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.

drip

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.

carpet

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.

dining-room

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

 

Unfinished

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The box under the bed held remnants of a life I’d forgotten.

There were spelling tests and penmanship practice sheets and report cards.  There were crayon drawings and birthday cards from grandparents and even an award for 2nd place in an elementary school sack race.  More than likely, it was the last award I’d ever receive for any kind of athleticism.  I really should frame it.

My mother has kept all these items in that box under the bed for years.  And while I was home for Thanksgiving, I decided to dig through it.  I sat on the floor in that bedroom for quite awhile, reliving memories I didn’t even know I had.

At the very bottom was something unexpected.  An unfinished “paint-by-number” picture.  Do kids even do paint-by-number anymore?  Why would we have saved an unfinished painting?  Did I plan to go back and fill in those numbers?

I think that maybe God wanted us to save it so that decades later it would remind me of how He works in my life.

I could tell it was going to be a picture of a big horse and a little horse.  What little girl didn’t go through the “I want a horse” phase?  The baby horse is almost filled in with paint.  The mother horse has a way to go.  And the background has an awful lot of empty numbers where paint should go eventually.  Maybe I got bored with the leaf color.

I’m sure the finished picture would have been beautiful.  But the fact that it’s unfinished holds the lesson.

Our lives unfold gradually,too.  God fills in a spot here, a spot there.  And sometimes it seems that we can’t see the big picture.  We can’t figure out what all these little empty places will come together to be.  They seem random.  And it feels incomplete.  We want to know the end of the story.

But this painting in a box under a bed reminded me that God is going to complete my painting in His way and in His time.  He’s got a plan.  He knows what the finished picture look like.

I think I’ll hang this picture up just like it is. And remember that He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it.

(from the archives – originally posted 11/28/12)

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.  Ephesians 2:10

Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;  Philippians 1:6

The LORD will perfect that which concerns me;
Your mercy, O LORD, endures forever;
Do not forsake the works of Your hands.  Psalm 138:8

 

 

 

Savor

(I realize I’ve been “gone” for awhile.  New blog posts are coming!  I promise. Just had to work through a few things and writing hasn’t come easily.  In the meantime, because it’s Thanksgiving week, I thought I’d slightly edit and re-post something I wrote 6 years ago.  As you start your prep work for the most amazing meal of the year, stop…and savor.)

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Julia Child would be proud.  I don’t just have “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” on my shelf.  I’ve actually cooked from it.   For my first foray into French cooking, I made Coq Au Vin , which is actually 3 recipes in one – the mushrooms, the onions and the chicken – something to keep in mind when timing the preparation.

It took me 6 hours.  But the fact that it actually involved igniting something made it so totally worth it.

My next undertaking was Steak au Poivre , a peppercorn-encrusted rib-eye gently bathed in a butter and brandy sauce that would give any cardiologist pause. But once in your life you should at least try it.

They were both amazing, memorable dishes.  Dishes I didn’t scarf down like my quick piece of toast in the morning.  Dishes I didn’t mindlessly pick at in front of the television.  They were dishes worthy of savoring, taking the time to identify the endless list of ingredients that went into them.  Dishes worthy of sinking into and lingering over.  There might even have been some sighing and rolling of the eyes. Like those chefs on TV.

When God was putting Adam together, He added taste buds.  He didn’t have to.  We could have just gathered necessary nutrition like animals or plants without regard for whether or not it actually had any taste.  We didn’t have to enjoy it.  But God wanted us to.  There’s something spiritual about tasting.

“My soul shall be satisfied with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips” (Psalm 63:5).  Now, if that doesn’t sound like something from Julia Child, what does? Marrow and fatness. Have you ever eaten the marrow out of a veal shank? Oh my.  I made a chocolate silk pie recently that the recipe called “profoundly rich”. It was. The Psalmist says, “How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth” (Psalm 119:103).

God reminds us about our ultimate satisfaction in Him and the sweetness of His Word… through our taste buds.

I want to remember to savor God’s words.  I don’t want to rush through my quiet time like my morning toast.  I don’t want to mindlessly pick at scripture, distracted by other things going on around me, or run through it, like I’m grabbing a donut on the way out the door.  I want to put in the effort, take the time,  and maybe even have some sighing and rolling of the eyes as I realize just how amazing and rich and wonderful those words are.

Oh yes, I want to “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).   

Savor.

Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance.  Isaiah 55:22

In Jerusalem, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies will spread a wonderful feast for all the people of the world.  It will be a delicious banquet with clear, well-aged wine and choice meat.  Isaiah 25:6

 

 

Change

There is a constant in my life, and for that I am grateful.

Just thinking lately about how things change, how it’s pretty much the normal ebb and flow of life.  But in spite of the normalcy of change, sometimes it still catches us off guard.  It still makes us uneasy.  We long for sameness and the security of knowing exactly what to expect.  I have a sneaking suspicion, though, that if we had a life where nothing ever changed, we wouldn’t really need to rely on God.

change

 

Ten years ago this month I started a new job, and because I stuck it out, I got a plaque and congratulations.  But more than that, I got the opportunity to look back on the past decade and see how many things changed in this job, how many different staff and leaders have come and gone.  How many different students have walked through the door, graduated, moved on to new lives and new adventures.  Three of the young women I mentored last year walked across the stage in May and away from West Palm Beach.  And I wonder who God will bring into my life in the coming days to replace them.

In other words, changes.

The elderly woman who lived in the apartment below me died this past Spring.  I finally saw people moving things out of her place last night.  I guess I’ll have new neighbors soon.

In other words, changes.

My pastor and friend resigned on Sunday from the church I’ve called home for the last 9 years.

In other words, changes.

I could go on.  I spend an awful lot of time thinking about life, thinking about my life, thinking about where I’ve been and where I am and where I’m going.  I sometimes joke that I have the spiritual gift of over-analyzation.  But through all that reflecting and pondering and thinking, I have realized the most important thing about changes.  It’s not what changes that is important.  It’s the thing that doesn’t change.  It’s the One who doesn’t change.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today and forever.  Hebrews 13:8

Revelation 1:8 reminds us, “I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end”, says the Lord, which is and was and is to come, the Almighty.

If He’s the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, it means He’s the middle, too.  These weird, awkward and sometimes uneasy middle parts of the story, where things change.  He’s right here, with His constant guidance, mercy and love for those of us who really don’t like change all that much.

I have a constant in my life. Through all the changes. And for that, I am grateful.

 

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.  James 1:17

For I am the LORD, I do not change;  Malachi 3:6