Sunday, July 23, 2017

I misplaced my cell phone...

One of my friends posted a meme a while back that said, "I still have a landline, or, as I like to call it, a cell-phone finder." I laughed, of course, because who doesn't spend a few extra minutes a week, hunting for their device? But, I thought with pride, one thing I don't do is call my cell phone. Keys and phones. I keep track of those. Better than I keep track of my kids, some days.

I have just a handful of places I generally set my phone down, so, unless I'm distracted, a quick glance around the ground floor of the house is all I usually need. Failing that, if I stop and recall what distractions I recently encountered, I'll find the trail of bread crumbs that leads to my phone.

So, I was tight on time and heading out the door a couple weeks ago when I realized with irritation, that my phone was not in my purse where I expected it to be. No problem, I thought, and told the kids to wait in the car while I ran back in to get it.

Taking my usual tour of the ground floor of the house, I got more frustrated with each empty spot. My phone was in none of my usual places, so I stopped to recall what had distracted me, realized it had been an all-hands-on-deck, set-your-phone-down-and-help kind of distraction, (briefly felt the sweet relief of justification,) and headed to the site to find my phone.

I was baffled, confused, disappointed...maybe even a little hurt. Still no phone. I had been so sure that was it.

I felt the time ticking away, knew I was making us late, and realized I was going to have to break code and call my own phone. Humiliation was welling up in me, but I was relieved to hear its muffled ring. My search was over! Here I come, little phone!

But I couldn't quite figure out where the ring was coming from, so I started to wander frantically between rooms. It would ring clearly and I would set out in pursuit, only for the next ring to be too muffled to identify.

I silently cursed my family for their disorderliness and clutter, as I began tearing into couch cushions, crawling on the floor to reach beneath furniture, and upending baskets of clean laundry. Surely someone had bumped, moved, or buried my phone in their own rash attempt to get out the door on time.

The metronome in my head ticked louder and faster as I carried the wireless home phone in my hand, calling myself over and over again. Why did the ring seem to be moving? Why was it loud when I turned my head to listen, then soft again when I set out after it?

Suddenly it hit me (it had to be a miracle, this could have gone on all day) I remembered where I had set my phone when the big distraction came. I stopped hunting and reached behind me to pull the phone out of my own back pocket.

I felt so incredibly stupid for blaming my family that I blushed hot and red, alone in my own living room, and my next instinct was "NEVER tell ANYONE." Then I knew I was going to have to confess about the day I lost my phone in my own back pocket and couldn't follow the ring.

I was wrong to judge you for using your land line to help you find your cell phone. I apologize. I lose things, too.

You don't even listen— all you hear is senseless sound after senseless sound. Isaiah 28:10

Monday, June 12, 2017

Missed Opportunities

It's close to quitting time, but I've been wanting to share about this. See if I can be concise. Ha!

My sister visited me in March and gifted me this really cool red purse. It has a closure mechanism that's more like a mouse trap than a snap, so I get comments and compliments on it, every time I'm out and about. It is a fun connection to my sister because I get to tell everyone who comments that it was a gift from her. The purse itself also has a good story, because of the unusual way she acquired it during her time in Ecuador. But to be concise, I'll have to leave that out.

Within the first week of having the purse, I was at the Goodwill looking for a blender for a church craft project when a charming, laughing voice came out of no where, "Where did you GET THAT purse?!"

Before I could even determine the direction from which the voice had come, or that the exclamation was, indeed, about the purse, a very joyful, very extroverted woman was in my personal space, tugging the purse off my arm, marveling excitedly about the beautiful color and unusual design.

She was so excited, and I was so overwhelmed. I didn't release the purse to her, of course, because who hands their purse over to a stranger at a store? Even if the stranger is incredibly sweet and joyful and complimentary. But I did try my best to answer her questions:

Where did it come from? A suitcase in Ecuador.
How did I get it? My sister gave it to me.
What brand it is? Fenfeiya.
What is that? I have no idea.
Where do they sell it? I have no idea.
Where have I seen one before? No where. Never.

It was all happening so fast. She was so excited that a purse like mine existed in the world, and I was so...overwhelmed. I offered that she could take a picture of the label and see if she could find out more from there, already knowing that was going to be a dead end.

It is the purse, what more can I say? There is only one in the world. And it is mine. No one else can have one, as far as I know. My sister is a one-of-kind. There's only one her, and she's mine; and therefore so is this purse. The only other answer would be to give her my purse, and I just would not do that; I'd only had it a week.

