Is It Enough To Just Get By?

It was the end of an era that should have finished years ago.

John has been driving a 1999 Saturn sedan for years. It has held up well through more miles than we’d anticipated putting on it. A very basic model, with a stick shift and power nothing, there was very little that could ever go wrong with it.

Until it began to get ornery about starting. Like an old dog that just doesn’t want to move, John’s car fussed when it wanted to just sit.

We’d talked for years about trading it in for something that would have a workable air conditioner–I’m assuming old cars, like older people, get cold easier and would rather stay warm. Something more reliable, maybe with a few bells. No whistles.

Every time the discussion came up, another need presented itself. Like a wedding. Or many weddings.

John has gotten by. He hasn’t complained at all. He’s been rather proud that a car that isn’t even manufactured anymore still had what it took to get from point A to point B.

It became increasingly obvious that it wasn’t a good idea to keep driving it–particularly when late-night meetings required a dependable car to return home.

The decision was made; we traded it in. Another car now sits in the driveway, one with a warranty.

I’m not saying it was easy. Getting by had been fine. The decision to trade could wait for another month. Or six.

Holding on to the car became a badge of bravery. My husband’s clunker still moved.

It’s easy for me to hang onto things that I have no business hanging onto. Things God has never intended for me to grasp with clenched fists. I have messages in my head that have made a groove in my brain about lies from my story. Lies that tell me I’m not enough, or that I’m too much. That I’ll never be as good as someone else in the things I value, so why try?

Some things have kept me from trying. It has taken years to begin writing a novel, even though it’s been a dream since childhood. I have stories in my mind that play like movies, and finally committing them to written words has been an act of overcoming the lies.

I hesitate to speak up in meetings, often convinced that what I have to say will sound foolish. Not confident that I have anything of value to offer.

We all go through life with lies that plague us, untruths that keep us from trying, from moving forward. Failure isn’t an end game; it’s the reality that not everything we try works.

How else do we learn and grow?

In all this, God has been enough. He is slowly unclenching my fingers to release the lies and allow me to believe His truth. As His daughter, I’m cherished, celebrated, chosen. And deeply loved.

Those lies are like clunkers in my brain. Letting them go isn’t easy because they’ve been part of me for so long.

God in His kindness is making me a new model. Outwardly the same but living in freedom.

That’s worth trading in my clunkers.

 

 

Can You Hear Me Ever?

photo courtesy of Sarah Kilian on Unsplash

“Hey, Michelle! Wait up!”

I was walking between buildings at work, and I spotted a gal I knew. I wanted to catch up with her, see how she was doing, just enjoy her company. She has an outstanding sense of humor and a delightful take on life, and just talking with her makes me smile.

She didn’t slow down.

I got louder.

No response.

I wasn’t in shoes worth running in, but I tried. I reached her as she went through the door.

“I was hitting the button. You had plenty of time.” Her exaggerated eye-roll put the grin on my face, and we both laughed out loud as we went into the building.

The truth is, I have a loud voice. Six kids, a husband who can get preoccupied–let’s just say I’ve learned to project well.

She heard me. She chose not to respond.

I was with Ryken recently, a gem of a five-year-old who can become unbelievably focused when he’s on electronics. I asked him a question about what he wanted to eat. I stood two feet in front of him.

“Ryken. Ryken. Ryken.”

No response.

Then I got in his face, loudly calling for his attention.

“What?”

At least it was a response.

I’m often quite unresponsive when others are trying to get my attention. I’ll receive text messages, emails, or even phone calls and won’t be quick to return them. In my mind, I plan on thoughtfully following through and connecting with others. I’ll even think I’ve done it because I knew I wanted to.

It didn’t happen.

My kids insisted I get an Apple watch so I would be aware of messages that come through that require a quick response. I frustrated all of them when John was hospitalized with a heart problem, and no one could get in touch with me.

I don’t pay attention to my phone when I coach people.

Yet when I want to speak to or be heard by someone, I become the obnoxious one. Persistent. Unwavering.

Annoying.

