Coming Up for Air

I know friends, I know! It’s been over a month since I’ve had the joy of sharing words with you. Now here’s the thing. I would like to make excuses based on the following list of tasks I’m handling:

  1. My awesome three small children
  2. My first ever garden
  3. Laundry
  4. I’m still (!) continuing to settle my Dad’s estate a year and three months after his departure
  5. The necessity that meals be made three times a day
  6. My joyful contribution to Quiver Tree Photography (I promise this list is not a complaint list! I love working alongside the Hubs!)
  7. Laundry

But really? Those excuses are not valid. It’s been on my heart to share a number of things here recently, but sadly, I haven’t been taking (making?) the time to do it. I’m excited to discuss my cloth diapering experience with you guys, to share photos from the last trip to SA, and to mostly just talk about God’s goodness — a topic I still haven’t gotten tired of.

But today, I’m coming up for air (because I feel a bit like I’ve been swimming under water and I need to see which way I’m headed…perhaps you can relate?) to ask you an important question. Which starts with an observation.  {And the reason why my list isn’t exactly valid.}

Writing is the thing that makes me come alive inside. I love to write. LOVE. And the way Eric Liddell spoke about how he loved to run, that when he ran “He felt the Lord’s pleasure” with him, I get that sense about writing. I sense that the Lord says write and speaks to me and through me when I do.

But then, hold up — you might say — why isn’t writing on that list up there, ya cottonheadedninnymuggins?

Isn’t that a funny thing? One important thing I absolutely believe I was created to do isn’t on my to-do list?

Here’s my diagnosis: The world does not always give us permission to do the things we love. Sometimes we even begin to feel guilty about taking time to do the things we love. Here are some reasons you might have for not going after something you love:

  1. It doesn’t make any money. (Often a major one these days among us capitalists, I think).
  2. It requires time that you don’t feel you ought to give it.
  3. It might require some monetary investment… and you feel like you just can’t do that.
  4. You’re afraid of trying to do it and failing.

That list could go on and on, but you get the point. We often feel like we need some sort of “permission” from the world around us to go after something we love. To take a risk and dive in to something new.

I once read a story (tell me if you can remember where) about a young man who was on a trip with his Dad and his brothers, and they were going to go hike up Mt. Rainier together. The views along the hike are breathtaking, and Seattle spreads out like a blanket in front of this beautiful peak.

When they arrived at the National Park’s Visitor Center, he got scared. There were (a few) interesting things to see around the visitor center, so, really out of fear, he excused himself from the hike and stayed at the visitor center. His Dad and brothers went on the hike, but he stayed behind and waited for them to return. He learned a lot about Mount Rainier at that Visitor Center, but fear kept him from truly experiencing Mount Rainier, and afterwards, he regretted the choice he made.

Is there anything in your life, right now, that you think, in five or ten years’ time, you’ll look back on and think, “Gosh, I wish I’d just made some time to ____________ back then”?

Trying to do something you love in a world that is telling you to just get on with being productive can feel a bit like hiking up a mountain. Scary for some, exciting for others. 

Know that the thing you love to do does not need to make money for you in order for it to be valid.

Lots of people enjoy photography as a hobby. They eventually decide to begin working as photographers, charging for photo sessions. They feel that they are validating their hobby, by turning it into a paycheck. But the truth is, they aren’t really doing what they love. They don’t necessarily enjoy working with people they’ve never met before or children or dogs. They find paid photo sessions incredibly stressful. They don’t want to quit their full time job to pursue photography, and they’re in this sort of limbo, where they’ve started turning something they passionately enjoyed into something to help pay bills, which has turned it something they no longer enjoy.

The truth is, sometimes photography can be a profession and still be a passion (we know this personally), but sometimes a person needs to have a 9 to 5 doing something else, to allow photography the space to be something they enjoy as a creative outlet when they’re not working.

For me, writing isn’t paying any bills (yet) but it makes me come alive inside, and I love it. So I should stop waiting for the world to give me permission to do something I love and believe I was created to do.

