Are you ready?

 

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Here we are: December 16th. Nine days away from Christmas!

“Are you ready?”

I’ve been hearing this question asked at the bank, at my work potluck, in line at the stores…It CRACKS me up!

Christmas comes the same time and date each year. Not like Easter, that one can mess you up. Christmas has been December 25th for about 2000 years. So, it’s not like we weren’t told about it in advance. How come people aren’t ready?

ANTICIPATION

One of the most tantalizing feelings this time of year is the anticipation leading up to this special day. I remember it well as a child.–The inability to get to sleep on December 24th. My heart beating so rapidly as the agonizing wait for 6 am (this was the absolute earliest my parents would allow for us to awake them!) and we had to bring them with us when we went downstairs to find out if all that “being good” in the weeks prior had put us on Santa’s NICE list —

SURPRISE-What did Santa bring you?

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Unfortunately, one of the biggest surprises this time of year is the VOID.

Some face the VOID of celebrating their first (or second, or third…) Christmas without their loved one.

For others there’s the VOID felt in the bank account, leaving nothing for gifts.

Amidst all the beautiful lights, wreath adorned doors, the hustle and bustle and gatherings, there are those for whom this is NOT the most wonderful time of the year. 

I’ll never forget the surprise of my very first out of state Christmas working at Phoenix Police Department. I swallowed the lump in my throat after wishing “Merry Christmas” to family and friends far away as I clocked in for my overnight shift working the holiday. I fully expected the night to be filled with bookings from partying: DUI’s and noise violations from all the celebrating…

Surprise!

The most common arrests I saw that night were the domestic violence and family assaults.

Not everyone has a family they enjoy celebrating the holiday with. That Christmas felt like a “Reverse Grinch” moment happened to me as my heart cinched up and threatened to break.

My heart has these moments when I hear a parent threaten their overly rambunctious child, “Christmas is canceled this year!”

My heart breaks every Black Friday when I watch humanity crawl and punch their way to the front line for the door-busting deals.

My heart breaks when I see the VOID left in this world.

The only cure for this heart break and void is the VERY reason why I love this season and this time of the year.

No matter how dysfunctional your family may be, no matter how misbehaved your children are, no matter how empty your bank account is, you have available a reason to celebrate–the same reason the shepherds, three wise men and a young couple with nothing celebrated in a manger  2000 years ago.

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Every year, I picture Linus in the Charlie Brown Christmas Special telling Charlie the TRUE meaning of Christmas:

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
Luke 2:8-14 (KJV)

He came to heal the brokenhearted.  He fills the void. He is the very reason for the season. So, the real question is:

Are you ready for Him?

 

 

Which Way are You Going?

Which Way Are You Going?

I-10 tip line

I-10 tip line

These I-10 shootings in Phoenix have everyone talking. There’ve been fourteen recent shootings so far attributed to the possible “sniper.”

They’ve been saying to be vigilant, be aware, be cautious; these shootings are notIMG_20150912_181400268_HDR only an act of domestic terrorism, but they are just inches away from tragedy.

I’ve heard the fear in voices and seen the fright in the eyes of those who continue to talk of it.

I listened to stories of people taking alternate routes to avoid the frightening freeways where the shooter has struck. I’ve heard of those wearing helmets and seeking bulletproof windshields.

And I’ve heard the opposite—people continuing down 1-10 and refusing to live in fear or be a victim.

I’ve heard of people doing nothing.

And I’ve heard, “What shooter?”

To me, it’s yet another reminder that, at any given moment, you may “get that call” or find yourself caught in someone’s cross-hairs and be GONE.

Truth is we never know when we will breathe our last breath.

But there is ONE who does know.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Psalm 139:13
And there’s an enemy out there even more deadly than the shooter.

He seeks to kill and destroy every soul that travels on every freeway in fright.

On each rough and rocky road he sits in wait.

Even those unsuspecting, he has in his cross-hairs.

And he is really, really skilled.IMG_20150912_150626437

Each of us reacts differently to this news. Each of us must choose a way—

And it is a Life or death choice.

“Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ –Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life.’”—John 4:5-6

Some fear death, uncertain of their futures and their “ever after.” You see it in their eyes and in their voices-They’re avoiding I-10.

Some ignore warnings and do nothing. They continue down their rough roads never knowing what might lie in wait around the next corner.

Some will take vitamins, exercise, live a good life and embrace their present, putting their trust in things of this w
orld. They spent a lot on the bulletproof windshield.

Yet, there is One way through this.IMG_20150912_144753187

This way was “paved” over 2000 years ago.

“Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth.” Luke 3:5

Those of us who choose this Way will be prepared. Yet, we will rest assured, travel fearlessly, walk in love and know where our Help comes from—it’s better than bullet proof glass.

And It lasts for eternity.

“The LORD keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.” Psalm 128:1

We know the Way is Jesus who protects His children from any enemies’ crosshairs.

He paved the Way for each of us.

 “All of creation

All of the earth

Make straight a highway

A path for the Lord

Jesus is coming soon”

Kristian Stanfill

I know the Way I am traveling.

Highway to Heaven

Which way will you choose?

Out On A Limb

Out on a Limb

The iguanas of St. John–

St John USVI Iguana

St John USVI Iguana

We were warned before we went: they’re all over the island; AND–they love red. We didn’t know why, I only knew that I’d  forgotten to change my RED toe nail polish…So, as we explored on our St. John trip, me and my red toes avoided the iguanas until we could find out more. We asked a St. John local and found out that the red hibiscus flower is the iguanas’ favorite treat. The red blossoms are absolutely intoxicating to them. Soooo–they associate all things red with intoxication and, like the moth to the flame, they feel drawn to pursue it. I wanted to keep my toes, so I continued to avoid the iguanas, but they are EVERYWHERE on the island!

And these guys are truly fascinating.

They look like a mini Jurassic World exhibit with their sharp claws, scaly, spiny bodies, their bulging eyes and slow blinking eyelids, their tongues that lap out like a lazy snake tongue and their whip-like tails.

What surprised me most is their agility.iguana dragon

Figuring me and my red toes were safe in the pool, I went for a swim. The Westin St. John’s main pool is lovely: the warm waters, the waterfall features, the mini oasis in the middle of the pool with a water bench shaded by the palm trees and foliage that it houses. It became my favorite hang out, until…

I flipped around on the bench and lifted my toes to prop them on the side of the oasis wall. This way I could semi-float and look up at the palms swaying in the Caribbean breeze. I saw people walking around the pool and floating on their floaties doing the same thing–looking up. I followed their gaze. Those iguanas apparently can swim. Not only can they swim, they can climb! My gaze locked on the iguana napping in the luxury of a large green palm frond about twenty feet directly above my head. And, if he swam out to the oasis, then my red toes were no longer safe just inches away from the dense foliage that could’ve housed many more of his camouflaged green friends!

We left this pool and found another Westin pool located on the hillside with nothing but time shares and concrete to threaten us.

As I sleepily floated around this tiny pool on my float, I looked up at the Caribbean clouds floating by and the branches of what appeared to be bare trees across the street up the hillside. My eyes popped wide open as I realized who was there—another tree top Jurassic friend! I breathed deep, relaxed and observed this creature from the safety of my pool float.

This determined dragon scaled the 30 ft up to hang out in what appeared to me to be a bare branched tree.  There were no red hibiscus flowers or luxurious leaves of green on its branch arms; just bare, spindly branches.  I understood the palm frond locale for an afternoon nap, but why hang out in a bare tree? I watched as he expertly made his way down one of the tree’s crooked limbs. As the breeze kicked up and he made his way toward the end, the branch bounced up and down. The elements threatened to blow him off or to be just enough to break the branch, but it didn’t. And he progressed.

I watched amazed as minutes ticked by and this daring creature patiently balanced his way almost completely to the end of the limb. His tenacious claws held fast to the branch; his long tail skillfully balanced the weight of his body; and my heart skipped a beat, as each whispering wind and movement bounced the branch beneath him. I thought surely, any instant, I’d hear a crackling and watch this amazing creature plummet to the depths.

LOOK CLOSE!

