DNA

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It was 44 degrees here in West Palm Beach yesterday morning.  So, of course,  I opened all the windows.  I couldn’t help myself.

It’s in my DNA.

It felt like Christmas morning.  As soon as I woke up, I quickly checked the weather app on my phone to see if the forecast had been correct.  Indeed, it had been.  Within a few minutes I was bundled up in the fleece sweatshirt I never get a chance to wear unless I turn down the air conditioning, and my hands were wrapped around a steaming mug of coffee with the porch door open and the curtains blowing in the “arctic” breezes. I felt completely at home.

You see, there’s not a gene in my body that was meant for the tropics where I happen to live.  I’ve been doing some ancestry research (complete with spitting in a DNA test tube to verify my ethnicity) and tracking down “my people” across the centuries and the seas.  They came from Sweden and Switzerland.  And that DNA test?  It showed that I’m 73% Scandinavian. My people came from lands of mountains and snow and long winters.  Places where a fleece sweatshirt would be part of the daily wardrobe instead of a once or twice a year treat. I honestly think I get excited about chilly temps dipping down into South Florida because it’s in my blood to feel at home in a cooler climate.

Oh yes, God has a sense of humor, placing me in the land of eternal summer when my DNA is more suited to snow.

Maybe it’s the same way with our spiritual DNA.  We’re wired and created for another place, one so unlike the place we find ourselves now.  God says that he has “set eternity in our hearts” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).  We may find ourselves with a longing and an ache for the place where everything will be perfect and right. We know this world is not really our home with its troubles and tears. But for today and for whatever days God ordains for us, this is where we are.  So we wait and thrive and grow and learn and serve, and watch for glimpses of what will be.

For me, my glorious little cold front was a glimpse into something much more grand and eternally important.  There will come a day when I’m exactly where God created me to be.  With Him. Forever. But until then, I’ll look forward to days when I can open the windows and wear my fleece sweatshirt when the temperatures dip.  And be reminded to set my heart on eternity.

Since it’s in my DNA.

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand.  Colossians 3:1

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Philippians 3:20

But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.  Hebrews 11:16

Photo by PICSELI on Unsplash

ME

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Sometimes we ask for signs.  Sometimes we don’t ask for them (because we really don’t want them), but God gives them to us anyway.  Sometimes there are mornings like this, when the signs are literal. And big. And neon.

It’s been a tough week.  I was reminded over and over again of my tendency towards self-centeredness.  As I was praying a difficult prayer of confession out loud in my car on the way to work this morning, God agreed with me.  I kind of hate when He does that.

There it was.  In big neon letters.  “ME AGAIN”.  I’m not kidding.  There’s a local consignment store here in West Palm Beach called “HOME AGAIN”.  Only the “h” and the “o” were burned out.  So in the dark, pre-dawn hours, there it was, shining brightly on the side of the road.  “ME AGAIN”.  Just as I was telling God how prideful I can be, He didn’t try to make me feel better.  He agreed with me.

“ME AGAIN” comes so naturally to us.  Our sin nature pulls us in that direction time and time again.  It’s easy to ignore it or minimize it, to think we’re not that bad, to see the obvious pride in others but not in ourselves. I wish I could have gone back and taken a picture, one that would forever remind me of my desire to put myself first, to focus on my needs instead of the needs of others.

But you know, something tells me I will remember it, even without the picture.  I’m hoping that each time I begin to go down the path of pride, I’ll think about that sign and be quicker to make the conscious choice to not to have it be all about “me again”.  Prayers of confession aren’t always accompanied by literal and shining confirmations from God that we are indeed sinful creatures.  We’d like to just confess, wrap it up and get on with our lives. He will always forgive, but maybe God knows that we still need to think about it for awhile, to have the reminder ready for the next time pride rears its ugly head.

And as we all know, there will be a next time.

Thanks, Home Again.  Your burned out bulbs gave me an extra honest time with God this morning, and reminded me once more that it can’t be all about “ME AGAIN”.

 

Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:18

A person’s pride will humble him, but a humble spirit will gain honor. Proverbs 29:23

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?  Jeremiah 17:9

 

Photo by Olivia Snow on Unsplash

 

Storms

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Sometimes you weather literal storms, like ones named Irma who leave you without electricity for 10 days.  And sometimes you weather more personal ones, like the death of one of your best friends, which leaves you with a hole in your heart.

