We WANTED It – Parting Thoughts on Philly’s Super Bowl Win

We WANTED It – Parting Thoughts on Philly’s Super Bowl Win
Photo by Fredy Martinez on Unsplash

So we won the Super Bowl.

Philadelphia triumphed.

And people were congratulating me this week.

As if I had anything to do with it!?!!

Well, I suppose if you count the prayers, hand-wringing, fist-punches, screams, and vaulting I did from our couch during the game, then maybe I did.

My explosive reactions were almost as entertaining for my family as both teams’ impressive plays and the better-than-usual commercials.

It began with the first Eagles touchdown.

I leapt off the couch, clapping and yelling at the top of my lungs….

And sensed that the room was strangely quiet.

I looked down to see four faces staring back at me in amazement.

My husband chuckled.

“What?” I said, “They scored! THEY SCORED!!”

I started high-fiving everyone with both hands as my daughter asked, laughing, “Mom?!!? What’s happening to you?”

Admittedly, the display was out of (current) character for me.

“I’m sorry. The cheerleader in me just came out.”

Until that moment, I hadn’t realized how deeply I empathized with everyone watching back home in the City of Brotherly Love.

I hadn’t realized that….I truly felt what was so simply and perfectly expressed on an Eagles billboard I’d seen on the highway in PA the day before.

WE WANT IT.

It was time for the city to have the Vince Lombardi Trophy, and WE WANTED IT – BAD.

When the the game ended with Brady’s last throw meeting a mayhem of players in the end zone, my husband yelled, “That’s it!! That’s it!!” and we all screamed and cried, reveling in victory. The little celebratory scene in our family room was re-enacted millions of times over hundreds of square miles.

And yesterday was – literally – the Eagles’ day in the sun. I wasn’t there in the throng of a million loyal fans, but I poured over my family’s and friends’ photos of the city’s parade, exulting in what one friend called “the enormity of this thing.”

Indeed. The enormity of the thing.

Have you ever wanted something SO BADLY and wished for it SO LONG that when you finally get it you’re somewhat flabbergasted?

The excitement is just….well, mind-blowingly fun. You feel like a kid on Christmas morning. There’s almost no other way to describe it. You want it to last and last.

It’s too bad that every day life can’t bring the elation of this week, but if it did we couldn’t appreciate the joys of heaven.

Meantime, we rest in this…

Something we know for sure….

God loves Philadelphia. (wink wink)

And I’m fairly certain there will be Super Bowl wins for everyone in the great beyond.

A Small Tribute to Philadelphia: My (Other) Hometown

A Small Tribute to Philadelphia: My (Other) Hometown
Me. Ready for Sunday’s game. Do you know who to cheer for?

Two nights ago our 7-year old son asked the question of the moment.

“Dad,” he said, “Who do you think will win the Super Bowl?”

My husband made eye contact with him.

“The Eagles.”

“Why?” the boy asked. I knew he was looking for an answer about strategy or tactics; our little guy is into that sort of thing.

My husband narrowed his eyes.

“It is the will of God.”

There was a pause.

Then – raucous laughter from our son, along with the rest of us.

My husband smirked and went back to eating his soup.

That exchange?

Something about it strikes me as…

Oh. So. Philadelphia.

Do we really believe it is the will of God for the Eagles to win?

Not exactly.

But will they?

Darn right.

In our home, we are loyal to Philadelphia.

It’s a family tradition.

Philadelphia is often misunderstood. Some people just don’t get the mix of wry, sardonic humor and subtle faith. They call it brusque and cold, but however you see it, the city and its people are the genuine article, a place unto itself. And it’s a place I love, because it loved me first.

I spent my high school years in the suburbs of Philly, having moved there from Florida, and upon my arrival I wasn’t sure what I’d find. Blessedly, I was warmly welcomed by my peers, and that was important for me at a time when life didn’t feel so stable.

You find that when you’re “inside” Philadelphia – when you enter its homes, schools, and neighborhoods long enough to take your coat off and hang around for awhile. There might not be many newcomers, but a newcomer can be accepted. You can read a little about that here – where I also briefly talk about Philly’s famous food – the cheese steak.

Philly also gave me my partner for life – my husband of almost 20 years – as well as his entire loving family, and many friends who are close enough to be family too.

