Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sabbath Rest

Rest. It is not only a blessing but a commandment--probably one of the most overlooked one in our culture. While the average Joe wouldn't dream of murder, condone adultery or consider a life of thievery, we easily overlook the command to "remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy".

In our busy world of 24/7 operations at work and at home, it is easy to lose track of the need (and the command) for rest. The church I attend offers services on Friday nights, Saturday nights and twice Sunday mornings, to accomodate our crazy schedules, making it virtually impossible to use the excuse, " I can't get to church." So, we get to church, but, do we rest--and what does it look like to "keep it holy"?
To be holy is to be set apart. To keep the sabbath holy is to have a time that is set apart from the daily hubub that is our lives. A time to sit back, rest from our labor, reflect on our lives and make sure we are enjoying the fruit of our labor as well as keeping our priorities intact. I struggle with the concept as I believe many of us do. But I am struck again with the thought that it's not just a good idea, it's one of the 10 commandments. God thought it important enough to include it in his top 10 things he considered not negotiable. This is not David Letterman, but, God. Perhaps we need to take this rest thing a little more seriously? Did I mention that God, Himself, rested on the seventh day? Who am I to think it's not necessary for me?
I don't know how to make this happen. I don't know that it has to be Sunday. I don't know that it needs to be the "letter of the law" or if it can be the "spirit of the law" to be right. I don't know how to get from overbooked to a life at rest. I don't think there are six simple rules to get there, but, I do think I need to get there. If I can't start with an entire day, I can surely start with an hour.
Maybe in that hour, I can determine how to stretch an hour into a morning, or an afternoon. Perhaps then, I will see more clearly the benefit and the blessing and can figure out how to make it work for an entire day. I don't know. I just know that it's a command, and I need to start somewhere. So here I am at the starting line, waiting for the gun to signal the race has begun. It's not the first time I've been here, but, you have to start to finish the race. So, I am ready to begin again to grasp the importance of this Sabbath rest deal.
Beginning again, and grateful for the grace that allows fresh starts.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

My Girl

It was the spring of 1979 and I was on board Amtrak’s train, The Capital Limited, en route from Washington, DC to Chicago. I had just endured a long week of training at the Xerox Training Center, in Leesburg, Virginia. It had been a challenging week with new co-workers from all over the country. We’d worked long hours and I was pretty overwhelmed with all the new knowledge I’d taken in, but excited to be on my way home to begin my new job as an Amtrak Sales Representative.

My co-worker and I had boarded the overnight train to Chicago, where we’d change trains to the Southwest Limited, continuing on to Los Angeles the next day. We’d been on the train a few hours and decided to meet in the dining room for dinner. The diner was full, so we were standing in a hallway, waiting for a table to open up, when the aroma of food cooking invaded my senses and an overwhelming wave of nausea engulfed me.

I made an immediate u-turn and bolted back to the sleeper car and my Roomette, as they were called in those days. I flung open the door, opened the toilet and immediately vomited into a stainless steel receptacle.

I knew, in that instant , that I was pregnant. I who hadn’t thrown up in over a decade, knew with certainty that this was not some 24 hour bug. I returned to the dining room with this amazing piece of knowledge in my head, ate a light dinner and returned to my room where I pulled down my bed and settled in for a night of dreams of the life to come.

We arrived in Chicago the next day and with a layover ahead, I headed to the Sears Tower, where I found a book store and purchased a book of names, which provided hours of reading between Chicago and Los Angeles. My mind was spinning in a million directions. I was excited. I was surprised. I was nervous. I anticipated telling Mike he was going to be a Daddy. There were no cell phones, and no way to share this life changing information with anyone that mattered. So, as Mary did, I treasured it in my heart, contemplating the knowledge that I was going to be a mother. Bliss.

My whole life, to that point, I dreamed of and planned on becoming a mother, ideally to five little ones. It was not negotiable. It was who I was. When I married a man who had two half-grown children, I thought for a while that they would fill that place in my heart. But the moment I knew that I had a baby growing in me, it was as if my most fervent dream had finally come true. I was going to have a baby to love and care for. My own. Flesh of my flesh.

That was a long time ago. And, 32 years ago, today, after nine months of relentless nausea, vomiting and anticipation, I gave birth to a 9 lb. 2 ½ oz. baby girl. My girl. Amanda Ann. She, with her transluscent skin and reddish hair, round face and rolls of flesh--could she be mine? I expected a sickly little thing, the result of my incessant throwing up. But, this was a specimen of health, a beautiful, “fluffy” baby girl, sucking her thumb contentedly in the delivery room.