September 2017 will not be forgotten easily.  The dire warnings and use of the words “catastrophic” and “worst case scenario” by meteorologists started coming on Labor Day, a good 6 days before Irma was expected to impact us.  It was a week of uncertainty and fear.  When it was determined that my home might not be the safest place to “hunker down” (another term I’d be ok with never hearing again), gracious friends invited me to weather the storm with them.

The prediction of a direct hit for my area turned out to be wrong, but we still had the Category 1 winds.  When I arrived back home the morning after Irma blew through Florida, everything was intact.  Except the electricity.  What followed were hot and sticky days and nights where my only salvation was a battery operated fan which miraculously kept running when I was convinced those batteries should have been dead.   I made a quick trip to New Jersey for relief, and then came home again 4 days later to two more dark and hot nights.  When the power company finally pulled into my parking lot on the evening of September 19th, I almost kissed them.

The other September storm in my life caused an ache that won’t be fixed with a visit from Florida Power and Light.

A dear friend lost his courageous battle with cancer on Monday afternoon.  I’m so grateful that I had the chance to see him one more time the night before, to pray with him and ask that he would find peace with God in those dark hours of pain.  We didn’t know they would be his final hours.

I realized this morning that both of these storms drew me closer to the One who calms the seas and stops the wind.  When I was fearful of what could potentially happen when Irma arrived, God gave reassurance that no matter what, He would provide for me, even if it meant the loss of my home or worse.  And when I received the news that Noel had been released from his earthly struggles, God saw my tears, and I remembered how Jesus wept at the death of a friend as well.

There will always be storms.  Some we know about days in advance and have ample time to prepare for, and some hit hard and fast and leave you reeling, wondering what happens next.   But our response needs to be the same.

Look for God in the middle of them.

“Master, Master, we are perishing”.  Then He arose and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased and there was a calm.  Luke 8:24

He calms the storm, so that its waves are still.  Psalm 107:29

You rule the raging of the seas, when its waves rise, you still them.  Psalm 89:9

 

Punctual

 

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I was born on my due date.  And I’ve been punctual ever since.

My Mom was just recounting the story of my birth to me again a few nights ago.  I was due on July 19th.  Her doctor assured her that I wouldn’t be coming for some time, so he proceeded to go on vacation.  But apparently even then, I’d have none of that nonsense.  Sure enough, on July 19th at 9:30pm, I made my entrance into the world.  I blame that for all the subsequent years of worrying that I’d be late for something.  Just ask my friends.  If I’m ever late for for an event or meeting, call the authorities, because it probably means some evil has befallen me.

I’ve become an expert at figuring out exactly when I need to leave to get someplace on time.  There have been moments when I’ve actually TRIED to be late so I’d get there the same time as most others.  But inevitably, I’m on time.  And more often than that, I’m early.  Sigh.

It’s funny then that God’s work in my life has been centered so much on timing, and my lack of control over it.  It’s HIS timing, not  my own. He’s had to teach me over and over again about patience, about not running ahead, about not jumping to the conclusion that He’s late in some way.  I think it was Beth Moore who once said, “God is never late.  But He sure misses a lot of opportunities to be early”.  Kidding aside, it’s easy for me to think that God hasn’t been exactly punctual with answering my prayers and acting on my behalf in areas of my life that are so important to me.

The thing is, I make these assumptions because I don’t have access to His calendar.  My due dates are not His due dates.  He knows exactly what He’s doing with the schedule of my life.  He knows the right time to move forward or to hold back, to reveal or to let things stay hidden and unknown.

His time is “kairos” time.  That’s a Greek word from the New Testament that doesn’t mean MY time.  It means the RIGHT time.  The OPPORTUNE time.  The PERFECT time.

So in light of that I must believe that God, too, is always punctual.  Just in a much different way than I am.  His timing is perfect and right.  He is never late, even when the circumstances seem otherwise.  I have learned, and still am learning to trust His timing.  When another birthday comes and my life looks different than I thought it would, it doesn’t mean He skipped a day or ignored a reminder on my calendar.  I don’t need to worry about belated blessings with God.  I can rest in the assurance that those blessings will come (and have come) exactly when He means them to.

I’ve said this so many times. “God always has a plan…and His timing is always just right”.  It was right on that July 19th many years ago, and it will be right on all the days ahead.