LOOK CLOSE!

I didn’t want to miss a thing.

I couldn’t tear my eyes away; witnessing the patience and determination of this creature!

What was worth this journey to the end? Why the risk? I focused in on him. Then, in the blink of an eye, his tongue whipped out and latched on to the tiny white flower that I hadn’t seen at the end of that tree’s limb. Wide eyed again, I swear I saw him smiling at me as he chomped and chewed the fruits of his labor.

Still not tearing my eyes away, I watched him, inch by inch, retreat and repeat this same journey on a different limb. I now could see the tree that I once thought was barren, housed at least a dozen lightly colored, teensy flowers at the end of its limbs.

I later learned that these guys do this to many trees and all across the island.

And, every so often, you’ll hear a crackling and the plummeting.

I must admit it–I’m more like the pool iguana; choosing the comforts of a large, luxurious palm frond where, if I’m startled awake or if the branch breaks and I plummet, it is into a nice splashy pool where I can swim to safety.  This life can be quite exhausting. It’s really tough to beat a good nap.

But then there’s the daring, skillful, hillside iguana. My heart just beats faster as I remember witnessing him risking it all; traversing out on that skinny limb to secure the succulent flower bud for a snack. Time after time. More risky, but also yielding a reward.

Are we really that different than the iguana?

How often do we sit idly by, in the comfort of whatever palm frond, couch, job, relationship, etc., and not take the chance because of not knowing what is at the end of that branch? And what if you plummet?

Or, how often do we watch others taking great risk or making sacrifices, without understanding that what they are striving for is so worth it to them?

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.—Jeremiah 29:11

God has great plans for each of our lives.

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.—Psalm 37:4

God created us each with different dreams, ambitions, thirsts, skills and talents.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. –Romans 8:28

He will make a way for us. He clears the path before us and helps us when we plummet.

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.—John 15:7-8

Agile, swimming, risk-taking, hibiscus loving, daring, fascinating!

Agile, swimming, risk-taking, hibiscus loving, daring, fascinating!

I believe that God will place in you a tenacious hunger for something that will require a leap of faith.

Whether you are a risk-taker or not, I encourage you to use the God-given talents you possess to pursue what motivates you.

You have no idea who might be watching or who YOU might inspire.

Go ahead. Go out on that limb.

Because you know how many hillside, succulent flowers the napping “palm frond iguana” enjoyed and savored?

Not a single one.

In Search of Greener Grass

In Search of Greener Grass

I’ve heard said that in the summer there are two colors in Arizona: brown and blue. The months of 110+ degree temperatures month after month, and the sunny blue skies tend to turn the AZ landscape brown.

St. John, USVI. Heard of it? Some of the most beautiful beaches, lush National Parks and snorkeling adventures and creatures that only God could think up! We were blessed enough to travel there this summer. A relaxing 10 days to escape from the AZ heat, our every day routines at home and to reconnect with my exhausted, worn-down, weary, school teaching husband; a great way to begin his summer break after the grueling school year.

The grass is greener on summer vacation!

Or is it?

If you’re on Facebook, you’ve seen the beauty in the pictures.

A cathedral of granite as we hike through the Baths

A cathedral of granite as we hike through the Baths

St john blog vista mare

Great Cruz Bay from Vista Mare where we met the best bartender–Taylor!

st john blog island time

Felling “Titanic” aboart ISLAND TIME where we met the Georgian couple

st john baths natl park

Here are some of our favorites-The view from Vista Mare where we met our new favorite bartender, Taylor, the boat trip on “Island Time” to see the Baths National Park of Virgin Gorda followed by cave snorkeling.

St john blog baths

On Island Time (the aptly named vessel we toured the islands on), we met a lovely couple. Well, not so much “meet” as admire from across the deck. They were about 10 years younger, perfect, pearly white smiles and bodies that proved they ate from the “Lite menu.” Later we saw her designer sunglasses couldn’t hide the tears that were slipping down her cheeks.

We later introduced ourselves and learned they were from Atlanta, Georgia. This vacation for her was about reconnecting with husband after her grueling school year as a professor at Emory University. They shared later the reason behind those tears. As we traversed the islands on our way to Virgin Gorda, they’d receiving a text that the door had been closed on their year-long attempts to adopt a child.