Fortunately, I was able to get away with my purse. She was really gracious after the picture, grateful I'd suggested it, probably believed she would order the same purse from Amazon that evening, and finally moved on to do her shopping. I finished looking at the housewares and was tempted to take a nap on one of the couches before heading back out to the car. Before I left, I passed her holding up a jacket to herself. It was the same color as the purse. She smiled and asked if she should get the jacket. I said yes, she looks great in that color.

Once I got to the car, I was still processing this interaction. I had fought my inclination to give this woman the purse the whole time in the store. I had already enjoyed it. People kept thinking it was some expensive designer purse (maybe it is, how would I know?) which really isn't my style to carry. Believe it or not, I don't actually like getting this much attention for my accessories. But it's the purse and she's my sister. And I couldn't give it up.
Yes, we featured "the purse" in a Snap

Then it occurred to me: she had a phone. I could have offered to pass it on to her later, when I was ready to switch to another purse. Surely I won't keep this purse forever. Nothing said I had to give her the purse today. But I missed it. It was an opportunity to share and I was so caught up in protecting what was mine that it didn't occur to me until it was too late that there might be another answer. For a few weeks, I said a prayer for the excited lady at the Goodwill every time anyone complimented the purse.

Then after worship last weekend there was a taco dinner and my husband was serious about eating tacos, so we stayed. A young gal sat across from us and I overheard her tell her parents how the message had really hit home for her. The pastor had talked about reaching out to others with God's love and not being afraid to offer a friendly invitation to church when the opportunity arises, even if it seems like they'd never come. She lamented that she had actually had a co-worker ask to come to church with her tonight. And she had told them no, she didn't want them to come; picking them up would have been inconvenient or something like that. She said she knew the message wasn't a coincidence and she wished she hadn't missed the opportunity to share her faith with someone else.

I waited for her to finish, so I could apologize for eve's dropping and then tell her how I'd missed opportunities to share the Love, too. And how I hoped to recognize them when they were happening next time...but they were about to close the taco line, so instead I reminded myself not to forget to tell her and went back for a second taco.

The lack of tortillas bred conversation in the taco line and I told myself I had to be mistaken, when from somewhere down the line, a familiar accent, full of joy and enthusiasm began assuring us that they were bringing more tortillas for us. I turned and recognized the woman who loved the purse. It was her. How in the world?

I sheepishly asked if she was the woman I'd met at Goodwill who liked my purse and she rejoiced and started to hug me and said she thought it was me, but was afraid to say anything.

Then I got her number. When I'm done with it, she'll get the purse.

Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.
Colossians 4:5-6

:6 Greek and seasoned with salt.4:6 Greek and seasoned with that you will have the right response for everyonColossians 4:5-6

Monday, May 22, 2017

Give the woman a seat!

I recently heard a church story that I've found myself repeatedly mulling over and thought I'd share with you. I guess it's a story about outsiders and insiders, and welcome and invitation, and resurrection. It's a story that showed me a blind spot.

At a church on Easter Sunday, a visitor arrived late and there wasn't a seat left in the sanctuary, so she was asked sit in an overflow area. She angrily cussed the ushers before heading to the overflow.

My first reaction was a gut check. Who comes to church on Easter and cusses the ushers? Who comes late to church on Easter? What could possibly be more offensive? Those poor ushers didn't sign up for that, did they?

Despite my initial shock, grace prevailed as I next concluded that this was an incredible opportunity for that church. Surely, this woman was unchurched. She probably uses raw language in her daily life; she probably gets what she wants or needs by being insistent. Yet somehow, she saw some ray of hope that led her to visit a church on Easter. How cool for that church, to have the opportunity to shine a light into this woman's life, even if it was from the overflow.

Then someone else's reaction to this story truly humbled me. Who, if anyone, needed a seat in the sanctuary on Easter? So many people who were occupying seats already knew about God's love. So many people were soaking in the Easter celebration, who already had Grace. Why didn't anyone offer that woman a seat?

Wow. Yes. Of course. Why didn't I see that?

I know how obstacles stand in the way of faith. I've been at plenty of church executive board meetings through the years, pushing for better parking lot access, for gentler sayings on the church sign...I even passionately considered switching my attendance to Denny's at one point, because of the many ways they removed the hardest obstacles and made my family feel invited on Sunday mornings.

