Are You Blessed?

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Realizing that finals week is definitely causing me to lose points on this daily thing…

For the past two weeks, as deadlines and finals and commitments and insanity have been piling up, I’ve taken notice of a wide variety of people asking:

How’s it going?  How is your week?  How is life treating you?

And to be honest, I have had to bite back many vocal explosions containing the H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks word.  Because it sure felt like that at times.

Of course, burdening others with my nightmare would only add to my worry, so I’ve taken up the habit of stopping and counting to ten – (and by ten I mean three, because standing there in silence for ten seconds would get really awkward really quick) – and reminding myself of God’s continued goodness through it all.  His grace and love.  His blessings.

Today, however, I read another writer’s thoughts that made me stop and wonder how blessed I really am.  

It also made me wonder…… do I really want to be more (genuinely) blessed?  

Continued thoughts on this later, but read this article with me to get what we are talking about.  I was truly surprised.

“The One Thing Christians Should Stop Saying” by Scott Dannemiller
http://www.tosavealife.com/the-one-thing-christians-should-stop-saying/#.VUpDDayqyR0.facebook

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New Week

You know what feels good?

A really, really slow day after a really, really busy week.
Feeling the sunshine streaming into your work-space after a week of gloomy rain.
Sitting in silence after a week of nonstop phone calls.
Small, pleasant chats about your coworkers lives after a week so frantic that you forget you work with humans.

It’s going to be a good week.

Joy in the Mental Meltdown

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I think finals week might kill me.

It’s funny how during undergrad, there were so many classes and so many assignments and so many people graduating that you had a list of a million things to do, and yet, you knew you were going to complete it all and have a jolly good time.

Now, in grad school, I have one class and one project and I have no faith in my ability to complete it.  Much less do I think my full-time work will be any good this week, and I definitely will be neglecting any friendships I have miraculously managed to maintain until now.

In the midst of it all, rejoice.

It’s my conviction this week, and I am certainly trying. And struggling. But truly trying.
There have been several moments of rejoicing, and it is helping me even as I jot this down to reflect on them.

A surprise.  Visiting with Second Sister.  A delicious birthday cake.  The warmth of sunshine. Nilla wafers. An amiable new acquaintance.
A brand new nephew.

God is faithful.  Yes, even during finals week.

To Be Rich

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I am often struck by the generosity of my Second Family.

I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusement, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our giving does not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say it is too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot because our commitment to giving excludes them.

Jack, in Mere Christianity

Tonight, Second Sister – who lives in one of the most expensive sections of the world that I have ever seen and pays almost quadruple my rent – dumbfounded me again as she put out great sums to bless me and others, and not for the first time this month.  Sure, she does pretty well at work and is pretty thrifty in her everyday life, but when she determines to bless someone, she doesn’t hold back.  And I have never, in my time of living with her or simply knowing her, seen her regret it for an instant.

Now, I love to give gifts and cover meals and contribute to projects and needs.  However, my radar for what a generous donation entails is much more confined than hers.  I’m a budgeter, a planner, and a financial analyst in every way, and I make great timelines in paying off debt and saving for emergencies or my next trip overseas to visit family.

I don’t think either is wrong.  I don’t think she is in any manner of speaking a “spendthrift,” nor would I consider myself stingy (usually).

However, there are other things – endless, constantly-replenished things – which we cannot ration.  These things may often feel like things we need to reserve and guard, but in reality, they grow and grow the more we share.

Love.  Joy.  Kindness.  Goodness. Hope. Gratitude.

It’s not always easy and is very often scary to share these things with absolutely everyone when they seem to be in short supply.  But I challenge you –

 Let go, and be rich.

Strength for Contentment

Today’s inspiration comes from Big Brother Squiggles.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

It’s interesting how this oft-quoted verse comes right after an explanation of Paul’s contentment, isn’t it?

Philippians 4:13 is a verse that is used to get people through the most challenging and helplessness-inducing times; so naturally, it should be used when seeking contentment. Contentment is hard to find. It’s a challenge that so many of us struggle toward, but we aren’t meant to do it alone. There is only one place we could find it, and that is in a glorious King.

No Time to Title This Post

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Today I was reading Tozer – – I love Tozer.  I mean, not quite as much as Jack, but I think they would have gotten along just dandy.

Anyway, Tozer gives me a little to chew on each day.
Which is funny-sounding to me, because this week feels like a time when I’ve “bitten-off-more-than-I-can-chew,” so it seems that my mouth is not large enough for a little Tozer tidbit in the midst of the insanity.