And so, without getting mushy and listing each person individually (a very long list), I’ll just say this: I cheer for the Eagles because I am loyal to MY Philadelphia – all of the people in and around that particular city who have shared with me the formative experiences that over many decades have created the life I cherish today.

How about you? Where do your loyalties lie and WHY?

I’m willing to bet that if you have an allegiance, it’s to a person, or people, or a place, that nurtured you and gave you hope. And that’s a good reason to continue to be faithful.

So consider Who you ally yourself with. And choose well.

Oh – and on Sunday – choose VERY well. Fly Eagles Fly!

The Cardinal Sign

The Cardinal Sign

Today I feel wistful. And thankful.

Thankful for what I took to be a ‘sort’ of sign.

Now please understand – I’m not a person who looks for signs.

I lean on the One who tells me to trust in Him, not in the ways of this earth. And so I’m not searching around for material things, wondering if they hold some cosmic meaning for me.

But every once in awhile, life seems to line up in way that speaks to me of comfort and peace beyond my understanding, and the only correct response can be, “Thank you. Thank you for this moment of grace.”

Today would have been my paternal grandparents’ 76th wedding anniversary.

If you’ve been a reader of my blog for some time, you’ll remember that my family celebrated their 75th anniversary with them last year (in 2017). My grandparents were in good health and in great, great spirits. However, they both passed into eternal life within weeks of the magnificent event, and the rest of us are left to contemplate how blessed we were to have this amazing couple with us for as long as we did.

All grieving families go through a mourning process that includes shock and sadness. It’s been an up and down year for each of us, but overall, it has brought us closer together. And joy has been a part of these long months, too, as we welcomed our family’s newest member – my sister’s first child, my beautiful nephew.

My heart held fast to these memories as I clasped Grandma’s gold cross around my neck for the first time this morning. My aunt just gave it to me on Saturday during our first visit together since some sad days last February.

As I held onto the necklace I was thinking about God’s words, “And behold, I am with you always,” (Matthew 28:20).

I stepped over to the mirror to take a look and just then a cardinal appeared to my right in the bush outside my window.

The brightest, fattest, reddest, cardinal.

It has been said these birds are the spirit sign of a loved one you’ve lost.

And so I wondered…

I was transfixed, rooted to the spot, as it sat there swaying on the branch, its wings, head, and breast glinting in the sunlight.

It stayed long enough for me to hear my mind compete: “I will not move until it does.”

And then…finally…it cocked its head and took flight.

I firmly believe there is an unseen reality and One God who is with us always.

He lives to show us He loves us. He lives to show us His love.

Is Your Schedule a Gold Mine?

Is Your Schedule a Gold Mine?
Photo by Joshua Sortino on Unsplash

Do you think of your schedule as a gold mine?

Let me explain.

If you are an adult – and especially a parent of multiple kids – you’ve almost certainly faced (at least once) a constrictive schedule dominated by ‘who needs to go where, for what, and when.’

Right?

Two weeks ago I found myself in a surprising position. A schedule that for years had allowed me to serve in a volunteer leadership position on Thursday nights suddenly steamrolled my plans. As the fall sports schedules were released and carpools were worked out, I challenged myself:

How can I drive from Columbia to Annapolis, make dinner, and handle homework questions in between 5:45 and 6:45?

I know! I will use the slow cooker and pray there is never a traffic jam.

Yeah, right.

I have worked logistical miracles before, but seriously?

Thankfully, I came to the sober realization that I needed to step down from leadership and take a back seat to my kids’ plans for Thursday nights.

I tell you this because my first inclination was to say, “I take a back seat to my children,” but the Plan for me was: You get to spend more time one-on-one with them.

See the change?

How often do you view your schedule and say:

Wow! Today I get to go to the dentist!

I get to walk my dog two times!

I get to cheer up a friend!

I get to coach my child on handling disappointment!

I get to give a presentation at work!

I get to choose my own attitude!

My kids are at three very different and important life phases right now: elementary school, middle school, and high school. Their needs are discrete. They often don’t share details with me.

But if I am fully present to them – I hear what they don’t say directly.

I get to listen more.

In the last few days I’ve heard…

  • My second grader say that he visualizes drawing red circles on the ceiling with lasers, and I learn that his mind is like a painter’s, creating anew in the abstract.
  • My middle-schooler say that a teacher asked her to show a new student around, and I hear in her voice that this has made her feel valued and confident.
  • My high-school freshman explain that any boy who would someday want to date his sister must be “smart, kind, and considerate – opening doors for her on dates and stuff,” and I understand that despite his constant chiding of her, he feels protective.

