Month: December 2015

Another Time

woman.jpgIt was pointed out to me recently, that I am from another time. I found that amusing. I mean, which one? I have an Apple computer, Apple TV, iPad, and an iPhone. I am on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. I shop online more than in brick and mortar stores. I shop Etsy, and spend way too much time on Pinterest. I gave up my home phone years ago. My chickens have a webcam. Seriously, they do. And having chickens is very organic and now. I can talk on my phone through my car, and I can ask my phone to unlock my front door. And yet, still, I am from another time.

So how did this come up then? Part of what God has called me to do during this season of my life is to invest in younger women. They come to me even when I am not looking for them, and I love it. Several years ago, I told the Lord, “If I could just get to them before they make those big mistakes, you know the ones, Lord. The ones that cause them hurt and regret for a long time. I could help them. I could teach them.” Eventually, the Lord said, “Okay.”

It was one of these younger women who told me I was from another time. Well it was a friend of hers who said it, and as I said, I was amused. This young friend of mine is single and wants to be married, she hears the clock ticking, but she wants to wait for the man God has picked out for her. She has some pretty high standards. I think it’s great, and I told her so, and I encouraged her to stand her ground in these things.

My friend wants her future mate to love Jesus. She wants him to lead her spiritually. She wants him to, well, be a man. She wants to be swept off her feet and cherished. Sounds pretty awesome, doesn’t it? I think so, too. This outdated view that I avow and encourage, along with my age :), apparently, is what makes me from another time.

My young friend hears again and again from her cohorts that those kinds of men aren’t out there anymore. I hear this a lot, too. “A good man is hard to find”. I have some news for these young women… good men have always been hard to find! There have always been more frogs than princes. So does that free us up to lower our standards just so that we aren’t living alone and lonely? There are worse things than that, my dears.

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I look at this smart, young woman and I know this truth. She is the blessed daughter of the Most High King. What kind of king would give his daughter to someone unworthy of her? Just because qualified suitors are not a dime a dozen doesn’t mean that she should settle. If she is called according to her Father’s purpose, then shouldn’t she have the desires of her heart? Isn’t her Father able to bring forth the right bridegroom at the right time?

The world shouts louder. The inclination to give in to its noise is strong. But the world will sell us a bill of goods and laugh at us all the way to the bank. Scripture is pretty clear with regard to how men and women are to behave, and scripture is timeless. It is relevant no matter what time we are from. It may not be the loudest voice, but it is true, and still sharper than any two edged sword.

I know for certain that there are young men out there who love God and follow after Jesus. How can I know this? Well, I’m raising three of my own. I would have had more, but my uterus is worn slap out. Alas, my boys are a bit too young for most of my young female friends, but I am taking applications from any slightly younger women in their early twenties who would love to meet a handsome, educated, talented, God chasing young man. (You’d think my sons would abhor this kind of open pandering, but believe it or not, neither is it easy for a young man to find young a woman today who loves Jesus and is following after Him. After all, Proverbs 31 says, “A wife of noble character, who can find?”)

Maybe I am from another time, because these days I’m thinking I really like the idea of arranged marriages… do feel free to attach resumes in the comments section…I’m joking. Sort of.

The best advice I have heard for young women searching for a mate is this. Keep running your race. (The one marked out for you by God) If you’re running and someone manages to keep up, introduce yourself, and there you’ll have him. Your mate is not the prize, Jesus is. Your mate doesn’t complete you, Jesus does. Stop looking for a prize that completes you. Look to Jesus. Keep running. Once in a while look over and see who’s running with you. I promise, you are not running alone.

Water Off a Duck’s Back

I’m a terrible record keeper. When I became a nurse, I had no idea that a large part of the job was going to be keeping good and accurate records of the care I had given and how my patients had responded to that care. My first job, fresh and green out of nursing school, was quite overwhelming in this regard. It was at the height of the late eighties nursing shortage and if a nurse had a pulse and a nurse’s license, they could get a job.

In those days, there was no orientation to speak of, other than, “Here’s the break room and here’s where you clock in and out.” They just expected you to figure out the rest. Thinking back, it’s a wonder I didn’t kill someone. As a brand new nurse, I was given ten or so patients to keep up with during my shift; just as many as any other nurse. (So much for easing the newbie in)

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I can remember taking each patient’s chart into their room with me, sitting down in that room, and writing up my notes on that patient. If I didn’t do that, I soon learned that I could write a book on the wrong patient, and that was long before the days of computer charting where you could cut, paste, or delete it all with the click of a button.

