Sunday, May 26, 2013

His Grace in Providing Peace and Gifts in the Storms

During springtime, I keep one eye on the radar at all times when I know a storm is headed our way. I take storm warnings very seriously.  I am ready at a moment's notice to head to the half bath and hunker down with my Bible, my cell phone set on the weather app, a flashlight, food, water, and whatever other earthly provisions I think might be helpful to have on hand.

This spring, the weather tended toward the cool side, and the radar stayed calm during March and April.  I assumed that we had made it through the spring unscathed. 

Then last weekend, the weather forecasters started warning that Monday had the potential for severe weather, including tornados and hail.  This was all set to occur on Monday afternoon and evening, which was the very same time that my friend Nick had gotten me a ticket to a taping.  And this was not just any taping, but a taping with my favorite author and blogger, Ann Voskamp, and an opportunity to meet with her after the taping.  And so the wrestling with the fear of the storm versus this wonderful opportunity began.

On the way to pick up a friend at the airport on Sunday evening, my route took me by the building where the taping would occur.  A quick glance revealed that the building was a tank; it looked like it could weather just about anything.  So I took comfort in thinking that if I could get to the building, I would be fine.

As Monday afternoon rolled around, and the radar lit up with green, yellow, red, and even purple, I decided it might not be a good idea to drive my newish car to the taping and found a coworker whose route home takes her right by where I needed to be.  My car could stay in covered parking at work. 

With those details nailed down, and in spite of reports of the tornado damage that had occurred in Moore, Oklahoma, I decided that I would take the plunge and head to the taping.  Yet, I kept asking my coworker who was driving me to the taping whether this was crazy (after all, she had survived a tragic tornado in Wichita Falls), but she assured me that she would keep me posted of any weather developments and was willing to come and pick me up afterwards if the weather was bad.  I'm so grateful for her encouragement and her help because the Lord had great things in store.

As I sat in the audience and waited for my friend Nick to arrive, I felt the covering of being under the Lord's wing--that same covering described in Psalm 91.  The weather was the furthest thing from my mind as James and Betty Robison interviewed their guests, including Ann.  As Ann shared from her book One Thousand Gifts A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, I was reminded of why I have continue to record the gifts the Lord has given me--because it helps conquer fear as you see His faithfulness daily.

After the taping, they announced that Ann would stay for twenty minutes to visit with members of the audience.  At the twenty-minute mark, she had only signed autographs and taken pictures with a handful of the fifty or so people who were in line; when the staff asked whether she wanted to leave, she replied that she would stay until she had gotten to every single person.  Her generosity with her time was beautiful. 

We were the last in line because she had wanted to speak to my friend Nick.  I was blessed to hear how her blog touched his life in such a profound way that he left a successful career in the corporate world and responded to the Lord's leading to attend seminary.  He then blessed Ann with a special gift for her son who is headed to college. 

As the evening came to a close and more stories poured in about the devastation that had occurred from the storms that had swept through Oklahoma, the enemy tried to inflict guilt:  How could I have gone to such an incredible event when others were hurting?  But the triumph is that I went to the taping IN SPITE of fear and was blessed to experience the Lord's covering.  That was what the Lord had for me on Monday evening, and I would have missed out had I given in to the fear.

As Ann's inscription so beautifully reminded me: "Alyssa, your testimony means so much to Jesus! You are so loved by Him. All is grace. Eucharisteo!"

Yes, all is grace.  And His gifts continue:
#3391:  Getting to meet Ann Voskamp
#3392:  Hearing Nick's testimony of how Ann's blog impacted his life

Sunday, May 19, 2013

His Grace in Giving Wisdom

I entered eighth grade with much trepidation about pre-algebra.  Rumors abounded about how hard the class would be; after all, it involved math with letters. What in the world?  I had always loved math, but I thought that this class might just change my feelings about the subject.

Almost intuitively, I started praying each night that the Lord would open my mind to understand the next day's lesson.  I prayed this every night throughout the year, and the Lord faithfully provided the wisdom and understanding that I needed for each new lesson.  I finished the year with my love for math still intact.

Yet, when I got to trigonometry as a junior in high school, I didn't receive the warnings.  And it didn't occur to me to pray when day after day my brain couldn't grasp how to do computations with sine, cosine, and tangent.  Thankfully, that class didn't count towards my GPA because trig and I remain enemies to this day.

The other day, as I was telling a friend about my pre-algebra prayers, she remarked, "That was wise beyond your years." 

I hadn't thought about those prayers until that conversation.  And I began to think about all the things I've gone through since my math days when it would have been helpful to pray in advance for wisdom.  I often prayed that the Lord would help me to do well, but I seemed to lack the insight (or wisdom) to pray for wisdom.  On many occasions, I was guilty of thinking that I had what it took mentally to get the task done; I just thought I just needed the Lord's help to help me regurgitate what I had studied.  Oh how prideful those thoughts and actions were!

