Archive for ‘unplanned’

2013/04/30

Clear title

My free and clear but totaled Jeep

My free and clear but totaled Jeep

My car was totaled in February. I was on my way to work, and a young driver lost control of his vehicle and hit me right at my driver’s side window. A few days later  (as pictured) I was saying goodbye to my Jeep Grand Cherokee as it sat at the wrecker’s lot waiting to be dragged off to a junkyard. From this shot the extensive damage isn’t evident; only the buckled door frame gives a hint that something’s wrong.

I have to say it was a tearful goodbye. At almost 11 years old, so much had happened in and around that car.

I bought the car by timing out the first payment with the arrival of the first real paycheck my former husband earned after becoming a priest. Emma grew up in that car. She’s the reason I bought the car. Rear-facing baby seats and VW Golfs don’t mix, so I traded German engineering for a car manufacturer with military roots.

I moved from Kansas City to Baltimore to Nashville in that car. A lot of life changes are represented in those moves. There’s even a great picture of my two best friends from Baltimore—Lauren and Greg—sitting on my tailgate with me the day I packed up to leave Maryland.

I know it was just a car, but it represented so much more. In that car was a mix of memories and conversations and accidents and victories.

I have a different car now—a dream car really. I always wanted a Jeep Wrangler. When I ended up with a totaled car, I figured why not shop for what I want. With only two Wranglers in 100 miles of Nashville that fit the bill, I would say I was pretty blessed to find the one I have.

My new used car didn’t come without a price. Weeks of Physical Therapy due to the accident cost me time and money. My Jeep Grand Cherokee was paid off, free and clear of any title. The Wrangler is partially owned by Huntington Bank, thank you very much. I don’t have a clear title anymore.

My car is part of a silver linings playbook in a sense. It’s what I always wanted, but I wouldn’t have it if it weren’t for that unexpected accident, and in the end I’m working to pay for the dream—to pay for a clear title.

I have friends in similar situations. My best friend, George who is still in cardiac rehab from his surgery in December, is very grateful to be alive. There are just a few medical bills he has to tend to. He has another chance at life, but he doesn’t have a clear title.

Another dear friend is finding a new, thriving life for her and her kids after a tough divorce, yet she still has to work on the sometimes-strained relationship she has with her ex. She is blessed that things are better for her and her kids, but she doesn’t have a clear title.

At church recently, I was gratefully reminded that there is an ultimate hope and joy in the fact that there will be a day when all of our titles will be clear. From John in Revelation 21 (bold face mine):

I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.

NIV, Verses 2-7

No more tears. No more death. No cost.

This song really says it all with rich vivid imagery:

When I can read my title clear to mansions in the skies,

I’ll bid farewell to every fear and wipe my weeping eyes.

Should earth against my soul engage, and hellish darts be hurled,

Then I can smile at Satan’s rage and face a frowning world.

 

Let cares like a deluge come, and storms of sorrow fall,

May I but safely reach my home, my God, my Heav’n, my All.

There shall I bathe my weary soul in seas of heav’nly rest,

And not a wave of trouble roll across my peaceful breast.  

–“When I can read my title clear” by Isaac Watts

So take heart. There will come a day when your title will be clear, when you won’t even have to count on a silver linings playbook, because of the hope in the life to come. Amen.

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2013/01/31

Take the shot

Take the shot

Take the shot

“Goal of the century.”

“Best goal of all time.”

That’s what the London AP said last fall about soccer player Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s goal in a Sweden versus England match.

What made the shot so incredible? Zlatan was shooting blind. The goal was made with a 25-yard overhead kick that sank right into the net.

The odds were clearly against him, but it didn’t prevent him from taking the shot. When you watch the replay of the goal, you see that Zlatan didn’t even hesitate to take what looks like a completely impossible shot. The commentator mentions Zlatan’s “improvisation and skill.” I love the juxtaposition of these two words.

Cynics and naysayers would probably say this was a lucky shot. I look at it a bit differently. His physique, his coaching, his hours of practice all prepared him for this moment.

Sometimes even though we are prepared for a moment like this, we fail to take the shot.

Zlatan’s shot reminds me of faith. As Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (NIV) This chapter in Hebrews goes on to trace the history of a team of faithful followers who did extraordinary things in the name of God, taking blind shots, as they trusted Him to lead the way.