Observations like this are gold – gold mined in the quiet moments between life’s scheduled events.

Our days are filled with opportunities to participate in creation, because we are made in the image of the Creator. His imprint is within each one of us, and He has given us the ability to work in collaboration with Him.

Our choices can work with His plan for our best interests – or against it.

And when we go with Him, blessings abound.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

Do You Get Sick of ‘Perfect’ Posts? Me Too.

Do You Get Sick of ‘Perfect’ Posts? Me Too.

Do you ever look at carefully curated Facebook or Instagram posts and think, “These people are making me sick. I can’t take any more of his/her ‘perfect’ life.”

I’m with you. There are days when I have to shut it all down, reminding myself once again that these worlds are a VIRTUAL reality, not life in itself.

Earlier this week, my husband and I posted a huge block of our 2017 summer vacation photos on Facebook, which we use to stay in touch with far-flung family and friends. It’s a helpful vehicle, and the grandparents have learned to download pictures they’d like to save so that I don’t have to print and mail copies. But as I hovered over the ‘post,’ button, I pondered the implications. Every action has a reaction.

What do people think when they see my family so seemingly carefree?

The truth about a family is what’s happening before a photo is taken, and after.

I’m not going to pretend we have major issues, crises, or drama in our home right now. I’m not going to make this more than it is. But little struggles can be stresses – even on vacation – so here’s a story along those lines.

My daughter ran past me in the hallway of our rented beach house, rushing to the garage. “Oh God,” she said, “My retainer. I’ll find it.”

This kid. Age 11. And her retainer is literally holding things in place while we wait between Phase 1 and Phase 2 of who knows how much orthodontia to make big teeth line up in a tiny mouth.

I knew what she’d done. She’d left it in the mesh side pocket of a chair for 5 hours under the beach tent, which had just been folded up and dragged back to the house minutes before. Bad news all around.

I immediately blamed myself for not remembering to have her leave it at the house in the morning before we’d set out for the day. Instead, she’d had to improvise in our sandy shelter, fearful she’d lose it while playing in the surf.

In the garage, tensions were rising as equipment was tossed about and my daughter explained to her dad what had happened.

“Did you find it?” I interrupted.

“No,” my husband said firmly. “We’re going back to the beach. How much is it going to cost when we don’t find it there?!!?”

He let out an exasperated sigh and they left.

After I told our other two kids what was up, I headed out too.

I talk about God a lot in my blog, not because I expect that all of my readers will share my beliefs, but because my experience shows me that He shows up in my day-to-day.

People think faith is about religious doctrine. But it’s not. It’s about opening yourself up to the possibility that God cares about you. You personally.

So as I walked, I approached Him in honest conversation.

Lord?

I felt His presence like a blanket on my shoulders.

‘Here I Am.’

Thank you for being there. For being… here. For always being here. Even when I’m not paying attention. And I know I haven’t been… paying attention. Not for awhile. I’ve been ignoring you this summer. I’m so sorry.

Thank you for not ignoring us. Thank you for this vacation week. For the great time we’ve been having together. For clearing my mind. For the quiet.

As you know, we’re missing this retainer. I don’t know if we’re supposed to find it. I’m ok with your plan if we’re not. But either way, please bring us your peace. Help us all to be ok with whatever happens next.

St. Anthony – my friend – I wonder what it was you lost and found? You know I hate your rhyme – but if you could ask the Lord for help as well that would be great.

Lord, please help. Please help.

By the time I got to the beach my husband and daughter were giving up. They had searched the spot where the tent had been and looked resigned and defeated. I told them I’d be back when I’d completed my own turns through the sand.

After about 5 minutes of shuffling my feet into layer upon layer of hot earth, I looked up to see my own likeness coming toward me – the 40-ish mom from the generic family that had spent the day 20-some yards away from us – tired and concerned in her wet and sandy bathing suit.

“What are you looking for?” she called out.

I explained.

“What color is it?”

No sooner had I uttered the words, “It’s pink, green, and…” then we both looked down, and two feet ahead, half- buried at a 45-degree angle, there it was.

I held it up and looked at her in amazement.

