For the Broken

I did not see that coming.  Twice, in fact, I paused in awe within the last seven days.

First, I went to spaghetti-a-plenty night at our local Larosa’s restaurant with the young man who has helped us accomplish countless house tasks over the last two months.  He and I have painted wall after wall and multiple ceilings while worship music played.  We sang or talked about life along the way while occasionally saying we’d go get spaghetti when the list of to-dos were done.  He’s done carpentry and plumbing work.  The list is long.  He’s 26 and he could have chosen to be anywhere.  He didn’t know us until he answered a random church text to go help a family in October.

That introduction day surrounded by our mess, he looked deep into my eyes to size up the situation.  He promises that he will not leave our family’s side until the house is ready to be put on the market.  “I’ll care for you the way I would care for my own mom,” he said.  He delivered mercy with a paint brush to my soul.

During dinner he shares, “I look at your husband whose body is broken and it makes me think of how broken I have been on the inside.  Through this time with you I am reminded that no matter how his body is failing him that he has everything I’d ever want:  a wife and family behind him.  Kids that love him.  ALS can’t take that.  He is more whole than I have felt in a while.”

I see the reflection in this young man’s eyes that his heart is healing and he is moving on with God into the next season of his life.  He’s spending time in prayer, scripture, and seeking wisdom.  I hope I get to serve punch at his wedding one day.

Second, yesterday Hubby and I went to church.  Often this fall we watched online as the home tasks were many and his body struggled.  It is Christmas.  We want to be inside our church to worship.

Hubby had a rough morning so we need more than the rollator.  I quickly load the wheelchair into the trunk.  The sun is shining.  The car is old but warm.  We are smiling.  A friend checks in on text and I reply that I feel peace and hope to carry it through the holiday.

And then 10 short minutes later…

As we roll toward the door the gravity of Hubby not being able to walk into church rips open my tear ducts.  We can not get into the sanctuary where it is dark fast enough.

I don’t make eye contact with Hubby for the first half of service.  I look away to wipe my tears and wonder about my mascara status.  I place my hand on his knee.  I hope that he will take my hand.

He doesn’t.  I can feel his pulse.  It’s a strained rhythm like the rhythm happening in my own body so I know he is fighting tears too.  Eventually I peek and see his wet eyes.  I don’t know if he’s missing our son in the Air Force, missing his mom who passed away this fall, or if it’s the weight of simply everything we face right now.

Releasing my stubbornness, I stop waiting for his hand to move and move my own hand to find his.

I am reminded that whatever brokenness we feel, there are many more who feel angst too.  Sometimes the holiday lights amplify pain or grief.  For all who suffer right now I lift up this prayer for you.

Dear God,

We praise your name even when times are difficult.  Lord, lift up the brokenhearted.  Please help the lonely feel your presence this season.  Be with those who long for a loved one who has passed.  Your Word in Psalm 34:18 says you are near the brokenhearted and we claim that promise right now.  Be near us.  Bring joy in the simple things.  Heal the sick.  Give hope to the hurting.  Bless the caregivers.  Ease suffering.  Be with military families near and far.  Help all who feel alone to find joy that can only come from you.  Wrap everyone with your love and peace.

Amen

With love to all,

Signature GSE

Welcome to Our Mess

Sweet Baby Jesus, I think with 100% praise and 0% sarcasm.

In the same moment when I’m both on the bathroom floor at under the toilet rim level and inside the sink cabinet level, I see the ancient WD-40 can.  Maybe I have seen the idea written on a meme or maybe someone wise mentioned it along the way, but I suddenly know exactly what I can do with said can.

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First, I spray the rusty cabinet hinges.  The doors adjust into their appropriate spots and squeak sounds disappear.  Second, I spray under the toilet rim, wait, add bleach to the bowl, and scrub.  Stubborn stains that I missed in past weekly scrubs begin to melt away.  It’s a toilet gunk miracle.

And all this happened after a friend installed new sink faucets.  Gasp!  He may have seen the gunk pre-miracle.  It also took place in the mostly off-limits for 20 years master bathroom.  Guests don’t go there.

But now they do.  In this challenging time for our family we’ve learned to be open.  There’s not a single off-limits room now.   Every step of the way has been about surrender.