Circumstances can still find you on vacation.

There were a few things about St. John that I didn’t expect.  Ever heard of closing a beach due to bacterial build up? Heard of a sea urchin? How about sand fleas? No?  Well…I’m sure you’ve heard of jelly fish.

Evidence points toward my being a veritable jelly fish and sand flea magnet.

All places have their downside.

The exterior often tells very little of the condition of the inside.

We stayed at the Westin St. John and part way through our trip, early in the morning, the sound of lawnmowers awoke us.

We got so relaxed, where were we again? Was it lawn day in Arizona?

But, no! We’re still on vacation! We emerged from our room to witness the landscapers mowing the grass down to its base. The previous stretches of green were now brown.

Bummer.

It brought back thoughts of returning home to the heat of Arizona. Where, when summer comes, the grass areas are mowed down to the ground and re-seeded with a different grass; a summer seed of heartier, thicker grass that is better able to withstand the intense Arizona summers. It takes several weeks for the green to re-appear. And when it does, the new seed does pretty well in the scorches of the desert—as long as it gets watered.

So, as we grabbed our pool towels and headed out for the day, we left the brown lawn of the Westin behind us in search of sandy (and open!) beaches. As we walked along the newly browned property, we focused on the beautiful patches of bright yellow, orange and purple flowers, the bougainvilleas, the various types of palm trees: corkscrew palm, date palm, queen palm, coconut palm and all of it being watered by sprinklers that imitated rainfall.

In all, our time on St. John had its highlights. We experienced the peaceful serenity of swimming with a sea turtle (I still have dreams about it!). We read the books that had been collecting dust-(“Unbroken” for Keith and “Love Does” for me.) We soaked in every sunset from a different vista. We splashed in the pool, photographed all the wild life, tried every rum drink the island could offer and supported the local shopping economy. Keith even won a small jackpot at the tiny (awesomely air-conditioned) casino, and we snorkeled where Robert Louis Stevenson received his inspiration for Treasure Island. Pretty cool.

A couple days after the “lawn mowing alarm clock” had awakened us, we emerged from our room to a brand new looking green expanse! The watering, mixed in with the natural moisture of the Caribbean miraculously transformed the brown to green as if it had never been hacked down to near death! In just two days!

Maybe the grass really is greener on St. John?

Westin St. John with GREEN!

Westin St. John with GREEN!

Yet, all vacations must come to an end; time to return home.

Work, work, work, so you can get away to a vacation in a more relaxing place, just to return to work, work, work—as you hopefully plan for the next break.

The green, to the brown, to the green.

In addition to the summer seeding, most of Arizona also re-seeds the grass right before wintertime. Once again, the green summer grassed areas are mowed down to the brown, to be replenished with a lighter winter grass that thrives in the milder temperatures.  And then in the summer: mow, seed, water. And then in the winter: mow, seed, water, REPEAT.

Such are the rhythms and seasons of life. So where is the grass greener?

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”–Philippians 4:12

These words are from Paul. If you know the story, you know—HE KNEW.

He knew of green grass and parched deserts. He knew praises and prosperity, and also punishment and persecution. And yet, content? In all things, times and circumstances?

HOW? Had he been on St. John? Did he schedule lots of vacations and reconnecting time?

I think Paul knew the secret to green grass.  But it isn’t really a secret.

You’ve probably heard it before, because of its profound truth:

Grass isn’t greener “on the other side.”

The grass is green where you water it.

Do I think Paul enjoyed persecution, near death, shipwrecks, beatings, near starvation? No. But I believe he found this seemingly very elusive contentment in knowing there was a strength and sufficiency beyond his own carrying him on the journey.

When life circumstances dealt him some brown parched grass, he knew what to do. He knew “where to go.” And it wasn’t on St. John. He knew the place of the “greener grass” was at the Cross of Jesus Christ. He knew what was beyond his current circumstance. He knew the hope found at the Cross and had the anointing water of the Holy Spirit in his life that would supply the seed for whatever season he found himself.