But seriously, if I’m ever late for something, come looking for me…

He has made everything beautiful in its time.  Ecclesiastes 3:11

Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in Your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them.  Psalm 139:16

The eyes of all look to You, and You give them their food in due season.  You open Your hand; You satisfy the desire of every living thing.  Psalm 145:15-16

 

 

picture credit: Annie Spratt

 

 

Chapter

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A chapter of my life closed out slowly over the past six months.  And a new one began yesterday.

I didn’t expect it.  I figured the Fall of 2016 would be like many before – settling into the routine of work and students back on campus and waiting not-so-patiently for the tropical temperatures to dip just a little.  I went on one of my retreats with God at the end of July, seeking His will for the coming days, talking with Him about what I thought my Big Fall Issues would be.  Little did I know that just a few days later, my world would feel the unsettling tremors of an issue I hadn’t seen coming. Things that had always provided familiarity and security were about to change.

I learned that things weren’t going well at my church, the place I’ve called home for the last 9 years, the people who had become my family when my own was so many miles away. Within a few weeks, my pastor and friend had resigned and I started to feel waves of anxiety begin to well up deep inside.  Satan tried to slip in with his taunts about how unfair life is, how I should be facing this Big Deal with a husband instead of working it out on my own.

I wanted to run ahead and see around the corner, to see what would happen and where I’d end up.  Sometimes I wanted someone else to make the decisions for me and not have to rely on my own flawed wisdom that so frequently got clouded over with emotion and questions and fear.

It was a process.  This chapter had some twists and turns, hard conversations with God and with others, some wrestling and much seeking. But between the first line and the last one of this particular part of my story, there was an undeniably strong undercurrent of certainty – that Jesus was and continues to be the Author and Finisher of my faith.  This didn’t catch Him by surprise. While I was spending time with Him in that hotel room in late July, wanting to make sure we were on the same page, He knew what was coming.  He knew that I’d go back to the journal notes I wrote that night and would come to the realization that He was indeed preparing my heart.

He could have made it clear that I was to stay and be a part of a new chapter at my church, and I was ready to accept that, knowing that He could still use me and bless me there. But instead, He released me.  I use that term because I don’t think it would have been wrong for me to stay.  He has called others to stay and work through the coming challenges and transitions.  And I know that through their obedience, He will bless them.  Releasing me opened the door to see where He might lead next.  And He has led me to a sister church a half mile from my front door… five minutes away…a church I’ve driven past every Sunday morning for years, always wondering why God hadn’t placed me there instead.  But I knew that driving another 12 miles and another 20 minutes was His will for that particular period of my life. I smile when I think about His timing.  His perfect timing.  I’m now in a church in my home town, one where I hope the proximity will open doors to more involvement and ministry opportunities and who knows what else.

And so yesterday morning I was officially received as a new member. It felt momentous and important. I don’t know what story the next chapter will tell. I’m so grateful for the last one, with the blessings and the challenges and the people that made me grow. I’m grateful that I know God is still working in the lives of those who stayed as well.  I’m grateful that God has reminded me that He is always in control, that His ways are never random, never a waste of time. He always has a plan.  For us. For His church.

And for me.

Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who  for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2

I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.  Revelation 1:8

The Lord will perfect that which concerns me.  Psalm 138:8

 

Disaster

There are few things more unsettling than hearing the sound of something dripping –  in a place where you shouldn’t be hearing the sound of something dripping.

Saturday mornings are for cleaning, so one weekend last October I decided to start in the guestroom. It’s a place I often neglect because it’s just too easy to dump stuff in there when no guests are on the calendar.  As I stood at the desk sorting through papers, I heard it.

Drip…drip…drip.

Not something you should hear in a bedroom.  I turned around, and to my horror saw a 3 foot wide stain on the ceiling in the far corner, and steady drops of water falling down onto a bookshelf, a sofa bed, and an assortment of other things I had let pile up on the floor.  As I took a step towards the corner, my foot sunk into a very soggy carpet, and I realized this had probably been going on for awhile.  I rarely go in to that room.  Now I wished I had made a regular habit of it.

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The next few hours were a flurry of panic and activity. Turns out the upstairs neighbors had a faulty air conditioning unit.  Calls were made to family (for moral support), the condo maintenance emergency number (because of course, it was a Saturday) and my insurance company.

After the a/c unit upstairs was turned off and the dripping stopped, I surveyed the damage. One word kept coming to mind. Disaster.  Stained and crumbling ceiling, ruined carpet, wet sofa bed, soaked bookcase.  When the insurance adjuster came, he noticed the water had leaked into the living room as well, down behind the drywall and into the carpet along the baseboard.