My challenge now is to get back into that eighth-grade pre-algebra prayer mode.  I want to be intentional about seeking wisdom from the Lord for every aspect of my life.  And the good thing is that His Word promises that if we ask for wisdom and believe He will give it, He will.  I have nothing to lose, except my pride, and I'm ready to let that go. 

"If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.  But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts I like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind." James 1:5-6

Sunday, May 12, 2013

April/May Update

It's been more than a month of Sundays since I last posted, so an update is way overdue.  Some of the posting absence was planned, but the latter part was due to the blue screen of death that appeared on my computer, which required purchasing a replacement.  Navigating Windows 8 has proven that you can teach an old dog new tricks; it just takes about three times longer.  I felt such a sense of accomplishment when I finally figured out today how to install the printer driver.  I still don't know how to use all the functions on here, but the big E button to the internet is working, and so there's no reason to delay blogging any longer.

What I've Been Enjoying

During my time away from the blog, I enjoyed four days with family at a beautiful house on the Guadalupe River.

(View from the dining room looking onto the pool and the river)

I had fun catching up last weekend with my Sunday Supper Club from grad school.  We toured the Chagall exhibit at the Dallas Museum of Art and told stories over lunch at Oddfellows in the Bishop Arts District.  Catching up over good food reminded me of all the meals we shared together and how many recipes they taught me to cook.  I wish we lived closer and could gather every week.

With the expanded extra daylight hours, the opportunity to engage in fun activities after work has also expanded.  I've loved going to a smoothie party, a baseball game, and a ballet and spending time with friends.

I've also enjoyed learning from my friends as they demonstrate intentionality in leading the lost to Christ, in pursuing their callings, in discipling others, and in giving up the things of this world in order to find sufficiency in Christ alone.  I never doubt that our lives can preach because I see such incredible examples daily.

What I've Been Pondering

Over the past month or so, I've heard several Scriptures mentioned numerous times.  I never think that's a coincidence.  The Lord obviously has something for me in these verses, and so I don't want to forget them.

Matthew 6:33
"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."

Psalm 139:23-24
"Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."

Joel 2:25 (NKJV)
"So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locus, the consuming locust, and the chewing locust."

Luke 18:1-8 (the parable of the persistent widow)
"And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, 'Grant me justice against my adversary.'  For some time he (the judge) refused.  But finally he said to himself,' . . . [B]ecause this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice . . . .'  And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says.  And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night?  Will he keep putting them off?  I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly."

What I've Been Reading

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown.  

I underlined a ton in this book.  Her research on shame is eye-opening and has drawn international attention since the talk she gave at TedxHouston a couple of years ago.  This book focuses on how vulnerability is not a weakness but rather a major strength.  She covers how this is needed in the corporate world, education, and in parenting.  Here are a few excerpts:

"If we want to reignite innovation and passion, we have to rehumanize work.  When shame becomes a management style, engagement dies.  When failure is not an option we can forget about learning, creativity, and innovation." (p. 15)

"When it comes to parenting, the practice of framing mothers and fathers as good or bad is both rampant and corrosive--it turns parenting into a shame minefield.  The real questions for parents should be:  "Are you engaged? Are you paying attention?" If so, plan to make lots of mistakes and bad decisions.  Imperfect parenting moments turn into gifts as our children watch us try to figure out what went wrong and how we can do better next time.  The mandate is not to be perfect and raise happy children.  Perfection doesn't exist, and I've found that what makes children happy doesn't always prepare them to be courageous, engaged adults." (p. 15)

Towards the end of the book, Brown shares "The Daring Greatly Leadership Manifesto" (p. 212) and "The Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto" (p. 244), both of which are fantastic.

Our Southern Breeze by Daphene Jones.

I loved reading Same Kind of Different As Me, the story of Deborah Hall's befriending a homeless man (Denver Moore).  Her acts of courage are even more astounding in light of this book, which was authored by her twin sister and tells the story of her upbringing.  It's a beautiful story of how grace wins out over darkness and how suffering and can change hearts.

Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist.

I loved Shauna's previous books, Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet, and so it was like catching up with an old friend as I read through her latest essays in Bread and Wine.  She has a way with words and can eloquently, and often hilariously, draft situations that I've experienced or emotions that I've felt.  This book is one that you won't want to end as she shares stories from her supper club and how important it is to gather people around your table for a meal.  This book made me miss my old Sunday Supper Club, so I was glad I was able to see them last week.  I have already sent copies of this book to my mom and my aunt, and they've already made several of the recipes that are included in the book; it's one of those books you can't help but share.

If you've read this far, thanks for hanging in there for the long update.  I'd love to hear what you are enjoying these days.