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My heart overflowed with joy and lots and lots of indescribable emotion today, as my children were baptized. Brother and sister, walking up the stage together. Following one another in this beautiful, sacred testimony. Their shining faces, so full of light and joy! Precious moments, with these gifts from God.
Be glorified, God! I commit them into Your hands and ask that You keep them all the days of their lives. Watch over my babies, Lord.
Have you ever felt totally awkward? Sigh. I sure have. But as I get older, ahem, gain wisdom, this occurs less and less. I've always said that I'd be an eccentric old lady. Perhaps it's happening sooner than anticipated (not the old lady part! The eccentric part.) Awkwardness doesn't embarrass me as much.
Recently, I shared the following story with my mother. It was one of the most meaningful experiences of my life, though it was painful and I felt so very, very awkward.
Our singles group was hosting a dinner for the seniors of our church, and we had to choose an area of involvement. I'd been a waitress for several years, so I signed up to serve food. On the day of the event, I wore comfortable shoes, plain black pants and a long-sleeved shirt. I put on an over-sized chef's apron over my outfit for fun. I was shocked when I arrived at the church to find that everyone else had dressed up for the event! Dresses. High heels. Ties. Their Sunday best. The other girls snickered at my outfit, though one friend tried to console me as I shared my dismay and embarrassment. We were there to prepare and serve food. How did I not know that we were supposed to dress up??? Wiping away my tears, I took a deep breath and joined everyone else preparing to bring the food out.
Then an amazing thing happened. The seniors thanked me with warm smiles as I gave them their plates. Many of the seniors further expressed their appreciation by saying, "You look like you came here to serve." I was asked to sit with them during the special program, sparing me from having to do clean-up! My goofy apron and simple clothing set me apart, first to ridicule then giving me tremendous favor. The sting of being laughed at faded eventually, but I experienced a long-lasting lesson about humility.
I wish I could say that it was the last painfully awkward experience I've had...NOPE! But God has used those situations more than anything else to teach me. And those lessons really stick.
Today's Friend Making Monday is all about Valentine's Day... How did you spend the day? What did you get? What did you do? And what would have made the day even better?
We started off the day by going to church - with two blizzards back to back, we haven't been in two weeks! We usually listen to worship music on the drive, and I was inspired to suddenly shout, "Happy Valentine's Day, Jesus!" He is, after all, the Source of Love.
We decided to get pizza on the way home, while running a few quick errands. Costco has become an after church recreation/addiction of sorts...we roam around the store for the tasty samples while collecting compliments on how cute our children are or what a lovely family we have. Of course, we are all dressed up for church (and Momma works hard putting together the outfits!) My seven year old son always wants to buy me flowers - he went off with his Daddy to pick out a bouquet for his sister and me. We were presented with the lovely pink roses when we joined them at the front of the store. More than a few onlookers seemed genuinely touched by his excitement and joy as he explained how long he had planned to do this and his selection process. Momma just kept hugging her boy and thanking him. I was in danger of turning into an emotional mess, though I will replay that scene over and over and over in my head for years to come. The sweet, sweet love of a boy for his Momma...
After naps, my daughter, "Butterfly," passed out the Valentine's cards she had worked on all week. Mine was a big red heart with a fancy purple lace trim. She made an Elmo Valentine for baby brother and a football helmet shaped one for "QB", the seven year old. Butterfly and I had picked out small puppets to give out as Valentine presents, and the three kids had fun the rest of the evening playing together with them. (I like to emphasize the meaning of each holiday and not load up on sweets, so I deliberately look for items or activities other than food.)After saying that (ha!), I am showcasing the dessert I made: Valentine's Day Cake Pops. I saw them featured on Bakerella and had to try them. Yummy and oh so cute!!! Our Valentine's Day consisted of family togetherness, nothing dramatic, but with plenty of warm, loving moments. And I'm very, very content with that. It's so easy to get caught up in the hype of what we're told a certain holiday is supposed to look like. Romantic dinners. Expensive flowers. Jewelry. Chocolates. Red and pink. Violin music softly playing in the background... And if it doesn't look like that???