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Yup. A disaster.

God does try to remind us that He’s still got it all under control when things like this happen, and He’ll work it all out for good.  Somehow.  But in that moment when disaster strikes, it’s hard to see, and hard to believe.

That’s why we need to wait until we can look over our shoulder to really see if it was the disaster we thought it was.  Of course I knew I’d have to replace the carpet in that room. But the insurance guy told me that it was a continuous piece out into the hallway, so they’d cover replacing the hall carpet as well.  Then when he realized it had leaked into the living room, he said they’d replace that, too.  And my living room extends into the dining area, so, you guessed it – new flooring for the dining room.  I wasn’t sad to see the old carpet go. It was in sorry and sad shape and should have been replaced years ago, but it just wasn’t in the budget.  But now, God was providing a way for me to do that.  All because of a disaster. And as long as I was replacing flooring, I was able to forego carpet altogether and get wood laminate, something I’ve wanted forever.  Makes me smile just thinking about it.

Nobody likes disasters.  They disrupt and make for anxious days and sleepless nights. They try us and bend us and sometimes almost break us.   But what if the disaster paves the way for something good? Makes me think of that song by Laura Story with the line, “What if Your blessings come through raindrops?”. I wouldn’t be sitting here admiring my new floors if that a/c unit upstairs hadn’t made “raindrops” fall into my guest room and ruin everything. Or so it seemed at the time.

It’s in the middle of chaos that we need to trust that He’s going to take care of us.  It might not happen as soon as we’d like, but in the end, when the dust settles (or the dripping stops), we’re able to see what He’s been  up to.  I know my crisis wasn’t really all that important in light of what others experience, but it still taught me an important lesson.

I might not be so quick to panic the next time disaster strikes.  It might just be the beginning of something good. Something like blessings from raindrops.

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He has made every thing beautiful in His time.  Ecclesiastes 3:11

To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;  Isaiah 61:3

You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.  Psalm 30:11

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five

There are some moments in time that forever remain frozen, suspended somewhere as if you could actually reach out and touch them.  Five years ago this morning, I had one of those moments.

My phone rang well before daybreak that Monday, jarring me out of a sound sleep.  When I answered it, I heard the words that changed my world.  “Dad is with the Lord”.

I wonder what goes on in the brain at that split second.  Neurons firing wildly in desperate attempts to file the information logically, to sort out words that were so unexpected and surprising that they just don’t make any sense.  Denial, panic, fear. The mind and body that were sleeping restfully just seconds before are now in full-on alert. Questions being asked, but not really hearing the answers because your thoughts are already five questions ahead.  How? Why? What happens now?  How do I get from Florida to New Jersey as soon as possible?  I thought I was going to work as usual that morning.  Now, I was having to explain to an airline representative that I needed to get on a flight to Newark. Today.

And how does one pack in a few hours for a sudden trip that will include a funeral? A funeral for your father, the strong man who was always supposed to be there, only now he’s not, because “Dad is with the Lord”.

Those early hours of January 23, 2012 are embedded in my mind in a way that few of my life moments ever have been.  As the necessary tasks of the day began to take shape, as the phone calls were made to the important people in my life and I began to grasp the enormity of it all, the panic retreated and a peace began to creep in.  Slowly, there was the realization that this was all going to be OK, that God was very much in the picture, and we were not facing this alone or without hope.

I had often tried to envision what a moment like that would be like, that moment when the Worst Thing That Has Ever Happened To You actually happens.  I knew the Bible verse about “peace that passes understanding”, but that morning, I experienced it personally.   That peace didn’t make the news any easier to understand or believe, but it reminded me of God’s love and care.  It reminded me that He was standing next to my bed as the phone rang, and that He was never going to leave me.

Our family has seen God’s faithfulness played out in a million different ways since that morning.  Difficult times, for sure, but He has sustained us, provided for us, loved us and blessed us abundantly.  We miss Dad so much sometimes it hurts, and yet we can rejoice in hope because we know He is in the presence of the Savior he spent a lifetime telling others about.  His work was done here, but his legacy lives on in the lives of his children, and in the lives of the people he introduced to the Lord.

Today is a milestone. Five years ago I couldn’t imagine what the future would hold, and we still don’t know what lies ahead.  But we continue to walk with the One who does.  Dad would have wanted that.

Miss you, Dad!

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Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:13

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. Revelation 21:4

And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died, so that you will not grieve like people who have no hope.  1 Thessalonians 4:13