiful thing …. It is often doing the ugliest thing that you have to do, like sweat through another workout or tell a toxic friend you don’t want to see them anymore or get a second job so you can have a savings account or figure out a way to accept yourself so that you’re not constantly exhausted from trying to be everything, all the time and then needing to take deliberate, mandated breaks from living to do basic things like drop some oil into a bath and read Marie Claire and turn your phone off for the day.”
She continues with a definition that resonates deeply with me. “True self-care is not salt baths and chocolate cake, it is making the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from.”
Building a life you don’t need to regularly escape from. Making the choice to build that life.
Perhaps this sentiment strikes a chord with me because of my passion for living with healthy boundaries. There is similarity between self-care and living a life with boundaries in that both include choices I have: to say yes or no; to speak the truth in love or avoid conflict; to build quiet space into each day or run wildly from dawn to dusk.
I do get to choose. Not everything, of course, because “life happens,” but I have to take responsibility for who I am and how I live.
So I ask, am I building a life with enough margin to accommodate the daily “unexpecteds” or will a surprise meeting derail me? Do I intentionally set aside time for quiet reflection, prayer, and reading or is the treadmill moving too quickly?
Is the treadmill moving at all? Have I built regular exercise into my routine along with healthy eating habits? Do I foster meaningful relationships, cultivate community and share joys and burdens with others? Are play and fun a habit?
As I generated this list of self check-in questions, I recognize how six weeks of sickness has thrown me off course in some areas which, in the name of “taking good care of myself,” is reasonable. However, the choice to get back on track is now mine.
And it’s hard work!
But it’s worth establishing that life from which I didn’t need or want to escape. My sore muscles, from the gym, remind me that strength can, and will return. Re-connecting with friends – now that fear of spreading “the plague” is gone – nourishes my soul.
I’m grateful that the author of this blog took time to sit and write. It’s been a timely reminder for me to take up my life and, by God’s grace, live it fully.
With love and gratitude,
In The Midst