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Aging and Aquamarine

Mar

29

Posted by on Mar 29, 2018 | 2 comments

 

Right now, in this hair’s breadth of a moment, you are both as old as you’ve ever been, and as young as you ever will be again.

 

Interesting thought, isn’t it?

 

It is not unusual for me to think about time, in general, and aging, more specifically this time of year; March is my birthday month.

 

Aging comes naturally, but if your wish is to age gracefully, you’re going to have to be intentional.

 

Aging can be like a riptide, forcing you off course and threatening to pull you under. It can knock you off your feet in a single wave and leave you disoriented and wondering How in the world did I get here?

 

Neither aging nor aging gracefully are destinations; they’re journeys. One is completely left up to chance, the tail wagging the dog, que sera sera; the other is intentional, contemplative living, controlling and planning for a preferred outcome. The latter  also involves accepting what you can’t control and making the best of it.

 

A positive attitude ignites your ability to age gracefully; it enables you to receive all of life as this big, incredible, magnificent gift–all of it. That doesn’t mean you’re immune to hardship or disappointment. It means you’re better able to navigate those seasons when they arrive.

 

When I was a kid, choosing a birthday gift for a friend was always easy: something birthstone-related or Zodiac sign-related. That’s so funny to me now; I don’t think I ever got anything related to either of those for gifts when my own children attended their friends’ birthday parties. My birthstone is aquamarine, and I’ve always loved it; it’s one of my favorite colors to wear, clothing or jewelry. Maybe it’s why I long for and love the ocean so, exquisite aquamarine sea. And though I never bought into Zodiac stuff in terms of practice or belief, I know I’m Aries and it’s associated with fire, and there’s something in that I appreciate.

 

While the four seasons are like my children in that each one is my favorite but for different reasons – I see the signature beauty in each – I find myself thankful to have been born in the spring. Spring is colorful, alive with promise, with hope, with life! Aquamarine finds her way into spring.

 

Spring holds the darkest day in Christendom and the brightest. Jesus, in full surrender and submission, enduring a gruesome spectacle of death, demonstrating an incomprehensible love, and ultimately conquering the grave and bringing reconciliation of man to God through His atoning sacrifice. Spring is beautiful and reminds me of our hope in Christ.

 

I am at the age now where milestone birthdays have lost the meaning they do in our youth. Remember when you couldn’t wait to

  • turn double digits
  • become a teenager
  • get your learner’s permit
  • get your driver’s license
  • vote
  • order a cocktail (or beer or wine…)

I am at the age now where sometimes, dammit, I have to check the last box. I wish that didn’t phase me, but it does. I’m also at the age where my body betrays me, alternately catching fire or my hair changing color or just plain hurting from sitting too long. Seriously–sitting too long can hurt? Who knew?

 

But hear me loud when I tell you this: I am no victim of age. Neither are you.

 

I am at the age of incredible opportunity. 

 

I have lived 17 years longer than my own mother, who didn’t get to see her babies beyond grade school. I’m enjoying the incredible privilege of knowing my children as young adults, of seeing them on the way of becoming who they’ll be.

 

I’ve lived long enough and gained the experience that convinces me Romans 8:28 is true–

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,
for those who are called according to his purpose.
(ESV)

 

I’ve lived long enough to learn that there’s more than one way to the other side of the mountain, and that one day you will make it to the other side. 

 

I’ve lived long enough to understand the difference between “have to” and “get to”–

I get to clean my house because I have a house to clean.

I get to wash our clothes because we have clothes to wear (and a washing machine to do the actual washing).

I get to do yard work because I have a yard.

I get to give money to those in need because I have money to give.

I get to spend time getting to know God through His word, because He’s preserved His word in scripture.

I get to praise and worship the Lord because He has given me life now and forever.

 

Aging gracefully relishes Get-to living. Have-to living puts you under the chains of obligation. Be free, my friend. You get to be free. Let go of those chains.

 

I’m at the age where hindsight is a masterful teacher. Age allows you to see the veil lifting to reveal more and more of the big picture, all the tiny puzzle pieces of your life fitting together into something lovely.

 

I’m at the age where I can tell you it is never too late to:

learn something new

follow your dreams

try something that scares the snot out of you.

I’m at the age where I believe it is always right to:

lead with love

forgive, then forgive again. And again.

be generous

be kind, because everyone is dealing with something beneath the surface.

