Pragmatic Communion

pragmatic living in the presence of God

in the dark. surrounded by trees.

an analogy. no. an allegory..

When I first began recording, the studio I sang in was separated from its control booth. The doors to each room were around a corner from each other and there was no window between the sound studio and the control booth, like you often see on TV. I was completely separated from people – physically, visually and audibly.

It was a little weird, especially because there were long minutes of silence between takes while the guys in the control booth were talking to each other and I couldn’t hear them – or see them.

It was also very, very cold in that room. I remember bringing a jacket and a scarf, even in the spring and summer. I would tuck my fists in my pockets and wrap the scarf around my face because my fingers and my nose would get so cold.

But the weirdest thing about that studio was that the lights were on a motion sensor. After about 15 minutes, the lights would automatically turn off and I would be left in the dark.

pitch dark. There were no windows, remember?

Even more challenging was the fact that I was surrounded by what the sound guys called “trees.” They were actually big fat, foam-like tubes on stick-like stands. I’m not sure exactly why they needed to surround me the way they did – I’m sure it was to enhance the sound and create “sweet spot” in some way – but the bottom line is that when the lights went out, it was a challenge for me to find my way past the trees and move into the motion sensor’s line of sight to activate the lights again.

The recording sessions were about 3 and a half hours long and, tucked in the middle of the microphone (with all its accoutrements) and these giant trees, there was no place to sit down. At the end of the session, I was tired. I was tired from the singing and I was tired from the standing.

If you’ve read my last “two minutes with God” post, you may already know where I’m going with this. (if you haven’t, go ahead and click the previous link and catch up, I’ll wait. really, go ahead, it makes the rest of this post less confusing)

For a few weeks now, spiritually, I’ve been in the dark. surrounded by trees.

But here’s the thing. When I was in that studio and the lights went out during a take, I didn’t stop singing. I kept going. It didn’t matter that I was in the dark. I knew what I was supposed to be doing whether I could see or not. I didn’t really even need to see the lyrics sheet because I knew the song by heart.

I actually found that I sounded better when I couldn’t see, if you can believe that. The darkness meant there was one less distraction.

Singing in the dark helped me focus on what was important while allowing me to abandon myself to God’s leading – at the same time.

Disconcerting at first, but as I grew more dependent on the instincts I believe God provided for me, instead of the tangible, visible microphone, the lyric sheet with its numbered lines, the headphones with the cord that kept overlapping my right arm, the line of masking tape on the floor to mark where I should stand…

I realized I didn’t need all those assurances. They were tiny, irrelevant markers of proof for what I confidently knew:

– the microphone was working and there were people in the sound booth who could hear me
– they were taking the work I was doing and making it even better.
– I didn’t need lyrics if I knew the words by heart.
– it might be cold, but it was temporary and I was equipped for it.
– yeah, I would get tired, but nothing beyond what I could handle and I could rest later, after my work was finished.
– if I started out standing in the right place and didn’t absently walk away, I would stay in the center of the sweet spot.

All of that led me to an even greater assurance: that I was where I was supposed to be, doing what I was supposed to be doing, when I was supposed to be doing it and that I was being equipped by someone far more able to help me than all those other things.

When the lights were on, it never occurred to me to abandon all the markers I could see and depend wholly on an “invisible God” as Philip Yancey calls him.

Lord, thank you for reminding me of this experience in my life and showing me how it relates to the lessons you’re teaching me right now:

– You are with me whether I can see You or not.

– I can depend on You whether or not you provide me with easily recognizable assurances or ask me to trust You as You lead me through the dark for a while.

– I’m going to keep singing, knowing You can still hear me and knowing that you’ll show me what I need to see, when I need to see it.


This was dual published on my Pragmatic Compendium blog.

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April 7, 2011 Posted by | christian living, faith, patience, spiritual growth | , , , | Leave a comment

one minute with God: 1 Corinthians 1:10

a Quote:
“Instead, make it your goal to love those who disagree with you. Go for the love, not the win.”