Perhaps it's a rebellious trait (ask my mom), but I do not like anyone defining for me what something should look like. Especially experiences. And just because many people are doing it a certain way is not a sufficient enough reason for me to just go along with something, without my own examination of it. After enough years of feeling like my life was less than ideal and somehow wrong because holidays rolled around without the "appropriate" type of celebration, I decided that I would re-define for me and my family what was natural, appropriate and fitting in terms of celebrating these kinds of occasions. So, our lives don't look like the commercials...maybe there's something wrong with the commercials.
Years ago, my friend and co-worker Victoria received a jewelry box as a birthday gift from her husband. She came to work and shared her disappointment. She had asked for a nice piece of jewelry. Something significant. Something specific.
Instead, her husband chose this empty vessel to give to her. Not what she wanted. Not what she had requested.
But I saw something else.
Unable to contain my excitement and with words tumbling out of mouth, I told Victoria, "This is like God! The way that He provides!"
In giving Victoria the jewelry box, her husband was responding to her request in a bigger way than she had anticipated. Rather than giving her one piece of jewelry, his provision of a container was a promise of greater things.Many pieces of jewelry (versus the one)to fill up the box. Reminds me of God's provision of the ram... Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, "On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided." Genesis 22:13-14 (NIV)
Provisionmeans (from Latin providēre)literally to see ahead, the fact or state of being prepared beforehand, to prepare in advance, to supply or make available something needed or wanted. (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)
God doesn't always respond to our requests with exactly what we wanted. The answers to prayer may not come quickly or in the way we had hoped. We may not even realize it at the time - our frail human eyes can only see so far.
In our season of unemployment, how often we've implored the Lord for a job! Many times I've stumbled along this dimly lit path. Wrestling with anxiety. Yet, He has constantly met our needs, giving us peace in the midst of uncertainty and joy despite our circumstances. I can testify of God's goodness and faithfulness throughout this challenging time!
Like Victoria, we asked for just a piece...God expanded our vision. He's laid out for us a bigger plan than anything we could have imagined.
Experiences cannot define God's character; the Bible reveals Who He is, His great love for us, and the manner in which He provides. God is faithful to His Word, He can't help it! He doesn't change! This is one of my all-time favorite verses:
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: "He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever." Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 2 Corinthians 9:8-11 (NIV)
Earlier today I loaded new songs onto my Ipod. As I washed the dishes tonight, a song came on that I haven't listened to in a long time.
Under the Milky Way
Sometimes when this place gets kind of empty, Sounds of their breath fades with the light. I think about the loveless fascination, Under the milky way tonight... Wish I knew what you were looking for. Might have known what you would find.
Sorrow filled my heart. This song reminds me of my friend Jamie. Lively. With a sensitive soul. A dreamer. He had an innocence about him, and an optimism that was infectious.
Yet I knew he had suffered a tremendous amount of neglect growing up. He probably shared more with me than most, but an impenetrable wall remained. The little he shared was horrid. Home had been a cold, cold place...still, he radiated a beautiful hope.
We were close friends. A safe place for one another in the midst of heartbreaks, job challenges and the whirlwind of life.
One night Jamie stayed with me as I feverishly worked on a college paper that was due the next day, offering lots of coffee and moral support. Somehow we ended up on a small bridge in the early hours of the morning, sitting on the ground while I used the hard surface of a bench as a table to finish. The streetlight gave off just enough illumination. He was quiet, hopping up on occasion to peer over the railing. I finished my paper there, with a deep sense of satisfaction. It was an amazing way to articulate my thoughts onto paper - in an idyllic setting, with the world asleep and the presence of a true friend.
Other relationships, a big misunderstanding...we drifted apart. I ran into Jamie a year or so later in an art store, where he was working. He commented that something about me had changed. That I had peace, which was true. I had given my heart to Jesus and shared with him about the changes in my life.
A few years later, I heard that Jamie had gone to another country to meet the family of his fiancee. That they didn't approve and insisted she end the relationship immediately. That he was stranded there with no money and no help. Devastated and without hope, he climbed up the railings of a bridge and jumped.
I sometimes pass by that bench when I'm in my hometown. And I miss my friend Jamie.
In this life, there are so many times that the road becomes obscured by fog.We feel desperately alone.Stranded.Lost. I've been to that place where there seems to be no hope. One decision, and it could have been the end. Devastated. I've been there. But for the grace of God...