“Oh my gosh,” I said, breaking into relieved laughter. “Wow! Wow!! This is a beach! I mean, I was praying about it, but… It’s a beach!”

She smiled and said, “That’s what I do, too. I pray too.”

I looked at her straight on. “Thank you!!! Really. Thank you.”

“It wasn’t me.”

I nodded appreciatively.

Because we both knew.

It wasn’t her.

The “perfect” in this life isn’t what WE make of it.

It’s what HE makes.

Bragging on My Husband (Because…Bacon!!)

Bragging on My Husband (Because…Bacon!!)

My husband performed something of a miracle this week. He made bacon.

He didn’t cook bacon. He MADE it. From scratch.

He cured the pork all week long and then smoked it on our back porch this afternoon.

When he pulled the slab of mouth-watering goodness out of the smoker, cut off a thin slice, fried it in a pan for just a minute, and gave me the sizzling piece – I thought perhaps I could live on just this for the next few years.

My husband’s slab of homemade bacon. Right out of the smoker.

I have often said that there are five reasons I could never be a vegetarian:

1. Pancetta.

2. Prosciutto.

3. Salami.

4. Carpaccio.

5. BACON.

Note – four of these are cured pork and the first and the last are very similar. Bacon is smoked, while pancetta is not.  (A little shout out to Bart Simpson fans here! I absolutely love this clip too!!)

It was a GREAT afternoon!

If you’ve eaten at our home, you know my husband is a culinary wizard. I like to say that I cook for sustenance and to feed our family during the week. But on the weekend and when we entertain, the love of my life cooks for fun and relaxation. He’s made his own marshmallows, candied oranges, corned beef, sausage….even his own hot sauce (after growing his own peppers first – multiple kinds for the right mix of flavors, naturally). And these are just the things that immediately come to mind because he’s made them in the last year or two! We’ve been married 19 years. Do the math. The number of delicious meals he’s made is mind boggling!

People say my guy is a “foodie,” and I guess that’s true. But I think he’s also gifted. And what that means for me and our kids is that we’re very, very blessed.

If you ask him, my husband will tell you he enjoys cooking. And he likes to see people take pleasure in the fruits of his efforts.

Which is the way it’s supposed to be.

Because when you bless others with a God-given gift, it will bring you joy.

What are your gifts? Do you know?

Do you often sell yourself short?

Don’t think you have to have stellar musical ability or athletic prowess to be considered gifted.

One could argue that the world needs people to exercise their ‘quieter’ talents even more.

Are you a good listener?

Are you patient and calm when others would rush a tender soul?

Do you create warm and inviting spaces where people like to gather?

Are you a natural ‘encourager’?

Are you good at problem-solving?

We all have gifts, and no two of us are the same. Imagine if everyone used his or her gifts to their fullest extent.

Your gifts were given to you for two reasons: to help build up the world, and to bring you joy in the process.

That’s something delicious (like bacon!) to think about today.

 

Bless us, Oh Lord, and these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive, from Thy bounty, through Christ Our Lord, Amen. – Catholic Mealtime Prayer

When Our Animals Pass On – Some Words of Hope and Consolation

When Our Animals Pass On – Some Words of Hope and Consolation

Some people just aren’t ‘animal people.’ They can’t help it, really. They just haven’t ever connected with a dog, cat, or some other creature in that deeply beautiful and inexplicable way that changes everything about how a person sees the world.

And then there are the rest of us.

Too many times over the last couple months I’ve watched friends wish a forever goodnight to a beloved dog or cat, and every time I hear of an animal passing, I go back to the days of losing the ones who were most precious to me.

There was Sassafras – the Puli I grew up with  – a Hungarian sheepdog who looked like a Rastafarian. She endured hours of ‘dress up’ as I styled her in my old baby clothes.

Crash – our 107 lb. Yellow Lab – who was afraid of linoleum, occasionally howled when he heard sirens, and adored flowers so much that if I came home with a bouquet, I had to let him smell it right away or he’d tackle me trying.

Crash. He loved flowers and wearing bandanas.

And Shiloh – our Golden Retriever – a big, red, fluffy guy who befriended all the neighbors and was so diligent about “checking” on our infant daughter I had to close the door to her room or he’d wake her up by pushing his nose through the slats of her crib.

It’s this last dog I think of with regret.

