Archive for September, 2012

Analogy of a Hammer

One of my favorite Einstein quotes, “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.”

I love the value this quote places on the uniqueness of people. In realizing that we are each created as individuals, and that we can’t impose expectations on others or ourselves that weren’t meant for us. It’s a beautiful parallel to the passage in the Bible that talks about the uniqueness of the body being made up of many parts. It’s a passage that has brought me much comfort over the years, and one I need to remember as I ponder my heart and dreams for the future.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about life, dreams, and contentment. I’m still processing it, and don’t really have many conclusions. And as one who often thinks in pictures, an analogy was brought up while I was talking with my love that helped define some of the processing. It’s simple and yet for me it is a profound reminder to trust, wait, hope, and dream.

– Even a hammer will make a great paperweight, in many ways much better than the traditional paperweight. In fact, people may pass by and say, ‘Wow that hammer is the best paperweight we have. It has never let a paper fly off the desk, and it’s long handle allows more of the paper from getting blown in the wind.’

Yet, inside the hammer knows it was created for something different. Even though it realizes that it makes a good paperweight, there is a longing inside to do what it was created to do. It just isn’t sure what that is.

And a hammer sitting next to a nail may feel like it’s getting closer, it may feel like it’s purpose is right there to reach out and grab. Yet trying to force things would only create unwanted holes, hurting not only the nail, but leaving the hammer feeling worse for causing such harm.

Only in the hands of a craftsman with a vision and goal in mind, will the hammer be content being used. With each swing of the arm, with each pound of the nail, the hammer will know it was fulfilling its purpose.

Until then, the hammer must wait; it must find joy in the journey. Realizing that being used as a paperweight is better than being left in the drawer, in the dark. Still the hammer dreams of days when the craftsman will pick it up to create something beautiful, it waits in peace knowing that it was created for something more, trusting the craftsman’s sovereignty and vision.


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My Sister, My Friend

There are those in life who are a gift, a treasure that holds a priceless place upon your heart. Those who have been there since your memories began, and you hope will be there until the end: laughing, crying, venting, processing. To find a person such as this is rare, and it’s the very gift I was given.

When I came into the world there was a little girl, almost three-years-old, waiting to greet me, love me, protect me and teach me all the things her little mind had already learned. That is the heart of a big sister. That heart never changed.

Growing up I remember looking at her, her beauty, her laugh, her intelligence, and thinking that there is no one who could measure up to her. Her heart to care for people, her love beyond herself, her determination in the face of adversity, serve the world in far greater ways than it may realize.

She has become more than a sister. She is a dear friend, an accountability partner, a voice of reason, a tender touch, and place of refuge on long walks.

Today is her day, the celebration of her birth.

Happy birthday to you, my sister, my friend.

The world is a better place because you are in it.

I love you.

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Doorway to the Soul

A while ago a friend of mine wrote a short piece on the journey I went through deciding whether or not to have my ‘lazy eye’ fixed. (You can read that here.) While we were processing the surgery and my journey through it, he asked me if I wanted to write my own story. Realizing I wasn’t quite ready to go there, I quickly declined. And on that day I promised him I would write, I would choose to go there, I would push through the fear and acknowledge the lessons learned, and the lessons still to learn. This is that promise being fulfilled.

My eyes have always been a sensitive subject for me. As a child when they realized there was an issue, I was forced to wear a patch on my right eye at home. The hope was that my brain would acknowledge the wanderer and lock it into place. After several months of trying, along many tears shed over cartoons missed because my ‘good eye’ couldn’t see the television, they suggested surgery. To a single mom living in government housing while trying to raise two children, the idea of an ‘elective ‘ surgery was an overwhelming and not attainable financially or emotionally. So I learned to adjust.

For the most part, my eye didn’t bother me growing up. It stayed in place unless I was really tired. There were times… like when my cat scratched me in my ‘good eye’ causing it to be patched on the same day my school was going to the local roller-skating rink. There’s not a whole lot a seven-year-old can do with one eye patched and the other one virtually blind. So there I sat on the circular, carpeted tables alone. Determined to be there. Waiting for it to be over.

As I grew older, the wandering of my eye was obvious only to those friends in high school who stayed up all hours of the night with me laughing, studying, crying. It was those friends who had learned to look past the eyes and love the soul. Yet to me it was a dominant feature every time I looked in a mirror, or saw a picture of myself. It was slowly becoming my identity.