What is that thing for you? Is it screaming inside your head as you’re reading these words? Shouting “stop ignoring me, please!” perhaps?

Here’s an important truth:

Dreams

 

via the awesome Jon Acuff

The world might neither give you permission nor encouragement to follow your dreams and do what you love. And it is likely it will give you resistance.

But the first step is acknowledging there is something you’re not doing that you’d really love to do. And the next step is to figure out how, even by tiny measures, you can actively work toward making that dream a reality.

So ask yourself: what’s it going to take to get me off the sidelines and onto the field?

Let me be one voice today giving you permission to give some of your time, your heart, your self to doing something you love.

xCC

Home

A little over nine months ago, I was in my brother’s car. We’d left the hospital where my Dad lay unconscious, still breathing, but almost no longer with us. Russ was getting a bite to eat, I was getting fresh air, and it was hard to know what to say, what to think, what was going to happen over the next few days.

A song came on the radio that I’d heard several times before, but this time it began to haunt me. I felt like maybe it was a whisper from the Lord. I listened intently, deer frozen in headlights, but the lyrics didn’t yet mean anything to me — I was sort of numb with grief, so heavy-hearted. Grounded in the passenger seat of my brother’s car, and simultaneously lost at sea.

A few days later, I watched my Dad breathe the last breaths he would ever breathe, and I entered a journey of grief — so sudden, so unexpected, such a crevasse… a frightening abyss.

From time to time, I’d hear that song again, and be whisked back to that moment in my brother’s car. Sitting in the passenger seat — clearly not driving, not steering the ship, not in control of what was happening around me.

It took a while for me to not cry if the song came on… but still, I wanted to hear it, and hear it again.

The week before Christmas, for the first time, truly, I was deeply, profoundly, greatly surprised by joy again. I’d been out grocery shopping, and an international collection of reusable shopping bags scattered our kitchen floor. The Belle crawled in to inspect all the interesting things at baby’s-eye-level.

She proceeded to find a cupboard she could open and unpack. While she pulled things out here, I put things away there, and eventually I sat down beside her to repack the random assortment of boxes and bags she’d pulled to the floor. Once everything was packed away, still seated on the floor, I lifted her up over my head, and she squealed with delight at the fun of the moment.

I lay flat on my back on the floor for a while, lifting and tickling the baby, intentionally choosing the moment over the continual rush of what was tapping on my shoulder, the next thing on the to-do list.

In the moment, I was overwhelmed with joy, reminded of the gifts I’ve been counting in my heart and sometimes on paper. The simple convergence of a decision to be in the moment, to enjoy this little girl who’s changing every day, and a few giggles and laughs was enough to create such an overflow of glee in my heart, it spilled out in happy tears on my cheeks.

Grief has been a long and an unfamiliar road, and it’s a road I’m still traveling.

I still furrow my brow just thinking about the journey, even though I can see so many gifts along the way.

Last night I was joyful to say Goodbye to 2013. Along with a couple of million other Instagram users and Facebookers and social media addicts, I created a little “Flipagram” with lots of my favorite camera-phone images from 2013. {You can view it here.}

flipagram

I selected a few dozen images, and then the option of choosing a song appeared, and instantly that same beautiful, haunting song came to mind. I searched and scrolled to find it, selected it, and listened again, as images from this past year flew by.

The song is called Home, by Phillip Phillips, and there was just this one lyric I couldn’t get past: what is this place that is going to be Home? Where is home? If God has something to say to me, what is He saying about where home will be for a girl who’s lost her Dad and now feels just a little less attached to planet Earth than I did a year ago?

But today was the day for it to finally hit me. If these are the whispers of Jesus — this God-whisper has the encouraging truth I was missing: whether we are here on Earth, or we’ve breathed our last and flown away some glad morning, the home we should all be longing for is in the Presence of God.

The Christmas we celebrate is so significant because of the coming of the presence of God, as a human on Earth.