I am at the age where I want to steward my time well, love the people in my life well, and honor, serve and love Jesus well. In my past I have wasted time, taken friends and family for granted, and resisted God and what He asks of me.

 

An incredible opportunity has come my way that couldn’t have happened before now, unquestionably a God-gift. One year, 365 opportunities, and this one is huge. Tomorrow I turn 55, and 2018 is the year I will write my first book. It took me a long, long while to get to the age when, finally, my life is not my own.

 

Soli Deo gloria.

 

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How You Can Make A Difference on International Women’s Day

Mar

08

Posted by on Mar 8, 2018 | 3 comments

I’m sitting at my kitchen table where the sun is piercing filthy windowpanes, a thing I notice in the morning but forget by noon’s shadow. A ladybug sits on the sill, I’m assuming dead. Our home is a death spiral for pretty bugs dressed in red with black polka dots, and I wonder why that happens at the end of every winter.

It’s International Women’s Day and I wish I could say I knew that on my own, but it’s the internet that tells me so. I’m stung by awareness of my comforts, my plenty, and my relative wealth, and it brings a sort of shame. Those things have cost me nothing, but in some places in this world even lesser things cost everything you have to give.

I’m reminded of a woman I encountered almost nine years ago.

 

 

She was striking to me, uncommonly beautiful, obviously haunting. The sun on her shoulders. Her expression, somber yet intense. Her shoes matched her saree. She carried a bucket, soap, cane, and, most important, her dignity.

In my trip to Kolkata where I met dozens and dozens of people, hers is a face I always remember first. Whatever her age, she had lived a long, and undoubtedly difficult life, and yet she’s endured.

She is not victim. She is an unnamed international woman I celebrate.

She lived in a village where Compassion International had a Child Survival Center, a place where mothers and babies receive goods, education, training, and services that contribute to their survival.

Shortly after my trip with Compassion Bloggers to India, the child I sponsored left the program. Her mother remarried after the death of her father, and they moved to a location where Compassion didn’t have a local presence. Though I wasn’t able to continue helping her family financially, I’ve never stopped praying for Pinki; meeting her carved permanent residence in my heart.

 

I often wonder what she looks like now – nine years older – and how she’s doing…how all the beautiful children served by Compassion are doing in India.

You see, about a year ago Compassion had to shutter its sponsorship program in India; it was heartbreaking for those involved. After decades of ministry, Compassion could no longer send funds into the country due to Indian government restrictions (read more here).

We’ve also sponsored a daughter from the Dominican Republic; this year will be our tenth! She’ll turn 16 in May, and our sponsorship began right after she turned six. It never occurred to me until this moment how long we’ve been blessing one another, and make no mistake: Isaura blesses me with every letter she writes and ever prayer she offers for me and my family.

Compassion currently operates in 25 countries and has touched millions of lives since beginning its work in the ’50s. Everything I learn about Compassion only reinforces its impact and value to our broken world.

Today (regardless of when you read this), in celebration of International Women’s Day, I’m asking you to make a generous contribution to Compassion International. Get your credit card or checkbook out and start here.

 

You can make a one-time gift or change a child’s life – and his/her family’s lives – by committing to a monthly sponsorship. It’s up to you. 

I know our churches need our money, and our communities need our support, but today to celebrate International Women’s Day, I’m asking for global consideration for a gift to our world. I trust Compassion completely, and I’ve witnessed first hand their impact in local communities.

Look at these precious faces I had the incredible honor of meeting almost ten years ago. They’re my inspiration for today’s bold ask, but I bet there are significant women in your life worthy of celebration. I hope you’ll want to make a gift just because you can.

This old world needs those who have financial means to remember those who have financial need. It’s really as simple as that.

 

 

 

 

Thank you.

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Doing The Thing You Already Know To Do

Feb

23

Posted by on Feb 23, 2018 |

 

It was the first time my small group would meet her, this dear friend of our dear friend. On more than one occasion Monica had shared wisdom and insight she had gained from Sandra, and we were eager to know her, too. Proverbs 27:17 tells us that “iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” and Sandra had that ability even when her “iron” came through another person.