The older I got the more my eye wandered. Having gotten married at 19 my husband married what he thought was a ‘normal’ person, but I knew better. Every time I looked in the mirror I was reminded of my weakness. They say the eyes are the doorway to the soul and all mine seemed to lead me to was shame and embarrassment.

I got to the point where I’d avoid anyone from the past so I wouldn’t get questions like, ‘Has your eye always been like that?’ I’d close my ‘bad eye’ when looking at specific people in a crowd to avoid the awkward look of confusion on their face as they looked behind them to see if I was looking at them or not. I tried to embrace my eye by pointing it out to my students as I introduced myself as their new teacher for the year. And it was a bit endearing when one student said they were excited to get the crazy-eyed teacher. Little kids would ask about it, adults would ask about it. I felt like my words faded into the distance, consumed with thoughts of my eye. This thing that I wanted so badly to hide had become the thing that appeared like a scarlet letter with each new person I met.

Somehow I had created this, I deserved it. I wasn’t good enough, worthy enough or pure enough, were the words written for all to see on the doorway to my soul.

Having thought about surgery a couple of times, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Who was I to change the way God made me? What am I going to do next, want a boob job or liposuction? Vanity, this whole thing is about vanity! A good Christian wouldn’t do this surgery. You must not be close enough to God to feel like you need surgery to be fixed. Who was I to spend that much money on myself? There are people much more valuable with worthwhile causes who could use that money; how selfish! The lies continued in my head for years… I was being consumed.

Finally realizing I couldn’t live in the struggle of it all, I began to look into having my eye ‘fixed’. Telling myself if it didn’t cost too much money, I’d be willing to consider it. (In the back of my head thinking it wouldn’t be an option because insurance couldn’t cover a surgery that was pure vanity.) I was wrong, surgery, post-op, pre-op, medication – everything was completely covered. It was as if God was giving me a gift and all I needed to do was receive it.

There was a risk involved, my eye could turn in instead of out. I could have to get used to a whole new set of frustrations. Did I trust God? Did I believe this was a gift? Did I really want to change?

After much research and many talks with my family I decided it was worth the risk. That’s when I began to see all that I had wrapped up in this one thing. I began to imagine my eyes being straight. I imagined a life where I boldly walked up to old friends, confident of the person I was, sure of my value. I imagined looking in the mirror and enjoying the image staring back at me. I imagined feeling beautiful, secure, and lovey. Without shame.

Two surgeries and almost three years later I realize my insecurities went far deeper than the doorway. The lies that penetrated my soul remained long after the doctor bragged about how well the surgery had turned out. The feelings of ugliness, unworthiness, and pain did not go away when the questions about my eye stopped. The scarlet letter was still imprinted onto my very being.

There it lay deeply rooted – founded in the lies of my youth, stronger than any external force. And here I am: still too shy to go up to an old friend from high school, still on the brink of tears when I shop for jeans, and still having to remind myself daily that my beauty comes from within. That the gift I was given was a priceless one from my Daddy God, who sees me as his priceless daughter, beautiful, worthy and pure.

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Seasons of Change

Poets for generations have written about this incessant mystery, this unwavering friend.

Tennyson pened the obvious when he wrote, “Then came a change, as all things human change…” in Enoch Arden.

Shakespeare’s the Seven Ages of Man, depicting a melancholy rendition of life speaks of it, “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players, They have their exits and entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts,…”

I could sit here and write for pages the quotes of greats from yesterday and today that have intimately wrestled with the seasons we all find ourselves in, that I now find myself in.

Every fall I wait in anticipation for the constant that tells me our lives are getting back to the usual routine. It generally happens on a Wednesday evening in mid-September. After school we scarf down a quickly prepared dinner (or drive-thru), then off to the Vineyard. The girl’s excited to start youth group and I…, well this year my routine has changed…

At the beginning of the summer I would have told you my constant would be there. You can count on me, I won’t say no. I even had one little girl ask me with a crooked toothed smile that lit up my heart, “Are you going to be in AWANA again this year.” My answer immediately, “Of course I am, I love AWANA, I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

As we pulled up this evening, watching the kiddos getting out of their cars, each dressed in their appropriate attire: blue vests for the cubbies, red vests for the Sparkies and green polos for the T&Ters, my heart broke. The reality of my decision began to sink in. I couldn’t bring myself to go to the side of the building where they were meeting. I had let something keep me from being there this year. Change…