The death and Resurrection we revere is so significant because it paves the way for us, though we are messed up and fallen and broken still, to find our way back to that home — that place where we most belong, the glorious presence of an incredibly loving God — there and waiting, arms wide open all along. Prodigals, come home and rejoice!

That first shower on New Year’s morning seems to be an epiphany moment for me always — and today was no different.

The melody was in my mind again. I could hear the God-whisper in those lyrics, and finally, my heart understood:

Hold on, to me as we go
As we roll down this unfamiliar road
And although this wave (wave) is stringing us along
Just know you’re not alone
Cause I’m gonna make this place your home

Settle down, it’ll all be clear
Don’t pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found

Just know you’re not alone
Cause I’m gonna make this place your home

This indeed has been a year where trouble has dragged me down. Where voices in dark corners have whispered fear that shook my very soul.

It has been a year of getting lost. It has been a year of being found.

And the glory of it all is learning, deeper still, to make the presence of God the home where I live always — in this life and the next. God has been the one to hold onto, who has rolled with me down this unfamiliar road. Me, in the passenger seat and out of control, wishing things could be different, mourning what was lost, disappointed at what happened, what was done and wouldn’t come ’round again.

What a promise it was — when He said He’d never leave us.

If there’s one wish, one hope, one resolute commitment for me in the year to come, it’s to constantly say yes to the God who wants to make His Presence my home.

Troubles might drag us down, but if we get lost we can always be found. Friend, know you’re not alone, and this year, make His heart your home.

 xCC

How We Do Health Care

How We Do Health Care

Hey guys and gals — I’m interrupting the regularly scheduled 31Days posts (but not skipping a day — I will post again tomorrow!) just to share a bit about how we do health care. I started a post about this topic in February of this year… yes… but finally decided, with a nudge from the legislation of el gobierno, Okay, I’m getting too many questions NOT to write this post. (Otherwise I’ll be answering the same questions over and over, right?)

So with no more than eight months’ ado, here’s the skinny on how we do Health Care:

We are a part of a Christian Health Care sharing ministry called Samaritan’s Ministries International. {Not affiliated with Samaritan’s Purse or Samaritan’s Feet…} Their system is pretty simple and we love it, because it feels like we are a part of the body of believers in a great, tangible way.

T2WwaC

{Image from a card I received from a fellow SMI member when my Dad died. Source.}

HOW IT WORKS

Each month, SMI sends a newsletter with the name of a person who has had a health care issue, explains the issue (not in great detail – that might be weird) and sends their address. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to pray for that person, and send your ministry “share” (your check) directly to that member who has a need. Our share is $370 per month — and (bonus for us) this amount does not change regardless of the number of children you have.

You send your share to a fellow member 11 months a year, and directly to the SMI offices to cover administrative costs 1 month a year.

So, for example, the month I started writing this post we were sending our check to a couple in Asheville — the husband recently had surgery for prostrate cancer. And when I submitted the doctor’s bills for the Belle’s pregnancy and delivery, we began receiving checks from other members with notes of encouragement and so on, to cover our bills.

WHEN YOU GET SICK

When you have some sort of health-related issue, you simply pay the bill yourself (or wait, if needs be), submit the need to SMI, and then “reimburse yourself.” Or, if you’d rather, you can wait until the funds come in from your SMI submission, and then pay the bills. {Just keep in mind sometimes you get a nice discount for prompt payment, which is kind of better for everybody, if you can swing it. But sometimes it’s good to wait longer — it seems like discounts are sometimes easier to negotiate when you’ve taken your time about paying a bill. Hard to decide what to do sometimes! SMI folks can help if you’re in a conundrum.}

MAKING A CLAIM

In SMI speak, Making a Claim is called Submitting (and Publishing) a Need. (An eligible need is “published” when it is sent to other members of SMI so that they send their gifts to cover your need.) Needs are only publishable if they are:

1) Over $300 (up to $250,000)

2) Not needs that you had before you became a member of SMI.

Because SMI is less expensive than most traditional health care options, you do have to budget for the fact that a routine doctor’s visit will not be covered, unless it’s more than $300. (But what doctor are you visiting whose routine visits are more than $300??)

