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Monthly Archives: February 2015

Be Still and Walk with Him Awhile 

BeStill

“’Be Still’ isn’t just for crisis mode.
That’s simply where we found it.
It is a new way of life, ensuring the health of our family.”

Today, I am so excited to be featured as a guest blogger at “The Urbane Flower.” My piece, “Be Still and Walk with Him Awhile,” can be found here.

Check out this uplifting blog site that my new friend Heather Gee put together!

I look forward to Heather guest-blogging here at “Espressos of Faith” very soon!

 

 

 

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Banana Crêpes, Mint Milkshakes, and Living in the Past

 
Photo credit: PacoCarmonaCalzada from morguefile.com

When I lived in Japan as a 19 year old, I greatly missed home (and American food) for the first few weeks there. I suppose that’s natural. They say you often lose weight when you first arrive at a culture with a vastly different diet than your own, and then as soon as you get used to how great the food is, you gain weight. Well, I eventually learned to make miso soup and fish heads staples in my diet. I even tried some raw chicken (a delicacy), but my weight gain was not because I was putting down the healthy fish, rice, and tofu. It was more the result of having found some European bakeries and a little cafe tucked away within walking distance of my college campus. On the menu at that little cafe were banana crêpes and mint milkshakes.

Yeah, it was all over at that point. They had me at crêpe and milkshake.

I certainly love those flavors and food items. And I knew having one of each was such a teenage-metabolism thing to do, but I was drawn to the comfort of foods I would find at home. I needed something non-fishy and non-red-bean to bring me some home—some familiar.

And I’d like to tell you that I exercised self-control, but the truth is: I went every day after class for two weeks and ordered both until my stomach literally hurt. It’s what made me realize I needed to stop, get a grip, cease pretending to be somewhere I wasn’t, and live in the present.

I wish this lesson had stuck with me, but decades later, I found myself in the Marshall Islands with my very young family, spending so much of my day emailing and Facebook-ing the friends and family I left behind. It delayed my adjustment until one day I realized: “I’m in a sunny, tropical place. Why am I living in Boston in my heart and mind when I really needed to be making a life on the other side of the International Date Line?”

I feel this way about holding onto the past in general. I sometimes want to go back to when this or that relationship was better, this child wasn’t struggling, that financial stress wasn’t weighing down on us, we didn’t have XYZ problem, life was simpler, etc. Do you ever feel that way? As if, somehow, transporting ourselves back to that time and place erases all worry and stress?

It really doesn’t. We just end up trading in current wisdom for a time when we hadn’t learned certain lessons yet or experienced particular deepening, strengthening trials.

For every relationship we look back to a better day, there are those that are now healed and stronger. For every trouble squeezing our heart now, going back in time just finds us another one and we’d have to go through it all over again. As much as I miss holding my infants, I can still hold other people’s and savor the memories.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, ESV, King Solomon* speaking
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.

Verses 1-8 of Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 are well known and often quoted. Many find comfort in those passages. But what really strikes me is what the author says following that part: “I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time.”

Ecclesiastes 3:10-12, ESV, King Solomon speaking
I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live…

That sure sounds a lot like:

Revelation 21:15, ESV, Apostle John speaking
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

and

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

“He has made everything beautiful in its time” means that even our oldest pain, deepest struggle, past regret, biggest learning curve, etc.—when yielded to Him—can be made beautiful, can be turned around, can be given new life.

What’s more: “He has put eternity into man’s heart.” The longing we feel is not really nostalgia in the sense we understand it. It’s a timeless ache that can only be filled with relationship with God, that, thanks to the redeeming work of Christ on the cross, we can have forever.

We often want something comfortable, familiar, and from another time and place because we rely on memories and a time gone by to inform our hearts.

I challenge us to ask God to help us live in the present: fully engaged in what is happening now, learning from what came before, and knowing that with “all things new” and “working together for good” when we trust in Christ, we can see the past as reassurance that we come through things, we can heal, hope is ready, and the lessons of yesterday are the growth needed for today.

———————-

*It is a widely held belief that King Solomon authored Ecclesiastes.

For a great book with a heavenly perspective, refer to You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity by Francis and Lisa Chan.

For more anecdotal stories with direct application of what the Bible teaches about relationships (with God and others), healthy boundaries, grace, childrearing, joy and peace in the storms of life, and many other topics, refer to Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day.

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This blog has been shared at RaRa Link-UpTell It To Me Tuesdays, and Mom 2 Mom Monday Link-Up.