“We don’t always have to agree to get along. Our verse today says, “Let there be real harmony.” In an orchestra, there’s a big difference between unison and harmony. If all the musicians played in unison all the time, the music would get pretty boring. It’s the harmony that creates beauty in music, with different players playing different instruments and different notes, but all under the same direction of one conductor. The goal of each musician is not to play louder than the others or to finish the piece first; the goal is to ‘be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.‘”
from Better Together: What on Earth Are We Here For? Devotional and Journal edited by Rick Warren

my Prayer:
Lord, please help me find harmony with the cranky person I have to work with today. Please bless me with patience and a calm temperament. Please remind me to pause and respond instead of react when he speaks condescendingly and sarcastically. Thank you for the discernment you’ve already given me. Thank you for showing me that source of crankiness has little to do with the work, and more to do with his fear of losing credibility with our mutual client. Please break down our pride – both of us, so that we can work together, bringing the best of both of our capabilities to solve our client’s problem. Regardless of whether he is a Christian, please open his mind and make him receptive to this idea of combining our knowledge openly with the common goal of serving. Please let my freakish love of harmony cross over from my music to my work today.

the Word: I beg of you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to stop arguing among yourselves. Let there be real harmony so that there won’t be splits in the church. I plead with you to be of one mind, united in thought at purpose.
1 Corinthians 1:10 (LB)


This was dual published on my Pragmatic Compendium blog.

August 27, 2010 Posted by | bible, books, christian living, devotions, patience, prayer, spiritual growth, two minutes with God | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

oil and water. anxiety and faith.

“Search me, O 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.”
Psalm 139:23-24

I’m anxious. Yet at the same time at peace. Trying to figure out what I have to do. Waiting on answers from other people. At the same time I’m literally OVERwhelmed with a sense of “it is what it is” and a profound belief that God has a reason for allowing this in my life.

I’m not clear on the meaning of the Subpoena Duces Tecum sitting here on my desk, but my accountant tells me I’m being audited by the Florida Department of Revenue. It seems the payroll service hired to file my quarterly taxes . . . didn’t.

It started last Friday when my husband got a call on his cell from a gentleman at the Department of Revenue. The message? Copies of my quarterly tax documents needed to be faxed to him by Monday or a lien would be filed against my company.

Let the phone calls begin. Accountant. Payroll service. DOR Representative. Can’t reach the accountant, payroll service wouldn’t talk with us because technically, the accountant was their client, not us and the DOR representative interrupted my husband explaining this to say, “I don’t care about any of that, I just need the documents by Monday.”

Anybody know me? How do I handle it when a problem that needs fixin can’t be fixed? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it the rest of my flippin life: “I don’t do “nothing” well.”

FirstHusband prescribed a day on the boat Saturday.

Monday. Let the phone calls begin again. Accountant is reachable. Payroll service rep is not. (at the time of this writing – Thursday – I have no idea if a lien has been filed against my company.)

Tuesday. We wait. Payroll service is figuring things out. I’m scouring (for HOURS) the entire house for any tax paperwork I might have missed. Nothing. I’m scouring my accounts to find the tax payment that the payroll service was supposed to automatically withdraw. I have no date of withdrawal and no amount. I finally found it. January 8th. For $0.00. No. That’s not a typo. The automatic withdrawal was for ZERO.

Wednesday. Accountant faxes every tax document that exists for my company to the DOR. The DOR rep, finding my accountant’s phone number on the fax coversheet, calls and asks for the UTC-6 form, which was included in the original fax of 24 pages. That particular document is faxed again, this time alone. The Payroll service finds the error and assures that they will refile and cover any delinquencies.

Thursday. I call the DOR rep to ask him to please clarify that the appearance time on the Subpoena is a typographical error, that the time of appearance should be 2 P.m., not 2 A.m. I also ask him if there are any other documents I need to bring other than copies of the ones already faxed to him.

Now I wait. Did I mention that I don’t do “nothing” well?

Friday. Tomorrow. I hope the DOR rep, currently in possession of all the documents he’s asked for, does not require me to personally deliver additional copies of them tomorrow. I’ve got rides and childcare covered for now, but I’ll need to pick FavoriteSon up by 4pm or his sits on the curb at school and waits after basketball camp.

it is what it is.