But because SMI is not Health Insurance, you are considered self-pay and usually receive a very significant discount because of that. (i.e., the Belle’s $128 baby check-ups are often reduced to $58. Which to me indicates something is wrong with the health care system in general but never you mind.)

DISCOUNTS

In many cases, you are able to negotiate discounts on health care costs. For example, by offering to go ahead and pay three different bills related to my pregnancy with the Belle, the company I needed to pay for the lab tests (or whatever) was willing to knock something to the tune of $600 off the total amount owed. When I submitted those bills to SMI, and indicated that I received that discount I negotiated, the $300 deductible was reduced to nothing. Better explained:

If you are able to negotiate a discount off your bill, that amount will come off the standard initial $300 deductible, and you’ll just pay the remaining amount you owe. If you negotiate a $50 discount, you’ll just pay $250 out of pocket and the remaining amount will be published by SMI.

I ended up paying about $0 for my pregnancy and delivery with the Belle.

IF THERE ARE MORE NEEDS THAN SHARES

On months where the total amount of needs being submitted is higher than the number of shares scheduled to be sent, the needs are prorated to cover as much as possible across the board. For example, SMI might only be able to publish 90% of the amount of your need. Members are then encouraged to send an additional amount if they are able to. You might be able to negotiate additional discounts if you haven’t paid your bill yet. One way or another (Keep Calm and Trust God) it generally works out. And if/when people do make additional gifts to cover pro-rated needs, SMI will touch base to see what happened and if you need additional funds.

PRACTICAL OUTWORKINGS

In March of this year, my Dad, who had not been an SMI member for very long, suddenly had a heart attack, spent a week in the hospital in the Cardiac ICU, and then I saw him for the last time I’d see him this side of heaven and he was gone.

About $140,000 worth of medical bills were left behind.

Nearly $17,000 was knocked off his main hospital bill because he was an organ donor, which was awesome. (And guys, please consider being an organ donor. It blesses me to know that a woman with three grandchildren received a kidney transplant when my Dad died — something positive out of something so hard.)

But, for you non-mathematicians out there, we still owed… 100,000 + 3700 + 4,000… um, a LOT.

When the bills came in, I gathered them up, filled out the necessary paperwork (which by the way is impressively little) and submitted the need to SMI.

Needs are usually published around 30 – 60 days after their submission, and it took me a while to get everything together (the hospital actually took a long time to send the main bill???). So, in September of this year, my Dad’s need was published and hundreds of checks began to arrive in our mailbox in the days that followed. Many of them complete with beautiful cards, prayers and notes of encouragement and Scriptures — and WOW did it mean a lot to me.

The knowledge that so many people had prayed for my family was very powerful, very meaningful. The checks have been deposited to the Estate’s bank account, and I will be paying the bills in the days ahead.

Because the need was such a large amount, even though September was a month where they needed to prorate needs, SMI decided to divide my Dad’s need up and publish it over two months to make sure we got the full amount. Which was HUGE. And just blessed my soul.

To me, it is absolutely evidence of the body of Christ in action.

Every time I called SMI to get their help in the process of submitting needs after my Dad’s death, someone ended the conversation by asking if they could pray for me. EVERY time. It was such a gift, and though it often brought me to tears, it often overwhelmed me with the knowledge that the Lord was with me through that very challenging time.

FIND OUT MORE:

This is by no means a comprehensive explanation of SMI. You’re welcome to ask questions in the comments but I would love it if you would first visit their website and especially check out their detailed FAQ page.

Here’s my little Pros & Cons breakdown:

The Pros:

  • It is not as expensive as health insurance, and we love the “vision” of Christians sharing with one another as they have need.
  • They cover almost any medical needs, except for ones that existed before a person became a member with SMI. If there are large needs that existed before the person became a member, they will often still send out “Special Prayer Needs” and ask members to give something if they would like to and are able to help.
  • As previously explained, the first $300 of any need is to be covered by the member, so if you have a $75 doctor visit, you’ll be paying that out of pocket. But, if you submit a need over $300 and you’re able to negotiate a discount, the discount you negotiate will reduce the deductible. (And when you explain to a health care provider that you are self-pay, they often have a discount — even $75 bills have been reduced for me just because I’ve asked about this.) Since we negotiated multiple deductions for my pregnancy and delivery, we haven’t had to pay anything.
  • They give you a monthly prayer guide, so you are praying for other SMI members with medical issues around the world each day. It is a beautiful connection in the body.