The dictionary definition of hope: a belief in a positive outcome related to events and circumstances in one's life, the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best. Those same circumstances and feelings can change in a moment, and then what?
Lasting hope, the kind that endures, can only be found in the God of Hope. The One who never changes. The Source of our "favorable and confident expectation."
Psalm 43:5 Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 52:9 I will praise you forever for what you have done; in your name I will hope, for your name is good. I will praise you in the presence of your saints.
Psalm 62:5 Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.
Psalm 71:5 For you have been my hope, O Sovereign LORD, my confidence since my youth.
Psalm 119:114 You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.
Isaiah 40:31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Hebrews 10:23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
Did you watch the Superbowl?
Nope, not really. I had a headache all day that erupted into a migraine right around 6 p.m. So I took a painkiller and went upstairs in search of a dark, quiet room. The only "cure" for me is to fall asleep, though it took awhile because of the pain hammering away in my head. Once I woke up (right after halftime), the headache was gone.
Who were you rooting for?
I was hoping that the Colts would win, but I'm glad for New Orleans' sake that the Saints pulled it off.
If not, what did you do instead?
I sat at the dining room table with my laptop and read blogs while occasionally glancing up at the TV. Lately, too much suspense/knuckle-biting excitement has overwhelmed me, whether it's a video game or movie or even football. I think I have a bit of emotional overload with all of the recent events in my life. There must be a beach on a tropical island with my name on it...just got to make it there!Where did you watch it/not watch it?
A blizzard dumped record-breaking amounts of snow here, so we can't go anywhere!!!
What did you eat?
I fussed about the lack of Superbowl-worthy eats in our house, so hubby walked to the grocery store and stocked up. Apparently he and the kids had quite the party while I was upstairs in pain (sniff, sniff). They ate meatballs, chicken tenders, curly fries, chips and cookies. I snacked on what was left and drank Gingerale. Being the good Mommy that I am (smile), I had purchased football paper plates at Target just for the occasion. Of course, I never did get around to hanging the football pennant I had also purchased...guess I'll save it for next year.
Favorite Superbowl commercial?
I didn't watch any but loved the Pro-life one from reading about it all week.
I hate the unnecessarily provocative ones - hello?!? Families with kids are watching!
What did you think of the halftime show?
Didn't see it. They have been really boring the last few years. Yawn.Who do you wish would have been the halftime show?
I think the Black-Eyed Peas would put on a great show. Let Cirque Du Soleil put one on - at least it'd be interesting and something different!
Ok, these are my responses - what about YOU?
Today's Talkin' About Thursdays is about something that you made you laugh...As I shared in my last post, I went out of town last week to be with my parents during a family emergency. My mom was in the hospital and being carefully monitored. Of course there's nothing funny about that. Unless you have a younger sister who marches to the beat of a different drummer. Within minutes of me arriving at the hospital, my sister had us laughing with tears running down our faces. Laughing so hard made my mom gasp for air, which made us laugh even harder since she was connected to an oxygen machine. My sister's antics included pushing me around the room and almost into the hallway, contemplating a possible wheelchair race down the hallway. She wrote silly messages on the nurse's dry erase board and changed the date to August 2008. I don't think the nurses even noticed. She inflated a latex glove, drew a happy face on it and hid it behind the TV. The next time the air is turned on in the room, the "balloon" will fly out from its hiding place. Being together brought a measure of relief, comfort and strength. There were moments throughout the time in the hospital that made us feel helpless and very, very small. We couldn't always be there at the same time or make things happen. But I am eternally grateful for the One whose presence is constant and who CAN make things happen. He is the never ending source of relief, comfort and strength. He answered our prayers and sustained my mom. He brought the doctors and clarity in the midst of confusion. The Word of God is true and dependable in the midst of any challenge, crisis or trial. I can testify to this! And even in difficult moments, laughter can bring comfort and peace. "Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength."Nehemiah 8:10Psalm 5:11But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.Psalm 28:7 The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.Psalm 94:19 When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.
My blog has been silent since last week because I went to be with my family during an emergency. The crisis has passed, Thank You, Lord! So many emotions, poignant moments, answered prayers, and opportunities for love to flow. I have many things to share but first need to hug my little ones and Mr. Nice Guy. More soon...