I’m looking at it this way. Either God is allowing this situation so I can learn something from it or God is allowing me to be used so He can work in someone else’s life. If the lesson is mine, here’s what I’ve learned:

I can do everything I know to prepare, but in the end, the result is not up to me. I did the right thing. I don’t know diddly or squat about taxes, so I took trusted advice and thankfully outsourced those responsibilities to professionals. One of them made a mistake. I’ve made what I see as a much bigger mistake in my business before. Their mistake was just a clerical error. Like the a.m./p.m. typo on the subpoena. Hopefully the DOR rep will see the parallel.

I need to take action, to do what I can do, but in the end, GOD is all powerful and nothing happens to me that he doesn’t allow. Sometimes he allows stuff I don’t particularly like. Sometimes he affords undeserved blessings that blow me away. I don’t sit around and wait on God to serve me like I’m at Olive Garden. I need to get off my butt and cook my own dinner. And even then? The couscous could turn out lumpy. Cause I don’t control how water seeps into a grain of couscous.

I can pray and ask God for what I want and/or think I need, but in the end, He is all-knowing and all-powerful. I either trust that in EVERY situation or I don’t. No middle ground. He knows what is best for me and He has the power to make ANYthing happen in my life. When I ask Him to allow me to serve Him more, when I ask Him to “SEND ME!!” I have to trust that sometimes He sends me and doesn’t let me in on the reason why. Sometimes, I get exactly what I’ve prayed for – He allows me to serve Him more – and I don’t even realize it. He may allow me to be a part of His story while not allowing me to read that part of the book. Since I don’t know the ending, prayer is the FIRST thing I’m to do, not the last resort after I’ve tried everything else first.

This perspective permeates my life.

My husband and I can work as hard as we want to make a life and a home for our family, but in the end, GOD is in control. Every time my husband arrives home from a business trip, it is because God kept him safe and returned him to us. Every time we leave the house, it is by God’s grace that we aren’t involved in the accidents we see as we rush from one place to another. Every time my son steps out onto the football field or the basketball court or the track, he walks away uninjured because of God’s mercy. Every time my daughter sings I hear God’s gift to her. Every time I arm our alarm and our family curls up in our beds in an air conditioned house I am trusting God for another night of safety and rest. I know how fast a home can be lost, a person can be taken and safety can disappear. It is by God’s grace that we are undeservedly blessed and unconditionally loved.

As I raise my kids, I can make the best choices I know how, actively seeking to learn more as I encounter problems and decisions along the way. I try and equip them spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, physically, relationally . . . but in the end, GOD loves them more than I do. He knows what they need to experience so they will grow into the people He knows they can be. I can pray to be a good steward of these precious gifts in my life, but in the end, they belong to Him and everything that happens to them passes through His hands first.

I have an opportunity to record two songs next month instead of just one. I can rehearse and go to voice lessons and listen to harmonies and work out what I’m going to sing and where . . . but I canNOT control when my voice cracks. or when I become too tired after hours of singing in that little booth. I can select a song I like or I can pray and ask God to lead me to the song He wants me to record. He knows if and when that song will reach out and meet a need I may never know about. He can use the recording of that particular song to speak to the heart of one of the guys working in the sound booth. I can’t control whether I get the harmonies right when it counts, no matter how much I rehearse. The end result is up to GOD. HE gave me my voice. He can do with it what he pleases.

I can market my business as much as I want, but in the end? The phone rings because He allows it. The prospective client emails me because He allows it. The clients cancel because He allows it. An opportunity to sing or speak is offered to me because HE allows it.

But still after writing all that, there is anxiety. It causes my husband to say “stop eating rope.” when I tell him my stomach is in knots.

It takes conscious, continuous effort to trust God sometimes. Like today.

Today, I’m doing nothing. Another word for that? Abiding.

“Like others, I have prayed for healings, for miracles, for guidance, and for assistance.
Frankly, there were times I was sure God would answer me because I had mustered strong feelings of faith. But many of those times nothing happened – or if it did, it was entirely unlike what I had anticipated.”
Ordering Your Private World
by Gordon MacDonald


This was dual published on my Pragmatic Compendium blog.