HE knew of a HOPE beyond his circumstance.

He knew JESUS.

And he could go there anytime.

He knew, with the Holy Spirit in him, his exterior circumstances couldn’t take from him the greenest of grass- –At the end of his journey, he would be returning home. He knew Jesus awaited him there.

I picture Paul, hanging out with Jesus right now. In his trials and ordeals, he KNEW everything he went through would be worth it.

Please don’t misunderstand me on my St. John rantings. We too, count our blessings every day.

In spite of my jelly fish sting, a body covered in sand flea bites and a brutal return trip on American Airlines fraught with delays, a medical incident, no food and lost luggage, and even if we got a little homesick; we have contentment.

As we return home to our routines and the brown of Arizona, we reminisce on the beauty of the Baths, the white, silky sand beaches, the sea turtles…We think of that lovely couple from Island Time and pray for them, and Taylor, our Vista Mare bartender and his adventurous spirit and the other lovely souls we met on St. John.

As we watch the sunset from Arizona and think on our next adventure, I look over at my sweet, newly relaxed (and content) husband and know that, like Paul, we too will be home soon.

he prayed…He answered

“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” –Matthew 7:11

he prayed

About his dreams, his prosperity, his family

he prayed

he prayed and asked,

“Why? Why? Why?”

Why no answers to his prayers and why take her so soon?

he kept asking

And he quit praying

Until IT happened

On his knees, bewildered, scared, confused, in pain

he cried for the  future being taken from him, for the pain in his body and for the overwhelming fear

he cried out to God…

man prayingpassion-jesus-in-gethsemane

He went away to be by Himself

He prayed

“Father can I save him?”

You know not what you ask of me, my one and only Son

“Your will, not my own…”

He answered Him with–a future being taken from Him, with pain in His body and an overwhelming fear

He cried out to God,

“Why have you forsaken me?”

And then the Peace came

he knew not what to ask for anymore

he prayed and cried out to God again

He answered with His Peace

And saved all who came to Him.

He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed.”

1 Peter 2:24

Magic Wrinkle Remover!

It is 82 degrees outside in sunny Scottsdale, Arizona. Bet you can’t guess what I am doing?
Ironing. (Okay, AND writing about it!) 😉

If you know me at all, put down the phone and stop dialing 9-1-1. I have not been abducted by aliens. Yet, I am ironing. I’ve not ironed in three years. And three years ago, I picked up an iron in a gesture of utter sacrifice and ironed my husband’s shirt because he was running late.

(Note: he hasn’t asked me to iron anything again?!)

Before that, it was easily ten years since I held an iron in my hands!
I don’t buy stuff that needs ironing, even if it is on SUPER DUPER SALE. I dislike spending any of my time on this household chore. –I’d rather be at a weeklong convention about taxes! And, again, if you know me (or see me out!)-it shows that I don’t iron. I’m just not any good at it.

But this weekend I cleaned out my closet. The rules were:

DONATE THE ITEM IF IT MEETS THESE THREE FACTORS:
1) It’s not been worn in over a year
2) It’s too small (my darn dryer keeps shrinking all my clothes!) 😉
3) It’s too old and outdated

So I dug in.

Buried in the way back of the closet by the old cowboy boots, yoga bag and warm fuzzy robe, I found not only an iron but also the ironing board I bought at Good Will for $4.98 fifteen years ago! And as I went through every clothing item, subjecting them to the above Three Factors, I came across three things that put me in a quandary: a pair of Columbia khakis, a periwinkle blue pixie skirt and a cap sleeved silver blouse. All three items didn’t meet the above criteria—they were all things I truly wear, are nearly new, and that still actually fit me. I was tempted to donate them solely because they needed ironing.  But I haven’t used the iron and ironing board…Maybe those two things should go?? 😉

iron stuff

Yet, since I’ve inherited issues with discarding things of value (just read my Blog post “Are YOU a boxaholic!”)– I am spending my “sunshine time” IRONING my three salvaged items.

Do they even know how very close they came to being tossed out along with the old wool sweater and acid wash blue jeans?