The Cons:

  • It can sometimes take time for the need to be submitted and for you to begin receiving shares. So this could either affect your cashflow or you could have a special savings account just for medical expenses… or you could use a credit card if you willing. Or you can just wait to pay the bills… we have had some of our bills reduced just because we took our time about paying them!
  • Not having coverage for smaller doctor’s visits can be a bummer if finances are tight — but budgeting for this when possible should make that okay.
  • It is probably easier to pull out an insurance card than to have to keep track of shares and submit medical bills. (But remember — convenience often comes at a price and I think our country is feeling that price right now. )
  • If there are more needs than shares in a particular month, your need might be “pro-rated” and only be covered 80-90%. In this case, they often encourage people to give a little extra to help cover things.

MY PERSONAL OPINION

Overall, we have been EXTREMELY happy with SMI. It is perhaps a little less “convenient” than health insurance, but since it seems like the health insurance system is a mess that’s only getting worse, and we are very happy to be doing it this way – probably saving a lot of money, and participating in a church-minded way of bearing one another’s burdens as we are encouraged in Scripture.

You can check out their website at www.samaritanministries.org to find out more about how they work. And if you do sign up, please let them know Caroline Collie referred you — one of our monthly shares will be discounted as a result, and since I spent a gabillion hours trying to write all this in a blog post, that would be awesome!

xCC

 

Ears Wide Shut

Ears Wide Shut

I occasionally marvel at the incredible ability my children sometimes have to hear something coming out of my mouth but not listen to a single word I’m saying. We might be in close proximity, or I might be calling from the other room — somehow they are born with an in-built ability to completely tune out the sound of my voice once they reach eighteen months or so.

I was contemplating my own listening patterns this morning, however, and realized my children and I have something in common. Sometimes I sense the still, small voice of the Lord whispering something to my heart, but I want to keep doing what I’m doing, so I don’t give it any of my attention.

Over the weekend, I was busy getting a bunch of stuff done around the house that needed doing. My Mom had come over to help and we were knocking out laundry by the basketload, I was scrubbing tubs, she was changing sheets — it was a very busy morning, but it felt so good to be getting so much accomplished. During an eager floor-scrubbing session, I sensed the whisper of the Lord, almost one of those taps on the shoulder that you feel in your heart. It seemed like an invitation to sit still for a moment.

DSC_5997.jpg

I’m sad to say I kept on working. My Mom was helping, I was eager to get stuff done, perhaps I was afraid the Lord was displeased with me and didn’t want to hear what He had to say. But looking back, and knowing how good and sweet His words are, how full of life, I realized it was a missed opportunity.

I forgot that, in my case, (I can’t always say the same for my children), communing with the Creator of the Universe is a privilege not to be taken lightly.

Sarah Young points out in Jesus Calling that “Kings who reign on earth tend to make themselves inaccessible; ordinary people almost never gain an audience with them.” But how glorious is it that the Lord, though King of the Universe, is totally accessible to you and me, and is with us wherever we are! (p.281)

And Isaiah 55:3 says,

Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen and you will find life. I will make an everlasting covenant with you. I will give you the unfailing love I promised David.

God’s invitation to come includes promises like rest for the weary, an easy burden and a light yoke, grace, mercy that’s new every morning, compassion that never fails.

I wonder what marvelous gifts from the Lord’s heart I’ve missed, all the times I’ve decided to close my ears and just “do what I want to do.”

In the case of my kids, the number one solution I’ve found to the ears wide shut problem is often asking them to look at me. I usually say, “[Kid name] look at my eyes.” I wait for them to stop what they’re doing and change their gaze to meet mine, and then I am able to communicate with them whatever it is I want to say.