June 17, 2010 Posted by | christian living, faith, god's will, grace, patience, prayer, spiritual growth | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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“With all this going for us, my dear, dear friends, stand your ground. And don’t hold back. Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort.”
1 Corinthians 15:58 the Message

This is a reminder that there is great value in the small.

“It’s okay that they don’t see. We don’t work for them. We work for Him. We sacrifice for Him. They will never see. Not if we do it right. Not if we do it well. Let’s pray that our work will stand as a monument to an even greater God.”
Nicole Johnson

May 8, 2008 Posted by | marriage, parenting, patience, strength | Leave a comment

manna from heaven. just enough. just in time.


And Moses said to them, “This is the bread which the LORD has given you to eat. This is the thing which the LORD has commanded: ‘Let every man gather it according to each one’s need, one omer for each person, according to the number of persons; let every man take for those who are in his tent.’” Then the children of Israel did so and gathered, some more, some less. So when they measured it by omers, he who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack. Every man had gathered according to each one’s need. And Moses said, “Let no one leave any of it till morning.” Notwithstanding they did not heed Moses. But some of them left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and stank. And Moses was angry with them. So they gathered it every morning, every man according to his need. And when the sun became hot, it melted.

Exodus 16:15-21

Let’s stick to the facts:

Fact: My mother is purchasing a house in Arkansas.
Fact: She has asked my father for a divorce.
Fact: She is moving to Arkansas.
Fact: Neither the divorce or the move to Arkansas are a secret.

As empty nesters, my parent’s lifestyles are largely incompatible and have been for some time. I can’t explain without compromising my parent’s privacy, so lets just say the divorce is probably a good thing in the long run. I understand the divorce. I can accept the divorce.

So what’s my problem?

I don’t understand the moving so far away. I’m working on it. From what I do understand, a few years ago, my mother reconnected with someone at a high school class reunion and has stayed in touch. He and his wife live in Arkansas. For over a year, my mom expressed her interest in moving to Arkansas and wanted my father to move with her. He didn’t want to move that far away from his family and friends and said no. He didn’t change his mind. Neither did she. So he is staying. She is leaving.

During my mother’s last trip to visit her friends, she bought a house. When she came home she told my father she wanted a divorce and that she was moving to Arkansas. She’s moving to a place that is two full days drive away. Two days there. Two days back. Considering we usually get about 7 days vacation at a time, that’s four days in the car for three days there. That’s not reasonable for us. The plane fare for four people isn’t something we can afford either. Over a year ago she asked me, “Would you come visit me if I moved to Arkansas?” I said, “Well, if you look at how often we’ve been able to visit Tom’s parents over the last 17 years, I would have to say, probably not, Mom. Arkansas is twice as far away.”

My in-laws live about 8 hours away, along with my husband’s grandmother, two of my husband’s sisters, their husbands and (total) four kids. We can leave Orlando in the evening after my husband gets off work, travel 4 hours to Valdosta, stay in a hotel overnight and arrive at my sister-in-law’s house around lunch time on our first official day of vacation! Then we get to visit 11 people for almost 6 days! And the cousins are the high point for the kids. The cousins and their dogs. LOTS and LOTS and LOTS of laughter! So, we do go to Georgia to visit, but never more than once a year. Some years we don’t make it at all. My husband’s family have never lived in the same city as us. He left home to come to Orlando for college. Finished college, married me and never went back home. So my kids have never experienced the loss of someone moving away before. They don’t know yet. They will not understand why she’s leaving. My 7 year old daughter is not going to understand why Mamaw is moving away. I can hear her now. She’s a smart kid. No matter what reason I give her for Mamaw moving away, she will say, “But Pappy’s staying here.”

And while I’m okay with the concept of my parents divorce, the process has proven to be stressful. I spent the morning yesterday with my dad, at an attorney’s office, reviewing his options and the settlement agreement my mother has drafted. A few phone calls with my dad and mother throughout the day. Late into the night, typing up the attorney’s notes for my mother.

