Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Night with Avatar

The Trick-or-Treating has begun! Last night, I watched and waited as hundreds of children collected candy, compared costumes, and screamed as they shared scary stories of the near-by cemetary. It was the annual "Trunk-or-Treat" at my daughter's school when the parking lot transforms into decorated cars packed side-by-side and car trunks open to reveal treasures of Halloween candy.

My daughter chose Avatar as her costume. I tried to talk her into the easy Ninja costume. A face painter, I'm not. I envisioned children asking her which Smurf character she was.

I capitulated and did my best. The important thing was that she was happy.

She collapsed in bed around 10:00 with a somewhat blue smile on her little face. (I really did try to get the make-up off.)

While the children had fun, I have to admit, it was a long night for parents. We stood, watched, monitored, collected pieces of costumes falling apart, held trick-or-treat bags and wondered how three hours could seem so long?

I would do it again and again, though. Why? The same reason many of you do. The same reason many of our parents did.

The joy on our children's faces and the warm memories in their hearts are the motivations fueling the ability to stand in a cold parking lot for three hours, or sit on metal bleachers freezing during a football game, or watch the upteenth gymnastics practice, or drive an hour to and from schools, or....

You get it. One mother told me before the treating begain, "I have not one moment to myself all day. I am a taxi running errands and children from one event or chore to the next."

Waiting is not easy, but we do it for those we love, and continue to do so because of love.

How much more does our Father wait on us? He possess love beyond our understanding. Love that gives and gives and gives...and yes, disciplines. His Word reminds us that if we who are imperfect are able to give good things to those we love, how much more will our Father who is perfect give good things to those who love Him.

God's love has only this condition: Love/Accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, surrender to Him.

He is waiting on us.
Because of love...
Amazing love...

Happy Halloween! Enjoy your time waiting on your own children or answering the door patiently as my children ring your doorbell.
Look for the Avatar child.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Bear Whisperer!

The picture on today's blog is that of a black bear we saw in the town of Estes, Colorado, in August this year.

Some of you may think, "No big deal."

Not I. I have a fear, a phobia, of two things in this world: Sharks, and yes, bears. Of course, this complicates my two favorite ways to vacation: being on the shore of the ocean and hiking in the mountains.

I wasn't always afraid. In college, after seeing the movie, "Jaws," I never went swimming in the ocean again. Lakes are just fine with me, even though I can image the large catfish and snakes all too easily as I ski and swim.

Like sharks, bears became something to fear as well. My husband is an avid hiker. How many times he has watched "Jeremiah Johnson," I can not reveal to you. I lost count. I, too, enjoy hiking in the woods and the mountains, until I saw a National Geographic special about bear attacks.

Our last hike in the mountains, I made my husband take every single precaution: bear mace, bear bells to announce our coming (anything worse than a surprised female bear? I don't think so.), cooking our food away from the tent, food in canisters roped high in the trees, changing clothes after cooking to avoid smelling like the food I knew I was for bears....

Notice I said, our LAST hike in the mountains in that previous paragraph. Really, it was my last hike. I should have known not to agree with my husband after a beautiful day in the Colorado mountains when he announced it was time to put up our camp in a place called, BEAR PAW MEADOW!

When I asked him about the name carved into a wooden sign, he replied in his geography major voice(like speaking to a chid), "The shape of this meadow resembles a bear paw, see?" I admit, it sounded logical.

That night, alone with my husband in the woods, away from civilization of any kind, I enjoyed seeing deer watch us at our campfire. My husband decided not to tell me about the mother bear and her two cubs he spied at the nearby stream. I slept comfortably in our small tent.

The next day, we broke camp. I did not put my contacts in because we were in a hurry. As we hiked in the fresh mountain air, my confidence and thrill at surviving a night in the mountains soared. I looked nearby in the meadow and saw a large brown back. Excitedly, I called to my husband to see what I thought was yet another dear.

Until it stood up. Its large tongue swiped its lips as it sniffed the air for my scent.