 

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Becoming Icicles—and Other Dangers of Comparing Ourselves to Others

Becoming Icicles- and Other Dangers of Comparing Ourselves to OthersI live in the Boston area, and over the past eight days, we have received over 5 feet of snow. My roof has a low-enough pitch to develop ice dams, so this year, after many years of my husband chipping away at them, he installed roof warming cables. As you can imagine, after 5 feet of snow and dropping temperatures, my roof cables were doing exactly what they were supposed to: preventing dams. But in the process, they were also creating ice stalactites that, after a few days, extended down from two stories to almost touch the ground. They were incredible, the talk of the neighborhood. People would walk their dogs by and stop and marvel at our sharp, massive ice needles. The bus driver even made comments. They were honestly the most beautiful winter “growth” I had ever watched before my eyes.

But they were also about 40 pounds by the time they were starting to weigh too heavy to remain there—and they were wicked sharp.

(If you’re unfamiliar, “wicked” is a New England adverb meaning “really” or “very.” When I first moved here from California, I misused it to the amusement of all my native New England friends: “I wicked want that.” Yeah, not the correct usage.)

These icicles took on a life of their own, that’s for sure. I know they were just water, but they felt organic. They became a part of us—well, at least part of the house. Each day, the kids would delight in their growth, but we had to knock some down over the doorways so that they didn’t impale us or the dogs as we left the house.

And I got to thinking that icicles start off so beautiful. They amaze us, and it feels like each inch growing down is achieving something magnificent. What’s more, they come from good intentions: They are evidence of a roof melting and recovering from an intense onslaught of weather. They are a thermodynamics and gravity lesson wrapped up into one.

But the thing about these massive formations is: They can’t hang there forever. They eventually thin out at the origin, the weight becoming too much to bear, and once they crash down—and inevitably, they do—they are a force to be reckoned with, damaging whatever they land on and cutting deep into the snow below, like a stake being posted in full force.

Likewise, I was thinking that our moments of little envy here, tiny comparison to others there, start off like tiny drips. It’s just water after all…can people even see it? We’re just shedding a little personal angst by thinking how someone else has it better for a minute. No harm done, right?

But then that drip becomes slow and steady, and while it appears to be evidence of a heart under thaw, it can’t really release itself. It refreezes in a different form, slowly growing to noticeable levels. Other people passing by may think: “Wow, she’s just leaking a little. That sounded a little toxic, but she’ll move on.” But, eventually, if we entertain those thoughts of how:

  • much more money this friend makes
  • that one delivered her babies by blinking while I underwent every trick—medical and otherwise—under the sun to get these kids birthed
  • none of her kids have any medical or special education needs
  • his kids always win the awards
  • running must just come naturally to her
  • her husband never has to travel

we suddenly become sharp and cutting with an icy critical spirit, bearing down heavily on those around us. We become dangerous, daggered hurt machines that speak dark instead of light, never seeing the beauty and gifts we have been given, dwelling only on what we think we want but don’t have.

When we’re living a life dissatisfied that we don’t measure up to some mythical standard we assume somebody else set, we start measuring people with the wrong gauge: what they have easier than we do. It then leads to some gossip here, a little story-sharing there. At first, it starts off pretty interesting and seemingly “innocent.” We’re just “processing with a friend,” after all. But then, if we don’t keep that in check, we become obsessive, never counting our own blessings anymore, just waiting for someone else to fail or again demonstrate success in some area whereby we, in comparison, feel less than. We start to self-justify, to settle, to become complacent, and to take a seat as self-appointed judges. We decide they don’t deserve our compassion (because, after all, we have it worse). We shut down where blessings could happen because we think we have full perspective.

And soon, our feelings weigh so heavy and our emotions so raw and on the surface, that gravity wins, and we end up sending a spike down into someone or a situation where we really didn’t mean to. Our comparisons just became too heavy to bear, and we sent them crashing into someone.

And the fallout is ugly: a wet, cold, icy shard kind of mess. We hurt people when we think the grass is greener. And aren’t we all already hurting enough?

Proverbs 14:30, ESV, King Solomon speaking
A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.

Proverbs 27:4, ESV, King Solomon speaking
Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?

The only solution I find for stopping myself from growing spiky, cold formations from my heart is to invite Jesus in to keep it warm. There are times I catch myself mid-icicle, and there are times, I do not let Him in soon enough or regularly, and then my icicles are on steroids and absolutely crash. And when they fall down, they always hit something. They never fall without consequence, even if the damage is mostly within ourselves.

What keeps your heart warm, content, and peaceful?

James 3:14-18, ESV, James, Brother of Jesus, speaking
But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.
This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.
For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.
And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

James 4:6-8, ESV, James, Brother of Jesus, speaking
But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded (emphasis mine).

More on relational boundaries, healthy relationships, renewing our minds in Christ, and understanding grace and a relationship with God can be found in Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day.

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This post is linked up with Grace & Truth. Check out other Inspirational Christian Living posts here.
 

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