And perhaps there’s a very good parallel to hearing from the Lord. That still small voice can’t be heard if your own voice is shouting, your own heart is beating loudly from exhaustive efforts, your own hands are working and making a din of their own.

Sometimes, He does whisper while we work. But sometimes, we must be willing to come with ears wide open, to put down the  dishcloth or the iPhone, the expense report or the dirty laundry.

He’s asking us to Be Still and Know {Ps. 46:10} and if we can’t be still, then we won’t know.

Have you sensed that gentle nudge, that shoulder tap, the warm sense in your chest lately? Don’t be afraid to stop what you’re doing and turn your gaze to meet that of your Creator. Put down what you can for a while, and let the eyes of your soul rest on His.

Listen, and you will find life.

xCC

That Still, Small Voice

It all started with two completely different incidents that told me the same thing. First, there was a book a friend thought I should borrow. Someone else had recommended it back when my Dad was in the hospital. It was about a doctor who had a near-death experience and spent an extended period in a coma. When, against all odds, he regained consciousness, he had a story to tell about the experience “on the other side.” Since two people had recommended it, I figured it was worth giving it a read.

A few chapters into the book, something just started to seem off to me — and with a nod at giving as much respect as possible to the experience this guy says he had, something in my gut was just going Uh-un. {Let’s also acknowledge another fact that I had to come to terms with — this guy was in a coma for seven days and had a miraculous recovery, and my Dad was in a coma for seven days, with a very different ending.} By the time I was almost midway through the book, I sensed this whisper — that quiet voice where you’re not sure why, you just know it in your knower. And the whisper said, “Stop reading this. It’s not good for you.”

Being the very sensitive and thoughtful gal that I am, I promptly reasoned out why I needed to continue reading the book in my own mind. My counterarguments included the fact that I would have to tell the truth if my friend asked what I thought: “Um, thanks but, I kinda dropped that book like a bad habit” and another thought, which I rarely live up to, “it’s good to finish things, you’ve started, right?”

IMG_1346

But a chapter or two later the whisper was unmistakable — and I finally closed the book and only opened it again to remove the business card I’d turned into a bookmark.

Over the next few days, I pondered the reason why I needed to close the book, and it became clear that the guy was describing an experience of the afterlife that doesn’t line up with Biblical Theology. In contrast, if you read Heaven is For Real, for example, the things that Colton Burpo describes about his near death experience agree with descriptions of heaven in the Bible. The encouragement about the beauty and greatness, and goodness of Jesus in that book strengthened my faith and encouraged me to dig deeper, celebrate more, remember again how great and powerful, and how kind and loving God is.

This book, instead, left this icky feeling in my gut, as if I was trying to build a brick house with sand instead of bricks — trying to pull together something that was never going to build anything, never give me a firm place to stand. And it just made me feel bummed I lost my Dad, really.

But a redemptive purpose was at hand — the bigger lesson behind the experience. The real sermon in the nutshell was:

The Holy Spirit is speaking. I might hear, but I am not listening or obeying.

A few days later, a completely different encounter seemed to whisper the same message. I am still juggling many tasks surrounding the settling of my Dad’s estate, and picking up an estate-related check at a lawyer’s office about twenty minutes away was on the list. I decided on a whim, about forty minutes before lunchtime, to throw the kiddies in the car and quickly run this errand before lunch. And — maybe I should mention — I didn’t know exactly where the lawyer’s office was.

Sometimes stupidity looks a lot like bravery.

I loaded the small people into the van with no small amount of effort, and was eventually ready to go, after running back inside to grab something and something else at least twice. Neither of those something elses were a diaper bag, by the way. I didn’t even remember that.

Finally pulling out of park and into reverse, I glanced over my shoulder to see a big red truck in the driveway. I put the swagger wagon back in park and hopped out to find out Who and What. A roofing estimate was ready and the gentleman who’d done the estimate dropped it off personally to explain a few things. I thanked him for the estimate, and after a brief chat hopped back in the car to get going.