  • Abraham faithfully raises a knife over Isaac
  • Moses faithfully leaves the privileged house of Pharoah to eventually lead the Israelites to freedom
  • Rahab faithfully helps the spies who come to Jericho

These stories just scratch the surface of a myriad of believers who have taken the shot with a promise unseen or a blessing yet unfulfilled, and often the promise or blessing is somewhere far off in the distance. This particular passage of scripture doesn’t tell the whole story—how many of our forefathers and mothers doubted God’s words to them, tried to manipulate events to quicken God’s promise, or even wallowed in their own insecurities. And yet, they all stepped up to take the shot, however unclear the future was.

Sometimes we can’t see what is ahead. Sometimes the path is so foggy the brightest flashlight doesn’t help. Sometimes though we study scripture and learn from sermons and seek counsel from fellow Christians, we still aren’t sure of what to do next.

I have a pretty extreme need for knowing the course ahead, ever the planner, I want to take the safest path. But frankly the lack of trust at times has stopped me in my progress. Sometimes I’m too afraid to take a calculated risk because I’m trusting in myself versus trusting God and His sure and lasting promises to me.

As 2012 came to a close, I felt God pushing me out of my comfort zone in some surprising, life-giving ways. When my humanity takes over, I get scared and start talking myself out of moving forward. But as 2013 is now a full month underway, I’m praying for courage and strength, even if my back is to the goal, to trust the training, the coaching, and the practice, to step up and take the shot.

May you find the courage to do the to take the shots God is leading you to take in 2013.

2012/08/22

This is where life is now

Life starts from the reality of where we are now

My neighbor turned 40 a few weeks ago. This vibrant, beautiful woman that shares a wall with me is celebrating four decades of life. Though we have lived beside each other for about three years, we only recently became good friends. Two single moms passing like ships day and night are now sharing Zumba and laughter and more conversations about life, love and God.

Because our friendship is relatively new, I was really honored when she asked me to come to her birthday party. It was great for a number of reasons but perhaps most of all because she was inviting me into her close circle, and that was a wonderful gift.

At one point in the party, we talked about the “big 4-0” and she confessed to being a bit sad and unexpectedly emotional about it. Most of her feelings centered on her expectations of “where she would be” at this age. Birthdays, especially the mile-marker ones, have a knack for making you evaluate your life.

But even though she has faced a lot of tough stuff through the years, my neighbor doesn’t just sit around waiting for life to happen. She is actively shaping her life around the things she knows are valuable.

Years ago, this is not where my neighbor would have envisioned herself at 40, but this is where her life is now.

I have two friends both who have lost their moms in the last few years. They each have small children some of whom will not remember much about their grandmothers. Their moms have left this life too early, and life just isn’t the same without them.

I know these friends think from time to time about the big things their moms will miss like birthdays, and weddings, and great-grandchildren. And they think about the ways they miss their moms right now in the day-to-day stuff of life.

Losing their moms so early in life is not what they planned on, but this is where their life is now.

I have another friend who spent 10 years writing a book. Ten years is a long time to work on anything. At times, she was very discouraged in the process, and she thought about giving up. Sometimes she beat herself up for taking so long, and yet as the celebration of the release of the book grows nearer, I think she knows now that the timing is just right.

She would not have planned to take this long to write her book, but this is where she finds herself now.

So many of us have similar stories. We have unexpected break ups, a move across the country to find a job, a miscarriage, a betrayal that forever changed the course of life. I certainly am not living the life I once imagined. I’m not married, I only have one kid, and I continually bounce between laughter and tears at my bank account.

But this is where my life is now.

And I know I need to embrace it.

It’s scary to let go and move on. Forgiving ourselves and others; taking another risk; rising to a new challenge; believing that God’s timing is perfect timing…these are tough things to make peace with. Sometimes though, we willfully choose to stay shackled to the past and to the pain, to the failure and the loss.

God knows how to use our pasts to help us live in the present and wants us to have confidence that our futures are redeemed in him. When we pray, trust, and keep ourselves open to him, we can see glimpses of this truth.

So whatever you are facing, look it in the eye and come to grips with, “This is where life is now.” And choose to see that statement as a fact that is your friend. From that reality, you move forward.

Just like the beautiful women I’ve mentioned here. They remind me in inspiring ways that life goes on with realigned expectations, new dreams, and unexpected hope.

