The Power of Hope and Compassion: Let’s Git-R-Done

This week has been crazy. We’re getting ready for graduation and open house next weekend. The second time around isn’t so bad, but it’s a great reason to get things done around the house that need to be done.  We’re operating is “Git-R-Done” mode.

photo (91)Like cleaning, painting, and the other “normal” stuff that happens every spring at life on the Back Forty….planting garden, 4-H animals, tending these things while doing the “real stuff”of life like working and raising kids.

Tired has entered our vocabulary just a few time this week.

I love this kind of tired. There’s something meaningful in planning, preparing, “git-r-doning” that brings rest and peace to a soul at night. Getting things accomplished, seeing the fruits of your labor, and having things in order.

But one night this week, I went to bed early after doing nothing but working nine hours and bringing home Little Caesar’s Pizza. I was exhausted that day, mentally and emotionally.

Do you ever have days like that?

It’s one of the hazards of being a counselor.  As I came home from a normal day counseling at an intermediate school, I walked and talked with God while my kids ate Little Caesar’s.

The kids I work with are heavy on my heart this week, but there’s so much more to it.  Because their lives are normal for many families in our community, in your community.  Kids who don’t know their dads.  Kids who witness violence in their homes leaving them scarred and emotionally messed-up.  Kids who understand their parent’s priorities don’t include them.  Kids who are on the brink of making good choices or ones that will set them on a path for self-destruction.

I’ve come to believe one of the greatest powers in human connection lies in words of hope.  Not false hope, but real hope.

Hope in choice.

Hope in what you can control.

Hope in seeing the good in a situation.

Hope in a future that is yet unwritten.

Hope in a God who is personal.

I sat in a meeting with a mother who broke down in front of three other adults. She had been strong and brave all year, but the restraining order she had against her child’s father told me much more.  As she was leaving the administrator’s office, I took a risk, hugged her, and said, “God bless you.”

She sobbed more and clung to me like a life preserver.

The risk of compassionate words in that moment spoke truth to my soul.

We need each other.

The boy in my office cried because he’s not accepted by the Latinos and he’s not accepted by the whites. He’s mixed. He’s not accepted by his mom or his dad. A product of a sexual encounter, he doesn’t know family. He finally said through his tears, “I hurt. I don’t belong anywhere.”

Have you ever felt like you don’t belong anywhere?

As I came home with Little Ceasar’s and put my cleaning clothes on, I longed for each child to know what “home” is.  I longed for each adult walking through life with childhood scars to know what it feels like to belong, to be accepted.  I long for each of us walking through life in difficult places to have someone reach out and say, “God bless you for where are at today. You’re a survivor.”

If you’re a person who can give hope to another, let’s Git-R-Done. MP900387256

Let’s take a risk in caring, in sharing, in reaching out.

Let’s be the hand of Jesus and words of hope that give life to others. 

Will you do that with me today?

Will you stop the busyness for just a moment to give a moment of life to another?

God bless you, my reader, for the places you have walked and have received hope for tomorrow.

If you are walking in hard places today, let me pray with you on your journey. You can email me at yoderbl@gmail.com

Join my for other posts this week:

Mother’s Day Legacy: My Daily Prayer at www.notalonemom.com

Being Intentional About Quality Family Time This Summer …at www.parentsspace.com

The How’s To’s for Making A T-shirt Quilt at www.parentsspace.com

 

Inspiring Stories: Kaylee’s Story “Loving the Kids”

This post is written by my daughter. For the prelude to her story, read here.

It’s taken nearly a year to heal my broken heart—to relive the rich memories with a song rather than sorrow lacing my heart.

It’s been nearly 11 months since I left with a group of students from Liberty University to spend the summer in Guatemala.  While there I had the opportunity to learn Spanish, live with a host family, and revel in one of God’s sweetest gifts to me—the chance to work in an orphanage.