It’s pressure week at work – the week that our year’s work leads up to.  It’s also finals week (ah, grad school), not to mention the only week that worked for me to throw my beloved friend a bridal shower.  Do I feel prepared for even one of those things?

Tozer graced me with this reminder tonight:

But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings

That’s from 1 Peter 4:13, English Standard Version.

Now, I don’t even nearly pretend that my “sufferings” are even a little bit like being estranged from society, taunted by demons, accused of high sins, and tortured and crucified.  Nope.  Can’t say I share those.

However, even in the smaller things in life, it is easy to be overcome with despair and feel incapacitated to go on.  But every act we perform can be for Christ’s kingdom; every moment a ministry.  One task at a time, we can rise above the hopelessness and rejoice at His goodness and coming, and trust that He will carry us through and make good on those rich promises.

I’ll be chewing on that, and hopefully not neglecting you all this week.

Why I Have a Photo From Inside a Police Car (Part 2)

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Thank you for your patience.


imageIn case you were wondering, I didn’t run out of gas.

I think I would have died right then and there of embarrassment if that were the case.  But no, I had over half a tank and a car fresh from the rental place.  No logical reason exists as to why Elantra should have stopped dead in the middle of an underwater tunnel.

Talk about a literal nightmare coming true.

Gut-wrenching noises came from the hood as I invoked the Heavens and our inertia slowly disappeared.  Somehow in the midst of disbelief/shock/terror, the crisis-calm section of my brain dialed 9-1-1 and the flipping-out section erupted in a praise as I found I was (just) close enough to the tunnel’s exit to get some signal.

Have you ever been in a crowded place when suddenly it seems as though everyone is staring at you?  Yeah, that’s worse when it’s a tunnel and they have nowhere else to stare.

Suddenly, I was that person.  The one who blocked up the tunnel.  The type of person I have always thought about when going through those tunnels – at rush hour – and desperately thought I would never be.  Desperately hoped.

And now…

My car broke down spontaneously, despite my appeals.  However, I was provided with some astounding assistance: a police officer who was calm and gracious, a tow trucker who was efficient and protective of me, and a AAA officer who reminded me a lot of my dad and played my favorite radio station as we went to get a new car.  As utterly and mind-bogglingly horrific as the materialization of one of my worst fears was, I was taken care of every moment.  Sheesh.  Thank God.

And hey, it makes for a good story, right?      Slash blog post?

A Prince’s Power

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I know you are all waiting with bated breath, faces pressed up against your screens in eagerness to hear if I survived the terrifying episode in the tunnel.  However, my heart is bursting with another matter tonight, so this post will serve as your intermission.


You know what I love about you? You always have something good to say.  When everyone is standing around ready to critique and put down and nitpick, you – without hesitation – put forth something positive and beautiful and true that we all saw, but didn’t see because our eagerness to pass judgement made us blind to what’s important.

I don’t think words have ever made me feel so beautiful.

Look, I really don’t know how to take a compliment.  As one can tell from previous posts, they’re not my “love language,” and I don’t know what to do with them.  This post already makes my skin crawl because I am nervous that you, who have been generous and kind enough to assume that these ramblings are worth even a bit of your time, will think me vain or self-righteous for posting it.

But I am reminded tonight that this exercise is not about that; it’s about processing through words, keeping a record of kindness and beautiful moments that have shaped me, and – here at least – preserving a very important memory.

The words were spoken by a Sweet Prince.

If I can’t take a compliment in general, I really don’t know what to do with them when they come from an admirable or admiring man.  Usually, they serve to increase my gratitude but do little by way of changing the way I look at myself.
(I know that can be to a fault, and thanks to a RoomieSister, I’m working on it.  Promise.)

I don’t know why this time was different. But I do.

Sweet Prince’s words were brought to me in complete humility, an insight into a part of me that I had never seen reflected in a mirror or praised in a birthday card.  Maybe the quote means little to you.  Maybe it seems simple or silly.  But as instinct prompted me to deny or brush off what he said, the uniqueness of the comment revealed a statement on the world which I was to learn from, not shove away.

It was a truth about me.  And, I should go ahead and admit it, one that I like about myself.  It just wasn’t one that I realized was rare or special, that made me stand out in any way to the Prince.  It was a comment that was not given lightly, but with thought and [true] appreciation.  Who was he to see this in me?  Why did it jar him enough to mention it?

Did I ever thank him for it?  Let him know how his thoughtful sentiment added to my purpose, my self-worth, my perspective on the human condition?

I hope I did.