I don’t take care of patients anymore, not the way I did then. Yet in my current job, I still have to keep meticulous records; important records that eat up a lot of time and effort preparing. It is a matter of focus, and like I usually say, things are generally about focus.

I once worked with a person who kept meticulous records. To say they were dedicated to it would not do their ability justice. They could tell you at any time anything about the comings and goings of their co-workers. When their co-workers arrived at work and the minute they left. Did you want to know how long someone took for lunch? It was there, in the records. Just in case anyone wanted to see it.

Only no one did. You see, this person had an attendance problem. They had a problem with coming to work on time, and staying at work until it was time to leave, and they had been counseled on it. So instead of focusing on improving themselves, this person decided to record the deeds of others in attempt to throw the spotlight elsewhere.

We can all do that, sometimes. It’s so much easier to keep a record, written or in our minds, of the wrongs perpetrated by others than it is to address our own shortcomings. We like to justify our own sin by comparing it to the sins of those around us. So we start keeping records. We elevate ourselves by degrading other people. Do other people mess up? Sure they do. Just as we do.

1 Corinthians, Chapter 13, tells us what love does and does not do. One of the things that love does not do is keep a record of wrongs. It’s right there in verse five:

“It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”

Notice the part leading up to the part about record keeping. Love does not dishonor others. Love is not self-seeking. And love is not easily angered. These three are the necessary ingredients to the final statement in this verse. Love does not keep a record of wrongs. Keeping a record of wrongs dishonors others. It is a self-serving exercise, and we use it to justify our anger toward others.

Think about it, if I am upset with someone, my mind tends to want to go to a list of offenses perpetrated by said person. And I find, as I tick through the list, that my level of anger toward this person goes up. A lot. I can work myself into quite a lather in pretty short order. And I feel justified in my anger. I mean, just look at the list!

So what’s a girl to do? Proverbs 4:23 tells us to guard our hearts. We have to be careful what we store up in our hearts. We must allow the peace of Jesus, which Paul tells us in Philippians, which surpasses all understanding, to guard our hearts and minds so that stuff never takes root to begin with.

The kind of love that Christ calls us to display sets aside lists of wrongs and offenses. Ephesians 3 tells us that this love surpasses knowledge. It doesn’t mean that the offenses didn’t happen. Sure they did. I offend, you offend, all God’s children offend. But the love we are called to have for one another surpasses this knowledge.

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It means we let it go. As my mom says, “Like water off a duck’s back”.

How often do we fill our hearts and minds full of this clutter? Lists of wrongs. Records of offense. If we think about it, we can let this record keeping take up a great deal of our time and energy. It’s petty. And it’s stupid. And our heavenly Father knows how damaging it is to us and how it can easily rob us of the peace He can give.

We are heading into a new year. Another chance to start again. What if we just let the pettiness go? What if we tossed out our record books, and just let the love of God surpass all that stuff? I think 2016 would be a much more joyful year, indeed.

The Best is Yet to Come

I had someone tell me that if they heard that phrase one more time they were going to punch the person who said it. In their defense, this person’s been through some tough times, and I can understand where they see such a phrase as holding little real meaning in their lives… if they choose to see it that way. Heck, we could all see it that way, I suppose. I did, once.

It was about the time I hit forty. I looked around at my life, and while it was a pretty good life for the most part, I felt a little like the leftovers in my refrigerator. Pushed to the back, taking up space, forgotten, of not much use to anyone, and maybe a little moldy. Yep. I felt like the best years of my life were, for all intents and purposes, pretty much done. I looked around assessing my situation, put my hands on my hips, and said, “Alright sister… this is it. Ships have sailed, opportunity is through knocking on your door, you are like that one-hit-wonder (whose name escapes me) from the eighties who had that great song, but are forever off the radar.” And I headed headfirst into depression.

I slept a lot. I meandered even more. I sighed constantly. It was a gloomy few months in the land of Stacey. No one wanted to go vacation there. I didn’t even want to be there, and yet I couldn’t seem to find my way out. I couldn’t, that is, until I stopped looking inward and started looking around me. About that time, I had some friends, my age and even a bit older, who were doing things. Great things. Things that a short time before they could never have seen themselves doing. Purposeful and meaningful things. Things that had absolutely nothing to do with them, and yet they found completely fulfilling. God. Sized. Things.