I know these items don’t appreciate the magnitude of the sacrifice I am making on this glorious spring day. But, I do know the value of having freshly ironed clothes (even if I didn’t appreciate it “way back when!”) My mother sacrificed many a day for my sister and me in this household task that she is extremely skilled in. She spent days, MONTHS realistically, in the room actually designated the “Ironing Room.” She had a process she followed (still does!), all the tools at hand, and support items to transform the wrinkled, worn items. When she was done with her magic, she transformed clothes into beautiful, creases-only-in-all-the-right-places, almost BRAND NEW looking outfits. Growing up, teachers even commented on my freshly pressed clothing! (That NEVER happened in college when I was doing my own laundry–or any time after that!) Yet that truth doesn’t make me change my anti-ironing ways.

Until today.

Two weeks ago when it rained through the weekend, I could’ve done this, but I delayed it until today.

So it is.
I try to somehow channel my mother’s abilities into my hands, this iron and this squirt bottle. I say a little prayer; I breathe deep and press on. 😉

I begin with the most difficult item—the pants. They haven’t been ironed in at least four washes and have lots of pleats and pockets. The spritz, spritz, spritz of the water bottle and the hiss of the iron make me smile as the wrinkles dissipate from the fabric. What powers I yield holding this hot iron!
While I try to focus at not making more creases than I began with, I think this might be how God looks at us. Does He begin His work on us in the hardest parts of our lives?
Hasn’t it been the difficult things of life where I’ve discovered God working on me? And it’s in these very same areas that I’ve felt intense intimacy with a God who loves me just as I am, but also loves me too much to leave me that way. As He skillfully works at the creases and valleys of my life (and each of our lives), He is merciful enough to spritz us with a balm of His cooling grace and forgiveness to protect us as we adapt. Each wrinkle that is lifted away brings us closer to looking the way God already sees us.

Because, as we’re told, in the end, we will all look different.

“That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” –Ephesians 5:27

As I iron over the fabric, a few stains appear that the wash didn’t quite get out of the pants. –I think this is also like us—the world tends to leave its mark on us from time to time: the scars of our past choices, the sins that so easily entangle, the wounds suffered from living in this fallen, broken world…But as my iron eases over these places, I believe that God knows there will be events in our lives leaving their marks on us.

iron

As I have adapted on this journey, I am equipped my own set of tools to utilize against these blemishes. I will try to remember to try to work on these stains with the aid of some “magic items” before the next wash. Again, in the end of all of these efforts, we will all look different.

Psalm 51:7 “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.”

As I move onto the delicate fabric of the blouse, I change the temperature of the iron and I ensure a few extra squirts of the bottle to protect it. I think on the times where God’s work in me has been slow and steady, not burning and resulting in immediate change. To have gone from the cursing, partying, wild college girl, to where I am today…These changes took years. And there are still times I fall back into old behavior patterns.– I think again on how God’s work in us is not to harm us, but to make us look different in the end.

I finish my three pieces of ironing and examine them. In my eyes, they hardly look different than when I began. I chuckle a bit at this truth realized in my own journey. Bottom line, this isn’t the end. The efforts made at ironing will have to be made again and again. After the next wash, I will try again with these items, hoping for better results and a few less stains.
And God is faithful in his transformation of us.

The only thing constant in life is change.

God is continually refining each and every one of us along the way. I don’t have it all figured it out, and I probably never will. Yet, as each of us advances in our journey, may you find encouragement in God’s refreshing mercies (which are new every day!) And as He works on your “wrinkles, creases” and difficult areas,  may His grace guide you along, protecting the fabric of who you are, with the goal that, in the end, we will all look brand new!

“Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, 4and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Revelation 21:4-5

Are You a Box-aholic?

BOXES!!

BOXES!!

I am a box-aholic. I admit it, so now the healing can begin. Right?