This is where life is now.

But with a hope rooted in the God of all, it’s just the beginning.

2010/12/25

Arrival

Baby Emma's arrival

A couple of days ago as I drove down the road, I passed a Christmas tree lot.  There were men taking down the proverbial big white bulb strings of lights that outlined their outdoor store.  A few forsaken trees lay toppled on the ground around them.  Whether satisfied with their sales or not, it was two days before the big day, and they were packing up.  Time to head home and perhaps trim the leftover trees.

This image is just one sign of what now has finally come.  Ready or not, Christmas has arrived.

Arrival is a great word.  Arrival is often the culmination of something eagerly anticipated—like a package in the mail, a plane carrying a dear friend, or the birth of a baby.  I have two friends that gave birth this year and one that is very ready to have her baby though she will have to wait until next year.

It’s been fun and a little strange to witness the life-changing event of a baby coming take place all around me.  I had Emma more than 11 years ago this year, yet some of my friends near my age are just starting their families.  My parenting skills span over a decade while they are learning how to change diapers and fuss with car seats.

But then again, Emma wasn’t planned.  No couple in their right mind would get pregnant while the wife was the sole bread winner and hubby went to school full time working on his masters.  No, that wouldn’t make sense at all.  But that’s exactly what happened.

We were limping along financially like many seminary couples around us, and I was on the road a bit promoting dramatic and musical resources for the company I worked for.  On one particular trip, I was very tired.  I had flown to a conference in California, so I thought I had a major case of jet lag or something.  I was downing coffee and mochas from the hotel café like nobody’s business.

Some of the ladies with me on the trip listened to me complain of my exhaustion and watched my coffee addiction increasing by the day until one of them finally said, “I bet you are pregnant.”  “Ha!” I confidently said, “I don’t think so.  Not me!”

But she had planted a seed—or maybe more of a weed.  And that weed of thought took over my brain until I was able to get home to take the pee-on-a-stick test.  Sure enough, while unknowing daddy-to-be sat trapped in the bathtub next to me (he had failed to notice that there was no shower in the apartment he picked out for us), I made the grand announcement: “We are pregnant.”

Happy panicking took place shortly there after.  We were in shock.  There were a lot of schizophrenic “yippees!” and “what!?” and “how will we…” and “let’s call our parents” all at the same time.  This was not in our plan, but the countdown to an arrival had already begun.

Much has been written about the arrival of Jesus into our world.  Yet the amazing birth that we celebrate today is still pretty hard to imagine.  The circumstances were complicated, the setting not even close to ideal, and two anxious first-time parents were ushered into a life they were unaccustomed to.  And on top of that, they were now mom and dad to the ruler of the universe, the Messiah.

Last week, I attended a service called Silent Night at my church.  I decided not to join my choir for the music, but to rather sit and listen and pray.  The service was focused on healing and hope, recognizing that many people do not have Happy Holidays or even anything close.  Many of us looking at the year behind wonder how we made it to Christmas at all.

At that service, as the message wound down, the priest asked us to close our eyes and use our imaginations for a moment.  He read us a story about a boat.

The boat comes from a distance towards the shore.  You are standing on that shore waiting. The passengers: Mary carrying the baby Jesus in her arms as they cross the choppy water. The vessel drifts in and then comes to a gentle stop; you go to meet the boat. Mary looks up at you and then lifts the swaddled baby up asking you if you will hold Jesus.

You reach out and place one hand under his head and one hand under his back until he is safely in your arms.  Holding baby Jesus next to you, you look down at his sweet face.  And he looks up at you.

Christmas is in your arms.

If you’ve ever held a baby, I’m betting this scene isn’t too hard to imagine. The simplicity and the beauty of Jesus coming as a baby never gets old.  The genius choice God made to come in this way is easy for me to understand as a parent because, no matter the circumstances that bring them into the world, babies are wonderful blessings.  We just sometimes fail to recognize that in our broken world.

So this year, whether it’s been a good one or a hard one, whether you have a new baby to enjoy, new dreams to pursue or you’re just struggling to get by, I hope that you will be able to focus on the one thing that matters.

The journey of another year almost over, let’s find ourselves at the manger reaching in to hold him–perfect joy and salvation in our arms–as we walk into a New Year filled with mystery and promise.

Merry Christmas everyone…