Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Today's Convicting Encounter

I arrived to pick up my dry cleaning this evening and noticed that the lady behind the counter was smiling one of those contagious smiles as she waited on the man ahead of me. He left without speaking to her.

I stepped forward and gave the lady my claim ticket. She happily retrieved my clothes. I considered not saying anything more than thank you, but I felt prompted to ask her about the reason for her smile.

"You seem really happy," I finally said.

"Oh, yes! I happy all the time!" (She continued to smile as she spoke.)

"I wish I could be happy all the time," I caught myself saying.

"I happy because I read Buble," she says. I guess the mispronunciation made me have a confused look on my face because she quickly walked over and pointed to her open Bible.

I'm reading through the chronological Bible right now, and my curiosity got the best of me. So I had to ask, "What chapter are you reading?"

"Genesis," she said while continuing to beam.

"Me, too. I'm looking forward to finishing it tomorrow." She nodded as I left.

As I put my clothes in the car, I couldn't help but wonder how many people that lady has inspired, all because of her sweet smile and her willingness to give the Reason for it.

Father God, as I go about my day, please help my countenance to reflect joy and contentment so that I may point others to You. Thank you for putting this woman in my path today as a gentle reminder of how my heart longs to change and look more like Yours.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Seventh Grade Memorabilia

Most people blocked seventh grade from their permanent memories. There are parts I wish I could have too. The cliques. The mounds of homework and projects in Texas History class. Acting as one of the managers of the girls basketball teams. Did I mention the cliques?

But as much as I might want to block out seventh grade, I'm surrounded by things from seventh grade that even the minimalist in me hasn't found a reason to part with.

Who could forget the ever-popular Guess jean jacket?

I asked for this jacket for Christmas in 1987. Despite the fact that I had gotten a yellow Liz Claiborne purse and a Swatch watch the previous Christmas, I felt I needed THIS jacket to make me cool. Nevermind that it is actually too big for me twenty-one years after the fact. At the time, I rolled up the sleeves, multiple times, and wore it every day that the weather would permit. It's the oldest piece of clothing that I own that I could still conceivably wear. So I've kept it.

The other item from junior high is my alarm clock.

It's nothing special, especially looks-wise. But it's functional. And as the saying goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." So, I translate that to mean, "If it still works, don't replace it."

Other than dolls and clothes from when I was an infant and some Christmas ornaments, I don't think I own anything older than the two items pictured above. I don't think that's the result of my desire to par down but more a reflection of the fact that things don't last that long. They break. They wear out. They get too small. They look funny.

Being surrounded by short-lived items and thinking about how many people come and go in our lives, is it any wonder that people have trouble understanding the depths of God's love? That His love endures forever. That it is irreplaceable. That it doesn't have an expiration or best-used-by date. That it is unconditional.

I need to keep that at the forefront of my mind and step up and "be Jesus with skin on" to those around me. That doesn't mean that I have to be perfect. Because I won't be. I just have to be real. And present. Kinda like the jean jacket and the alarm clock, only with an everlasting message.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Big-ness of Little Things

Lately, I've been impressed by how small things have produced such big effects.

The M&M fanatic in me, who knows that they were D10 on the candy machine when I was in school, can't fathom how so much yumminess is tucked into each pill-sized candy. They make me smile. Every time.

When my electricity went out twice in one night last month, I realized the magnitude of candlelight. By lighting a single candle, I could illuminate a vast area and find my way in the darkness.

In my continual quest for relief from my allergies, I've experienced how the slight prick of a needle can ultimately bring relief. I never thought I'd be one for acupuncture, but having five tiny needles placed in my sinuses for a short period of time produced over three hours of relief.

Though I don't have little ones of my own, I listen intently to the stories my friends share regarding what their children are saying. Deeply profound statements about life and faith spill forth out of their little mouths on a regular basis, and I never cease to be amazed.

A handwritten note penned on a space no larger than 3" x 5" can be huge, especially if it has encouraging words written on it.

And a feverish prayer whispered once in the midst of chaos may have eternal significance.

All of these little things and their big effects encourage me. They remind me that I don't have to bring about world peace or find the cure to cancer--neither of which I'm likely to do--in order to have a lasting positive effect. Instead, I need to do my small part. And that can be as simple as planting my "mustard seeds," in whatever form they take.

Again he said, "What shall we say the kingdom of God is like,or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade. (Mark 4:30-32)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Losing Time

Over this three-day weekend, I thought I'd have lots of time. Time to spend with friends. Time to do chores. Time to read. Time to run errands. Time to write. Time to relax.

With all the time I've had, I've somehow managed to lose some. I lost some to napping. Some to showering so long that the water heater ran out of hot water. Some to surfing the internet from blog to blog to blog.

But thankfully, I didn't lose the whole holiday weekend.

I managed to get some chores done around the house and have some service people come take care of a few things. I found time to laugh with friends from my community group at a movie. I took Annie to get a heartworm test. I ate lunch at the museum and met a wonderful couple (who are attorneys in a nearby city) after the hostess decided to seat them with me. I blogged a bit. I went shopping to look for a new Bible study with several members of my community group. And I plan to sip hot chocolate and delve into a chic lit book here shortly.

