Monthly Archives: March 2022

Rest. Right. Now.

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Rest is my “word” for 2022. In that vein, I try to give myself permission to rest when I’m tired emotionally, mentally, or physically. Because I often stay up late into the evening to make sure the kids, especially the high schoolers, finish what they need to do before the next day and get themselves to bed in a timely manner, I allow myself to take a nap some days to combat the tiredness that dogs me. I usually set the alarm on my phone for an hour, but in the silence, my head starts to spin about all the things I need to do. Then, I chide myself that I should stop thinking and start resting. I’ll look at the clock and realize that I only have 45 minutes left. I become worried about my inability to settle down and get the rest I need. I realized the other day that I had now risen to a new level of anxiety – putting pressure on myself to rest as quickly as possible! Pretty much the opposite of rest. 

On a girls’ trip last year, my friends and I were shopping at a boutique/gas station when I saw a dish towel that was meant for me. I had to buy it because it said, “Come on, Inner Peace. I don’t have all day.” I recognize my need for rest, calm, and peace, but I’m not always patient. I want it, and I want it now. But I’m finding that my attempts to hurry peace and rest don’t necessarily work. And I don’t like that. I figured that once I dedicated my year to rest, it would be easier to obtain, but I should’ve known better. I’ve always watched women in my family struggle to just sit down and be still. They’re usually in motion – cooking, ironing, doing laundry, washing dishes, or some sort of chore. (I’m looking at you Nina and Susie). 

In a familiar passage, Jesus told the crowds that if they were weary and burdened, they should come to him to find rest. In The Message translation of this story, Jesus says, “Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace” (Matt. 11:28-30). True restoration may not come naturally or quickly. According to Jesus, finding rest and peace sounds like a process, not an instant fix. Jesus can teach this learned behavior with its rhythms to us when we spend time with him in prayer, study, and worship.

My friend M-J takes a deep, cleansing breath before she or another prays out loud. When I’m around her, I find myself becoming more grounded and focused as we enter prayer time because of her practice. Learning how to be more mindful and centering myself on God as I search for rest and inner peace is exactly the type of behavior Jesus wants to teach us through his words to us and through other people like M-J who’ve already learned a thing or two. 

We can’t rush into a state of rest when our minds are frantic, and our bodies are busy. But we can learn and practice Jesus’ “unforced rhythms of grace” so that we more naturally attain rest and peace and more easily connect with God and ourselves.  

The Kindness Connection

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I was not having a good week, and it was only Wednesday. I was exhausted after our spring break travel and the daylight savings time change. I felt like my to-do list was growing disproportionately. I’d barely avoided another car who didn’t yield to my green light that morning before my appointment for a repair estimate for the rear end collision I’d endured the month before. And events in the world felt heavy, so very heavy. I felt like a balloon about to pop. 

Before I proceeded to do my grocery shopping, which I’d been putting off, I looked around the clothing section to further delay the inevitable chore. I tried on a jacket and frowned at my image in the mirror when an older gentleman walked by and called out, “Looks good!” In that moment, I felt my spirits lift just a little. It was as if I’d been holding my breath like that tight balloon and instead of popping, I could exhale. I responded with thank you as he kept walking, not so much for what he’d said, but because he’d taken a moment to be kind. He didn’t know me at all, but he spoke kindness into my day, nonetheless. Nothing about the circumstances in the world or the hassles I’d encountered changed, but that man interrupted my thoughts and got me out of my own head where I’d been dwelling on the negative.

As a society, we talk about random acts of kindness and how we should teach our children to choose kindness, but doing those little things is not always so easy. I’ve chosen not to give someone a compliment because I worry it might feel awkward. Or worse, I feel a twinge of jealousy that another woman looks better, so I don’t tell her I like her outfit or her hair. Comparison can quickly be the killer of kindness. Insecurity may win the day instead of generosity of spirit.         

Quoting the Old Testament, Jesus said the greatest commandment was “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31). But when I’m stingy with kindness, I fail to follow these commandments. When I find myself hesitating to share the kind word or do the kind thing for whatever reason, I should ask myself how I would feel if someone did or said the kind thing to me? Would I appreciate the text from a friend checking in? Would it make me feel good if someone told me they thought I looked nice? Would I get a break from my anxieties if someone made a genuine connection with me even if just for a second?

As obvious as it sounds, when we love others, we demonstrate God’s love. We also remind ourselves how it feels to be considered and noticed, to know that God loves us even when we feel unlovable. Jesus could’ve stopped his answer with the first commandment to love God, but he continued with his directive for us to love each other. Let us be kind and show love to one another in the moment and resist the temptation to keep those words of grace to ourselves.  

Don’t Block the Blessing

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The college application process has changed greatly in the last thirty years. No need to use a typewriter to fill out individual applications to each school or for each scholarship like I did. Obviously, the whole process is now completed via computers and a common application that allows the student to fill out one application for most universities. Once they’re accepted, students use portals to link to the universities to manage housing, financial aid, etc. It’s all very fancy when it works, but, of course, technology has its glitches. When my daughter Riley tried to access a college portal the other night, the site wouldn’t let her in. She sighed loudly and said, “it’s temporarily going through something.” I laughed because she’d acted like the portal was a person who was having a rough go of it.   