UnknownIt took a little time, but I did finally climb out of my funk, or depression, or the all about me pity party, or whatever you’d like to call it. I dusted myself off, straightened up a bit and peered around from a new vantage point. It was hard to see things at first through the gloom, but I knew that if God had things for my friends to do, things that gave them purpose and fulfillment, then certainly he had something for me, too. I began to start to believe that the best days of my life were indeed still to come. But nothing changed in my life until I was willing to believe they could; until I truly believed God had more for me.

I took one step, just one tiny step, and the next thing I knew, I was on a stage directing a musical production for a women’s conference at one of the largest churches in Charlotte, North Carolina. Me. The one who was all moldy and ready for the trash bin just a few months prior. I found my life again when I decided to invest it in other women. Suddenly, I was the dancing queen! I mean figuratively… we used the song Dancing Queen in the production. 🙂 And no, there is no video…

I learned from that time on that I was far from done. Sure, I have some years on me. I’m no spring chicken anymore, but who cares? I’m still here. I’m still breathing. I still love people and investing in them. I love pouring into young women and sharing from my experiences. Why else do we have all this life experience? It’s not to keep to ourselves, is it? I don’t think so. And I want to keep learning. I don’t ever want to get so old that I think I know everything, and that I have nothing left to learn. I can’t stand being around older folks who think they already know everything. Younger people have a lot to learn, but they have a lot to teach us, too!

And now, at almost fifty, I am learning better how to find my identity in Christ. I am not who my husband says I am. I am not who my kids say I am, or my friends, or my critics. It’s not even fair to put that burden on those people. I am who my Father in Heaven says I am, and He thinks I’m pretty awesome. He thinks you’re pretty awesome, too, by the way.

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Learning to find my identity in Christ alone has done wonders for being able to believe the best is yet to come in my life. Christ came to secure our eternity, but he also came that we might have an abundant life here, now. As we start another year, I want to encourage all my friends to look ahead. Believe that as we learn to find our identity in the Author and Perfector of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), the best story lines of our lives really are just a few pages ahead. Kinda makes you wish you could read faster, doesn’t it?

Roots and Wings

I love shoes and fun, cheap jewelry. I love books. I love my three cats and my five chickens.

I love writing and I love to prowl through thrift stores and flea markets. But there is nothing in this world that I love more than my family. I know that’s not unique to me. I am sure many of you feel the same way. I’ve spent 25 years making a nice, warm, safe nest for my family. I’ve always wanted my home to be a refuge for those who live there. It’s a safe place to fall and where the strength to get up again is found. It’s where dreams grow and life is celebrated. It’s where imperfect people find other imperfect people who love them so much it sometimes seems ridiculous.

Only love isn’t ridiculous at all. That kind of love comes only from one place. The Bible tells us that God is love and that others will know we love Him by how we love one another. No, love is not ridiculous, it is the first, and most important ingredient in families. That kind of love believes all things, hopes for all things, and endures all things… and in a family, we believe, hope and endure together. Family was God’s invention, and He places us in families to bless us… even when sometimes we don’t act like blessings. But that’s on us, not Him.

I grew up my whole life, until college, in the same house. I had the same bedroom, ate dinner in the same chair, and ate every birthday cake at the same table my whole life. I was planted in that house. I had roots there. I knew where home was. My husband, on the other hand, moved quite a bit growing up. For him, change was always an adventure. I was not a fan of change, but when you marry a gypsy, you get used to packing and moving. Early on, I worried about our kids. We tend to believe (assuming our childhoods were healthy) that the way we grew up was best, and I was concerned that moving so much would interfere with our kids feeling rooted anywhere.

In his wisdom, my husband told me, “Our kids will always feel at home if they are where we are.” I worried, still, because I did that in the early days, but time has proven his statement true. Our kids have lived in more than a dozen different places, but they know where home is. Home is with mom and dad. In spite of my concerns, they are rooted well. No matter our address, we have loved, hoped and endured together. Their roots are stronger and deeper than even mine were.