The result? The most stressful day I’ve lived through in years. This is what my dad must be dealing with every day. I had no idea. He doesn’t like to “bother you girls with this stuff” as he said yesterday. I can’t imagine living through another day like yesterday. It was emotionally exhausting. I can’t imagine my dad living through every day like that until this whole thing is over. Every conversation is about the many, many, many details of splitting of debts and assets. It’s exhausting. I can’t do it. I could barely do one day. The divorce settlement needs to be signed already.

My mother is leaving. We can’t change it. We can only let her go. But the time between now and then is proving to be . . . stressful. And sad.

My pastor’s wife invited me to a women’s circle at church on Wednesday evening. I’m a member of another circle, but both kids were in Wednesday night programs, so I had the time. I arrived a few minutes late, after the devotion, but Sharon asked that the Bible used for the devotion be passed down the table to me. While the other ladies were discussing Breakfast with Santa and other circle news, their words became background noise as I read Exodus 16:15-21.

Thank you Sharon, for reminding me that God will provide just what I need, just when I need it. At the end of the day, when the manna is melted and I’m at the end of my ability to cope, I can go to bed with the assurance that the next day, He will provide again. Just what I need.

“If this is a blessing, it is certainly very well disguised.”
Winston Churchill

December 7, 2007 Posted by | comfort, patience, strength | 2 Comments

learning in flux


For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.
And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. Colossians 1:9-12 NIV

I don’t know about you, but change is very difficult for me. I call it “flux” and I HATE flux. You’re not where you were, but you’re not where you will be – and you don’t even know where you will be. When you combine that with God’s will and all the current emphasis on God’s “individual will” for your life in contemporary Christian writing these days , it can be paralyzing. I’ve been going through that for a few years now (my husband calls it my mid-life crisis) and am just coming to peace with it. (Not all the way there yet.) I’ve spent so much time in my life focused on gaining knowledge and achievement, that it’s a very new place for me to realize I’m now more interested in significance. I love June Carter Cash’s quote: “I’m just goin through life, trying to matter.”

If you’re like me, you seek knowledge in decision making. And for me, that always means books first. I’ve found a few recently that have really made me think. One is written by Garry Friesen, called Decision Making and the Will of God. It’s not light reading. It’s a very big book. I got it at the beginning of my search for significance.

Throughout my life, I’ve often abdicated “big” decision making to God, thinking I was seeking and submitting to his will. Often, I would pray and “lay a fleece.” Now this is weird. When I took a moment to look up “lay a fleece” on the internet so I could better explain it, this is what I found first – an example from Decision Making and the Will of God by Garry Friesen:

“We all know this one. Heck, we’ve probably all done this one in some way or another. When we “lay out a fleece” before God, what we are doing, essentially, is seeking to know God’s will in a matter by asking him to arrange circumstances to indicate his answer to our question. In his book Decision Making and the Will of God, Garry Friesen uses the humourous example of the “phone fleece”: Suppose you want to ask Gladys out, but you don’t know whether it is God’s will that you do so. You decide that you will call her up. If the phone rings and someone answers (and you hope it’s Gladys), then God is telling you to ask her out. On the other hand, if you get a busy signal, God is telling you that Gladys is not for you. (She might be accepting a date from someone else.) If there is no answer, then you will try again later. Now, be honest: This is silly. Yet you’ve tried something like this in the past, haven’t you? I have.

The idea of a “fleece” comes from the story of Gideon, which involved a literal fleece:

And Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said, Behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor; and if the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall I know that thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said. And it was so: for he rose up early on the morrow, and thrust the fleece together, and wringed the dew out of the fleece, a bowl full of water. And Gideon said unto God, Let not thine anger be hot against me, and I will speak but this once: let me prove, I pray thee, but this once with the fleece; let it now be dry only upon the fleece, and upon all the ground let there be dew. And God did so that night: for it was dry upon the fleece only, and there was dew on all the ground. (Judg. 6:36-40)

And so, we are told, once Gideon received the sign from God that he and his army would surely save Israel, he went out and did so. We too display Gideon’s exemplary faith when we follow his example. It sounds so pious, so spiritual, so faithful. But is it? Is this story about Gideon intended to authorize the practice of laying out fleeces to determine God’s will? I think not. Here is why the context of this story militates against the practice of laying out fleeces:

1. Gideon already knew what God’s will was. In fact, God had even sent an angel to tell him that he was God’s chosen instrument to defeat the Midianites (Judg. 56:13-16). In fact, when Gideon requested the sign of the fleece, he acknowledged this: “And Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said . . .” (Judg. 6:36, emphasis added). He wasn’t trying to find God’s will, he was trying to find a way out of it.