Loving the KidsWe did ministry by serving the Guatemalan people in various ways. I saw pain, suffering, and poverty. I saw people who had nothing. I saw teenagers who weighed a mere 40 pounds from lack of food. I saw a woman with Down syndrome living in a trash heap. I saw a boy with epilepsy whose bed was nothing more than the ragged and worn hole of a hammock he shared with his other siblings.

But I also saw joy amidst the sorrow and healing among the brokenness. As I was serving in the orphanage I was honored with the sweet and precious gift of loving these children—the forgotten ones.  These little ones had a cot to sleep on and tortilla and beans for their bellies but didn’t know a father’s love or a mother’s touch. For me, that is where the difference lies.

The street children and sickly kids may not always have a full stomach or a spacious home, but they have parents. They have someone who loves them—who is  willing to go days or weeks without food so that their children might have a bite to eat. Some may argue with me, but I find it hard to discern which is worse— go without food, or not know the love of a mother or father.

The first day at the orphanage, I held a 3 year old in my arms named Andy. Instantly, I knew the warm truth that trickled deep into my soul: he was mine. I believe God draws different people to each other. He drew this precious bundle of laughter and mischief to me. I visited him in the baby house every day. Going on walks, we giggled, tickled, played, laughed and chased each other. All the little things little boys do.

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A week into the trip, I met Antonion or “Tono”—the little boy who would forever change my life. I still can’t think of him without a knot in my throat but I have a joy in my spirit now. One afternoon I sat down to help this little 9 year old boy, who sported the crooked smile behind his tough guy facade, with his homework. The rest is history. He was my shadow for the rest of my time there.  Mejor amigos (Best friends). I fondly referred to him as my “hermanito” and he replied in broken English “You (pointing at me) my seeeee-ster for-eever.

When he said that, how could I ever go home?

I don’t know why God drew me to this certain child. Maybe it was his crooked smile, or the way he would jump into my arms when he saw me. Or how he begged me to just watch him play soccer for hours. Or the way he would take my hand and off we went to play marbles, cards, or just sit and talk. Other children could sit on my lap, but only if he knew where I was. Maybe it was because he reminded me of my own three little brothers who are now too old to sit in my lap. I don’t know, but what I do know is that he needed to be loved and that was something I could do.

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I fell in love with Leydi and her sweet spirit, Alexa and her tough demeanor (once she knew I was there to stay, her brattiness melted away and she let me into her heart), Julio with the twisted leg, Cristian, the constant troublemaker who just needed a smile and hug,  Elias, who wouldn’t sit still at school unless he was sitting on my lap.  The list goes on…

For a time, I honestly thought I would never leave.

I was having the time of my life.  My favorite compliment was when people asked me in Spanish if I was “mixed,” thinking I was half-Latina because of my tanned skin and dark features, but knew I wasn’t because of my blue eyes. I would proudly reply, “My Grandpa’s Italian” and beam because they thought I fit with the culture I was becoming a part of.  I even got use to the rats and bugs. They didn’t bother me so much. I loved the simplicity of life there—the relaxed atmosphere, the friendliness and love of the people, and not having access to modern technology.

I was home.

The week before I had to leave, I hardly slept. I couldn’t believe the time had come. I’ll never forget whispering in releasing and letting goAndy’s ear “Te quiero muchisimo mi niñito” (I love you little one) knowing he wouldn’t understand that the next day I wouldn’t be coming back. Saying good-bye to the other kids was painful, especially when Julio, my treasure with the twisted leg, looked at me and said “Adios preciosa” (Good-bye dear one). As soon as he said that, I kissed him, and walked down the mountain because if I hadn’t I never would have. Tono was the good-bye I was dreading. He buried his head in my stomach, squeezed me tight and we said good-byes.

I came back to the U.S. and cried every single day for the next month. My heart had never been more broken.

Life went on. I went back to school. There were days when I would weep on the floor of my dorm, crying out to God asking, “Why?”…. Why what? I didn’t even understand the questions in the depths of my heart. But God heard them and he allowed me to go back for 2 weeks in January.