All the advice from the forest ranger left my mind as I ran, bear bell clanging on my pack. Instead of warning the bear I was coming, I felt I was calling the bear, "Dinner time, come and get it, dinner bell!"

My poor husband had just turned on the trail to return to me to see the deer when I plowed into him shouting, "RUN, BEAR!" He ran after to me to calm me down.

Fortunately, the bear did not think my panicky antics worth investigating.

You can imagine how the remaining three days were spent for my poor husband as he kept assuring me of my safety high in the mountains.

You see, no amount of preparation had kept me from being around a bear. It also appears that since that hike, whereever my husband goes hiking and I wait elsewhere for him while he does, he never encounters a bear. I DO! When in Yosemite at the hotel pool, a bear lumbers by me.

When shopping in Estes while my husband hikes, a bear perches in the tree above the restaurant.

Perhaps God is trying to work on this fear I have developed. Perhaps the bears are just having a great time when I am in town.

When I saw the bear in the picture above this past summer, however, I was intrigued with what was going to happen to him. The police were gathered around the base of the tree. The bear had been resting above the diner for several hours. Tourists crowded the street craining their necks to watch.

So I asked, "What will happen to the bear?" The answer surprised me.

I was told that a Bear Whisperer was on his way. This special man would help guide the bear around two in the morning, after we were asleep, through the town and back to the mountains without any harm.

Meanwhile, the bear had to wait. Wait for us to become tired and leave.

The tables of fear were turned I realized. The bear was afraid of me, of us. He was up a tree, out on a limb, and now had to wait for the Bear Whisperer to rescue him.

How similar to my own life. No matter how much I try to control my situation or how much I think I am in control, I often create more problems by trying to control life. I can end up a tree, out on a limb, waiting for God to rescue me once again.

God doesn't have to yell His direction either. He speaks in small whispers, guiding me gently the way I should go.

In the meantime, like the bear, I wait. I wait upon the Lord for the plans He has for me are for good.

Waiting for a Reply: Cell Phone Trouble!

"Well, I have had enough! Time for a new cell phone carrier!"

These were my frustrated thoughts yesterday after finding yet again my voice and text messages from friends and businesses did not appear on my cell phone until two days AFTER they were left.

I had left voice mails, sent text messages to friends, doctors, etc. and never had a reply.
I was beginning to develop a complex. Why won't anyone respond to me? Then pride took over after a full day of waiting, and I started becoming angry.
How dare these people NOT respond to me? How rude! I am not a doormat!
Pride was in full bloom in my heart.

Then the humble pie was served.

I waited yet another day and called people again.
Finally, one friend said she had left me a message. Then a business contact also asked, "Didn't you receive my voicemail?"

No message indicators were on my phone; then suddenly NUMEROUS voicemails started to pop up. Two days late.

The messages were there. The indicator was not working somehow.

Still full of indignation, I walked into the cell phone store ready to cancel service. I had been embarrassed accusing people of not returning my precious calls. (Sounds like pride still working, right?)

One young clerk (why are all tech people so YOUNG?) patiently listened to me and calmly said, "You have a bad phone."

It sounded so funny to me. "What do you do with a bad phone? Time out? Spanking?" I thought wryly. (I kept hearing, "Bad phone, baaaad phone," in my head. Must be the result of being a mother and former school teacher, right?)

As if reading my thoughts, the clerk said, "We will replace your phone at no cost. Just come in tomorrow, and we will have a new one for you. We are so sorry for your trouble."

Well, did that pop my arrogant bubble! I was all worked up, ready for a battle.
There was no battle after all. Just a bad phone. Just replace it. Simple.

I wonder how many times I turn WAITING MOMENTS into fictitious battles because of my pride? Does anyone get this?

Waiting sometimes can result in my imagination taking over instead of focusing on the Truth of God's Word and promises. I can imagine how I will handle the situation, what my rights are, what I deserve, how to argue my points, when there may be no battle at all.

Waiting isn't fun, but it can become even worse when I try to take control and give my mind over to vain imaginings.