And there was that whisper again.

This is not a good idea. Put the car back in park and take the kids back inside. Don’t.

But brave (stupid) me, being the sensitive and thoughtful gal that I am, promptly reasoned This needs to get done. And, it’ll be really quick. And, I’ll feel like thebombdotcom if I manage to cross another chore off the list with three kids in tow. And, I’ll call the hubs and he can help me navigate my way there since… look at that… Google Maps doesn’t actually know how to get me there.

An hour later, I was back where I started. In the driveway at our house. With a crying baby, two whining and hungry kids, and no check. I never found the lawyer’s office. Google Maps and Bing completely failed me. An extended detour wasted a good twenty plus minutes of my time. It. was. a. stupid. waste. of. time.

And there the message was again, a solid sermon in a nutshell:

The Holy Spirit is speaking. I might hear, but I am not listening, or obeying.

We took a trip up to the mountains a few weekends ago celebrate our anniversary. In six years of marriage, we’ve lived in three countries, had three kids, and called about six different places home. There is good cause for celebration.

I decided to “unplug” for the weekend. My laptop stayed at home, my phone was only used for the purpose of calling or texting, and I kept that to a minimum. And I learned a few things in the process.

First, if you can figure out where your heart is by observing where your mind is, my mind wonders where my phone is, and not where my heart is, no less than twenty times a day. If HH walks out of the room — even just to the loo — I immediately grab my phone to glance at how my game of Words with Friends is going, the time, maybe my email, or … you guessed it… Facebook.

And I mean what I say — if my mind immediately thinks PHONE before I sit down to nurse a baby, before I change from one room to another, anytime someone exits the room, or when I’m about to go to the bathroom — my phone is where I am devoting a heap of my time and attention.

Here’s some scary sauce for you. It’s the definition of worship:

The reverent love and devotion accorded a deity, an idol, or a sacred object.

My pattern is clearly one where I show more love and devotion to this sacred object that I constantly keep in close proximity, rather than the Deity — the Lord, my God, my Savior, the One I want to call my All in All.

If step one is diagnosing the problem, step two is finding the solution.

I started by apologizing to God. Lord, You’re the best thing that ever happened to me, and I’ve repeatedly sold you out for an extra half hour of youtube before bed.

And then I apologized to my Words with Friends buddies, acknowledging that if I don’t have time for my Lord, my Bible, or prayer, then I don’t have time for Words With Friends. Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That, replied my understanding friend, Mona.

I proceeded to begin deleting apps my from my phone. And I began to feel a great weight lifting. The self-inflicted pressure of keeping up with social media fluttered away. No, Pages Manager App, I don’t care that we got new likes. Sorry, Facebook, you are no longer allowed to notify me every time anything happens. To anybody anywhere ever.

But more important than the removal of the things that are not beneficial is bringing in the things that are. This means renewing my commitment to choose a reasonable bedtime over an episode of whatever show it is at the moment we’re barreling through a season of on Amazon Prime. What a novel idea — to get up early and be with the Lord, rather than to stay up late just to be entertained!

My Dad would’ve turned 65 today. And dealing with losing him is a constant reminder that we don’t know how much time we have — and time is the one thing we can’t buy more of — so it’s in our best interest to give ourselves a good long look in the mirror to ask — what am I doing with the time I’ve been given?

Just as the bucket empties just the same whether you knock it over or it has a slow leak, I am praying for help as I slowly take baby steps toward re-focusing, re-centering, and re-committing to live a circumspect life with Jesus at the center. He will fill up the cup to overflowing again, He will show me what to do with the time that I have. Thank heavens for a God who comes near to the contrite (Psalm 34:18) — I regret allowing urgency to determine my daily course of action, and allowing entertainment to pretty much fill all the space between one urgent task and the next one.