2. Gideon’s fleece was motivated by doubt, not faith. Already knowing what God expected of him, Gideon apparently didn’t believe it though the message came directly from an angel. So he requested a sign. Then he requested a second sign (Judg. 6:39), perhaps realizing that the first sign was rather stupid (there is nothing remotely miraculous about wool remaining wet after the ground has dried, after all).

3. Gideon must have realized he was trying God’s patience. He pleads with the Lord not to be angry with him for making yet another request for confirmation (Judg. 6:39).

4. Gideon still wasn’t convinced. In fact, after explicit instructions from an angel and two confirming signs, Gideon still needed to hear from the mouths of the Midianites themselves that they feared him (Judg. 7:9-15). Spying in the bushes accomplished what three supernatural events couldn’t.

In short, this idea that Judges teaches us to lay out fleeces before God to know his will turns the meaning of the text around 180 . This is a classic example of misappropriation. The point is not that we should seek God’s will by praying for signs. It is that God, in his grace, can use even his weakest people to accomplish his plan. Laying out fleeces in fact comes dangerously close to the pagan practice of augury – telling the future through signs and omens – which Scripture forbids.”

http://mcclare.blogspot.com/2004/08/fleece-peace-and-still-small-voice.html

<span So there's an example of what I was doing – right from Garry Friesen's Decision Making and the Will of God. I read the first part of the book and got completely depressed, realizing the way I’d been handling decision making was . . . not supported by scripture. Unfortunately, I abandoned the book, mid read. After months of not making any “big” decisions because I felt my process was flawed, I finally went back to the book to find out how Friesen interpreted the process of biblical decision making. The short answer is wisdom. Gaining and applying biblical wisdom. Which takes time. I’m still learning how to do it. It feels like I will never get it.

Another book I’m reading is Goal Free Living by Stephen Shapiro. He talks about living life following a compass instead of a map. Decisions aren’t necessarily “wrong” or “bad” they are just decisions and the outcome of those decisions lead us to the next ones. If a decision leads to negative consequences, we learn from that and use the experience to make different (we might say better) decisions in the future. Shapiro doesn’t profess Christianity, but filtering his words through my perspective as a Christian, I can see how biblical wisdom can be applied in this process. As a Christian, I would say that within the moral will of God decisions aren’t necessarily wrong or bad.

My poor son (and husband), I’m always inflicting my learning upon them when I’ve read something which impacts me. In trying to explain it to my son (and truthfully, myself in the process) I used an example (I think it’s from Friesen): We (my husband and I) haven’t decided what you (my son) should be when you grow up. There isn’t one specific thing you are destined to do. We pray that you grow to be a god fearing, faith filled, honorable man who makes choices based on biblical wisdom. Within the moral will of God, whatever you decided to do, will be equally pleasing to us, as your parents. And equally pleasing to God.

It has been so liberating to come to this understanding. Whatever I choose to do – choose to do, will be equally pleasing to God. I get to choose!

I have to choose.

And again, with the “it takes time.”

I’m also reading Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad, Captivating by John and Staci Eldredge, Ten Minutes from Normal by Karen Hughes, and about 10 others, so basically, I’m A.D.D. bibliophile. But it works for me.

“I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma.”
Eartha Kitt

October 24, 2007 Posted by | books, god's will, patience, pragmatic presence, spiritual growth | 3 Comments

adolescence and menopause in the same house


A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel.
Proverbs 15:18 NIV

Adolescence and menopause in the same house? I PRAY that doesn’t happen. I can’t imagine how things would be if I had a reduced capacity for patience, understanding and giving grace when faced with an unreasonable, prolonged outburst from a cranky person who has decided to use me as a scape goat for . . . everything. Seriously. EVERYTHING. Here’s a sampling from this week:

If someone is hungry, it’s my fault.
(why didn’t I bring them a snack?).
If someone gets a haircut when they don’t feel like it, my fault.
(when exactly WOULD be a good time?)
If someone has tangles in their hair, my fault.
(why didn’t I braid it for sleeping?)
If American Idol gets erased from the DVR, my fault.
(why do I have so many shows set for “keep” anyway?)
If someone didn’t finish a drawing in after school care, my fault.
(why did I come to pick up so early?)
If someone doesn’t finish homework, my fault.
(I made them go to church on Wednesday night!)
If someone even HAS homework, it’s my fault.
(not sure why, but I still get the grief)
If something is confiscated, my fault again.
(when you throw something, you lose it. The length of time lost is directly proportional to the force with which it was heaved and how heavy it is. Targets are irrelevent: people, cats, floor or air – it’s all throwing.)

It seems like no matter what it is, I’m doin’ it wrong. Oddly, I’m okay with that most of the time. Only by God’s grace. There’s no other answer for it. I’m certainly not able to do this on my own. Yesterday, I was tired. When I’m tired, I go straight for, “Nobody talk. Look out your (car) windows.” Then it’s either mumbling (the 11 year old big brother) or “but . . . ” (the 6 year old little sister). “AAhhh! NOBODY talk.”

I just have to make sure I’m never tired and I should be able to tap into that patience and understanding God is trying to equip me with. If I lose sight of my conscious objective of trying to model acceptable behavior and teach them to give each other grace, my attitude deteriorates. When that happens, bickering triumphs and my stated goals for raising my family are derailed. With so little time to implant and cement these fundamental concepts in my children’s subconcious, I need excercise patience when they are behaving . . . like children. Today? So far, so good. But it is only 8:23 a.m. And it’s Wednesday.

Adolescence and menopause in the house at the same time? As Oprah so frequently says: “I’m asceard.”

January 24, 2007 Posted by | grace, moms, patience | Leave a comment

what’s next?


To everything there is a season, A timefor every purpose under heaven.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 NKJV

Last year, I led music and one of the sessions at the woman’s retreat for my church. It was . . . comfortable. Time consuming, but not difficult. It was a natural expression of combining my work experience, my music and my faith.

So the big question: Is this “next” for me?

Do I begin speaking and leading music at retreats? Just women’s retreats? Pastoral retreats and seminars? Church staff retreats and seminars? What about Christian parenting? Do I limit myself to a certain religious denomination? When do I work? Weekends? Week nights? During the day?

I spent months bench marking existing speakers and vocalists, working on topics and outlines, recording songs for a possible CD, asking friends and fellow Christians for advice and opinions, learning, preparing and just praying for guidance. I developed my topics, modified my website and updated my mission statement. But I hadn’t really answered the one big question: When? When would I actually do this?

Then I had surgery and a week later, led music at this year’s retreat. I left home on a Friday afternoon and returned Sunday afternoon – and I realized: This is not what I want. Not now. Maybe later. But not now. This is not “my” time. This is my family’s time. My kids missed me. My husband missed me. I missed the whole weekend with them. I missed them. When I say this is my family’s time, I mean my whole family – myself included. I’ve been talking about being in “flux” and wondering what was next. I’ve been whining about how I hate being in flux and wishing I knew what was next. Maybe it was the surgery. Maybe I had a heightened awareness of what’s important in my life. But Sunday afternoon, I realized:

I’m an idiot. THIS is next. Raising my children is NEXT. Supporting my husband is NEXT. Doing devotions with my children every night is NEXT. Helping my children with their homework is NEXT. Listening to them is NEXT. Continuing in a great career which still allows me to be engaged in my family’s daily life is NEXT. Learning is NEXT.

NEXT is NOW.

Thank goodness I’m not just starting now. I’ve been doing these things for years. I’ve just finally realized that I don’t need rush this season of my life or add more to it that will take away from my goals as a mother and a wife. It will be over way too soon anyway. I remember being terrified at the thought of being responsible for another human life. Terrified at the thought of active parenting. Active parenting requires effort. Seeking knowledge. Trying different parenting techniques. Failing, even when trying my hardest.