More serious than a cell phone example is a medical problem I had. Recently, I waited for the results of an ultrasound for my thyroid. I had trouble swallowing. My throat was constantly raw. I was miserable. A friend of mine had the same symptoms and found thyroid cancer. I was scared.

Waiting for the results (why do these take so long, by the way?) I admit my mind started down a fearful path. What ifs? crowded my thoughts.

It took great focus to rest in God's promise of love and peace no matter what storms may come into my life or my family's.

(Fortunately the results were good. It was a wake-up call for me to lose the extra weight I had put on since my mother's recent death.)

Others I know have waited for the medical results without a good report though. I admire how they do not give into the temptation of letting their minds go to fear, but focus on God's unfailing love.

So today, today I pray forgiveness for the pride that I allowed to enter my mind with the little thing of a cell phone problem, the control I tried to have over waiting for answers.

I also pray a blessing on the young clerk who probably wondered, "Why do all my customers with problems have to be OLD?" Bless his little patient heart. Perhaps today when I pick up my new phone, I will display a more Christ-like attitude for him.

Thank you, Lord, for YOUR patience with me as I learn to wait for your answers and direction.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Waiting: Moments Prepare for Milestones

Yesterday, Beth Moore shared in our local Bible study how important it is to handle the MOMENTS in life as we prepare for the MILESTONES of life.

That resonated with me so much. I started a diet this fall. Each day I have moments of choice: eat this fattening, unhealthy thing (did I mention it is Halloween candy time?) or choose to eat what is good for my body.

Those moments are leading me back to God. This is not merely a diet. This is a spiritual struggle for me. Food is a stronghold in my life. Since high school I have used food as comfort when rejected by friends, when not getting a date for prom, when feeling stress, when studying for exams in college. I could handle being overweight because food became my comfort. That is not God's plan. I knew that in my heart.

And then all those years of eating caught up with me in one awful word, "Menopause!" When I was a young woman, I thought the roll around the middle was just lack of discipline on the part of elderly women. Ha! The joke is on me! In addition to the fat roll, health issues raised their ugly heads. Satan's lies became clearer than ever. The comfort I took in food turned to discomfort in clothing and eventually in disease. Comfort in food resulted in discomfort in life. My insecurities about appearance and abilities grew as the roll around my middle increased.

So I am going moment to moment learning to depend upon God as my comfort, God as my source of happiness and fulfillment.

It isn't easy. It is HARD! I mean the food is there...visible...tasty (AND DID I MENTION IT IS HALLOWEEN?). God, I can not see or feel in this physical world. Chocolate, on the other hand, has such a clear, loud voice calling me over and over. Choosing God though in those moments of temptation is helping me learn how to handle the milestone of waiting. Waiting for the cravings to pass. Waiting for the weight to leave. Waiting for God's direction. Waiting.

Anyone else waiting between moments as you prepare for milestones? You are not alone. God is right there in each moment. "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful, he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear....He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it" (1 Corinthians 10:13-NIV).

As the holday feasts approach, I'll be looking for those "ways out" as I wait on His promise.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

In Between Storms

This morning a Missouri thunderstorm hit the neighborhood. At 3:30 a.m. I awoke to hear the impact of 60-mile hour winds hitting our front porch. Halloween pumpkins tumbled out to the street. Corn stalks put out for decoration snapped and scattered around the yard. The colorful leaves on the trees blanketed the yards.

I knew the storm was coming. The weatherman had warned us at 9:30 the night before. To prepare we put away the summer umbrella from the deck. We set our cell phones for back up to the electric alarm should power go out in the house. Little else was left to do though. We could either go to bed or stay up and wait for the storm to hit.

We went to bed. We rested. My family rested even through the storm. No amount of lightning or thunder or pounding rain on the windows appeared to be able to stir them from their rest.

How much like life this is! We know life is messy. We live in a fallen world, a world containing disease, evil, sadness, storms.

How do we prepare for these storms during the In Between Times? How do we rest knowing they are coming?

