I was eating at a local steakhouse recently and always enjoy when the staff periodically starts line dancing. I mentioned to my husband that it looked like so much fun. A discussion continued about how we could possible learn how to line dance without frequenting country western bars which is not something either one of us would enjoy very much. The topic was shelved with no solution presenting itself. A week later one of my friends on Facebook posted that she and her daughters were going to attend a family friendly line dancing venue. Once again I was shocked that God would care about this desire of mine that was not even remotely important. That happens to me way too often. Why am I shocked that the God who loves me fiercely would be interested in my desires?
For the past seventeen years I have had the privilege of having my mother live with us. For all of those seventeen years I have from time to time been assailed with anxious thoughts about how her passing would happen and how I would react to it. Would she be in a hospital? Would it be traumatic? Would there be a lot of suffering? Who knew? Certainly not I. My mom and I had frequent conversations about how we both prayed that she would pass quietly in her sleep. We prayed that she would fall asleep and wake up in heaven. And yet the anxious thoughts would continue – for seventeen years – until last month.
On December 2, 2018 my mother took to her bed and simply stopped eating. She spoke or saw many of those she loved and said her goodbyes. She slept a lot and was at peace. With no drama or trauma she passed in the wee hours of January 9, 2019. I found her in the morning – exactly how we prayed it would happen – and yet it still surprised me that God would actually answer that prayer with a yes.
Confidence that God always answers my prayers is never the issue for me. I seem to have an issue with whether or not He will answer with a yes. Is this because I don’t know Him or His character as well as I should? Probably. Not having a loving father figure has definitely made it difficult to relate to a loving heavenly father. This is where my faith and my ability to choose comes in. I may not be able to relate emotionally to His unconditional love but I can choose to believe what He says. There are plenty of circumstances in my life (and I bet in yours, too) where He has proven to be faithful, gracious, merciful, loving, strong, and on my side.
It is only after He comes through for me one more time that I can stop and think, “Of course He did that for me!” or “Of course He heard my heart cry,” or one of my favorite reactions: “You were listening to me when I said that?”
God is determined that I come to know Him well and I am just crazy enough to let Him do it.
“For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure.” John 3:34
We just changed our clocks back an hour and I am having one of those nights. You know the kind where you wake up – wide awake in the wee hours of the morning for no apparent reason. There is always a reason. My vintage self has come to recognize these times as an opportunity for one on one appointments with my Father. I admit I toss and turn for about a half an hour before I realize sleep is over and He is waiting.
Curious as to what He wants to tell me, I open a devotional edited by Anne Graham Lotz called Daily Light. It has scriptures laid out for the day and today I got stuck on John 3:34. In this passage John the Baptist is explaining to his followers that Jesus is legit. The part that stopped me was the phrase, “for God does not give the Spirit by measure.” What? So I go directly to my bible and read the entire chapter in John. Yep, that’s what it says. Then I read the commentary and it says that Jesus received the Spirit in fullness, with nothing held back. The Message puts it like this, “and don’t think He rations out the Spirit in bits and pieces.” Okay then – it means what I thought it did. Jesus was equipped with everything His Spirit had to offer: all power, all wisdom, unlimited love.
But here is the gem – in John 20:21 Jesus says, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Whoa! That would suggest that an unlimited Spirit is available to me and you, doesn’t it? As I am pondering this concept I happened to glance at a plaque that explains my name’s meaning: Harvester – Bountiful Spirit. Ha! So now you know my process. If I want to know what God is saying to me I start with His Word. He highlights what He wants me to see and then I forage until His Spirit makes things clear.
It’s time, people. What does that mean? Well, for me, it’s time to be obedient. It’s time to apologize to you for not being obedient in the past and writing sporadically. It’s time to not waste the season I have been given.
It’s almost light now. Another day, another gift. After suffering a stroke back in August and being totally made whole, I know what a gift each day is and I am determined not to waste any of them.
What time is it where you are? What is God urging you to do or be? Don’t know? I dare you to ask Him. Maybe He won’t have to wake you in the dark of night to get your attention like He does me sometimes. Even if He does – I’m wide awake – ready for the day He has given me the strength to face. Now, it’s time for coffee!
Yesterday I had one of those days. It was the kind of day that caused me to clap my hands and cheer over and over again. This happens when several answers to prayer collide and many difficult situations resolve themselves all on the same day. A Father loving to surprise and delight His child, does more than I can think or even imagine. Yeah, THAT kind of day. Lately, He has been outdoing Himself. I wonder if He is actually answering more of my prayers, or if I am becoming more aware of what He does every single day.
My inner child is clapping and jumping for joy while my vintage self looks on with amusement. It is so much fun to live life this way. It sure beats the alternative of wallowing in my aches and pains, focusing on sagging skin and the newest age spot popping up. Guess what, people: my soul and spirit never ages. That’s right – the eternal essence of ME does NOT get old and neither do you! The cool thing is as I experience this life I have the ability to grow wiser and not lose my childlike exuberance.