Regret. Commingled with our cravings for peace and comfort, it’s often the unspoken part of loss.

Sometimes it’s big. Sometimes it’s not. But one way or another, it can creep in.

We got Shiloh – a 9-week old puppy – on December 22, 2003 when our oldest son was not quite one year. I house-trained him in the dead of winter by strapping my son into his high chair, giving him a handful of Cheerios, and running Shiloh outdoors. He learned inside from out, but was never trained in obedience. My husband and I fully admit – our timing in getting this dog was not among the best of our decisions.

Shiloh on the day we brought him home.

Our daughter arrived two years later, and I was perpetually preoccupied with the work of mothering young children. Shiloh just didn’t receive the one-on-one time and love he so richly deserved. We lost him to an irreversible heart ailment at 8 years old; it was far too soon.

Shiloh as a young pup.

I went to the vet on Valentine’s Day in 2012 to be with him at the end, and the doctor gave us a few minutes alone to say goodbye.

I looked into his eyes and was overcome, so I sat on the tile floor, and with my arms wrapped around his huge red neck, I poured out my pain-filled heart.

There was so much to say. So much I still wanted to do. And couldn’t redo. And all I was left with was precious little time.

I told him I loved him.

I thanked him for his constant devotion to me and our family…for the joy he had brought to our lives.

And then…

I followed my soul’s prompts…and I asked him for forgiveness.

I said I was sorry. I listed many things I did that I regretted, and all the things I didn’t do that I regretted even more.

And this dog knew.

Why am I sure?

I saw it in his eyes.

There is one thing domesticated animals do better than their people: they love unconditionally.

And he did.

Just then, he leaned into me – physically and in spirit. He rested his head on my shoulder and licked my tears.

If every life moment is a glimpse of the divine, what was I seeing just then?

These critical life lessons:

Do not look back and wish for something else. We must live and love right where we are. To do otherwise is futile.

Forgiveness is a matter of turning the heart in the right direction: owning up to wrongs and then relinquishing them. Often, the hardest person to forgive is ourselves.

If facets of God can be seen here on earth – present in the unconditional love and forgiveness of an animal who trusts us and accepts us as we are – then in the same way, we can rest in the knowledge that if we approach Him with contrite hearts, admit our mistakes and ask for mercy, it will be granted to us.

And what of the animals? Where do our friends go?

I appreciate the words of Pope Francis:

“Eternal life will be a shared experience of awe, in which each creature, resplendently transfigured, will take its rightful place and have something to give those poor men and women who will have been liberated once and for all.” – Laudato Si

It warms my soul to consider this…to savor the fact that the God of my experience and understanding so loves the whole world, and God wants me to experience perpetual joy and love to such a degree, that He will use any means necessary to show me this Truth….

Even a dog – here on earth, and someday, forever with me in heaven.

Shiloh dressed for Halloween. He had a funny birthmark on the middle of his tongue. And a beautiful, beautiful heart.

When I Think of Her

When I Think of Her

I think of her most often when I’m doing the everyday tasks. So that’s all the time.

Folding laundry.

Combing a child’s hair.

Setting a table.

Sweeping the floor.

Making dinner.

Piano music is playing on the radio and I’m doing this last thing – crushing ground beef against the side of a pot to ensure that it browns evenly – when I start to cry.

Grief is like that. It sneaks up on you at the strangest moments.

I turn the stove down and wander into the family room, letting the meat rest until I can slow the sobs.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Something she can’t do anymore.

I cry harder.

I have faith. I trust that all is well.

But sadness is…It just is.

How many days did my grandma move in a trance around her home mourning the people she’d loved and lost?

Oh, stakkars liten” I hear her say, as she called me when I was a child. It’s Norwegian for “poor little one.”

We carry these precious pieces with us – the knowledge that we were loved, even as love was shown in the words chosen to comfort us in our everyday distress.

And this is just a small part of what I want to write about.

Some of you are aware, and others are just hearing, that I want to undertake a new challenge. I’d like to write a book for my kids about how love and grace have shown up throughout generations of their family, as it has in all our families, if we look closely enough.

I don’t know how long this will take. It could be quite a long process. But I will document it here on my blog and share how it goes with you, while offering what I hope will be useful observations so that if anyone else should like to undertake a similar adventure they can learn from my experience.