Being honest with friends and strangers has led to more love than we could have imagined.  People who love Jesus also found room to care about us.

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One of my work philosophies is to meet people where they are without judgement and with listening ears.  In recent weeks that same kindness has been reflected back to us.  I see it in soft eyes and busy hands.  We are down to packing, moving what’s left of our furniture, carpet installation and a thorough cleaning.  This is doable.  Thanks will never be enough.  For my praying friends, please pray us through to the other side.   Our bodies and minds are weary, but God’s love is strong.

Psalm 31:1-5  In you, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame;
    deliver me in your righteousness.  Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.  Since you are my rock and my fortress,
    for the sake of your name lead and guide me.  Keep me free from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge.  Into your hands I commit my spirit;
    deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.

Signature GSE

 

3 Songs of Surrender

And then the fridge broke.  Dear God, I can not handle one more thing breaking.

Quickly the Holy Spirit reminds me that this is a first world problem.  We go a week with the contents gone and the refrigerator doors open.  I surrender this too, Lord.  Take it please.  I have nothing left in my brain to solve this challenge.

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In a moment that reminds me there are no coincidences, I run into friends from a past small group at church.  Within 50 hours the fridge is fixed.  Hallelujah.  I continue other house projects with volunteer help as it is available.  Hubby has an extra tough week physically.  ALS seems to have lows and lower lows, then levels out.  There’s a pattern I can’t identify, but I know the clock ticks and we need to move to a more accessible home soon.  I look forward to the day when I can see him rest easier in a new environment.

I listen to music while painting.  Worship is powerful.  It is my battle cry and my surrender prayer.  Here are 3 songs that I listen to most through the brush strokes:

1. Who You Say I Am – Hillsong Worship.  When I feel like I have failed, this song reminds me I am a child of God, chosen, not forsaken.  While watching church online I share with Hubby, “I’m sorry.  We were blessed to work with almost 7,000 kids and families in the last 15 years, and maybe this work has been a failure for our own family.  It’s my fault.”  He kindly answers, “How do you know it’s failed?  Maybe not.”  God is bigger than what my limited view can see.  bitmoji-20181002082758_15385264950172. It Is Well – Kristene DiMarco & Bethel Music.  No matter what happens “through it all my Eyes are on You, through it all it is well…and it is well with me.”  “This mountain that is in front of me will be thrown into the sea.”  “The waves and wind still know His name.”  “So let go my soul and trust in Him.”

3. No Longer Slaves – Jonathan David & Bethel Music.  Fear and spackle are frequent companions these days.  This song reminds me “Love has called my name”.  “I am surrounded by the arms of the Father”.  “Let us sing freedom”.  Fear is not welcome, but it is a daily fight.

There are miracles in process all around me.  My angst is cast onto the Father continuously.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  Psalm 34:18

I can not explain the miracles and help that has shown up but for the grace of God.  To Him we give the glory.  One day we may list out these miracles for you.  To those who have literally been the hands and feet of Jesus, we thank you.  And thanks is not enough.

We carry on in the home stretch marking things off the to-do list along the way. 20181029_064305

When times are tough, what are your songs of surrender?  What keeps you going?  Do you have a worship battle plan?

Whistle Stop For Self Care

I saw the train at the top of the hill on two previous trips.

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Once again I head toward Cleveland to take a class.  Surely I could stop at “that exit with the train restaurant” this go round.

But by the time I finish home duties Thursday there is no way I can make the trip before midnight.  Shucks, no train.  Hmmm, if I can slip away from the class right away the next day…then maybe.  I need to return through Cincinnati before President Trump shuts down the road with his evening visit, and I need to get home to prep walls for paint and visitors.

Post learning on Friday I slip away asap and head to the location I find via Google:  Buckeye Express Diner.

Alone and near giddy, I drive up the hill.  I ration 30 minutes.  I need a late lunch and I crave minutes of peaceful adventure.

“First time?” The man at the counter asks.

I scan the menu posted on the wall and place my order before finding a seat in the train.  There is a juke box and TV screen.  I opt to look out the window.  I take time for slow breaths.  I attempt mindfulness.