The highlight of that trip in January was spending time at the orphanage.  I saw the precious bundles of joy that I had missed every second I was gone. Once again, I kissed, cuddled, tickled, chased, and played hide and seek with my baby Andy. I held Elias while we watched a movie. I held tightly to Julio (the boy with the twisted leg) as we jumped on the trampoline the orphans had gotten for Christmas. I told Leydi and Alexa they were beautiful, I tucked Marcos into bed and kissed his sleeping cheek.

551075_324437974298235_97023136_nI prayed with little Tono to receive Jesus as his Lord and Savior. I took him down to dinner with me the last night and as the music played, he grabbed my hand and put his other skinny arm around my waist and said “Bailamos” (Let’s dance).  The little gentleman whisked me across the floor. When we said good-bye a second time, I cried as he wrapped his little arms around my shoulders, kissed my cheek and said “I’ll love you forever.

He is just ten years old.

I cried as I walked away leaving Elias crying on the steps of the orphanage at the top of the mountain. I cried as I knew I would miss seeing baby Andy grow up. My heart broke even more. I felt like Mary in Luke 2:19 “She treasured and pondered all of these things in her heart.”

These last few months, God has been faithful as he has graciously helped me release the bitterness and anger at Him in my heart for tearing me away from these precious kids. It was only when I acknowledged my bitterness and anger toward the Lord that my heart began to heal. It was only after this happened that when I looked at pictures of the children I could smile and remember instead of cry.

Now I have a joy in my spirit instead of sorrow in my heart.

Matthew 19:14 says, “Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

The little children go to Jesus, not me. They are His and not mine. He loves them more than I do or ever 1342f-img_1464could. Instead of mourning a loss, I celebrate the fact that Jesus knows each one of us and our needs individually. He is taking care of the children; He only used me to help him for a time, but what a blessing it was.

If you are a parent, hold your children close and tell them you love them because there are millions of kids out there who do not have parents—little girls who will never have a daddy to tell them they’re beautiful and little boys who will not know a mother’s loving touch.

If you have the opportunity, I challenge you to go and serve. The very least you can do is pray—pray for God’s children. That is what my prayer has changed to.  Instead of saying “God, let me go back,” I pray “God, today may they know they are LOVED.”

I write this in faith that I am going back. I don’t know when, where, or how but God has told me I am going back. I claim that promise. In the meantime, I pray for the precious ones and trust God knowing that He is loving them and meeting their needs in a greater way than my simple love ever could.

Romans 13:8 “Let no debt remain outstanding except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.”

 How are you living that out in your own life today?

If you would like to sponsor one of the orphans at Hope of Life Ministry, please contact them and begin a relationship with one of these children that will change your life and theirs.  Click here for more information.

The Gap, The Holes, and the Race to Fill Them

boredomShe sat there with a batting glove on her hand.  It gave her power in the identity she’s forming.  She’s a fighter.  Inside is a girl who wants to be something else.  I see it in the way she cocks her head and the way her eyes get big when her heart softens.

He sat there saying he didn’t do it when the evidence said different. His mom was angry, again, out of frustration with her son who doesn’t think the way the rest of us do.  Another adult was exasperated because he couldn’t understand him either.  I saw I young man who doesn’t understand himself.  And we all sat, frustrated at a mental illness that can’t be ignored.

She sat rattling off the fun she was going to have with her dad who was getting out of jail.  They were going to the racetrack over the weekend because they would finally all be together.  She had a smile on her face and her hard-core demeanor had a softened glow about it.  Her dad was coming home.

He walked down the hallway swearing and texting.  His anger was too far-gone.   Mamma gave up on him long ago and he is free and loose to do as he pleases.  His  heart is soft, but the hunger for relationship and anger at the lack of it has hardened him.  He’s given up on himself because others gave up on him years earlier.  It’s only a matter of time before he self-destructs.

These stories live behind the eyes of a child.

Stories with gaps so large anything will fill it.

Anger, fear, blame.

We try to fix it, but some days it feels like

we’re dumping sand into a sink hole

and there’s no end in sight.