I discovered the depth of my problem last weekend as we cleaned out closets. More than 26 boxes were broken down and sent to the recycle bin (as I breathed deeply into a paper sack!) And that number, 26, didn’t include the boxes my husband allowed me to keep (lots of them—Just in case one is needed to ship something, or to protect a gift, or…)

I hate wasting a good box. I define a “good box” as one that has little damage, is not marked up or overly labeled (and will fit nicely inside the other boxes my husband allowed me to keep!) 😉 😉

As my disorder was unfolding before me (breathing in my paper bag, watching my husband break down the boxes for the recycle bin) my husband asked, “Do you have enough other boxes for your needs?”

I heaved in a breath, “Yes. I think so.”

“Okay, then this is okay. This clears up space…” He looks at me with his patient and understanding eyes. Yet, a little question was hiding behind them.

I guess I just love the order of a box. It’s nice shape, its ability to wrap and protect things. I also love having them when I need them and I always have the perfect size available to me! (Or at least I used to!) 😉

And let’s get deeper and more honest, I love receiving boxes. Care packages, Amazon.com orders, birthday presents all bundled up, even the cat-foot order or shipments for my husband’s business…

Opening them up with the wonderment and (sometimes) surprise usually reserved for Christmas morning.

All these things add to my unhealthy attachment to this lightweight, mauve-colored item of little worth.

So what is it with the boxes?

ORDERING –This goes to a deeper issue that I will tackle after I get through this one. But the ordering of items on-line is so great! Just the press of a few buttons, a little plastic card entered, and a few days later…gratification! AND A BOX!2011-03-23_20-39-12_841

My cats understand this—they love the boxes also! Rubbing on them, jumping in and out of them, playing hide and seek, lazing the day away in them. They totally get me.

And isn’t recycling a good thing? I always try to re-use them for good purpose (and hold onto the good ones for a special occasion!)  <–And that right there is called “Justification!”

As I write through this problem (and realize I have it deeply as evidenced by my joy and wonderment as the cyber-Monday packages arrive daily), I discovered the root.

ORDER

Not so much the ordering (on-line) but the ORDER. There is symmetry to boxes; the shape alone. There is the challenge of fitting the maximum amount of boxes inside one another, so my husband will allow me to keep more! There is control in placing an order and receiving a box. I find it magical!

But life is not like this; all packaged up perfectly, with symmetry, control, and ORDER.

Life is born out of chaos and this broken world rarely hand-delivers exactly what we asked for.

How often have I prayed for one thing, and received something entirely different?

When my father’s cancer arrived, packaged up with a 6 month sentence on his life, I tried to return it.

As I mourned and then watch several friends suffer through heartbreaking losses of loved ones, one after the other, I know they didn’t order that—ABSOLUTELY NO RETURNS.

What kind of customer service is that?

Yet, as I look back on all these “un-ordered” things that I have been through; the messiness of life, the reality of life, — I can honestly say that it has been during these times– the intense helplessness and in the darkest of moments that the free-fall of faith has been the sustaining and strengthening of my soul.

“DECEMBER 10

MAKE ME THE FOCAL POINT of your search for security. In your private thoughts, you are still trying to order your world so that it is predictable and feels safe. Not only is this an impossible goal, but it is also counterproductive to spiritual growth. When your private world feels unsteady and you grip My hand for support, you are living in conscious dependence on Me.

Instead of yearning for a problem-free life, rejoice that trouble can highlight your awareness of My Presence…”  Sarah Young in “JESUS CALLING”

Did God somehow know that I would need to hear that answer today, as I am delving into my box-aholism?

Now that’s customer service!

And it’s not that I rejoice in this world’s troubles; there are simply things that are so awful, like Alzheimer’s, cancer, Ebola, child abuse, riots, etc., but I rejoice that there is One at work in all of it. He’s working through each of us to make a difference, to bring a courageous face, to bring hope to shine His light through these circumstances.

I rejoice that I know the One who gave his life up so that I could live without the shackles and bondage that sin and death are wreaking in our broken world.

As I give up on trying to make order out of things that show up on my door-step and just figure out what to keep and what to let go, I grow in grace and maturity and dependence.

As I prepare another bin of recycling and let go of the desire to wrap things up nicely in one of my “good boxes,” and instead I grip the hand of the One who put order into the universe, I find peace.

1 Corinthians 14:33 “For God is not a god of disorder, but of peace…”