Giving our kids roots is only half of our jobs as parents. It’s important to provide that for our kids, but equally important is giving them wings. Our children are only on loan to us. The Lord brings them to us to love, nurture, teach and train for only a while, and then we get to send them off into the world to live lives of blessing to others. How well they fly, and how true their trajectory, depends on those early roots, though. thKids fly best, and surest, when like homing pigeons, they know where home is. And if they fly a bit off course, knowing where home is and that home is the place to believe again, hope again, and endure, it becomes the place they can start again.

compassIt’s like the captain of a ship who navigates by due North. He can be sure of any other direction as long as he can count on due North. You see, it’s in the roots that kids can find wings. It’s in always knowing where home is that they can venture out and live lives of purpose. As the day approaches where each of my kids find their wings, I am working hard on those roots. My motives are not completely altruistic, though. I know that in the days and years to come, a great deal of my joy will be in watching them live out the lives to which God has called them, and oh, what a time that will be! Pop the popcorn, Honey, this is going to get real good!

Blue Christmas

Someone recently asked me if I didn’t find the holiday season just a little depressing. I actually don’t. I know that some people do, and I understand that the reasons behind that fact are as varied as the people who feel those feelings. Some people miss friends or relatives they have lost, and they feel that loss more during the holiday season. Failures, disappointments, tensions, financial woes and old skeletons seem to become magnified during the holidays for some.

People everywhere tell us to have a “Merry” Christmas, or for those too politically correct to voice it that way still wish us, “Happy” Holidays. It can be a lot of pressure to make good on those wishes for merriment and happiness. We are expected to feel so much joy during this season, and for some, that joy is hard to muster up.

Most of us think that our Christmases should look like a Saturday Evening Post scene, and anything less is just… less. We have pictures in our minds of perfect decorations, loads of presents under the tree, and families gathered around sharing smiles, eggnog and carols. Lots of times those scenes are far from what we experience in reality, and it’s when our reality comes face to face with our fiction that our troubles begin.

thWe look at our own holiday scene and see pieces missing. Broken relationships leave someone out of our picture at the holidays. Financial problems leave beneath the tree looking bare. There’s no time for singing carols with those we love because we over commit ourselves this time of year. Stress takes over where peace should prevail. Somewhere along the way, our Saturday Evening Post begins to look more like a scene from the Jerry Springer Show.

I know that I am fortunate to be able to find joy during the holidays. I always have. I credit my parents for consistently making this time of year special for me and my brother when we were growing up. There was a lot of “merry” in our home during the holidays. Our holidays were not lavish, but they were joyful. I still have those same feelings about this time of year now that I have a family of my own, but I have learned a thing or two about how this holiday season can be less depressing and more joyful.

We can’t expect to muck things up all year and then have an easy time of it during the holidays. Everything is magnified during this time. If we sew peace and joy into our lives during the year, then those feeling dominate during the holidays. If the year was stressful, financially, then that gets magnified as we head into this season. If relationships are strained during the year, then Christmas dinner is going to be tricky at best, relationally. It seems that we tend to reap during the holidays what we have sown all year. The good news is, a new year is just around the corner and we can try again.

But for this year, at this point, things are what they are, and realizing that our scene may look at bit more Jerry than Merry this year, going in, may help get us through what’s coming and avoid some predictable pitfalls. In the meantime, we have to find our joy in this season! I hate pithy sayings, but Jesus really is the reason for the season.

It’s not presents or lights, decorations or parties. It’s not plays or musicals, movies or goodies. It’s not even family and friends. All of those things are nice, really nice, and they help to make the season fun, but even if we have none of those things as a part of our Christmas this year, the fact remains. We celebrate this time of year in order to recognize the day that the world changed forever. God the Son, stepped out of heaven to become flesh in the form of a lowly baby. Christ left the glory of heaven to live and dwell among us… and ultimately, to die so that we might truly live.

Nothing going right or wrong in our lives can take away the truth that the world was changed for eternity the day that Joy came to the world. Because of that, we can truly celebrate life! With all its hang ups, missteps, blunders and disasters, we can still pause and celebrate the greatest story ever told. And that story? That story is a part of our story, neat or messy, peaceful or troublesome. His story is wound up in ours, tangled up so tightly we couldn’t unwind it if we tried. He is all about us. It’s why He came to us. And that’s how we find joy in the midst of pain during this season. So what’s the antidote for the Christmas blues? Hope, and that hope is found in a baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

Merry Christmas, everyone!