MP900402910But each day I pick up a shovel,

fill it with compassion,

the Truth of God, and encouragement

and pour it into the holes.

Hoping it will fill a gap somewhere.

Having faith that He who began a good work will be faithful to complete it. (Phil 1:6)

Having faith that one man plants, another man waters, but God makes it grow. (1 Corinthians 3:7)

Trusting that God will fill in the gaps.

Who are you pouring into that needs to be brought before the throne of God?

Tanya’s Story: A Response

Today I’m posting at She Stands.  Stop for a heart check!

If you didn’t read Tanya’s inspiring story posted this weekend, read it here.  It’s a beautiful story of hope and redemption after a life of child abuse and rejection.  If it touches you, feel free to share that with her here

As a counselor for elementary students, former teacher, and a professional counselor, here’s a note in response to Tanya’s story of abuse.

A reader commented they realized how sheltered their life has been.  This comment could come from many, many people. When it comes to abuse there seems to be two camps:  those who experience it and those who are unaware of it. As a reader, you fit into one of those categories.   Those who are unaware of it, it’s with you I share my heart.

Schoolboy Struggling with Math ProblemsAs I read Tanya’s story, I see a young girl, boy or teenager in a classroom.  I see them in a desk, trying to master angles of an isosceles triangle.  I see them lashing out or standing in the corner by themselves at recess.  I see them trying to listen to a classroom teacher when their mind keeps going back to the night before.  This is a child you know.

Statistics say one out of every four women will be sexually abused or assaulted some time in their lifetime.  Statistics for men are anywhere from one in seven to one in five.  Statistics would be higher if all incidences were reported.  Most of them are not.  As a professional working with people in a counseling relationship, the disclosure of childhood sexual or physical abuse is common.  Too common.  Adults have the capacity to work through the damage from childhood.  But each adult was once a child.  A child you know.

Each one of us lives in community with others.  But I wonder how many of us live in “the bubble.”  The sheltered-life bubble.  You may not work in a school like I do, but you interact with people.  You’re in a work setting, a church sanctuary, a check out line at Walmart. Where ever you are, there is one in four or one in five who have been, currently are, or will be abused.   It’s around us.  It knows no boundaries.  Gender, socioeconomic level, education, religion or race does not determine where abuse happens.  If you think it does, you’re deceiving yourself.

I want you to do more than read Tanya’s story and say you’re inspired.  I want you to see people, to hear people, to reach out when someone shares their past with you.  If a child discloses they are being harmed by someone, legally and ethically you have a responsibility to report it.  Don’t be afraid of this. For more information, click here.  A great advocacy site for children can be found here.

For those of you who have people in your lives who’ve been abused, don’t shrink back.  For male survivors, Cec Murphy has a wonderful ministry both for men and those who love them.  Visit his ministry here.  For women, feel free to reach out to Tanya or other sexual assault agencies nationally or in your community.

Abuse is complicated because it usually involves family members or friends.  It’s usually not the creepy guy hanging around the mini-mart.  You need know this.

Life is not simple.

We are called to be givers of life and hope in the darkness.

Pop the bubble.

 Reach Out. Listen.

A person you know needs you.

Middle Schoolers, Motherhood, and Mountains.

If you have or have had middle schoolers, you’ve experienced the Middle School Moan, the eye rolls, etc.   Every Friday I have the privilege to be a contributing writer at Not Alone Mom.  All parents alike, feel free to read today’s article on those precious middle schoolers here.

Also, congratulations to Lou Anne, the reader who won Amelia Rhodes’s Isn’t it Time for a Coffee Break giveaway.  I’d encourage any of you who need encouragement in friendship to purchase one – you can find out more about the book and where it can be purchased here.

Thinking today about many things.  You can read that here.