Tonight, I sat still as the house lights came up and didn’t move for intermission, while patrons chattered around me.  I was so pleasantly gratified with an evening of free entertainment, produced and performed by many that I love and cherish and find to be incredibly talented.
My delight was suddenly assailed by a wave of skeptical commentary from those behind me.  Barely had the curtain closed before the critique began.

Where is the grace?  Where is the valid, factual praise that our vastly skilled brothers and sisters deserve to overhear us imparting?

I shouldn’t have been shocked, not in the least.  Moreso, I was sad and felt pity for those who felt that harmful words were necessary in the midst of such beauty.
And the Prince’s words came flooding back to me.

I felt choked, like I needed to prove him right and say something that he would expect, but the pressure weighing down on me startled my voice away.  Finding something to laud wasn’t the problem.  (Truly, there were so many astounding positives that a reality check could have shut down the negative patrons’ conversation in a heartbeat).

It was the fact that I heard those Princely words but once, and in them, he took possession of my attribute.  He became its champion and defender, and I became afraid.

Afraid that it was only something beautiful when he was there to notice it.  When he was there to affirm it.  Perhaps it was only a beautiful truth about me while he was in this World, but now that he has gone on to Another, how can it still be?

It doesn’t make much sense, but when does grief, really? Terror haunts me that no one will really know that part of me again like he did.  This little, tiny, single moment that made me understand something beautiful about myself – what are its implications on my life and my identity now that he is not here to explain them?

I will go and tell every person specifically what I loved about this night, this show.  They deserve it.  I pray that somehow they feel and understand that it comes not from me, but from the gracious gifts of a loving Father and the life-changing presence of a Sweet Prince.

Wish you were here.

Why I Have a Photo From Inside a Police Car

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I was going to feel bad about writing yesterday, but then one of my worst nightmares materialized in front of me, so I have chosen to forgive myself.

Fact 1: The best thing about renting cars for work is that you don’t have to worry about your old, third-hand car breaking down on you.  Ahh, security.

Fact 2: Underwater tunnels get congested at rush hour.  The worst violation of road law in areas where these are common is to do anything to cause an increase in congestion.

THE STORY: Realizing that I had to drive seven hours to my hotel, across several states, I formed a nice, relaxed plan to leave in the early afternoon.  There was a bit of a line at the car rental location, and I had to pick up a couple things at home, but all in all, I was on the road just a bit after I had planned to be.

Cruisin’.  Spotify jammin’ on my iPod, Spring shows up just in time for the windows to fall, very little traffic for this time of day.  Even the ridiculous $13 toll can’t bring me down today.

And then.

I’m sailing across the first bridge section of the extraordinarily long bridge-tunnel, quite impressed with the smoothness of Hyundai Elantra.  Excepting the fact that I haven’t yet figured out the Bluetooth, nothing seems amiss about the car… until the flicker of the oil light.  It doesn’t come on, per se, and it doesn’t really flash.  It just shows up – faintly – for mere instants before disappearing again.

Now, my own car likes to flash lots of lights for no reason at all, so I’m curious, but not immediately alarmed.  However, one of my coworkers had car trouble on the road not five days before, so I resolved to check it out at a gas station once I reached the other side of the 18-mile-long bridge and tunnel.  (Just in case)

In my defense, what else could I have done?
I was on a bridge with no real shoulder.

The bridge’s beauty was unparalleled.  I glanced over at the horizon where the sun was just beginning to touch the water’s edge, and it was gorgeous.
I remember thinking how “Instagrammable” it was.

The bridge could stretch on for those miles, but I sat contemplating the vast battleships and barges that lined the shipyards nearby, waiting to sail through the gaps that were made by the underwater traffic tunnels.
A majestic thought.

Smiling at the very commercial thought of the restaurant that sat on top of the first tunnel, the Elantra’s headlights pierced the darkness as I reminded myself that the childhood habit of holding one’s breath through tunnels was an unwise practice for drivers.  A good reminder, too, in this case, for even Houdini didn’t boast lungs as big as were needed…

As I broke what would have been surface level outside, the radio cut out as usual when the frequency couldn’t reach so far underwater.  This was normal, though for a moment, it numbed me to the oddity that the radio wasn’t the only part of the car cutting out.  Suddenly, as we approached the incline of the tunnel, my right foot felt the Elantra beneath me as the gas pedal sunk useless to the floor mat.  I gaped in horror as the odometer sank from fifty, forty, twenty….

“Oh God. No no no. Please. God. No. PleaseLordinHeavenwhatishappeninghelpmenow.”

 

On that fun cliffhanger, my eyelids are drooping, and I’m off to sleep.  Part 2 tomorrow; you’ll get to see if I survived. 😉