The first night at home, her Dad was down with the flu. My mom had offered to come over to help, but, I declined, feeling confident that I could handle it. By 9 that evening I was on the phone in tears, unable to comfort her or stop her crying. My mom, the original baby whisperer, came to the rescue and helped us through that first night.

Within a week, our girl was sleeping through the night. But, that first week, I remember getting up alone in the wee hours one night, holding her in my arms. I was in our kitchen, leaning against the back door and holding her in my arms, overwhelmed with emotion and in awe of the love I felt for this little one who had done absolutely nothing to earn it. I realized in that moment what “Mother Love” was. And, in that moment, I also realized how much my own mother loved me.

Fast forward 32 years. Today, Amanda Ann Mandish is Amanda Ann Green, wife to Daniel, Mother to Ruby and a daughter loved beyond description. To say those 32 years flew by isn’t too far off base. To say that every year has been a blessing is dead on.

She has grown into a woman of excellence- a Proverbs 31 woman, in progress. She is a young woman who loves Jesus and works to serve Him in her daily life. She is a wife who honors her husband- he who knows she can be trusted and supports his dreams and plans for their family. She has a heart full of compassion and opens her hand to those in need…a friend who is concerned and also propelled to action. She is a loving and firm mother to the most beautiful child I know. She works hard and has created a beautiful home for her family. She exercises hospitality and looks for ways to stretch her resources. She is even learning to cook! She exudes a beauty that comes from not just a lovely appearance but an attitude that smiles at the future and works through the challenges of life.

She has been a blessing so great. As a young girl, I hoped to have five children, but, Amanda is my only child. I have often kiddingly remarked that, “when the first one is perfect, you can stop.” Reality is, that although I would have welcomed the blessing of more children, it just didn’t work out that way. Even so, there are no regrets. My girl--she erased all the possible regrets. I could not have asked for a better daughter, a sweeter spirit, a kinder, more loving girl to call my one and only.

Today she is my daughter and my friend. She is beautiful, inside and out. Today I celebrate her existence. Her kindness. Her generosity. Her heart. This grateful heart is full to the brim when I view you and the woman you have become. There are not enough words to express how blessed I am to be your mom. Happy Birthday to My Girl. I could not love you more.

“Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. “ Proverbs 31:30

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Surely, Shirley

Gratitude. It's flowing through me.

A part of my work day includes responding to folks who have inquired about the senior community I work in. Yesterday I was blessed to call a lovely woman named Shirley. Shirley, it turns out, is 61, and after a series of bad breaks, bad decisions and general bad luck, her home is in foreclosure. She and her daughter and two grandchildren, are now facing being uprooted to parts unknown. Her only income is Social Security. There is no house to sell, no pension to collect and no white knight heading in her direction. Even son, Shirley is not bemoaning her fate.

She is contemplating separation from her loved ones if they can't find an affordable place they all can fit into. In the first few seconds of our conversation, it became clear that she is not financially qualified to afford living in our community. So, I am adding to her list of unworkable options. Poor Shirley, right?

Wrong. Shirley lives in hope.

"Poor Shirley" wasted no time in lifting my spirits. She acknowledged that things look grim...admitted that she'd made some bad decisions in the past and that things hadn't turned out the way she'd hoped. But, she spoke with great conviction and a smile in her voice when she said, " I'm losing a home, but there is another home." She went on to tell me she knew it was going to be okay-that even if the Lord would allow this loss in her life, she was confident that He was going to carry them through it. He hope was not in a house or other earthly possessions, but, in God who promised to carry her through to her heavenly home. She went on to say that even if they were to lose everything she knew God was going to use the losses as stepping stones to get her to what He had next for her.

Surely, Shirley is walking the walk of faith. Not the talk, but the real deal. In the midst of potentially losing all her earthly possessions, she stands firm in the confidence that He will neither leave or forsake her. She believes firmly in the promise of Romans 8:28, that He will work it out for her benefit in the end.

I don't know exactly what the future holds for Shirley and her family. But, I do know that when we come before our Father in gratitude, not bemoaning our losses but looking expectantly to Him for what He will do, we can wait in expectation, knowing it will be good. When I hung up the phone, I was humbled, knowing I don't always live that way, nor do I reflect it nearly as clearly as Shirley did, in a simple phone conversation with a complete stranger.

Shirley lifted my spirit and also reduced me to tears. When I consider my petty grievances; at work, at home, in my community-- they are so small. And bemoaning them makes me small. I have a home. I have a family. I have a Savior. And yet, sometimes I live as if I am a pauper, never taking hold of the great riches I have in Him and His promises.

Surely, Shirley gets it. There is another home. The rest is gravy.