One of them includes my daughter, a junior at a large east coast university, who is saying good-bye today to children she has learned to love very deeply in Zacapa, Guatemala, at Hope of Life International.   She spent the summer 1228_417796268295738_1380745067_nthere and returned the last two weeks to translate for medical teams.  She has a  deep love for the children she’s worked with and will be saying good-bye and returning to begin a new semester tomorrow.   God is doing tremendous work in this young lady’s life, and I don’t say that because I’m her mom.   Those of you who are pray-ers – would you pray for her today as she says good-bye, as she returns to school, and leaves part of her heart in the mountains of Guatemala?  Thank you.

Tomorrow I will be sharing a tremendous story of Tanya Glazman, a contributing writer to Circle of Friends, who is sharing her inspiring story of overcoming child abuse and abandonment.  Tune in this weekend for her story.

Readers, I don’t know who all of you are, but I know you bring breathe and life to my day, to my journey beyond the picket fence.  I hope this space does that for you, also.

Have a great day,

Brenda

Today

Today the morning news reports the United States has the highest infant mortality rate, youngest average age of adult deaths, and highest homicide rate of developed countries.

Tonight’s news reports the United States puts almost half of it’s food in landfills.Box with a Hamburger and French Fries

Today, my daughter has been giving simple medical care in a country where other medical teams go into the mountains to rescue babies and children dying of malnutrition.

Today.

Today a student deals with intense anger he has towards others.

Today a teacher reports bruises on a child’s arm.

Today there’s another school shooting.

Today.

Today several preteens didn’t know their address or phone number.

Prisoners Hands in Cell BarsToday a parent couldn’t be reached because there’s no working numbers and the other parent’s in jail.

Today the top local news story was about a university football coach having an interview with a pro team.

My friend found out she has cancer.

Wheel of Fortune is on TV

Today my son notices.   He shows me this video.

 I laugh, cry, and write.

Today.

Snapshots Beyond the Picket Fence

Medium Format CameraSnapshot One: A family celebrates as their son receives an organ transplant. A true miracle. Hope for new life is with them!

Snapshot Two: A family watches their little son fade away before their eyes from cancer. Hope for new life has not come to them.

Snapshot Three: Fill in the blank.

I wondered whether to pen these words, but somewhere deep inside my soul cries out. As I switched computer tabs from one blog to the next, I’m left numb. So alive for my friends who are celebrating. And part of me is crushed, reading words of a father seeing his son slip away. There are no words to speak into their pain.

The message at Life Beyond the Picket Fence is that when life’s full of the unexpected, dirty, and difficult, good things can still grow. The life in-between. I don’t know where you are today on your picket-fence-journey. I don’t hear from each reader, but those I hear from validate the need for encouragement in the hardest and darkest of places. I haven’t lost a child. I have no idea what it feels like to have one taken before your eyes. What I do know is that sometimes there are no words for pain.

I encourage you, my readers, to place yourself in a snapshot of life that is difficult and messy. Maybe it’s your own snapshot or someone else’s. Acknowledge it for what it is. If it’s a day to celebrate because good things are growing, then celebrate! Acknowledge the hard places you’ve been and celebrate the victories. Don’t minimize the miracles, grace, and good things God has done.

If it’s a day of muck and mire, acknowledge it for what it is. Feel the pain. Allow yourself to naturally grieve, mourn, Shovel in Dirtbe angry or sad. Don’t minimize the pain. Let the fullness of life validate where you are. It hurts.

Whether your snapshot of life is full of harvest or drought, when the winds blow and the seasons change, go with it. Experience it. And when the winds of springtime come, take up the hoe, till the ground and let God grow the seeds He’s planted there.

The same dirt that brought drought will bring life in the right season.

That’s the character of God.

Life’s not a picture perfect image of Hollywood. It’s not a story book with a happily-ever-after. It’s a story that changes with every season, some years with bountiful harvests, and some with devastating drought. Living in between means you put the seed in the ground again, no matter what came before.

Having faith that something good can always grow

Even in the coldest, deepest pain.

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Father, will you be with each one who needs to feel your complete grace, whether that’s in joy or pain? Will you minister the fullness of your character to their need, today? Will you speak to their spirit what words can’t. Will you carry them in this season, bringing them to the place where You will grow the full harvest of the past, present, and future, for Your honor and glory. Amen.