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My server is sweet and attentive.  I wonder if people like her know how their random kindness is extra appreciated these days while I am tired and putting together the puzzle pieces of a home move.

The food is good.  Yum!  I eat half of it.  It is just enough.

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Time’s up.  I am reminded as I exit that there are more good things in the future.  There is special seating (with permission) in the caboose area.  I make a goal to sit there next time.

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Love,

Signature GSE

 

 

Not Forsaken

Is that a trick question? I wondered.

The Wells Fargo operator had asked, “Is this a time of hardship?”  I didn’t understand why she asked at first, but then realized it was because I paid the October mortgage bill on the last day of the grace period.  For me I felt like we were winning–aka, no penalty. The mortgage company sees this differently than I do.

A month ago I wondered how in the world we would get the house ready to sell.  Hubby’s muscles have left us.  The 16yo has to be taught how to do every odd job plus has homework.  The 20yo is 1526 miles away with the Air Force.  I have multiple jobs.  We gave most of our money away over the years doing the ministry I thought God asked me to do.  The clock is ticking.  We have one asset, the house, and it needs to go in order to start over.

Help comes from unexpected places.  Someone I work with said she’s been reading scripture and decided she would get people together to help.  Two miracle gift cards showed up to help purchase paint.

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I prepped the house as best I could and busy friends took time to help me move furniture around and patched a ceiling hole.  A neighbor and co-worker helped me sell other furniture and miscellaneous items to make room and to assist with the cost of more paint and supplies.

October 13 came and I had little idea who would come.  I thanked God in advance for whatever muscles that would arrive.

First, dear friends near my age came along with a 32yo new dad who could choose to be anywhere but chose to paint with purpose.

Around mid-day two young guys arrived.  I thought they were going to be disappointed that the basketball goal was already sold the hour prior.  “We’re here to paint,” they said.  When one took off his sweatshirt and out popped an arm with Jesus’ face tattooed on his muscles, my tears were unavoidable.  I knew right then miracles are happening.  The hands and feet of Jesus are present.

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As the weekend progressed people came for different reasons.  Some said they want to give back because their life has been better lately.  Some because of their love for the Lord.  One couple came partly because familial ALS is in their family too.  I began to pass out house keys like candy.

One young man looked deep into my soul, sized up the situation, asked me to list out the projects that scare me, and promised he’d stay by my side until the jobs are done like he would for his own mother.  He’s 26 and has a lot of carpentry, plumbing, etc. skills.  Wow. Wow.  Wow.

We’ve been full steam ahead with volunteers ever since.  I’d love to say some of their names, but I haven’t asked for permission.  I do my best to thank them personally.

On Tuesday night I went with my best friend since birth to see Hillsong.  I had no idea how I could stand on my sore feet and I stressed internally that I should be home working.

During the song I Am Who You Say I Am God mushed my heart like Playdough.  In a prayerful time I felt the Holy Spirit tell me, “You answered the call.  You gave up a lot.  You never let go of the house or lifestyle, and you’re going to have to let go of that now too.  It will hurt.  And you will go on.”

Like the song says:

I am chosen, Not forsaken

I am who You say I am

You are for me, Not against me

…I am a child of God.

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The castle I painted for our sons is gone, covered by “falling snow” white semi-gloss.  We are packing for a new adventure.  I am struck how the answer is “surrender” every time I am perplexed.  I look forward to sharing the manuscript Surrender on the Trail with readers one day.  As it turns out the trail was merely the beginning of what I am learning about surrender.

Love,

Signature GSE

P.S.  Thank you to new and old friends from Springdale Nazarene Church and SNC Norwood who took time to help our family.  May you be blessed abundantly.

Wet Soil

I saw a grasshopper jump 6 feet Sunday.  Impressed, I measured to be sure.  Sometimes I just want to know.

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Thinking about my already stressed immune system, I pop an extra Flintstones vitamin.  It’s time to tackle the landscape while rain drizzles.

The ground is soft.  This is my best chance to rip out overgrown weeds.  Working wet soil is easier than working hard soil on a sunny day.  I accept that my clothes and shoes will become muddy.  I give thanks for consecutive hours to focus on yard work long overdue.