My role in AWANA was the bible lesson teacher, technically called, T&T Director. Each week I’d get 40 minutes with the T&Ters (3rd-6th grade). 20 minutes I’d get to watch them: some would sing songs, raising their arms in worship, some would sit and giggle at the cute boy who walked in the room, then others would dance like no one but their Daddy God was watching. (I could have spent all night soaking this in.) We’d pray, then I’d share. For 20 minutes I’d get to talk to them about how much God loves them, how precious they are, and the unconditional presence of grace, love, and acceptance they have simply because God made them.

There is little in life that has filled me up more than a little girl giving me a hug after she shared that she wasn’t loved at home. Knowing that I was given the honor of loving her without condition; showing her that she was made priceless, no matter what the world said. There were so many times that I would leave that classroom overwhelmed by the presence of God’s sweet, intimate love for his children… for me.

Yet here I sit knowing my season of change has come. Realizing that the tearful email I sent declining my role as teacher, could not be taken back. Accepting the fact that someone else was in that very room, sharing with those precious, innocent hearts breaks mine in two…

And I sit on the other side of the building, knowing my season of change has come, that the tears that fall in mourning the passing of one season, fertilizes the soil of the one to come.

So I wait, embracing the tears, imploring the change…

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Second Steps

Sometimes the second step feels harder than the first.

Sitting down to write again this week, I found excuse after excuse to walk away. The tapes played even louder, new ones have been created; fear was becoming a close friend. Yet everywhere I turned, God’s sweet gentle, nudge was there. Though at times I felt more like I was being lead like a frightened horse into a darkened forest; my spirit longing to trust my master, my body rejecting the sights before me.

Where was I going? Why can’t I see the next step? Wouldn’t it just be easier to go around the forest to our final destination? Even as the questions came out my mouth, they were being replaced with new ones. Why would I want to abort this journey? Am I so afraid of being uncomfortable that I would choose to miss the priceless lessons that awaited me? What’s the point of a journey if in the end you end up empty?

I knew I had to write, to keep pushing forward, to keep my spirit and my soul alive.

Rumi put’s it painfully beautiful in this stanza:

            As little by little air steals water, so praise

            dries up and evaporates with foolish people

            who refuse to change.

Greater than my fear of failure, ridicule, rejection, success, and praise, is the fear of my praise drying up….

And so I rest with a new decree:

            Little by little, choosing to walk forward.

            Step by step, venturing on the path.

            Word by word, resolving to change

            Keeping my praise alive.

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Opening the Door

There are times in life when nothing suffices, where longings, desires, and passions, cannot be fulfilled by anything short of the execution of a yearning. That ever-present voice in the back of your head, whispering at times; shouting in others. Some of us push this longing aside, trying to drown out the noise with past voices. Playing our tapes louder: tapes of unworthiness, of fear; fear of failure, fear of success, fear of the unknown. Sometimes the noise chooses to briefly become a whisper, if only to allow for your own sanity. Yet, you know it’s there, patiently waiting for acknowledgement, for the slightest bit of hope, giving it permission to shout again, urging you onto fruition.

Throughout my life I’ve played that cycle. Opening the door to my heart, listening to the truth. Quickly shutting it when things got scary, unsure of what I was to do with this foreign thing. Leaving myself empty, I was left with the question of, ‘What if?’ What if I had the courage to pursue? What if I sat down and began to dream again? What if I finally opened that door and left it open? What if….

I’ve run across something today reminding me of my dream, in the words of a humble monk.

To be as good a monk as I can be, and to remain myself, and to write about it: to put myself down on paper, in such a situation, with the most complete simplicity and integrity, masking nothing, confusing no issue: this is very hard because I am all mixed up in illusions and attachments. These, too, will have to be put down. But without exaggeration, repetition, useless emphasis… it requires much honesty that is beyond my nature. It must come somehow from the Holy Spirit. A complete and holy transparency: living, praying and writing in the light of the Holy Spirit…

~ Thomas Merton

This is my dream, this is the beginning. Allowing myself to journey, to write, to walk forward not knowing how things will end; not really sure what to expect. Knowing to push it aside would once again be putting to death a part of me that thirsts for life, for freedom, for rest. Here I am trusting, watching as I open the door…

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