I find much like real storms we have choices as we prepare. Like the cell phone precaution we took for a possible power outage, we can make sure we have open communication with God at all times through daily prayer. Talking with God throughout the day keeps the power of His reality and relationship in our lives.

Listening to God also keep the relationship and power alive. No one likes a friend who only talks to you but never listens when you want to share. We all dread the blank expression of the listener or the wandering eyes looking around for someone else he or she knows when we start to tell our experiences. I am sure God feels the same way. When it is His turn to talk are we truly ready and focused on listening? Are we reading His letter to us daily? (The Bible)

If we are talking to God and listening to Him, then we can do as my family did, rest. Truly rest in His love and assurance that He is with us through the storms, and the victory is ours in heaven.

"Since ancient times, no one has heard, no ear perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you who acts on behalf of His people who WAIT on Him." Isaiah God is acting on our behalf because He loves us....during and inbetween the storms.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Today Is an In-Between Day

Here I am.
Waiting on what does God want me to do now?
I have never been in this situation before. (Yes, I know I ended that sentence with a preposition, but don't write me off yet, English teachers. Please.)

All of my adult life I have worked. I have been busy. Busyness defined my worth, or so I was taught. The world reinforces this. As a former high-school principal, Blackberrys, cell phones, calendars were required companions. No one sat in a meeting without the precious cell phone, the ability to be reached no matter where one went, even the bathroom. I'll never forget being in a stall in the bathroom and hearing a woman next to me say, "Hello?" After responding to what I thought was a strange initation of friendship, I soon realized she was on the phone. I still find it a wonder that people think the echo of a bathroom can not be recognized by the callers.

Even when meeting with parents in parent-teacher conferences, mothers often complained but with much pride how busy their schedules were as well. Children are also caught up in the "busyness=worthiness-syndrome."

Recently, after a sleepover for my nine-year old daughter, her friends sat around our breakfast table replying to one child's question: "Let's compare our schedules! Who is the busiest person here?" After she listed her daily activities which appalled even me, the table went quiet. Within a minute, though, each child tried one-upping the other with the activities she had after school.

This week my sister called. The normal question, "What have you been doing?" filled me with dread. I had quit my job to care for our aging parents. After both went to heaven within the past 24 months, I felt not only grief, but also great guilt.
Where is MY schedule, my list of activities, my busy life now?

At fifty-six, I ask God, what do you wish me to do for you now? After adopting my daughter, caring for my parents, leaving the teaching profession, what can I do at this late stage of life? Is it too late to do meaningful work? Is it too late to be used in a significant way?

So I wait.
My busy life filled with meetings and paperwork and supervision is replaced with walks in the woods, bicycling, Bible studies, private conversations with God, and attending my daughter's not-too-busy schedule.

I am in between. Waiting. In a world of quick access and fast food, waiting is not easy.
I remember big moments of waiting.
I waited for our daughter's adoption to finalize from China for almost two years.
I waited to find the right husband who loved God first, then me.
I waited for God to intervene as I watched my parents suffer before they were released from pain and went to live with Him.

Even in daily little things I experience the frustration of waiting. For example, no matter how close I try to cut it for a doctor or dentist appointment, I will be kept waiting. The appointment is at 2:00? Fine, I arrive at 1:58. Still I wait in the reception room until 2:20 or later. Another example is a stoplight. There are probably seven stoplights on the way to my daughter's school, yet only one frustrates me. I never hit that stoplight at green. The camera smirks at me as I watch with dismay when I come close to the intersection and watch the light turn yellow then red. I watch the clock tick off 8 full minutes as I see the school a half block away.


Are you waiting for God's direction, too? That is what this blog is about. (Yep, there's that preposition at the end of the sentence again.) It is about sharing what it is like to wait on God and feel the inbetween time of life.

Perhaps you are waiting on a job, healing, a loved one, a family need.
Join me, won't you?
We can wait together.
He is with us.
It may not feel like it.
That's because we are in tne in between time.