 

Jesus knit us together in no time, and small talk went deep. We were sisters, in it together, sharing so many things in common, understanding from the inside out the Holy wrestle. The way of Christ is simple but it’s rarely easy. He invites us to a kinship of suffering, and I find myself wondering sometimes is that so we can better know Him, or did He slip on skin and fill that earth suit with bone and blood just to feel the way we feel?

 

Sometimes I see Jesus as a circle and it tells me, “Always.”  And, that’s (beyond) enough.

 

On this morning, we made space for important things. This group will put their ugly out there and remain safe; we love each other to healing, we lift each sister’s chin toward Hope. Though Sandra wasn’t a “regular,” we knew she could handle the ugly and wouldn’t hold it against us, the way we’ve all experienced with other women at some point in our lives. We learn and relearn that some women thought to be safe, aren’t, so when we find a few who are, we hold tight.

We meandered our way onto the topic of forgiveness; it was me exposing one of my scars, how I had been wounded by someone I thought I could trust. I explained I had forgiven her but hadn’t forgotten, and then what Sandra said next I wasn’t expecting.

*

*

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Please continue reading A Hopeful Thought About Forgiveness over at (in)courage.
(I’d love to hear your thoughts in comments – here or there – and as always, 
thank you in advance for sharing this post!

 

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Can Buy Me Love

Feb

04

Posted by on Feb 4, 2018 | 3 comments

 

I was behind them in line at the Walmart return counter, Dante’s 10th circle if ever there was one.

 

Brothers, maybe twins, I’m guessing knocking on five’s door. They were crammed into the back of a shopping cart; one kid would have been too big for it himself, but together, potentially, it was a recipe for disaster.

 

They had been indoors longer than me but their hoods were still drawn tight around their faces. Perfect little round faces that reminded me of a smiley, except the one hanging over the edge of the buggy wasn’t smiling. His expression was absent, blank, not the look you expect on a little boy. His brother was the spicy one. While their mama was conducting her business with the clerk, he slowly, quietly pushed their cart away from the edge, farther from her. His grin told me he thought he was getting away with something. He was proud, a victor…a darling, little rascal.

 

Tried as I might, I couldn’t get them to look at me. I wanted to offer them kind eyes, a smile, the joy of being noticed and liked. Two little boys ought not be caged in a grocery cart, but I suppose it was simply to keep them out of trouble. Still, it bothered me. Maybe it was in all the time I watched them, neither never said a word. They didn’t poke or pick at each other the way siblings often do, and I thought how well behaved they were.  The expressionless one who kept leaning over could have fallen right onto his head and their mama wouldn’t have seen until too late. I was ready, though, Spidey-mother senses on alert, ready to spring into action if he needed me.

 

It takes a village.

 

The rascal was getting bored, looking for new distractions. I had already been there ten minutes and, like I said, they had been there longer than me. Where babies normally ride sat one of those clear cotton candy containers, or at least that’s what it looked like. Rascal wriggled past his brother and peeled open the lid, and that’s when I realized there was money, not cotton candy, inside, paper and coin. He stuck his fist in and pulled out both, metal dropping back into the tub and making a plastic percussion, the “tell” that alerted his mother. It was the first time she gave them any notice, and she did so by smacking Rascal on his mouth and sharply insisting that he “sit down and leave that alone.”

 

His countenance fell faster and harder than the money in that stupid bucket.

 

I continued to watch them, still trying to telegraph love through eye-to-eye connection. The blank one kept tracing the squares of the buggy or leaning over its blasted edge, but Mr. Mischievous had all but disappeared. He was hiding in plain sight best he could, his arm resting across the back edge of the inner baby basket, that perfect little face burrowed underneath, refusing to make eye contact with anything or anybody.

 

I couldn’t help but wonder what happened when they were home, when the mama had freedom to express her irritation or anger without onlookers. Maybe I was jumping to conclusion, but I couldn’t help my imagination. But then I thought back to the countless times I dragged my kids to places they didn’t want to go, and how, sometimes, I pinched, prodded, or popped them to obey, or how I used my expression, tone, and words as a weapon.

 

Who was I to speculate or judge?

 

Still, I read volumes into what was being played out in front of me.

 

I don’t know why I felt so desperate for them, but I did. I prayed for them and their mama, wanting to do something for them, and feeling a fool at the same time. Was this an opportunity or my brain on a pint of crazy?

