Rusty cars, Awkward Obedience and God’s Grace

Sometimes, especially at the beginning of a new year, I get this lumpy-dumpy feeling. It’s not so much about fat handles or a rotunduous tummy. It’s more about my ineffectiveness as compared to other people.

Maybe comparing is the operative word.

You see, compared to most people I feel like I move at a snail’s space- with about as much fanfare. I mean how many snails have you seen with super dynamic personalities or exploding ministry?

(The fact that I’m actually considering relationships with snails may be part of the problem.)

To be honest, people scare me. That’s why I often wonder how God could use me to show his love to other people.

That all changed a few months ago.

I was taking my mom to the eye specialist. There was almost zero parking space around the office building.  Barely any place to drop her off.

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The very suggestion of slowing down could end your life. Death by pile-up. Yes, in Surrey, B. C. its a real thing.

So is frustration.

Mom had a two-hour appointment. What was I going to do in the meantime?

Then I noticed the Safeway parking lot across from the doctor’s office. It spread out farther than the dimensions of a Wal-mart Superstore.

So, why not park?

Then I saw the signs-

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and the men in green vests everywhere. They re-enforced the same  message as they circled the lot looking violators.

With the Skytrain and the Guildford Rec Center and Ice Rink across the street, a university satellite campus half a block away, parking spots were at a premium.

Obviously.

Fortunately, I spied a small square of Park and Pay signs to the side of Safeway.

That’s when a rusty tank of a car almost mowed me over.

I caught a quick look at the driver.  Her matted hair, tired eyes and sunken cheeks reminded me that this area was a dangerous place to be in the middle of the night.

Good thing it was in the middle of the day. Even more good news. I found a spot. It cost me all my change and then some. But, I parked.

I pulled out a paperback and tried to lose myself in some somebody else’s problems in some other place. That worked until I checked the time on my phone.

Dead battery.

Not good. How was I supposed to pick up mom? She’d never find me in this maze.I read a few more pages. Then, I sighed, shoved my book in my purse and got out of the car.

I walked across the parking lot and stood by a small bank on the corner.

Awkward.

I wasn’t used to being just “out there” standing around with nowhere to go, nothing to do. But I didn’t want my Mom to get lost or panic trying to find me.

So I let awkward be awkward. And actually kind of enjoyed it

The same rusty car that almost mowed me down earlier  pulled up. A woman in a bathroom and pajama bottoms got out. She opened the back door, unstrapped a toddler from a car seat and headed into the bank.

Dumpy  car, worn PJ’s, erratic driving. I should have felt concern and compassion, maybe even prayed for her. Instead, I waited for her to do her banking business and be gone so I could get on with my awkward wait.

It seemed to be working.

This woman came out of the bank almost as quickly as she entered.

But, she didn’t  get into the car. She plopped down on the curb beside her car and put her head in her hands. Her toddler danced around her while she sat motionless. Tragic. Sad.

I tried to put the entire scene out of my mind.

Not a chance.

God wanted more from me. And, I knew what He was saying even if I didn’t hear an audible voice.

This woman needs money.

She needs love.

Go talk to her.

I took a few hesitant  steps toward the woman. Almost got to her car where she had her back to me. Then, I got scared and circled back to the sidewalk and wrestled with my fears.

What if I was about to offend this woman? What if I made her mad?

When I gathered enough courage to start walking back to the woman again.

“Excuse me,” I said. The woman didn’t turn around.

Excuse me, ” I said so loudly I was sure everyone in Safeway heard me.

She turned around slowly.

“I’m sorry, but I had to talk to you. You seem to be having a hard time. And…I want to help you and your son.”

I held out some money. She shook her head.

“He’s my son, not my grandson,” she said, “And, this is not me. I’m the one who helps other people. This is not me…”

She looked about ready to cry. I told her how brave she was and how blessed her family was to have her.

I”ll take your money, but not for me. For my daughter. She needs medicine,” the woman finally said as she looked past me as if I was not even there. Suddenly, she grabbed me in a big hug and started to sob.

For a few moments, we stood as one. Two women, trying to get through the day.

Not sure what else to do, I asked if I could pray for her and her family.

After that, she got into the car with her grandson and drove away.

I don’t know if I will ever see her again. But, God sees her every day. And, he cares.He cares so much that he will use the most awkward of means to show his love.