What kind of character will my children have as adults? Will they remain faithful to God? I’m excited and scared to see how this turns out. In the meantime, I’m committed to giving my family the best of myself, not the leftovers. So rather than adding more stuff to my plate and hats on my head, I’m strengthening my core. (Not pilates, although I probably should do that too.) I’m stripping away all the things that are counterproductive to my goals as a wife and mom – NOW.

June 3, 2006 Posted by | god's will, moms, patience | 1 Comment

nosebleed


Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths.
Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV

Last month I shared my prayer as I seek God’s direction in my life:

“Lord, please use people, circumstances, your Word and your Spirit to guide me in the direction I need to go in order to glorify you . . . and please, please, please SLAM the door in my face if I even BEGIN to move in direction you don’t want me to go.”

I got a door slammed in my face.

I’ve been teaching Business and Professional Communication at the University of Central Florida since the Fall of 1998, so when I received my contract for Fall of 2005, I signed it and mailed it back – no big deal. After 7 years, it’s routine.

Two days later, the phone rings. It’s my “boss.” He’s the guy who handles the scheduling and staffing for the Organizational Communication courses. He’s new to the job this semester, taking it over from my old “boss” who recently retired. He’s nice. Friendly. Turns out, he was one of my instructors when I went to UCF.

In a nutshell? UCF is going through the re-accreditation process and he needs to “confirm” my “credentials” before he finalizes the schedule. So, we go over my resume, I tell him some recent work history and then there’s the teaching of this class for the last 7 years. Twice in those 7 years, I’d been asked to allow new instructors job shadow me. So, it’s a nice conversation. I’m confident I’ve highlighted my qualifications for the job. He thanks me and tells me he’ll let me know.

I spend the next 24 hours thinking about the possibilities. Will they offer me a full time associate position? A visiting professor position? Do I really want to work full time? How would it impact my family’s life?

The next day, the phone rings and he greets me with:
“Julie, the news isn’t good.”

(“The news isn’t good?” Wait. That wasn’t one of the scenarios I’d been playing in my head for the last 24 hours.)

“It turns out you’re credentialed to teach in the Business Department, not the Communication Department.”

“I’m not qualified to teach in the Communication Department?”

“No, no, no, no, we both know you’re QUALIFIED, you’re just not CREDENTIALED. You have an MBA and to teach in the Communication Department, you need 18 hours of Master’s level work in the Communication Department.”

“Oh.”

So he fills the awkward silence with an encouraging monologue.
(I think – I wasn’t really listening.)

Finally, I say, “You know, it’s okay. Really. I don’t know you very well, but I’ll just tell you – I’m a Christian and I’ve been praying for God’s direction. This means I’m supposed to be doing something else with my time and energy.”
(WHERE did THAT come from????)

“I’M A CHRISTIAN TOO! Julie, this is going to turn out well for you. I really believe that!”

wow. i do too. really.

So we spend a few more minutes talking, he tells me I can call him if I need a reference, we hang up and I no longer teach for UCF.

Excuse me while I tip my head back for a while.

October 14, 2005 Posted by | god's will, patience, witnessing | Leave a comment

this is what you get . . .

when you combine:

a mid-life crisis
     (I turned 29 just 12 short years ago!),
a few good books
     (okay, more than a few),
a whole lot of soul searching
     (my husband LOVED the conversations – all 4,263 of them.)
a background of seemingly unrelated skills, education & experience
     (God can use anything, right?)
and two years of listening and waiting on God
     (I hate it when God teaches me patience – again.)

I’d like to tell you my plan, but you know what they say:
“How do you make God laugh?”
“Make a plan.”

SO,

I’ll tell you how I got here, keep you up to date on what’s going on and post my musings on what might happen in the future. Your guess is as good as mine. Here’s what I pray more than anything else:

“Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you . . . “
     (I do eventually stop.)

Here’s what I pray next:

“Lord, please use people, circumstances, your Word and your Spirit to guide me in the direction I need to go in order to glorify you . . . and please, please, please SLAM the door in my face if I even BEGIN to move in direction you don’t want me to go.”

Just be careful what you pray for.
(I’ll tell you about my recent nosebleed in a later post).

in grace,
Julie

September 14, 2005 Posted by | god's will, gratitude, patience | Leave a comment