So I am embracing my vintage self and allowing my hair to grow out my natural color. Who knew my natural color would look more platinum than gray? God, that’s who! Recently I renewed my passport and I put “platinum” under hair color on the application. The guy at the Post office didn’t challenge it so I think I got away with it. This is just one of the small delightful experiences. Another is my new obsession with a particular hair clip. I found them while on vacation in California earlier this summer. I think the best way to describe it is a round shaped banana clip. It holds all my hair on top of my head in a perfect shaped bun all day!
Now, there are those that may see my perspective as shallow. I prefer to see it as child like – always looking at life in awe. I recently experienced some serious health issues which caught me by surprise. I have always taken good health for granted. Vintage bodies can be challenging at times and mine decided that lifestyle changes needed to take place immediately.
There is a saying my husband has been reminding of lately: “Not my monkeys, not my circus.” This is a gentle reminder to have healthy boundaries with my family and friends. You may find this hard to believe, but I don’t think I mind my own business very well. You who know me well may be rolling your eyes and muttering, “Really?” My spiritual giftings of organization and leadership can get me in trouble if I don’t have healthy boundaries and mind my own business.
Circuses are meant to entertain. It is easier to stay childlike if I enjoy my own circus and not try to run yours. I think you would agree with me, right?
I should have titled this blog, “Lesson learned again and again!” I first learned how to let God fight my battles years ago when a business associate refused to pay his bill. My husband took the high road and I had no choice but to trail along behind him. John reassured me that God would continue to take care of us and that the guy who refused to pay us would reap what he sowed, so we should pray that God would have mercy on him. Whoa! That is so counter to our culture. I mean, what is small claims court for if I can’t sue this guy, right?
Never forget, obedience is blessed. Turns our we were more than blessed with lots of new clients and his business went under – not what we were praying for him, but God is God and we accepted His judgement.
Fast forward to the present. Recently, I was on the other side of a similar situation. I had agreed to pay a certain amount for something and I didn’t get what I agreed to so I felt like I should not have to pay full price. Sounds fair, right? After a couple days of prayer my husband sensed that we should pay what we had originally agreed. I really wanted this to be a teachable moment for the other party but that was not God’s plan even though I wanted it to be.
How did we know we were doing the right thing by paying the full bill? What about being good stewards with the finances God had provided? All I can tell you is we felt peaceful about our decision. There was also a sense of freedom when we relinquished our right to be fairly treated. I talked about rights last time, remember?
This “kingdom living” can seem upside down sometimes but it is such a blast to experience. God says, “Go!” when common sense and society say, “Stop!” He says, “Reach out,” when others tell you to protect your heart. Sometimes He will urge you to use your common sense while at other times He will encourage you to step out in faith when it makes no sense at all in the natural. Ha! I love when He does that in my life. Flexing my faith muscle is sometimes the only type of exercise I get in this vintage season. Queue the laugh track.
So, what lesson have I learned? Earlier I said obedience is blessed. That is true, but more than that, it is my life line to intimacy with my heavenly Father. The more I obey, the more I can discern further instruction. If I decide to do my own thing, it becomes more difficult to “hear” Him. Why? Because sin separates me from God. What is sin? Broken down, sin is selfishness. Ego=Edging God Out. I have never been sorry when I have been obedient to my Lord’s will. I have always been sorry when I don’t. The abundant life is the evidence of an obedient one.
Recently I saw a Facebook post entitled, “How to beat an atheist in an argument.” My reaction was immediate: why would I want to beat anyone in an argument? How would the love of Christ be displayed in that? It is too easy to lose my focus on my primary purpose for being on this planet. Simply put, I am to love God and love people. If daily I ask God for the power to just do that, the details will take care of themselves.
WWJD – What would Jesus do? He gave up His position in heaven. He had a right to destroy His creation and start over but He gave up His rights to save us – me and you. It is too easy for me to demand “my rights” if I feel slighted or mistreated. My vintage wisdom has taught me that nothing good ever comes from saying, “I have a right.” It’s actually a privilege for me to put others first. In my human frailty I could never do it. I would be like a two year old throwing a tantrum, wanting my own way. But that is why it is such a thrill to experience the strength, that only comes from God, to move out of the way and serve another.
Just last week I got my feelings hurt. Some friends did not react to a magnanimous gesture on my part the way I thought they should. Let’s just say I had some unmet expectations. You may roll your eyes now. I am acutely aware of the trap of being offended and I have no wish to camp out there. I also know the value of owning my feelings and not ignoring them. I admitted to God and to my ever so patient husband how disappointed I was and how I felt like picking up my marbles and going home. I would not play with these individuals anymore, so there! That would teach them a lesson – they would be deprived of my company forever and boy would they be sorry! Even in the middle of my ranting I could feel God nudging me. He posed this concept: “Well, then, it’s a good thing you are not living to please them, huh? Aren’t you glad that you have offered up all your efforts to Me?” Gulp! Yeah – a little reminder that I don’t get to decide when the game is over – He does.