Even people like me.

 We all we need to do is obey.

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Baby Steps – exciting ways to change in the new year

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This week I’m starting three new adventures-

  1. I’m beginning the Learning Specialist program at Cambrian College in Ontario

No, I did not move to Ontario. This is an online adventure. My Learning Specialist program begins with an introduction to learning disabilities, ADHD and autism. Although I’ve worked with amazing people who struggle with these types of challenges, I want to learn more. This is one part of my life, facilitating growth in the talents and gifts of people with unique brain chemistry. They are brilliant, courageous and creative, so much so, that I need to up my game to keep up with them!!!

2. My second adventure is to finish a book that I began years ago. Now THIS is a messy and daunting prospect. Every time I start to work on it I just want to crawl in bed and take a nap, watch TV or even clean a bathroom. Yeah, that bad. I say I love to write but love is a funny thing. The idea is much more compeling sometimes than the living of it. Well, living here I come. It’s time. Yes, even though I feel like I’m getting ready to roll around in the dumpster. But, hey, got to start somewhere.adgong to viccmessy and scattered. Daunting in the sense that I have no idea how to  proceed.I know I will learn

3. My third and final adventure is embarking on the WordPress Blogging course 101. It’s time to clean up my blog. Watch out, livinginloserville!  You are about to get a make-over.

But, hey! Here is my first assignment. Answer-

Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going?Why?

Oh, k…I feel like Dr. Suess with all the who and why and where stuff.

Right off the pages of Horton Hears a Who. Imagine me with wide eyes and straggly, raggly hair saying except..I’m the girl who grew up to be mommy and wife. I loved every minute of the stay-at-home life.

“I’m the girl who grew up to be mommy and wife. I loved every minute of the stay-at-home life.

But nobody told me that kids grow up so fast. Suddenly my job was a thing of the past.

This creature I’d become was a stranger to me, as dumpy and useless as a clunky TV.

I fussed and I pouted and raged till I cried, but aging and change is part of being alive.

lol, spoiler alert, I didn’t move to Whoville or become the Grinch. Instead, I grew up, looked around me and realized that everyone struggles with change. Most everyone feels, at some point, misshapen and weary in the wild storms of life. We lose sight of the  wonder of just being, the beauty of breathing and walking and moving, the miracle of connection even though it may be as minute as a “hey” or “how are you”. We forget that the greatest thing we can do is touch another life, exchange hope if we chose.

Yeah, I’d like to bring hope and  perspective to people who are bogged down with responsibility, expectations, and overwhelming circumstances. Nothing big as massive change but tiny steps to make lasting change in the way we see life.H maneuvering all the unexpected things that life throws at us. We all need to know They struggle with feeling

I’m not talking about massive change, but tiny steps that brings joy from everyday awareness of what we truly have and can have if we just stop and relax.

First, I am going to change my blog name (soon as I need to renew the rights to my old name soon).aThe

Secondly, I want to outline what I want to address and who I want to reach

Thirdly, I am counting on this course and my amazing course mates to inspire me and help me out so I can be practical as well as all airheaded.

I want to be in a new place with my blog by this time next year, with material to offer and short courses for people to take.

So, I know you didn’t ask, but that is what has been on my mind.

Growth.

Change.

And the ability to appreciate and draw upon the here and now.

 

 

Breathtakingly beautiful-I’m talking about you :)

I walk most every day. Take the dogs out and get moving. Usually my motivation though somewhat noble, is not so uplifting. “You gotta lose that double chin,  firm up and change your image,” whispers a self-righteous voice  in my head, “if you want to be valued, to be respected, to be loved”.

 

I’m just not buying it.

I figure I just need to be.

I need to be ok with the skin that I live in. I need to embrace the essence of being alive.That’s why I took up hiking.

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It sure beats counting every bite I eat and hating the very sight of myself when I look in the mirror. That’s no way to live. In fact, if you want to get down and dirty theologically it’s really screwed up.

According the ancient text Psalm 139:49 “we are fearfully and wonderfully made”.

Seriously.

Those bulges and skin flaws, slightly crooked teeth and crazy-like-a-scarecrow hair days  don’t spell out what you think they do.

It’s not the word Loser, Reject, or That Girl Who Just Isn’t Enough.

