How Young are You?

I used to want more stuff. I kept a mental list of things to make my home cozier, make me look more stylish, or up my game as I drove down the road.

And I spent hours striving to achieve my goals.

But today, I want more moments. The ones you savor when you wake in the middle of the night. The ones that usually come at no cost. Moments like:

Josie and Papa 1

  • Sneaking in as my babies slept to hear their gentle breathing.
  • Grandkids dressed for bed in their Papa’s T-shirt. Because spending the night was a last minute decision.
  • The sound of the kids trying to be quiet on Christmas morning.
  • Finding my child, in a sea of faces, as their choir sang, “Jesus loves me this I know…”
  • Waking before dawn, stepping over sleeping children, in a tent, at the beach, so Tim and I could watch the sunrise.

So many moments filtered through my fingers. And now I wonder, did I pause enough and soak them in?

Maybe the true blessing of eternity is time. Time to savor the insignificant without thinking it mundane. To sit still until the sun rises fully in the sky. To never rush the moment. To fully appreciate the presence of a God who longs for my attention. Who decorates this world in His glory.

GK Chesterdon describes it beautifully:

Sunset“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again;” and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

Maybe, our goal is to learn how to exult in monotony. To never tire of the simple things. To savor a moment until it floods us in His glory, keeping us forever in His infancy.

I Did Not!

LightI can hear Tim like it was yesterday. I’d no sooner come through the door after a long days work, and he’d start,

“You did it again Ellen. I came home and you’d left every light on. The house was lit up like a Christmas tree.”

Always convinced he was wrong, my defenses went up. I’d shake my head and walk away. I didn’t leave one single light on, much less all of them.

Surely, Tim exaggerated. Never once did I consider he might be right.

Well, I’m ashamed to admit that he was. After he was gone, I couldn’t believe how many lights I left on. Night after night, for the past three years, if I’d turned it on in the morning, more than likely, it was still on when I came home.

Even after making a concerted effort, I’d still come home to a hall or bathroom light glaring me in the face.

I just couldn’t believe how, for years, my own denial kept me from changing my ways.

We all have those blind spots. And I’d venture to guess, just like Tim with me, someone has been telling you all about yours.

But it’s easy to just walk away. To think our accuser is misguided, or has ulterior motives. Or perhaps we cling to the old, get the log out of your own eye… routine.

Wouldn’t we all be better off if we listened to some of those who know us best? What if we began to value the wisdom they hold about our lives? What if we considered it a treasure to learn where we need to grow?

So I’d like to know, what have your loved ones been telling you about you? Are you leaving a few lights on? What can you not see that they can?

A Feast to Remember

IMG_4094We all came, some new friends and some old. We gathered at the table and we broke the bread and drank the wine. All to celebrate fourteen years of a rebuilt life.

And as the stories were told, we remembered.

He was a boy then, and now he’s a man. And he never wants to forget what almost cost him his life. The foolishness that lead to the arrest, the imprisonment, and the walk to freedom.

But most of all, on this anniversary of his release, he remembers the people who helped pull him from that pit.IMG_4093

So that night, Tommy, his youth pastor and friend asked,

“Daniel, do you remember the first time I saw you at the jail? You were on the other side of that glass, and we were talking on that phone. And I said, ‘How did you get there and I get here?’ Do you remember what you said?”

He didn’t even pause, “I told you I stopped listening to the people I respected.”

And for over an hour we feasted at that table, and we shared our stories. And we became full on the evidence of Gods greatest miracle.

IMG_4092The restoration of a man’s soul.

Over two thousand years ago, twelve men gathered around a table. And as He broke the bread, and He poured the wine, He told them to remember.

To daily remind themselves how His body broke, and His blood poured out.

And how their souls will always need nourishment as much as their bodies. And without Him, they’ll never be full.

This Easter, I challenge you to prepare a feast. To invite all those you love to the table. Gather them around and break the bread, and pour the wine.

And let the conversation flow. And as you do, remember all the ways He has restored your soul.

Jesus Christ Crucifixion on Good Friday Silhouette

My Prodigal Heart

Fourteen years ago, Daniel walked out of this prison a new man. In honor of all he’s accomplished I’m re-posting this.
66309-dsc00209The fog had not yet lifted the morning our van climbed the hill to the Staunton Correctional Center to pick up our son Daniel. His five and a half-year sentence for foolish crimes he’d committed were over and we could finally take him home. To keep Daniel from spending one hour more incarcerated than necessary, we made the 2-½ hour journey the night before. At 6:30 that chilly March morning, he was free and we were there to greet him.

It felt strange pulling up that long road in the dark dawn. A thick fog made the prison seem eerie. Inside the car, silence fell as none of us quite knew what to say. Our daughter Kelly and her husband Dan had spent the first five years of their marriage making sacrifices to visit Daniel. Tim and I couldn’t quite grasp the reality of not spending our week-ends driving to a prison. None of us knew what to expect.

Tim, ever the prankster, went to the guardhouse with a “Get Out of Jail Free” card, but the guard didn’t seem amused. Then we sat in the van and waited. The sunrise began to burn off the fog, but a thin grey mist still made it difficult to see across the yard.