Let me be clear on one point. I am not advocating enduring abuse. God does not tolerate His daughters being abused nor should we. I am simply stating that it is a privilege to give up my “rights” to serve another human being. I can give up my place in line to the harried mother of a toddler. As a mother it’s been a long time since I got the last piece of chicken anyway, but you get my drift. Let’s ask God to enable us to be kind and generous – especially if we find ourselves in a conversation with an atheist.
Recently I commented to my husband, “John, it’s like you are plaid. You are comfortable with plaid and I am paisley and tie dyed. ” It’s true. The straight-laced buttoned up fell for the bohemian nomad. He had to choose to move out of his comfort zone to be with me. That was a brave and bold move on his part. I don’t doubt that God had to create the perfect set of circumstances to bring us together. I was yearning for stability and John needed to break out of the predictable but unsatisfying life he had built.
Funny how those character traits that drew us together bug the heck out of us after almost 22 years of marriage. John is perfectly happy sitting on the couch with the remote in his hand whenever he is not working. I, on the other hand, am happy planning the next trip. Trips that he mostly humors me by tagging along. I cajole and plead with him to go out, mostly to get some undivided attention from him. John’s idea of bliss is me sitting beside him on the couch watching football.
Predictability is a byproduct of stability. Unpredictability is a byproduct of spontaneity. The longer we are together the more tolerant we become of each other’s character qwerks. This was not always the case, though. I’m talking about just after the honeymoon phase when real life sets in. Sharing the day to day with a person who is so different could present a challenge – and it did – on numerous occasions.
One of the great blessings of being vintage is the ability to be more tolerant and graceful towards one another. The young and brash have a tendency to write others off when character defects appear. Wisdom shows us our own faults so we become more understanding of the faults in others. Lately I have seen John smile when I go into planning mode. He can now calmly ask, “So we’re going to Norway, when?” Instead of look at me in wide eyed horror and exclaiming, “WHAT?!”
How do you smooth rocks? By putting them in a bag in close proximity and tumbling them together until all the rough edges become smooth. That is a good analogy for marriage and character development. God puts us in close quarters with another human being and if we let Him, He will use it to develop us into someone who is more like Christ every day. We can choose to react with grace and understanding. We can be more loving. The key is cooperation with the Holy Spirit. Another word for cooperation is surrender.
Jesus is not my savior OR lord. He is my savior AND lord. I can’t pick and choose. He is either both to me or He is none. Does that sound harsh? I guess truth can seem that way, but oh, the freedom that surrender brings is so worth it.
They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. For that reason I must thank Jeff Foxworthy for giving me the template for acknowledging some of the most noteworthy issues that arise from becoming vintage.
- You know you are vintage when: You spot lipstick on your glass mug at Starbucks and proceed to tell the barista – totally forgetting that you had asked your friend to taste it not two minutes before.
- You know you are vintage when: You are looking for your phone while talking on it.
- You know you are vintage when: You jump in your car for an appointment and it takes ten minutes for you to realize you are going the wrong way.
- You know you are vintage when: Gray is the new black – in your hair, that is.
- You know you are vintage when: Your exercise program consists of walking from room to room forgetting why you went in there in the first place.
- You know you are vintage when: Your doctor walks into the exam room and he looks 12 years old to you.
Okay, that’s enough – unless I can remember another one, lol. I promised myself I would not write unless God gave me something He wanted me to communicate. It’s been awhile since I posted anything, but I want you to know I ask Him everyday if there is something I should say. Two people today contacted me and remarked that they realized that there had been no blog recently so I am taking that as a sign to touch base.
Today and during this month of November I have been meditating on God’s grace and goodness. Just last week I said, “I am living the dream.” I am not in denial. I am choosing to live Philippians 4:8 (look it up if you don’t know what that is) I am focusing on the good. While I acknowledge the challenging things that crop up and have to deal with them, I choose not to dwell on them, but on what God wants to show me through them.
In this season of life it can be difficult to see all the ways we have changed. Maybe our children are grown and we no longer actively parent the way we used to parent. Now we simply observe and pray unless called upon for advice. Perhaps physically we do not do what used to come so naturally to us. We may have lost loved ones who have passed before us. I read a phrase today from Bill Yount (you can look him up, too) He said that our battle cry for 2018 is, “We do bears, we do lions, we do giants. That’s what we do.”
We vintage daughters have seen our fair share of bears, lions and giants and we are still here. How we look at life while we are still here is the choice for today. “Choose wisely, grasshopper.” If you find yourself stressed or upset this holiday season, focus on Jesus and watch it dissipate. A thankful heart is a happy heart.