Newsflash- what you think is so ugly is actually beautiful, a message of God’s love, the wonder of his sacrifice for each and every one of us.

Each and every one of us are cherished in the eyes of God.

On that note, I took a hike. It’s been something I’ve been thinking about doing.Letting go of all the things I need to fix before embracing, well, being alive.

With my 82-year-old mom in tow, we headed for a trail a short drive away from our little trailer in the foothills of Mount Baker.

Maple Creek.

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I stumbled over rocks while Mom clumped behind me with her cane. As the dusk began to settle around us, I could hear the creek raging just beyond the treeline. IMG_0756

I took gulped in air so clean and fresh my lungs barely knew what to do with it.It was one of those moments when all the silly lies about body image, the pressure of other people’s expectations and the unfounded fears about my future fell away. I was up close and personal with truth.

 

God is good. His mercy is everlasting.

His creation is breathtaking.

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And I’m not just talking about the great outdoors.

I’m talking about me and you, and who we really are in the eyes of God.

End of story? Mom and I and the two dogs made it to the head of the trail before we even needed my flashlight. Good thing. Those dog treats wouldn’t have lasted too long between the four of us if we had gotten lost. I got into the car, refreshed and invigorated, ready to take on the challenges of life.

Now that’s beautiful.

 

Weird is how you change the world

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During a family visit, I got a chance to explore downtown Portland.

It was weird.

Funky clothes, a guy wearing a bright purple hero mask while riding a bike, Voodoo donuts, lamb-bacon and egg sandwhiches with pickled veggies.

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Best day in a long time!

Why?

Because weird  can be refreshing ( as long as it’s not

  • kinky
  • making fun of people

or serial killer kind of weird).

I really struggle sometimes with being different from other people. It’s that old comparison game. Why can’t I think like, talk like, work like, look like certain people that I think are much more successful or likeable than me?

Truth is,  imitating another person can make us boring as watching the reruns of Gilmore Girls.  I mean, how many times can you sit and watch Lorelai Gilmore and her cutesie daughter Rory wow the town of Stars Hollow with their crazy, quirky ways before you lose your lunch?

At best, you may come across as annoying. At worst, you may lose the effectiveness you were meant to have on this world by just being who God created you to be.

So be weird. Different. Unique. Even misunderstood.

Let go of trying to impress other people and keep it real. You-flaws, quirks and all- are on earth for a reason. Don’t imitate anyone but Jesus.

In a world full of posturing, fake profiles and fabrication, authenticity is rare and beautiful.

Let that be you.

“Limitless” and the kind of pills I need to expand my world

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Last night, I plopped down on the couch beside Molly (the family dog) and watched the season premiere of “Limitless”. I love the premise.   Imagine using every cell of your brain to it’s full capacity. What an amazing and wonderful life you could lead.

Or, so you’d think.

Brian Finch (played by Jake McDorman) takes a pill and ends up dodging traffic, playing chicken with a subway train and stumbling into not one but two murder scenes.

Spoiler alert- he gets into more and more trouble while needing more and more pills.

It’s a great show but I think if that were my reality I’d need handfuls of tranquilizers along with the pills. Seriously, no one is wired to stay on a tension high all of the time.

Let’s get real. I’d consider myself “limitless” if I could remember the names of people I’ve known for years, where I put my car keys or what I needed to buy at the store after I got there.

When it comes to limitless, what I truly desire is a heightened sense of the incredible world around me. I’m not talking about waterfalls, rugged trails winding through deep forest and brilliant sunsets.

It’s the breathtaking miracle of relationship I’d love to wrap my mind around.

To share even a brief smile with another human being involves a complex exchange of communication. A hug. Laughter. And those moments of deep sorrow bind us in ways even Brian Finch will never fully comprehend.

Bottom line -the God of the Universe is our example. He chose to get to know mankind by sending his own son Jesus. The Son of God

  • walked with
  • touched and
  • listened to

ordinary people in extraordinary ways.  After his death and resurrection, Jesus returned to his Father in Heaven. But, Jesus did not leave us alone. He left a comforter – the Holy Spirit of God.

That’s my pill, my “limitless” portal. Letting the Holy Spirit change me on the inside is what I need.  That’s my challenge in this roller-coaster culture. To stop and be still. To be quiet and listen to the whisper of the Divine inside me.

Let the miracle begin.