If you haven’t done so already, I invite you to sign up to receive updates by email. Look for the green box in the sidebar above. Thanks for joining me.

How to Know When Following Your Heart is Right

How to Know When Following Your Heart is Right

I lost my grandpa this week. The pain is new and deep, and I know that I will miss him for the rest of my life.

Memories comfort me, yes, but so does something else. The knowledge that I told him on so many, many occasions that I loved him. I did not let key opportunities slip by.

Just a week before my grandpa passed, my family and I had gathered in his retirement home in Seattle, WA, to celebrate his and my grandma’s 75th wedding anniversary. They were married in January 1942, just a month after the attack on Pearl Harbor, when Grandpa realized he’d be entering the Army Air Corps and knew he couldn’t go without his love. Allen and Hazel were high school sweethearts who truly grew up into adulthood together. As Grandpa said just a few days ago, “We met in May 1939, and I knew she was the one for me.”

Over the years, our family gathered from across the U.S. to celebrate 4 of their major milestone anniversaries: 60, 65, 70, and 75. At the 60th, I hardly said a word about the love and pride I was feeling. But something changed by the 65th, and today I suddenly realized why.

It was January 2007. I was midway through the 8-month process of learning and discernment that is required of people who wish to enter the Catholic Church – smack dab in the middle of the longest stretch of time I had ever spent considering God’s Word and thinking about His role in my life. And since we often can see with clarity in hindsight those things which seem muddled in the moment, now I know that God was working in my heart and gently coaxing me on to joy in the pursuit of His purposes.

Not everyone is comfortable expressing love in words, and the truth is, it wasn’t always that way for me. On the flight out to the West Coast in 2007, I wrote a letter to my grandparents that I planned to read at the anniversary dinner. I was full of adrenaline as my pen shot across the pages, charged with emotion as I lay down memory after memory, puffed with happiness at the thought that I would be able to share them with Grandma and Grandpa. And when the time came to read, I was shaking all over. It wasn’t seamless, but I got through it, word by word, my voice faltering and cracking.

My family praised me, but what meant the most was the knowledge that my words were a gift my grandparents truly treasured. Grandma called me over with a gentle wave, held my hands in both of hers and said, “Gretchen, dear, have you ever thought about being a writer?” She knew I wrote nonfiction educational materials, but she was talking about something more. She was urging me forward. “Yes, Grandma. It’s actually what I think I want to do.” “You should do it.” She nodded slightly to indicate her seriousness and squeezed my hands. “You should do it.”

Me reading to Grandma and Grandpa at their 75th Wedding Anniversary Celebration, nearly two weeks ago.

I had reservations and told her so – that I didn’t think I had any worthy material, had no idea what to write about. She listened lovingly and nodded understandingly, but my grandma encourages regardless of fear. She is a quiet repose of strength and confidence.

I would go on to write another letter for their 70th, and deliver it with less anxiety than I had on the 65th. And when last weekend came, I was filled with calm and a deep conviction that I was doing the right thing, regardless of whether the thoughts I expressed were the same thoughts as those of others in the room. It turns out I was right – Grandpa was just a couple days from meeting his Creator, and this was my last chance to pour out my heart to him.

How can we know when we’re on the right path? How we can know we are saying or doing what we should? For me, there are a few indicators:

1) I ask who I’m serving. Who am I doing this for? If my actions are born of love, a desire to be in community and relationship with others, and above all, if I’m aiming to please God with all my mind, heart, soul, and strength, I’m probably headed in the right direction.

2) I consider the voices I’m hearing. Encouragement and gentleness come from Love (with a capital “L”). He does not chastise or tell me I’m an unworthy, useless, untalented wanna-be. If negative voices are dominating my thoughts, I must call them out to fight with the blinding light of Truth. God is Love. He is Light. There is no hate and no darkness in Him. And He alone can give me the strength and confidence I need to move forward, if I surrender to His good will and love for me.

3) I remember in faith that I am not an accident. The desires of my heart to do good work in my life were planted there by the One who loves me more than I can comprehend, and wants me to enjoy life to the fullest. My desires are part His divine plan.

In His Word, God tells us how to live joyfully, and He promises us that we are all given gifts. Don’t we believe that He’ll help us to use those gifts? Don’t we know without having seen that Love is real, and therefore we can step out with our talents, trusting in that Love to see us through? We move in faith, believing that He has blessings in store for us if we work with Him, if we don’t give in to the lies that plague us.

“Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” – Hebrews 3:15

If It’s Going to Be, Is It Up to Me?

If It’s Going to Be, Is It Up to Me?
Photo by Jerome Prax. Unsplash.com.
Photo by Jerome Prax. Unsplash.com.

So it’s the last day of my Month of Good News 2016, and I have not fully completed the challenge. Including this post, I’ve done 22 in 31 days. Not bad by most standards. But not up to my expectations. I had wanted to post every single day during October.

Yet have you noticed – that oftentimes our expectations are unrealistic?

It’s fairly easy to see that our expectations of others cannot be fulfilled. When was the last time you asked a family member to complete a task and they did it exactly and precisely the way you wanted? The timing might have been off, or something else wasn’t up to snuff. They bought the ‘wrong’ brand of orange juice, missed a few spots while cleaning the bathroom, or didn’t arrange the towels, dishes, magazines, shirts etc. the way you would. The truth is, no single person can meet our expectations unless we decide to relinquish those expectations.

Now, consider yourself. Are you always faithful to your resolutions? Do you eat healthfully, get enough sleep, exercise, return all phone calls and emails, remember and check off each item on your to-do list, speak kindly to every person you encounter, and thank God for your life and all of its blessings (both seen and unseen) – every single day? Every 6 hours?

I am not. I fall short.

In my Bible Study group a week and a half go, I once again came to the realization that if I am to ‘treat my neighbor as myself,’ I need to think about the impact of my attitude and actions. Not only is it important to display the qualities of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness and love to the neighbors – especially the 4 living in my home – but it’s also imperative that I show myself the same consideration.

And – I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty hard on myself. If I don’t meet my own expectations, I’m likely to come unglued. As my best laid plans are derailed, I become cranky, resentful, and angry. But instead of dropping my lofty, ‘perfect’ plans, I tend to unleash my emotions on the people I love most. Or I get a migraine – in which case, I’ve turned the fury on myself.

So, a week and a half ago, I asked the women in my Bible Study group to pray that I would slow down and be more fully present to both my neighbors and to myself.

Those faithful friends of mine prayed. And my eyes were opened.

It’s one thing to say we need to be “good to ourselves,” and yet it’s another to do it, largely because we are flawed and limited in our ability to help ourselves.

When I was in 6th grade, my teacher Mrs. Walker had a motto on the ceiling of her English classroom. It said, “If it’s going to be, it’s up to me.”

Such a truism can be inspiring to a degree, but as we earnestly meet the challenges of daily life for years, we eventually realize the limitations of mantras like this one, which are premised on the idea that I alone can do whatever it is that needs to be done.

I hit a wall in the last ten days, and clearly saw that I can be a writer, but I can’t generate material that I don’t have. I simply didn’t have enough things I wanted to say, much less time to research and write them, here at the end of October. The schedule is just too full of practices, awards ceremonies, family visits, birthdays, and costume sewing (as well as meals, exercise, and homework). Yes, I could have started writing back in August and then posted everything I’d accumulated in October. But I don’t work that way.

I want to have fresh things to say, as the Lord prompts me to say them.

And whoa – right there in that statement came my moment of reckoning when I understood the real Truth.

My limitations are the exact points where God wants to step in and give me the strength, creativity, and time that I am so desperately craving.

The question is not, “What can I get done?” but instead, “What does God want to equip me to do?”

As I evaluate my tasks for the day, I need to ask,

  • Does this activity have eternal value?
  • Is it something God would want me to focus on?
  • Will He be upset with me if my expectations are not met?

Failing to meet our own expectations is actually a blessing. It’s a correction to our human tendency to make ourselves a higher priority than God.

In my case, it was also the answer to a prayer.

He came alongside me and in His gentle way said, “I will help you write, but it won’t be on your schedule. It will happen on mine. And I will help you to be the good mom and wife you want to be. Let Me fill you. Let Me be your peace.”

God promises to be with us every step of our lives, but it’s up to us to turn to Him and say, “I trust you. Please equip me with your grace, because I am weak, but You are strong.” (Philippians 4:13)

He will give us grace. Guaranteed.

This is the very best of all Good News. May we carry it with us, and share it with those He places in our paths.

He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.

-2 Corinthians 12:9