But I'm realistic. There aren't very many churches out there running out of seats. Not even on Easter. Yet when it comes down to it, I had to examine my heart. Would I give up my seat in the sanctuary on Easter Sunday to an angry visitor? Are there ways, if I look at the hard spots in my heart, I am directing people to the overflow? How am I clinging to the comfort of my own faith expression at the expense of others who don't yet know?

“When you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t sit in the seat of honor." Luke 14:8

Monday, April 10, 2017

I find people exhausting...and yet compelling.

OK, so it's been a while. I don't know why today is the day that I felt called to resume blogging...but here I am.

I'd try to catch you up on all my follies from the last few years, but I think you and I both know I will come up with plenty of new ones to keep you shaking your head. I'm bunking my perfectionism and typing right into Blogger, hoping that without editing I'm still understandable. You and I both know I need more polish and less words, but oh, well.

So on to my confession:

I just got a reference to a workshop called "Connections Matter." [] I signed up to become better informed about the role that human relationships can play in mitigating the longterm effects of trauma. It's a subject of intense interest me, in part because I'm a front-line worker in the business of transformation: helping the hurt, wounded, broken, and sinful grow into healed, whole, redeemed, and beloved Children of God. And in part, because it's a path I'm trying to walk myself!

I love that researchers like Brene Brown and organizations like Connections Matter are finding ways to validate and quantify for us how invaluable we are to one another. One of the things they keep finding, that is especially inspiring to me, is how little it takes to make an immense difference in someone else's life. I needed to hear that today. So maybe I'll repeat it for you:

It is especially inspiring to me, is how little it takes to make an immense difference in someone else's life.

You see, people overwhelm me. I'm an introvert. I thrive best in small company, or structured interactions. The narthex of our church on Sunday morning during fellowship time, where any of these hundreds of people can approach me at any moment with a complete myriad of topics, suggestions, questions, or needs -- that is without a doubt, the absolute hardest part of my job. A huge crowd and no structure. I need a nap now, just from mentally going there.

But those same people, as I am bringing their faces to mind or looking out at them from the platform during worship -- I am filled with love and prayer. I know there is need in each of them and long to see God move in life-giving ways on their behalf.  I long for them to know -- each one personally -- how beloved and valued they are. How clear the mark of their Creator is on each one of them.

When I get caught up in my feelings of responsibility to love my neighbors, I need God to call me back to humility. God is there all the time, bridging the gap between my social limitations and the deep, deep love for people that is God-in-me. I have to trust more, to rest in that more. And then I hear these amazing statistics and affirmations: just one dependable and caring adult can offset all the factors that put traumatized kids at-risk. It doesn't even have to be a relative.

Did you hear that?  Just one dependable and caring adult can offset all the factors that put traumatized kids at-risk. It doesn't even have to be a relative.

You know what that tells me? God is there. Filling the gaps. No act of love or kindness -- no heartfelt prayer for grace and hope -- comes back empty.

So we can make our communities stronger in these really simple ways: holding the door for someone at the store, listening to a young person tell their whole story without interrupting, inviting a coworker out for a cup of coffee.

I often shake my head at God, who filled me up with so much love for others, and then failed to provide me that gregarious, extroverted personality that could make that love impactful. But when I think that way, it's all about me. And you don't need more of me; you need more of the perfect love the fills my gaps.

We love each other because he loved us first.
1 John 4:19

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Brian took the lead on the family Christmas letter this year, putting together one of his fun CyWalker Productions trailers. If a picture's worth a thousand words, this 1 1/2 minute video is a twelve page letter. So take a look at some of our highlights from 2015.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

I don't like donuts.

It was Sunday, and we were all loaded in the car after church.  My dad joyfully announced, “Hey, kids!  We’re going to go get donuts!”  My siblings responded with the gratifying celebration my parents expected, while my face dropped and I said, “But, I don’t like donuts.”  Mom had a cold tone to her voice, as she doled out the most underused parenting phrase ever, “You are going to eat a donut, Emily, whether you like it or not.”

I can only imagine how frustrated my parents were, when I sat at the table poking holes in my donut, the way my sister and brother poked holes in their beets.  I remember the overwhelming powerlessness of being told that I could not get up from the breakfast table until my glazed donut was gone.  If only it could have been a slice of toast, or a bowl of broccoli, but no, it was a donut.  Dread.