 

Crickets chirp for hours likely because it is so dark they think it is night time.  I double check online and sure enough crickets usually stick to nocturnal chirping.  Again, I wanted to know.

Digging literally into my work, I smile thinking that crickets may not know that even when it’s dark during the day, there is light on the other side of gloomy clouds.  Then I mental note rephrase light to be a capitalized L, Light to represent Jesus.  My speed remains steady.

Eventually I realize that if I am going to finish all that needs to be done, then I’m going to have to get on my knees.  There’s no avoiding the mud or muck.  I must get serious.  Kneeling reminds me to pray.

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Section by section and weed by weed, I become increasingly meditative and prayerful thinking about how if wet soil is easier for me, then how easy must wet soil be for God?  I consider how God uses our tears.  I pray in thanksgiving and surrender that God will use my tears for good.  Our family is in a season of change and pain.  There is good to be found on the the other side of the clouds.  The Light is always there.

I uncover a decorative rock that I haven’t seen in a while.  I nod to the sky as if to say, “Metaphoric show off, Lord…my Rock.”

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I’m in the deep end of the pool as my mind wanders.  Part of my thoughts skim along the idea of leaving the day job that I’ve done to positively impact the lives of children and families for 15 years.  The personal cost has been more than I imagined.  Maybe it’s time to quit.  I’m terrified to quit because I don’t want to disappoint God, and I truly adore my students and families.

Perhaps it was the earth and dirt that took my brain to a time that changed my life’s direction back in 1992.  A group of college students and ministers  (all guys from the states plus me and one other girl) dug dirt out of a foundation for a church in Mytishchi, Russia.  Then we began adding brick to raise the walls.  We were the first team of several teams to visit that location.  I never got to see in person the finished church.

I think about the dirt moved, the drunk local brick layers, and the many crumbling bricks I carried.  The Russian bricks were unlike anything I’d seen in the USA.  To follow are pictures from my 1992 scrapbook.

 

On my knees in my messy front yard God whispers to my soul that just as my hands were a small part in a physical foundation that carries on His work beyond the summer of 1992, my efforts for the last 15 years are also part of foundations in lives that I can not see.  His work carries on with or without me.  My job is to surrender to whatever is next, to be open to possibilities.

I search the Internet once in a while over the years but rarely see any structure that might be close to what we were building in Mytishchi.  I know from the scrapbook that this is a sketch the Russians had on the wall.  This was their goal during a time of limited building supplies.  I wondered back then how the rough red brick could become a white smooth surface.

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Then last night as I prepared this post, I found it.  I am certain.  To follow are pictures of a thriving 2018 church in Mytishchi, Russia.  I’m so pumped that it exists.  There’s even a few online pics of people, now 26 years older, I recognize.

 

Hi Peter!  Then and now:

 

My hands were a small part of a lasting foundation that I don’t get to see up close and I may never see in person.  I don’t get to know.  It’s not for me to always know.

Jeremiah 18:3-4 Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something on the wheel. But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make.

I surrender to whatever vessel God wants me to be next.

Meanwhile, the yard is looking much better!

 

5 Reasons To See The Movie Eighth Grade

My son turned 16 this week.  We went to see the movie Eighth Grade together, and I’m so glad we did.  Yes, it is rated R.  I accepted in advance that we would have to deal with uncomfortable or inappropriate “stuff”.

I walked away from the theater thinking anyone who works with youth age 12 to 18 need to see this film, and anyone who is a parent or close relative of children age 0 to 18 need to see this (mostly without kids present).  Here are my reasons why:

  1. Eighth Grade is a culture capture masterpiece.  The main character, Kayla, is facing uphill social anxiety issues within a suburban life setting filled with social media overload, popularity issues, vlogging, and teen body development.  The movie gives adults the opportunity to feel the culture through Kayla’s eyes.  Most adults can not relate to growing up in the social media age.  For 1 hour and 33 minutes you feel the sharp edges of what today is like for many young people.
  2. There are mature moments that deal with everything from boys trying to take advantage of girls to feeling awkward in a bathing suit.  For me, this was an opportunity to talk after the movie with my son about what we took away from the movie.  We both had lots of reactions to unravel and I count every deep conversation with a teenager a win.
  3. As a writer, I cheered at the way the script set the scene from the get go.  The quick flash images of braces with rubber bands, a tumbling Crayola markers tower, etc. had me.  I was in the middle school setting.  I could smell the dry erase board.
  4. Elsie Fisher (Kayla) is an incredible actor.  I believed her character every second.  Josh Hamilton (the dad) nailed his part.  Oh my, I’ve been that parent!  Being there for your child in a culture that seems to dominate over common sense can be tough.  Kudos to all the actors and congratulations to writer/director Bo Burnham!  #Genius
  5. Parents of young children could learn a lot by seeing this film without kids present.  Use the experience to make decisions and prepare in advance for the adolescent years.  For example, I could not be happier that we waited to give our oldest child a smartphone until he was 17 years old.  We were concerned about impulse issues and it was good to watch his brain develop further before a phone was ever present.  Then, at a loss for a good Christmas present for the younger child, we gave him a smartphone much sooner.  He was 14.  I wish we waited.  Technology at a child’s fingertips is overrated.  I have a whole mental list of internet filters and turn off switches that I would have deployed if I’d known better sooner with my kids.

Another thought that came to mind is how painful it can be for young people to endure the current day culture if they don’t know of a Higher Power or higher purpose for their life.  No one measures up to photoshopped pictures of peers or celebrities.  Knowing peace in your heart and soul no matter what one sees online is helpful.  My prayer for young families is to not wait to give a solid foundation to your children.  Teach them early of the greatest love there is so they can withstand storms that arrive in various forms.

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.  Proverbs 22:6

Sidebar:  This is a link to an academic paper I helped write about Conceptualizing Adolescence/ts in 2017.  If you are an educator, parent or mental health professional, I hope it is helpful.

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When Was The Last Time

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2009 Shaw Farm

When was the last time he took my hand and we took a walk together?  When was the last time he could stand up from the couch without thinking about how to stand?  How many years ago was the last time he could golf–his all-time favorite activity?  When was the last time our home did not involve daily groans and pain?

As a mother, I vowed to cherish everything about our sons:  every flutter as they swam in the womb, first grins, first toys, first words.  My heart skipped beats when their little hands kept reaching for mine well into elementary school years.  I knew their childhood would end.  I treasured their soft skin and cuddles.  I would not squander those moments.  And while storing up sweet memories I welcomed the fact that one day our boys would move on to a greater destiny beyond their mom’s heart.

What I did miss was treasuring simple moments with my husband.  Yes, I appreciated him.  Yes, we tried to spend time together.  Yes, we overcame the fact that opposites really do attract and chose to draw closer to God, our translator, to communicate.  Yes, we did not give up on our marriage or each other.  But did I truly cherish him?  I didn’t think he was leaving.  And he hasn’t left, but sometimes it seems like he isn’t all here either.  My mind reaches for precious moments of ease that I forgot to store in my brain.

Grief arrives in many forms.  Sometimes we grieve the loss of a job or relationship.  I’ve endured the pain of people close to me passing away.  You may have too.  And now I endure the pain of watching chronic illness ALS-21 steal expectations we had for our present and future.  Our youngest child is a teenager.  I thought we had more time before hubby and I grew old together.  But symptoms of old slowly moved into our home decades too soon.  We are like the metaphoric frog in the pot of tepid water who didn’t know the heat was about to turn up.  We sat calmly in the pot not noticing that the water began to boil our circumstances.

I spend hours each week clearing “stuff” out of our house.  It feels like we are in a race against the clock to move to a more accessible place.  We had plans to remodel that will never happen while we are here.  I feel the ugly emotion of jealously toward people I haven’t met who will do projects here that I likely will not see.  Tears drizzle my checks occasionally over leaving our home of 20 years too soon.  What really got me down deep was when our oldest son was home on leave from the Air Force.  A couple nights he didn’t want to go see friends.  He shared that he just wanted to enjoy the walls of our home because he knew he might not ever again get to come home to this address.