 

I opened my mostly empty wallet, finding two quarters and a penny, and when I say I felt like I was “supposed” to give those boys the quarters, I mean it. I argued in my head over the benefit of a quarter – back in the day you could buy 25 pieces of penny candy, but now the two of them together could barely buy a chocolate bar at Walmart. And their mother…what would she think of a stranger giving her boys money? I was frightened of her response but mostly I questioned any value derived by such a small offering.

 

OYTO. An opportunity? I found myself in an odd test of wills.

 

The mom appeared to be nearing the end of her transaction so I knew I had to act swiftly: I placed the two quarters on the lid of the cotton candy tub, grabbing the attention of both boys. In a fluid move, I pointed with both index fingers, first to the coins, and then to each brother, then hastily turned and walked past the registers toward the closest aisle I could hide behind.

 

But not before seeing the expression on both of their faces….

 

Rascal was back, his countenance lifted, his sweet face alight. For the first time I saw his brother smile.

 

Turns out I misjudged the value of 50 cents.

 

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What Runs Through Your Mind When You Wake Up At Night?

Jan

28

Posted by on Jan 28, 2018 | 1 comment

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble,
whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—
if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Philippians 4:8 NIV

 

As We Think, So We Do

For years I’ve battled insomnia, trouble with both going to and staying asleep. Over the past six months I’ve seriously addressed it every way I know how–medically, physically, holistically, alternatively, and spiritually (prayers welcome), and while my sleep quality has improved slightly, it’s still an issue. It’s not a question of whether or not I’ll wake up between Bedtime and Rise and Shine, it’s how many times will I awaken.
On good nights I’m able to fall back to sleep relatively quickly, but the roughest nights have me tossing and turning for hours (yes, I know I should get up for a change of scenery, but apparently knowing what I should do doesn’t necessarily translate into doing it–a whole ‘nother post for another time.).

When I’m wide awake at two in the morning it usually goes like this:

  1. Relax and try to keep the dream you were just dreaming going, to fool yourself into thinking you’re still asleep.
  2. Get mad because you can’t even remember the dream, but you know it was a good one and you want to know how it ends.
  3. Become increasingly irritated that you’re awake.
  4. Decide to take advantage of being awake by praying for every person on your prayer list, and even a few more who come to mind…

and it is right about there my mind begins to wander off track (anyone relate…?).

Recently I’ve been convicted about the direction my thoughts were taking. A new series I discovered on Netflix offered a steady diet of…

 

Click here to continue reading As We Think, So We Do over at {in}courage today.
I think most of us can relate…

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When One Word Becomes Your Battle Cry #OneWord #OYTO

Jan

25

Posted by on Jan 25, 2018 | 16 comments

Are you a subscriber? If not, please do, and if you are already, thank you!


Do you believe in signs and wonders?

 

I do…I  believe in signs and wonders. Miracles. Divine timing and appointments. Circumstances, if not orchestrated at least permitted, by a great, great God who knows me better than I know myself, and loves me more than my little brain can comprehend.

 

He feels the same way about you, you know, regardless of your belief (or unbelief), despite your most grievous sin.

 

Signs…wonders…miracles aren’t necessarily showy or spectacular (like baby rainbows settling in your front yard). Wide open eyes and receptive hearts seem to find them in otherwise ordinary moments.

Photo by Alana Smith, the 10-year-old daughter of my friends Heather and Rich; a child with an amazing eye who saw the beauty of a single snowflake, and captured it that we, too, might See.

 

A new year is a dear thing to me. January just shouts possibility and potential.

 

Maybe it’s that joie de vivre heart of mine anticipating soon-to-be-written story. Maybe it’s the grace of a mulligan, a chance for a do-over, to get more things right than wrong. Blank slate, bare canvas, the beginning of a one-of-a-kind something, days not yet lived but already ordained.

 

I love a new year.

 

It should come as no surprise that I’m a resolutions gal. I don’t make it hard, though, there is no formal procedure.  No ominous list that will defeat me 12 days into the new year; more like a series of targets, beacons, touchstones inviting me to draw near.

 

For me, setting resolutions is as simple as living with greater intention. Don’t we all want to be the best version of ourselves? Shouldn’t we?

 

Resolutions are invitation to live fully and well.