But her comment made me think about when I have tough times. I often forget that on most occasions, the circumstances are temporary and will pass quickly. While I realize that some situations present complicated problems that last for a long time, many are short lived. But I tend to catastrophize and think the temporary emotions will remain. Instead of allowing myself to feel the emotions so that I can get through them, my instinct is to fight the feelings off. Instead of having a good cry or just giving myself an hour to wallow, I start overanalyzing, trying to figure out why I’m upset with the goal of fixing the problem. In the movie Frozen, Elsa sings, “conceal, don’t feel.” My initial reaction to hard emotions is “don’t feel, fix it,” usually prolonging the situation. 

On top of my efforts to fix the circumstances and deflect the uncomfortable feelings, I often act like the computer portal when it’s not working in that I won’t necessarily let anyone in. Sometimes, I’ve told my close friends after I’ve recovered from a difficult season. In response, they’ve asked “why didn’t you tell us?” I don’t always know the answer, maybe it’s embarrassment or my belief that no one else can help. But when I’m more rational, I know that my friends offer a source of support when I tell them I’m having a hard time. That they would come to my aid if I even hinted at a problem. 

Recently, one of my close friends said to another close friend that we needed to mark our calendars for a summer outing because they know I get down for a few days when my kids go to sleepaway camp. Their proposal comes from our shared history and a girls’ trip that helped me through the sadness after a previous camp send off. Because they know me and want to encourage me, they are already planning to help me at a time when they know I’ll need them. But if I hadn’t told them that their presence had helped me, they wouldn’t know and wouldn’t be able to support me in the future. 

God does not want us to isolate when we feel down. We must remember that God provides many resources, including people to help us when we are in need. If we do not let people in, if we block them so they cannot reach us, we also prevent God from providing comfort and help. In Jesus’ day, a group cut a hole in a roof so they could lower their disabled friend down to where Jesus was teaching. If the man had told his friends not to bother, that he was fine, that he didn’t want to trouble them, he would’ve missed out on Jesus’ help and grace (Luke 17-26). We should feel emboldened to ask for help from our friends. 

We all have times when we’re temporarily going through something, but we don’t have to go through it alone. When we open up and ask the people around us for help, we allow them to rise to the occasion and in turn, share God’s love and comfort with us on God’s behalf.    

Like Father, Like Daughter

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When I graduated from law school, my friend and fellow graduate Shannon threw a big party at a country club type of place. Before we went, my dad told me he wasn’t that comfortable going to events like that where he might be required to mingle with people he didn’t know. But he went anyway. After the photos were developed (yes, it was that long ago), I noticed that my dad was in the background talking to a different individual in almost every picture. So much for dad’s aversion to socializing.

This wasn’t the first time I’d seen dad visiting with numerous people. When I was a kid and we arrived at church early, I watched my dad walk around the sanctuary, shaking hands, saying hello to the members of our small congregation. I didn’t think much of it at the time because it was just what dad did at church along with leading our hymns or singing a special song on occasion. Small churches require folks to take on many roles. My mom tells the story about dad leading the Sunday School program in engaging the community surrounding the church. Some neighbors started attending after that effort, so I grew up in an integrated church, not knowing that was a rarity in America.   

As I’ve grown older and become heavily involved in my own small churches, in St. Louis, Missouri, and Frisco, Texas, I’ve realized that observing my dad all those years influenced how I relate to my faith communities. For the last twenty plus years, I’ve served in a lot of positions at church but my most consistent role is that of greeter. I love to welcome people to church, to shake hands, to give hugs, to check in to see how they’re doing. I enjoy meeting visitors and learning their names. If I don’t talk to you at the front door, I’ll probably catch up with you during the passing of the peace or after the service. The ability to know almost everyone in attendance is one of the upsides of belonging to a smaller congregation. 

I’ve learned that not everyone enjoys greeting. Standing at the front door and chatting is uncomfortable for some. I didn’t understand that at first. I guess I assumed that because I liked greeting, everyone else would too. But I’ve heard from several people that this was not their calling. The Apostle Paul wrote that the body of the church, in which many members have various gifts, is like a physical body with differentiated parts (1 Cor. 12:13-31). For example, I don’t like to make meals for others. Some people show the love of Christ by lovingly making delicious food for which I’m grateful. If I sign up to bring a meal to someone in need, it will be take-out.

We can all focus on sharing the gifts, strengths, and talents we have with the broader faith community. In so doing, we can build up Christ’s kingdom and enjoy the work at the same time because we are fulfilling God’s call to help with the gifts God has given us. When we serve with passion and love, we inspire others to do the same, including the children who are watching. 

My dad turns 75 years old today. He doesn’t get out much anymore because of Parkinson’s Disease. But every time I use our shared gift to meet people in the name of Christ, his legacy continues to grow as a testament to God’s work that continues. Let us find ways to use our gifts so that we can joyfully demonstrate God’s love to everyone. Happy Birthday, Dad.