On the flip side of the moving coin, I celebrate the thought of being in a home where my husband doesn’t have to crawl upstairs at night.  Are we old enough to require a no steps living arrangement?  Apparently yes.  This thought process requires me to clear clutter faster.  Time is not waiting for me.  I’ve quit looking at other homes online because I need to focus on the task of leaving this home first.  I trust God will provide the right place for us at the right time.

Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.  Matthew 6:34

I often tell myself that our situation could be worse, that there are worse things that people deal with.  These thoughts push me along to be grateful for the good things in our lives that we do have, or things that are better because we’ve had to adapt.  For example, I’m not sure my husband has ever verbally appreciated me more than he does now.  His kind words mean a lot to me.  We are also more forgiving and appreciative these days.  It seems like we have reached a calm place where we are slow to anger and less judgmental.  I thank God for the side benefits of sticking together and pushing through tough times as a team.

Are you grieving a loss or expectation of any size?  It takes time to grapple with it.  If you have tips or favorite verses about grieving that you would like to share, please comment.  I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

Surrender ~ Noun & Verb

13350430_10154248049089508_2287349314446751966_oI had about 18 days to prepare for an Appalachian Trail section hike in 2016.  Everything on the outside of my body appeared like this was a bad idea.  I had not exercised much in the winter or spring that year.  Meanwhile, everything on the inside of my body screamed that this was not only a good idea but also the only idea.  I had to go.

Before departing the word “surrender” rolled around in my head and got my attention in multiple songs.  Surrender became my trail name and my goal.  I thought about the word a lot as our four-women team hiked.  The below picture is part of the trail.  It was rocky and tough terrain.  This path represents how my life felt at the time.  Our family was amid big changes and stress.  I grumbled to myself that the sharp and wobbly rocks were fitting as a metaphor for that year.
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I wrestled and searched my heart for ways to surrender to God’s will in my life.  I read that the word surrender can be a noun meaning the action of yielding or a verb meaning to cease resistance.  I knew I absolutely needed to submit both as a thing and a process.  My mind rolled around and through the definition as I prayed to God for answers.

And this is a picture of a portion of the hike where I felt solidly surrendered.  Whatever You want, God.  Whatever You want.  Show me.  Please.  Mostly what I heard back from our Higher Power was simply to take the next step, then the next, and repeat.  In the walking, I felt peace.  Hot, sweaty peace.  I would keep walking even if it meant I had to crawl eventually.

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Since returning from the trip I’ve continued to take next steps.  One of the steps was to write down the adventure of that week.  The trip provided so much humor and gut-wrenching self-reflection that I suspect others may glean something for their own journey while reading about it.

I’m still learning about the word surrender.  In 2018 the word has led me to a specific prayer.

Dear God,

Lead me.  I trust You to lead the way. 

And, I promise to do the work You ask of me. 

Amen

The manuscript and book proposal about the trip is written and I’m seeking representation to take even more steps.  We’ll see what happens.  In the waiting, I appreciate the following verses:

1 Peter 5:6-7 NIV

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

2 Corinthians 12:9a NIV

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”…

And then the rest of that passage I struggle with:

2 Corinthians 12:9b-11 (NIV)

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships,in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Boast, really?  Ugh.

The NLV says “take pleasure in my weakness”.

The KJV says “glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

My personality teeter totters on the extrovert and introvert line.  This week a participant at a workshop I facilitated commented at the end, “Wow.  I have thought for two years you are super quiet, but you’re really not.”  I would say I try not to waste words.  [sidebar:  That was a great event by the way.  I will post the workshop guide in a different work blog soon.]

I have a hard time blogging sometimes because it feels “showy”.  I have matured enough now to know that I need to do what God has placed on my heart through skill, talent and calling.  I may not sign up to boast per se, but I can laugh at myself and give glory to God, allowing His power to work through my story in whatever way He leads.

I anticipate that you will hear more from me about the word surrender and the trip as the days ahead unfold.

God bless you,

Glenna

 

 

Resting Face Fix

We sat on the 52nd floor of Prudential Tower inside the Top of the Hub restaurant.  It was the last evening of a week-long training in Boston, Massachusetts.  The city lights twinkled in the night-time landscape.  My female co-worker’s fork froze midair ascent when he said it.