I really don’t know what’s wrong with me.  I empathize with the exasperation of people around me, when they kindly offer me a token of delight, only to find that I’m not delighted.  I wish I could somehow muster a sincere appreciation for fried dough and icing, but I just can’t.  It’s not that I hate donuts anymore.  When I was a kid, I really hated them; I had to choke them down.  Now, I eat them with the same tolerant disinterest I feel when I eat oatmeal, or swallow medicine.  It’s not terrible, but I wouldn’t go out of my way for it.  And a good cup of coffee definitely helps make it feel worthwhile.

Before anyone gives up on me, I do want to be clear that this donut-thing has parameters.  I don’t like donuts, but I do love cake.  I love cheesecake.  Fudge brownies and chocolate chip cookies.  Ice cream.  Even the semi-dessert, semi-side-dish Jell-O salads people make for the holidays.  In most ways, I think I am a normal person.  But for some reason…donuts…uhg.
For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 1 Timothy 4:4

Friday, December 14, 2012

The funny thing about aliens, Mayans, and the end of the world.

I love Signs.  My husband and I watched it at the drive-in when it came out.  We were actually parked in the back row, sitting in the bed of our pickup, under the stars, surrounded by a field of full grown corn.  It was deliriously creepy and we jumped every time we heard a stalk of corn crackle or brush up against something.  It was fun to let ourselves get swept up in the concept of how the world might end, and how human creativity and resilience, potentially coupled with divine intervention, might bring about pockets of survivors.

I’ve read articles about the zombie, Armageddon, end-of-the-world trend, and I find it kind of amusing.  Of course, there have been seasons of end-times obsession throughout human history; even the Bible includes such stories.  But there seems to be more widespread interest and fodder for it, perhaps more pessimism about our collective future, in recent times – what with the advent of the atomic age, the mega-storms and floods of our inconvenient ecology, and the nagging fear that computers might be devouring our souls, even as they edge curiously closer to Terminator-like self awareness.

I know people who spend time and energy pursuing these unfortunate possibilities.  They wonder about whether the government is covering up alien abductions.  They worry that the ice caps are going to melt and drown us.  They grow garlic to ward off vampires.  Sometimes they arm themselves, sometimes they stockpile canned goods.  Sometimes they don’t do anything, except for wring their hands and worry.

I thought the whole alien thing through a while back.  This is what I concluded.  If there are no aliens: awesome, there is nothing to worry about.  If there are aliens: they’re either benevolent, or keeping to a ceasefire.  If they have the technology to travel through space to our world, we are, by definition, at their mercy.  If the government is hiding them from us, they are either complying with an agreement that is keeping us at peace with them, or protecting us earthlings from the mass chaos that all the alien-fearing worriers would potentially incite.  Either way, we’re actually better off to go with it, than to fight it.  Again, there is really nothing for me to worry about.

Now we are reaching the end of the Mayan calendar, and the world, once again, sits with baited breath, waiting to see if this is really it.  I think for most rationally minded, healthy individuals, these subjects are all a matter of entertainment and diversion, but for the few who are still feeling anxious, wondering which day might be your last, I have some suggestions that might bring you comfort, or deeper anxiety:

1.       You are going to die.  I’m sorry to deliver the news so callously, but I hope you’ve been informed of this before.  Live each day with the full and transformative knowledge that your days and minutes are numbered, and it would behoove you to make good use of each and every one you are blessed to enjoy.  It could end for you at any moment.

2.       The world is not going to last forever.  Again, how long or how short it will go on is not for us to know.  It has been a beautiful, joyful place for humans to dwell, and I, for one, am thankful to have been born here, and not on Mercury, where my life expectancy would certainly have been much shorter – even if 12/21 is the end for Earth.

3.       Contemplating and preparing for events that are out of our control is futile, and distracts from #1.

4.       If the world ends next Friday, you will not care on Saturday.

Some people would say that I can be callous about the end of the world, because I have a Christian faith that asserts an afterlife.  For many, the promise of heaven is enough to sooth their fears about death and end times.  And I cannot deny that the Christian promise of an eternal utopia is both appealing, and potentially soothing.  However, my faith offers me something else that even some non-Christians, or Christians who feel less certain about Heaven might appreciate: my faith offers me assurance that I am in the care of a loving Creator, who intends well for myself and all humanity, regardless of what absurd trials may challenge us.  And my faith offers me a compass in life – an ethical measure and a foundation for my identity as a child of God – that gives me confidence to choose right and live meaningfully.  No matter what day is my last, I will come to that moment and know that I have done my very best to live well.  That, to me, is the best possible end to an earthly life, whenever it arrives.  I will rest in peace.  My dearest wish is for others to go through life with a similar knowledge and assurance.

It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. John 13:1