 

Beyond my abstract, ethereal resolution-setting, I love to have One Word to mark my year, a word that serves as both anchor and aim. One Word to both ground me and give me wings. As days turn into weeks turn into months that make a year, I look over my shoulder while looking ahead to recalibrate, to make sure I’m on course. One Word helps me remember where I’m headed, what I want out of the priceless time I spend for each day.

 

Value of time increases with age.

 

It’s always fun to watch my One Word come into being; it’s a sacred thing, given by God. It’s a process of discovery for me, seeking and searching and setting my head and heart on otherworldly things. Kingdom come.

 

Or maybe that’s this year. Maybe this year I’ve received a word in light of the gospel, because this year, like never before I sense fresh wind. Fresh fire.

 

My God, it’s good.

 

Weeks ago, I thought my One Word was time. “Time” became A Thing for me last year, the first year I was acutely aware of and in conflict with my age and brevity of life. Grains of sand seemed to be slipping through the hourglass’s narrow neck at an incendiary rate, and there’s not a blasted thing you can do to slow it down.

 

Over Christmas this year, a conversation with my daughter rolled around to One Words for the new year, and I asked her to predict mine. “Jump!” she said without hesitation. She had good reason for her guess –

 

#TheRobin ~ Jumping in front of The Pursuit IS Happiness mural
by Sean Metcalf at Ponce City Market in Atlanta.

 

Because I have such high regard for Rachel, I began to toy with Jump! for my 2018 One Word. She didn’t know my interior stirrings, but I did, and “jump” fit..

 

Except that’s the thing about a One Word; it ain’t about making something fit. Anchor and aim…grounder and launcher. For me, I know it when I know it, and both time and jump ended in a question mark, not a period, or better yet – my favorite – the exclamation point.

 

My 2018 One Word arrived in an unusual package: a graphic tee shirt from The Loft, a Christmas gift from a dear friend. I didn’t see it at first, but when I knew, I knew it. 

 

 

OYTO.

 

oyto

\ öi-t? \ (rhyme with toy-toe)

Definition of oyto:

1. noun. One Year, Three-hundredSixty-five Opportunities.
2. verb.  Carpe diem. Seize the day. Looking for opportunity every day, and then acting on it.

 

One year = 12 months = 365 days = 8,760 hours = 525,600 minutes = 31,536,000 seconds.

 

There are a lot of opportunities for opportunity.

 

How many have we missed because we weren’t looking? I don’t want to miss any more.

 

Every day brings incredible opportunity, and it’s a question of wise stewardship to say yes to as many as possible. What I’m not saying is to crowd your plate so full you can’t taste a thing, what I am saying is to open your eyes to the gifts within reach every single day. Gifts that bless and encourage others, and that fill and feed your soul.

 

Every day we have opportunity to be ~
  • kind
  • generous
  • thoughtful
  • encouraging
  • friendly
  • honest
  • practical
  • reasonable.
  • loving
  • joyful
  • fair
  • faithful
  • patient

Every day you can make a difference in someone else’s life. Are you absorbing that? 

 

Every day you can make a difference in someone else’s life.

 

Increasingly, I’m coming to realize the most important daily opportunity is to seek God first in all things.  Also, for believers, every day we can be a reflection of Christ, maybe the only Jesus the people we meet will see on any given day. We get to live out the gospel in word and deed.

 

Sometimes opportunities are big and showy like new jobs or leading a small group or starting a non-profit. This year I’m posturing my heart and head to see and receive every opportunity set before me in light of the Kingdom. I do not want to miss a thing the Lord has for me.

 

One year, 365 opportunities. Every taken opportunity is opportunity to give glory to God. 

 

OYTO!

 

Oyto is my battle cry, a declaration of intentionality, a prayer to be faithful in small and big things. Oyto is how I long to live this year, day by day, minute by minute.

 

I sense God asking me to live an Oyto! life. And, I wonder if anyone wants to join me…as you’re reading this, is your spine tingling? Is there something in your spirit stirring, saying, “Yes! Me, too.”?

 

If so, be my Oyto sister. Let’s encourage one another, and be reminders of seeing the opportunity each day brings. Let’s not be mindless multi-taskers or bowing to the god of busyness.

 

Let’s be prayerful, thoughtful stewards of opportunity.

 

I’m not asking a soul to jump on my personal bandwagon; oyto certainly doesn’t need to be your One Word. But if it sounds like a word that invites your response, let me know. I’ll be in touch soon.

 

 

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