His name was Alan.  I had stored him in my contacts as Al from Nashville–met 2012.

Among the dark wood finishes and fresh flowers, we had a deep conversation about youth led substance abuse prevention and teen empowerment.  With intrigue and conviction, he points to me, “You are smarter than I thought you were.”  I am silent, then he continues, “Looking at your face this week I didn’t know you were this intelligent.”

Huh.

Now…I may suspect this was a moment of unconscious bias toward females in his life.  It could be.  But I chose to own my piece of it quietly because this was the fourth time in my adult life that something like this was said to me.  Four felt like a theme.  Even if the score is three males to one female who said something similar over the years, it is still a theme.  I’ve been back burner simmer thinking about this subject matter for a while.

Fast forward to 2018 when I’m getting ready to leave for a writer’s conference.  On my list to discuss with my Masterminds group was:  My Resting Face Problem.  I filled in the 4 women team on the issue.  They offered quality meeting people for the first-time guidelines.  Then we came up with the idea to have specific words in mind all week that would hopefully project on my face in the quiet times, walking around campus times, and all times.  They suggested I come up with 3-4 words.

Strategy Words So, I did just that.  During the drive I committed that the following words would be on my face while in public always:  welcoming, kindness, humble, confidence.  Each time I left my room I looked in the mirror and said those words.

Then a metaphoric resting face earthquake happened not 24 hours into the conference.  I received a punch you in the stomach kind of phone call from home.  The call was about work, co-workers and children I care about immensely.  It was a blind side and news of a likely short-sighted decision that could roll down hill in a painful way.  I turned my face toward the nearest wall because I felt the strategy words slide right off my face.

I quickly prayed for many things and did my best to acknowledge gratitude that no one was physically bleeding or worse at home.  I was minutes away from the next meeting with a literary agent.  Turning toward a wall may have morphed into bouncing off walls because someone noticed.  I strained for composure when the sweetest person scooped me up.  Her name is Janine Rosche.  This dear sister sized me up in less than 2 minutes and asked if she could pray me over the hurdle.  Uh, yes please, Jesus take the wheel, I’m thinking.  She prayed me from brain implosion WHAT!? to calm.  I am forever grateful.  She is a Christian Romance writer.  Her blog is JanineRosche.com.  [I will buy anything she writes–hear that publishers?!]

The shakeup was Monday.  I carried on prayerfully the rest of the week.  Mostly I could focus, but I felt my body stress while in a new situation and it hurt to know people were hurting at home.  Resting face words became even more important because I used thinking about the words to center myself each day.  I needed to remember who I am and why I was there.

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday hummed along and I enjoyed connecting with people and learning.  Thursday afternoon I sat down before the long drive home to care for some business deadlines and emails.  The covered patio overlooking a pond was a comfort.  I knew I’d feel better if I knocked out the work rather than pause at rest stops looking for wi-fi.

So help me, the phone rings and during the call I hear another piece of work information that sours my stomach.  People can be cruel.  The details don’t matter, but it was a problem that led me to be concerned whether I could handle driving 6 hours home.

Most conference attendees were already gone.  The campus was quiet.  Along comes a husband and wife team from Alabama that I had met earlier in the week.  They run a marriage ministry.  They stopped to say hello.  I explained that I was concerned about making the drive.  They asked if they could pray for me.  Yes, please.  

And then the full circle moment zapped my heart.

This is a clip from their prayer:

“….Lord, every time we’ve seen Glenna this week her face is a welcoming face, a kind face.  She is weary right now before the drive, but we ask you restore her confidence that we know is in her.  We thank you for the humble spirit we’ve sensed from her all week….”

I almost fell to the ground.

God is good.  God looks out for us and all of our struggles.  He even helps with resting face fixes!

While the Bible may not talk about the term “resting face”, I do cherish the following verse because rest and God’s presence is vital through the ups and downs of life.  In our facial expressions God can give us rest and focus.  In our struggles the greatest theme above any of our own life themes is the fact that God can weave the words and people we need into our current challenge.  We have His presence and we have His kind of rest available.  He will go with us.

And he said, “My presence will go with you and I will give you rest.”  Exodus 33:14  NKJV

Glenna