P.S. The giveaway for “Isn’t It Time for a Coffee Break” is still open until January 9. Click here for more details.

Fear, Security, And Stereotypes

Recently my daughter and I traveled to an East Coast city to look at an internship site she is considering for next summer.  We’ve never been to this city.  We booked a B&B, made arrangements to meet with a mutual friend, and off we went.

I was marked by the experiences we gathered in that twenty-four hour period.  She’ll be interning at a small local charity that ministers to refugees.  In the ninety minutes we were there, we interacted with individuals and families from MP900227710the Congo, Iraq, Nepal, Thailand, and others who, we were instructed, did not know their true nationalities because they have been in so many refugee camps before arriving in the United States.

Each person was at home in this neighborhood ministry.  The ministry provides their clients assistance with food, clothing, and childcare while learning the English language.  In the face of each person I saw my immigrant grandparents.  In the face of the director and her assistant, and soon my daughter, I saw my social hero, Jane Addams.

When my grandmother came to America in 1930, she did not know anyone but my grandfather, of whom she had been Maria Quaranta Lazzaraseparated since 1924.  He came to the United States by himself, leaving his wife and infant children behind.  Both only knew his brother and wife.   When Maria Lazzara came, she left her family and village behind.  She didn’t know the language.  My father remembers going to citizenship classes with her as a small child.  This summer, her great-granddaughter will be teaching English to immigrant refugees.  Full circle, by God’s creative grace.

While we were also on this trip, we worshiped in an inner-city Latino church, attending both their Christmas program and Sunday morning worship.  Though Baby Girl is fluent in Spanish, I am not.  But I didn’t need to be.  I was moved by the joy, the music, the facial expressions of those around me.  I didn’t need a translator.  These individuals loved Christ with their entire being.  I was blessed.

We walked through different neighborhoods.  According to the news, these streets are dangerous.  But as one person said, “They are just regular people going about their lives, going to their jobs, raising their families.”  Good counsel. MC900434912

That same weekend, a place I’m most familiar with experienced heinous violence.  “Just regular people, going about their lives, doing their jobs, raising their families.”  Now, according to the news, the school environment is considered dangerous.

Baby Girl left for Guatemala this weekend.   She’s returning to a place on a mountain that captured her heart this summer.  This time, she will be entering the jungles to translate for medical teams, near villages where drug wars broke out this summer.  Just regular people, going about their lives, doing their jobs, raising their families. 

I hear a lot about stereotypes, fear, and keeping safe these days. If I submitted myself to stereotypes and fears, I would shrink back from encouraging BG to pursue these experiences.   It’s challenging to step outside comfort zones to engage with people and cultures we’re not familiar with.   It’s scary to step into places where dangerous things happen.

But in 2013, where does danger lurk?   What is security these days, where does it lie?

MP900403070For me, danger does not reside with people holding weapons, and neither does security.  Security comes when we get to know one another, when we look into each other’s eyes, seeking to understand each other.  Fear builds when we add another “group” to be afraid of.   In our reach for more security, I’m afraid we’re reaching for more fear.

Mom, anywhere I go, it’ll be dangerous.  I feel safe” she says.

A challenging statement.  Everyday I drive my car, not knowing with whom I’m interacting with on the roads.   It’s potentially dangerous, yet I feel safe.

  A paradox.

Yet, it’s not.  I know in whom my security lies.  It’s my Heavenly Father of whom gives peace in the midst of pain, trouble, and danger. In Him lies my hope, my rest, and trust.

“Perfect love casts out all fear.”   1 John 4:18

I don’t fear death.  But I don’t want to fear life.

  In between, the challenge is finding and receiving peace.

Relationship Survival During the Holidays

I received this poem in a Christmas letter from a high school friend in 2005. I’ve kept it all these years. When I was teaching, it was in my classroom. Now, it’s a wall hanging in my counseling office. It makes me strong.photo (14)

These truths are essential for the holidays as you gather with people who put you down, question your life decisions, give you that “You’ll never change” look or jabbing comment. The words provide strength as you contemplate making changes or reaching goals in the New Year.