So, I guess I'll give myself a grace ticket for frittering away some time because all in all, it has been a great three-day weekend. I hope yours has been as well.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Holding On

I walk by this tree every day on my way to work. Last week, it caught my attention. I wondered, "How could this tree still be holding on to fall-colored leaves in the latter part of January?"

As the mental picture of that tree kept circulating in my mind, I began to see that tree as a metaphor for what I've been going through. Over the past two weeks, while my allergies have been raging, I've realized that I have been holding on to some "leaves" of my own.

For instance, I've recognized that I have been holding on to fear. One fear was the fear of using a Neti Pot. One of my close friends suffers tremendously from allergies and sinus problems, and she's been pushing me for a couple of months to get a Neti Pot. I swore I'd aspirate the solution to my lungs because I couldn't envision how pouring water UP one nostril would allow it to come out the other nostril. But I gave in. I tried it. The jury's still out on the Neti Pot's effectiveness because Puffs facial tissues with lotion remain my constant companion. The Neti Pot itself has not been life-changing. Conquering my fear of trying something new has. Now I just need to apply this technique to my fear of flying so that I can make a trip to NYC later this year.

I have also noticed that I've been holding on to pride, though it's hard to know whether to call it pride, shame, or just another form of fear. You see, I haven't written in the past couple of weeks because (a) I was exhausted from battling with my allergies and (b) I didn't want to write something that was subpar. After I posted about my migraine aura, I regretted it. I was somewhat embarrassed because I don't want this to be a "downer" blog or to be defined by my health limitations. Since then I've read some of Natalie Goldberg's book entitled Writing Down The Bones in which she states, "If every time you sat down [to write], you expected something great, writing would always be a great disappointment," and "If you are not afraid of the voices inside you, you will not fear the critics outside you." (pp. 21 & 33) So, because it is in my nature to write to process things, I can't guarantee that what I post here will always be a great read. But I'm okay with that now.

Thankfully, not everything that I've been holding on to needs to be dropped.

During my allergy battles, I've been compelled to hold on to God because I haven't had much energy. And amazingly, I have not missed a day or even an hour of work during this time. I've also been encouraged by His Word and think it is no coincidence that I have been reading through the Book of Job throughout this time.

So in light of the tree that is still holding on to its fall-colored leaves, I challenge you to think about what "leaves" you are holding on to that you might want to let go of. After all, spring is just around the corner, and you'll want to have room to bloom!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

One of Those Days

This morning I noticed that my vision was a little blurry as I was driving in to work. Not exactly a good time for my eyesight to fail me. I expected it to clear up. But then things got weird. I saw a sparkly circle on the carpet at work. It was somewhat of a mirage because it existed only in my mind's eye. And then I started having a blind patch and couldn't read all the words on a page.

These are the unique symptoms of a migraine aura without headache.

Thankfully, I've had one of these episodes before and wasn't scared that I was going blind. I knew I just had to wait it out. The small sparkly circle became a sparkly curve that moved from the middle of my eye to the periphery and finally disappeared after about an hour. After the aura vanished, I had only to do battle with my allergies, which have been raging ever since unseasonably warm weather arrived this weekend.

These ailments, though minor in comparison to some health issues, prevented me from being as productive as I had hoped to be today. But they also showed me that I can't do anything in my own power. Health issues force me to turn to God more quickly than just about any other struggle I face. I'm helpless against a migraine aura. I can only be still and wait. Something that I seldom practice of my own accord.

Father God, thank You for restoring my health and my focus on You. Thank You that Your mercies are new every morning. I need them more than I tend to think I do.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Back in the Groove

Yesterday, I woke up early and felt butterflies in my stomach. They weren't anxious butterflies; they were the excited, reminiscent-of-the-first-day-of-school butterflies. After a wonderful thirteen-day break, I was returning to work.

Some people hate their jobs. I've been there. But for almost five years now, I've counted as one of my greatest blessings that I have a job that I love. And the people with whom I work make my job truly enjoyable.

So it's no wonder that I looked forward to visiting with my co-workers and hearing about their Christmas celebrations. I also enjoyed challenging my mind and getting back in a routine.

If you're reading this and thinking that you'll never have a job that you enjoy, I would love for you to read how I got to this point. Please don't interpret this as a push for everyone to quit their jobs and to hope for an outcome similar to mine. Instead, if you've been seeking the Lord's direction and feel like He is leading you to take a leap of faith and explore a new career, I would encourage you to be obedient and watch for the blessings that follow.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Welcoming in 2008

I spent a portion of yesterday reflecting on 2007 and looking ahead to 2008. I thought about making some resolutions, but I don't really like resolutions. I think it's the word that I don't like. Instead, I prefer to set goals, and I did some of that. But I also read some of my favorite blogs and picked up some new ideas, as I usually do.

One of the writers whose blog I frequent posted the seven things she learned during 2007, and her readers added comments regarding what they had learned. I thought about writing about what I had learned. But then I read a posting from my writer friend TJ who talked about writing a letter from God to yourself. I loved the challenge of thinking about what God would tell me as I approach 2008.

That's how I started today. I wrote a letter to myself in my journal, reminding me of the Truth. I plan to look back on it throughout the year.

So how do you approach the New Year? Did you make resolutions? Do you prefer to let the year unfold? Or do you have your own tradition? I'd love to hear.