We long to be heard, to know that those with whom we speak or associate value us enough to listen. Where we take time to focus, look one another in the eye so we know we’re connecting.

Being heard isn’t just a matter of saying words. There has to be a recipient who listens.

In a world of constant loud and persistent demands, being able to connect with others honestly is becoming a greater challenge. We need to have the freedom to ask the hard questions of those we care for–and have the privilege of having the hard questions asked of them. Two-sided interchange.

Without that, it becomes easy to feel lonely or not valued.

I don’t have to badger God for His attention. He hears me when I speak to Him. Because I am His, I have His ear. He longs for me to talk with Him about all the things that weigh me down, overwhelm me, make me glad.

What I say to Him matters. He hears me, sees me. Loves me.

No obnoxiousness required.

 

 

When Choosing Hard Is Good

 

Even when you know it’s coming, it’s not easy to lose someone. Death is never a kind guest.

This past week I lost a good friend, a relative by marriage, one of my heroes of the faith. I wasn’t related to him by blood, but his death felt like a passing of the baton to those who are still here.

Bailey Marks, Sr. was a man of incredible kindness and wisdom. A southern gentleman in every sense of the word, raised in Birmingham, Alabama, he was part of his family’s furniture business. A gentleman of warmth who would talk to everyone, he did well as a businessman. When challenged to follow a call from the Lord to be part of a ministry to take the Gospel of Jesus to the world, he and his wonderful wife chose to walk away from a lucrative career to follow Jesus.

He began by assisting the president of the organization. A man who was used to making decisions, he chose to follow the decisions made by another. His humble attitude of service endeared him to many. When challenged to transition overseas with his wife and two children, he did so willingly. Embracing a new culture. Living far from his family and American roots. A third child came later.

The family moved many times over the years to a variety of foreign countries. Adjusting, transitioning, making life work. And in those moves, his life and the lives of his family impacted multitudes of people around the world for Jesus. Though he never sought the position, he became influential over the ministry around the world.

Bailey loved his family well. His wife was his best friend and loving companion. When she became sick many years ago, they moved to a place near a beach where he could take care of her. Bailey bought her a poodle puppy she named Ginger, who always stayed with her–but not for long. Her illness progressed rapidly, and within months she passed into her eternal reward.

Losing Elizabeth was difficult for Bailey. Ginger became his constant companion, a little friend and a reminder of his beloved wife.

It would have been easy to take a breather and stop, ignore the call God had on his life. He persevered. Lonely at times, his children and grandchildren rallied around him. They were intentional about spending time with him, reminding him that what he did mattered.

He began a new ministry, helping those who’d served God for years to have the chance to talk about their legacy, what they wanted to leave behind as a picture of how they’d lived for Jesus.

I became part of his family when his grandson married my daughter. He called me his new relative and hugged me with a tenderness that reminded me of my Dad.

He knew how to love well.

He was present at his grandkids weddings and celebrated the births of many of his great grands. Enjoying family; loving those around him.

Fifteen years after his sweet Elizabeth went home to heaven, he joined her. Heaven, I’m sure, rejoiced at his arrival.

He’s finally home.

What I’ll remember most about Bailey was his willingness to give of himself, even in the difficult times. His legacy is one of faithfulness and gentleness.

That’s the picture of a real man.

 

How Long Is Goodbye?

photo courtesy of Mihail Macri on Unsplash

This past week bumped against memories I wasn’t ready to deal with. Thoughts I often keep tucked away for the rainy day that won’t come.

It was the anniversary of the passing of both of my parents–sixteen years apart. When Mom died two years ago, it hit me that I had become an orphan.

Not a term often used at my age. I equate that word with children left alone who need to be adopted; those not so fortunate to find a forever family enter foster care. The loss of parents always impacts.

My dad died eighteen years ago from a massive stroke. He’d endured his first stroke about thirteen years before then, the whole left side of his body was affected. He went through rehab for several months and regained most of his faculties. He tired more easily and lost some of his adventuresome spirit, but he always rallied when his kids were around.