More thoughts on this Re-centering are on the way, but in the meantime, I’d love a slice of your story. Do you feel like you’re making the most of the time that you have, or do you feel caught in a cycle of distraction?

xCC

 

P.S. Thanks so much for your prayers when I shared a message about my Dad on Father’s Day. If you’d like to hear it, you can download it here. I kept it together – and I know prayer had everything to do with that. Thank you.

Messy Grief

For the first time last night, I had a dream with my Dad in it, and I understood, in the dream, that he was no longer alive. But then the strangest thing happened. Somehow, in the hodgepodge blur I remember, he wasn’t alive, but I could still see him, as if he was, and we were dancing.

And strangely enough, we weren’t dancing, like I might remember as a little girl, with my feet on his, or like I might remember from my wedding day, when my fluffy dress made me feel like I was floating on a cloud, and I paused a few times in our dance to get my steps together again, with a little side to side arm action and a twist thrown in, with hopes that it didn’t look like I was a mess.

It wasn’t a classy snapshot memory at all. Instead, we were on a tennis court, but I think indoors, and I think at a party, and he was at least ten or fifteen feet away from me, and we were doing the electric slide. But that line down the middle of the tennis court was between us, and neither of us could cross it. But it was still somehow good, us both dancing.

I have absolutely no memory of my Dad doing the electric slide, ever. But I have to admit, in my dream last night, he was throwing some sweet shapes on the dance floor. And he looked younger and he had more hair, and, it’s honestly hard to believe, he did not have an ECU baseball cap on.

I suppose it’s safe to say this little snippet of my life, this snippet of a dream where I felt confused but I think happy at the same time, is a bit like grief itself.

Strange, and messy.

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I’ve cried more tears than I thought I was capable of crying. I’ve laughed harder, fuller and deeper than I thought I would for a while. And somewhere in between trying to figure out the work of settling an estate and supporting my talented hubs (you need family pictures soon, right?) and loving and nurturing and raising three kiddiddles, I am walking the road of this really messy thing called grief.

‘Messy’ is as best a term as I can muster – for when you will erupt in tears at a simple question for no particular reason, when you will avoid things you know need to get done {ahem, thank you notes} because you just know they’re going to be less cathartic than you hope, and really just downright hard. For when you find yourself simultaneously wanting to cheer and to cry when you realize your two-year-old still sometimes pretends to call G-pa on his “cell-phone” {calculator} or he cheers when he sees G-pa’s picture on your Facebook profile.

Grief is just plain messy.

At this stage in it, I’m running more errands than I want to and writing a lot less than I want to. (And probably need to.) But I’m focusing on staying focused, {ironic, hey?} and trying to make sure the tasks on the estate-settling list get crossed off, and I still get wholesome meals on the table. But sometimes it’s Dominos.

The busy is probably good, even though it’s hard. And the memories I’m making with my kids, cherishing them and creating opportunities for love and laughs and learning, this is where the best stuff, the most-healing stuff is happening.

God whispers gently: there is so much good still to come. He is also whispering hope and life and faith, through the voices of Sunday sermons, blog posts, His amazing Word and strong and solid teachings, like this gem by A.W. Tozer.

The most beautiful reminder of all, in my Dad’s absence, is the constant reminder of the Lord’s presence. I’m aiming to fix the gaze of my soul on God. {Thanks, Tozer.}

Perhaps it’s a valley I’m walking through, that somehow still has some beautiful hills to climb — it’s messy to describe, but it is a place where I know there is a God who makes every path smooth by His grace.

Next Sunday I’ll be sharing about my Dad’s faith journey at the church he called home for a good while. Appropriately, it’s Father’s Day. My heart is certain there are some stories to tell, my hope is that the Lord will give me the grace to tell those stories — and communicate the greater truth behind them — well. {I’d appreciate your prayers, and if you’re local, you are welcome.}

Right now the truth I’m aiming to cling to that I offer to you as well is this: He loves us. Oh, how He loves us.

That night, in the hospital, when the end was beginning and everything was a messy blur, this was the Word, when I opened the Bible on my phone:

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He was there for me, an abiding Presence, through the toughest week of my life.

Friends, He loves us. Amen.

xCC