When Kids Love God Too Much

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Yeah, it can happen. And, it can be irritating. Sometimes downright scary.

I mean, you plan and you pray and you work toward the goal of raising competent educated kids who know how to take care of themselves.

But some go just a bit too far. They take all that “follow Jesus” stuff we spout every Sunday and they just do it. You, know, follow  Jesus.

How does a parent handle kids who suddenly want to heal the sick, feed the hungry and/or preach the gospel to a lost and dying world?

  1. Talk sense into your kid. Use phrases like “let’s be practical” and “you know, you can take things just a bit too far”. It’s true, you can take things too far. You can live so radically for Jesus that your focus slips right out of the temporal realm and into eternity. When a kid starts pointing out life is too short, you best stop them in their tracks. That is YOUR line. They are supposed to be the ones who play around like there is no tomorrow. Don’t let them make decisions based on the remote possibility that you really truly mean it when you sing praise songs about “laying down your life”, “all I need is you, Lord” and “Take my life and let it be consecrated Lord to Thee”. What you really need to do is just smile, pat your kid on the back and tell the kid to dial down all this crazy talk. If you are really desperate to save your child,  throw in the story of those fishermen who wanted to follow Jesus. They left their jobs. Families. And just free-wheeled it all over the countryside for three years listening to Jesus. And, how did that work out? Jesus left. They suffered. And to think they could have still been working at their fishing jobs.
  2. Get tough and maybe throw in a little shaming. Maybe it’s time to let your starry-eyed kid know that he or she better get it all together in the name of money, obligation and all things tradition. Use the phrase “this is how we do it” over and over again until you finally drown out any silly nudges of conscience and Holy Spirit whispers. Just get in there and chart their course for them if they can’t come up with something “normal” to work toward themselves. As for the shaming, never let them forget how much money cousin Edith is making or what Uncle Harold did with his life after he finally got all spiritual angst out of his system. Let them know the ramifications of extreme discipleship.  How will the family survive without their smiling face around 24/7 if they go off to save the world? Did they think they were just going to grow up and live their own lives for God? Not! They still belong to you and they will live for Jesus just the way YOU you want them too. End of discussion. 
  3. Contribute nothing, just stand there and watch the train wreak happen. Just stop and stare while your kid struggles to make meaning out of the calling he may feel he has on his life. Don’t listen, pray or challenge her when in the midst of a spiritual awakening she still acts disrespectful or irresponsible in practical areas like helping out at home or asking before she uses the family car. Figure that if a kid wants to follow God so radically then that kid is declaring that he or she is perfect. So, you can secretly judge the snot out of them and still look good. What a way to ditch the headache of parenting!
  4. Go ahead and live out what you say you believe. I know, pretty radical. But, then, really what is a parent to do? After years of spouting rhetoric we can give it a try in our own lives. I’d like to say that no one dies from honestly following Jesus, but that wouldn’t be very honest.  It’s tough to live counter-culturally. It’s even tougher when your own family doesn’t understand. Nurture your soul-seeking child like any other kid. Have boundaries, demand respect, and give respect to what God is doing in your child’s life.

Bottom line – Life is short. Eternity is forever. Maybe, just maybe, our parenting style should reflect that incredible truth.

Living De-cluttered, Honestly and on Purpose

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I love to write. Absolutely love it.  And I love my family, my faith and getting perspective on truth. (that’s what spurs on my writing!) But, sometimes I lose focus. Stuff get in the way. Stuff that may not mean that much to me but it gets my attention. Stuff that I get involved in not because I’m passionate about but because I can’t make myself say no. I get too busy to to think, to dream, to reconnect with what or who means the most to me.

Things get cluttered.

When things get cluttered on one level it usually leads to another. I lose focus and it’s hard to keep the physical cutter from following right along.

That’s when I stop.

Stop and take a good look what really matters to me.

It’s something I need to do every day, not just when I’m buried in physical, mental and emotional clutter. I think

Joshua Becker said it best in his blog post Life-Giving Truths From Years of LIving with Less- “minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from it”.

Maybe we don’t need to get rid all but

  • two changes of clothes,
  • a bicycle and
  • a bag of rice. But, realizing and focusing on what we really want out of life can change our life. A whole world of  possibilities opens up.

It takes courage to face where we are and where we really want to be.

But it’s worth it.