It was strange to think Daniel would just walk out the gate we had entered so many times. It seemed an odd process when so much effort had been exerted to keep him inside.

Suddenly, someone in the van said, “there he is!” But we all seemed frozen.

Carrying a large cardboard box, Daniel stood just on the other side of the sally-port gate. A guard stood by his side. Daniel didn’t move as the first of the two gates opened. There was a brief exchange between the guard escorting Daniel and the guard at the hut, and then the second gate opened and Daniel walked to freedom.

At the same time, the vans doors opened and we all leaped out. Daniel’s blaze orange baseball cap covered his curly hair and his old prison issue denim jacket was unzipped. Underneath he wore a tan shirt that still had the creases from having been just removed from its package.

Without speaking, Daniel stood next to the car as if unsure of what to do next

Even though we had new clothes for him back at the hotel, I could no longer stand seeing Daniel in prison garb. I removed his cap and asked him to take off his jacket. As soon I spoke, the words of the Father of the Prodigal Son echoed in my mind. “Hurry, bring the royal robe…” Tim took the box from Daniel as I shoved him his father’s jacket that was laying on the front seat. He pushed his arms in the sleeves and climbed into the front seat.

On the ride back to our hotel I marveled at why I didn’t love our obedient daughter more than our prodigal son. In so many ways it seems prodigals get to eat their cake and have it too. It’s always seemed unfair in a logical sense, yet emotionally, it’s crystal clear. But I sometimes struggle with putting the two together.

Perhaps it’s because I too have the heart of a prodigal. In my own frustrations over the direction God is leading me, I too have run away, taking with me God’s inheritance. I seldom hesitate to shake my fists and stomp my feet because God didn’t do something I thought He should. After hours anguishing over my foolish tantrums, I marvel at a God who loves me in spite of them.

Too often, I measure myself against folks who seem to do the right thing no matter what. I cringe as family members tell how they never complain. Or how they press on with a positive outlook. Words that could never be said about me. When I get angry, I want to run away from God. But, when I’m out in the world, I’m always shocked by how big the wake of my rebellion grows.

More than once, the overwhelming responsibility to be a “good” Christian has driven me away from my relationship with Christ. I don’t feel like going the extra mile, turning the other cheek, or holding my tongue. Not that I’ve ever been successful at any of those, but the burden of trying weighs heavily on my heart. And in those dark moments, well meaning folks say, “Let go and let God.” But I don’t want to.

Daniel a Pia

Daniel and his daughter Sophia

Fortunately, in the midst of my pity party, I run out of steam. Then I start to remember the blessings I have enjoyed because of Him. I remember how much I matter to my God. And the moment I acknowledge the error of my ways, the realization that He proclaims, “quick, get the royal robe…” amazes me every time.

Having a prodigal of my own has made me aware of the anguish my prodigal journeys cause our heavenly Father. It has made the power of grace very real to me. For it is His grace that makes us all loved equally and unconditionally by God. It’s grace that is the great mystery of our faith. The very thing that never ceases to amaze me. And the thing that calms this prodigal’s heart.

Peace at What Cost?

She sat across from me at the table. I wasn’t sure why she wanted to have lunch. For the past couple years she’d been asking that we be friends. She said she envied mine.american-cut-table

But it’s hard. There are just too many unanswered calls. Too many texts that get no response. Too many canceled lunch dates.

As a single mom, I know she’s got her hands full with two of her four children still at home. And she does understand the challenges she handed them with her three divorces. But she’s trying to overcompensate by being super mom.

And I do think, considering her past, she’s wise to not date. But I question her insistence that she values the peace she’s found in being alone. Especially since she repeatedly laments how she’s not close to her family, and she has no friends.

So, I came to lunch. But until I saw her in the restaurant, I wondered if she’d show up. But she did.

I try to make her feel comfortable by sharing some of the struggles Tim and I had in our marriage. I don’t want her to feel badly that she’s divorced. I want to love her right where she is.DSC00410

“Sounds like he was really selfish,” she says.

I back pedal. My intent wasn’t to degrade the guy.

“We were both selfish.” I responded. “Truthfully, I was as horrible and wonderful to him, as he was to me. In our forty years together, it was a draw.”

She sat up straight, drew in a long breath that puffed up her chest. “I used to be selfish,” she said.

I sit back kind of stunned. Because with no one in her life except her kids, who pushes her buttons? And since she stays at their every beck and call, they’re not pulling her trigger. So I wondered, what are her indicators to say she’s not selfish?

Because I just don’t think we’re to wipe out our struggles by isolating ourselves from difficult people. And if that’s the only way we can find peace, I think we might be doing it all wrong.

The bible tells us in Ephesians we’re to be completely humble and gentle. To be patient, bearing with one another in love.  To make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

Looking back at the difficult people who have crossed my path, I see how those relationships changed me the most. And the ones I wanted to walk away from were the ones that caused me the most growth.

Because we can’t win the fight over our sinful nature, if we don’t get back in the ring. And those difficult relationships help to identify the areas where we need to change the most.

Selflessness never comes easy. And sacrificing our lives for others exacts a high price. But consciously bearing with one another, in love, changes us at our core. And if we don’t spend our lives incrementally laying them down, at the end, the only way we will have peace, will be to live alone.