He had more ministrokes as the years went on, each one taking more and more from him till he really wasn’t the Dad we knew and loved. I mourned his loss, not just for me, but for my kids who adored him. They really never had the chance to know the loving and passionate man who would sit with me and promised to worry with me for five minutes so I wouldn’t get overwhelmed by problems.

When Mom died two years ago, she’d had a rough couple of months, spiraling down rather quickly, becoming fearful of many things. That would have never defined Mom. But she was no longer the strong, independent woman she’d once been. She’d been tougher than Dad in many ways, but she’d mellowed over the years. My kids never really got to know her, which was a loss I regret.

There’s a part of me that feels very childlike as I remember my life, as I think of what I was like as a kid, how I’ve been impacted by who these two people were. Some of it was really hard; wounds happen in every family. Some of it was incredibly sweet.

So many things are reminders of them. Mom’s favorite song was “Mack the Knife”, and there’ve been times I’ve walked into restaurants and heard that tune. My dad loved coffee and bagels, and when he’d visit, we’d grab coffee together–and he always ordered the cinnamon sugar bagel. I can’t smell cinnamon today without thinking of him.

Losing my folks was losing a little of me. Even at my age.

No one chooses to be an orphan.

It’s why God is such a good Father. A Father to the fatherless, the Lover of my soul. Because we’re all created in His image, He has invested Himself in each one of us. There’s a longing in the hearts of all people that can only be satisfied by knowing Him. A need that can only be filled with His love.

People come and go in our lives. Some leave us through death; others leave for other reasons. Loss, abandonment, is hard, no matter how it’s experienced.

Doesn’t it make sense to seek the love that can’t disappoint?

That’s a true win-win.

 

Winning Isn’t The Opposite Of Losing

They worked hard, played with passion, and hoped they’d reach the goal that was ever before them.

The boy’s soccer team from the small high school where my daughter and son-in-law coach the beautiful game won the District Championship for the first time in their history. It was an amazing accomplishment.

The game was, as my daughter described it, chippy.

Not a word I currently use in my vocabulary; I needed clarity.

It’s when play gets out of control because grievances are happening all over the field and the referee isn’t keeping up with them. The passion that is already part of the game increases and players begin to get careless with how they take on other players. Those on the field then go after the opposing player rather than the ball. The referee often misses the initial violation, but typically the retribution offense is always seen. And called.

Screams of “Unfair”, “Call it even, ref”, and “Do you need glasses?” often become the response.

From the sidelines.

I’m not proud of the fact that as a soccer nana, I was as passionate about fair calls as anyone. I became loud enough that family members standing around me asked me to keep it down. And to not talk to the hecklers on the field.

“You only drop yourself to their level, Mom.”

I know that. This is a game, not a statement of identity or a political proclamation. This was to see who would win the district title for Class 2A schools.

These boys played an incredible game. They brought their best and beat the top seed 3-2. They deserved affirmation and encouragement from us on the sidelines. Not fuel to light their anger over a rough game.

The other team responded with righteous indignation when we won. Spectators walked off the field saying, “Well, your basketball team stinks.”

It takes away from a surprising accomplishment when others minimize an achievement.

This soccer team had worked hard to improve all season. My oldest grand, Ethan, played the best game he’d played all year, and he should have been proud of his contribution to the team and the team performance that brought the win.

We can’t always be winners.

Our wins aren’t guaranteed and our losses don’t define us.

What I’ve valued about my son-in-law is his emphasis on learning to play as a team, respecting one another’s gifts and working together so everyone can be more successful.

Winning comes from a group effort.

In life and on the field of play.

Insurmountable odds can be overcome by an unconditional commitment to working with one another, caring for each other, and treating others with respect and kindness.

Jesus shared this Golden Rule–doing to others as we want them to do to us.

Apart from the power of God in one’s life, this is impossible. Our selfishness keeps us focused on how well we do, on our own image. Thinking of others with compassion doesn’t always fit in our “me” grid.

But when our focus is helping others, treating others with respect, caring more for others than we do ourselves, we become better people.

That’s a win no matter what game is played.