I appreciate Mother Teresa’s wisdom because it’s REAL. It’s not a Pinterest photo with a cute cat giving warm fuzzies. It gives the real deal how-to’s for dealing with adversities in life, for dealing with people and situations I encounter every day.

  • Those people who are unreasonable, illogical and self-centered? Forgive them, anyway. Thank you for acknowledging that forgiveness does not mean their nature changes. It just makes me easier to relate to them.
  • If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Been there, done that. Why do people have to gossip and makes assumptions? Be kind anyway.
  • If you are frank and honest, people may cheat you. Or they might hold grudges, get back at you, lie to you, or stonewall you. Be frank and honest anyway.
  • What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight. Build it anyway. Don’t be afraid to take chances. When we step out in risk, God has the opportunity to work. Being comfortable isn’t always godly.
  • If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous. Why is that? Why can’t we truly be happy for one another? Be happy anyway.
  • The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow. Do good anyway. The most significant moments in heaven and on earth are the simplest moments in living. Build up treasures in heaven.
  • Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. We’ve always told our kids as long as they’ve done their best, that’s all that matters. Give the best you have anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it’s between you and God.

It was never between you and them, anyway.

Amen. May these words give you courage and balance this holiday season as you interact with others who are the “they’s” and the “them’s.” You’ll probably be in gatherings where people will expect more from you, be jealous of you, be unreasonable, may accuse you or forget the kindness you’ve shown in the last year.

Take a deep breath, remember whose you are, and whom you answer to. Smile, ask how they’ve been, and listen.

You’re building treasures in heaven.

So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you; compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as your Father forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. Colossians 3:12-14, The Message.

Why I’m not a Salesman (God’s Gift in Disguise)

Attempting to blog during the Holidays is like putting another ad flyer in an already stuffed newspaper.  Lots of good ideas, but there’s too much out there already.

Now you know why I’m not a salesman.

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In the busyness and too muchness of everything this season, Life Beyond the Picket Fence is going to focus on the gift of God’s character over the next several weeks.  As we sat around our Thanksgiving table, my kids played the “do what Mom says” game by each sharing what they’re thankful for in the last year.  Then, being the dorky Mom I am, we played Round Two, with each of us sharing one character of God we are thankful for.

I want my kids to have an awareness of His character because it’s the only gift that is true, steadfast, and standing when everything is stripped away.

The holidays bring a plethora of moods, expectations, and reflections. In all of our experiences, there’s one constant  – God’s character. It doesn’t change.

It’s the only thing I held on to when our family’s world came crashing down several years ago. I could literally hear glass shatter in my head in the moment I realized the joy of our Imageentire world and way of life was gone. Everything I thought about life and faith was gone in that moment.  I stood there screaming inside, “Lord, I don’t know what you’re doing!”

The only peace came from the next thought, “But I know your character, and in this moment, it’s still the same.”

Over the course of the next several months and years, I studied scripture and questioned everything I knew about faith, God, and life. One thing I continually returned to was God’s character.

I’ve learned when life doesn’t make sense, God’s character doesn’t change. He’s the same God today as he was to Job, David, Peter, Daniel, Ruth and Esther.  And He’s the same God to you and me.  He doesn’t waiver.

In this holiday season, let’s recieve the gift of God’s character.  Together, may we rest in the knowledge, peace and stability of His character. Perhaps the craziness around us will seem less crazy.  The rush may seem less rushing.  The expectations less overwhelming.

May the peace of Christ in the manger sink deep into our minds, bodies, and spirits, bringing joy of who He is each day.

“The Lord so gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.” Psalm 145:8

Do you need to receive God’s grace?  His compassion?

 His patience with you, or His love that abounds?  I do, every day.

Thank you, Holy God, for your gift of your character.

It’s His gift to you today.