Strength and Dignity

Words of Dignity – blog

Another Day in Paradise!

I’ve had the joy of visiting Hawaii on two occasions. The first occasion, was to mark 10 years of wedded bliss to my man! We enjoyed a full week of relaxing, without obligations in one the most beautiful expressions of God’s creation. Hawaii is nothing less than paradise on earth.

Carrying that memory with me; 10 more years passed and brought with them 3 more children. Once again, we had another opportunity to visit Hawaii. This opportunity presented itself in a much different package of heading to the big island with our whole bunch. Our bunch including my man and 6 children ages: 18, 16, 15, 11, 10 and 9.

At the time, our bunch included 10-year-old Maggie who was recovering from an invasive procedure to restore mobility to her legs. She needed a walker to get around, and was unable to walk for long periods of time. 9-year-old, Libi is profoundly handicapped. She is nonverbal, and also non-ambulatory, requiring care similar to that of an infant.

I realize, many are likely to ask why we would consider a trip such as this. Let me remind you, visions of “10-year anniversary Hawaii” danced in my head! If I were going back to Hawaii anytime soon, it would not just be with my man but toting along some of our bunch! Due to the needs of our girls, it would be next to impossible to leave them for an entire week.

So, with my unrealistic expectations set, I packed up my hot pink strapless swimsuit, and several darling floral sundresses and the 8 of us were headed to Hawaii. Ignorance is bliss, and that’s just where I was. Completely ignorant.

Reality began to quickly set in though upon our arrival to the airport. I found myself in a full on sweat without a spot of real estate left upon my body to carry or hang one more bag or child! I kept reminding myself that it would all be worth it once we were at our destination; in paradise. Are you smiling? You should be.

Our first outing together in Hawaii came after a long process of gathering up the necessary items. Diapers, wipes, medications, water bottles, fans, sunscreen, snacks, hats, towels, and extra clothes…the list goes on. We loaded up in the mini van and headed to our destination. I found myself sandwiched between my 3 girls on the back bench seat, with my man all the way in the front. Occasionally, I would catch a glimpse of him in the rearview mirror, but not long enough to gaze by any means! This was definitely a far cry from our hand holding, leisurely drives we had taken 10 years prior in paradise.

The next afternoon in paradise, I decided to rent a raft and take the kids down to the beach just outside our hotel. My man was at a conference, but I’m a strong mama, and not much stops me, so I packed up the necessary items for our beach party and headed out. I had my boys to help get us down to the beach. We were set. 2 boys carried, 2 sisters down to the shoreline to board the raft. Up till this point the process had not been easy by any means, but once again, I convinced myself that once we set sail, it would all be worth it!

The first 15 minutes of our rafting adventure was peaceful and uneventful. The boys, who had been off swimming, decided they were ready for a turn on the raft. We made a quick plan, I would get Libi, the 40 lb. baby, carry her to the shore, and the boys would assist Maggie. However, we quickly encountered a problem. We found ourselves a bit too close to shore. Waves, with great force and speed, began to carry us away from the boys, pulling us into their grasp. Maggie, unable to swim or walk, was terrified and screaming. With one arm under Maggie, and one grasping Libi, I gave everything I had to keep them above the water and drag us to shore. Meanwhile, the raft has disappeared. Yes, those teenage boys were a bit focused on their own rafting adventure and neglected to see that their mother was drowning with their 2 disabled sisters! Eventually I reached the shore, completely waterlogged, with every possible crevice embedded with sand. I staggered to my feet, with my crying babies, only to realize I’m completely exposed and entertaining an entourage of dads sitting in their beach chairs!

Remember those visions of “10-year anniversary Hawaii” that danced in my head when I packed my suitcase. The hot pink, strapless swimsuit was not the most practical. There I was, in all my hot pink cuteness with one boob in and one boob hanging out. My backside was not in any better shape.

In my absolute disgust and humiliation, I looked directly at the row of dads, not even bothering to make any adjustments and simply said, “A little help would have been nice.”

Back in the hotel room with the girls, sand-caked and disenchanted the tears began to fall.

disenchanted – no longer happy or satisfied with something

I was for sure no longer happy to be in Hawaii, I was no longer satisfied with what this trip had become. The reason for this lack of joy, and dissatisfaction was not the circumstance I was in, but the perspective and expectation I carried heading into it.

Have you ever been there?

We never expect to find ourselves in a place of unmet expectations. Most of the time, we don’t realize we’ve even set an expectation, yet the symptoms can help us arrive at a quick diagnosis

• Critical Spirit / Judgmental
• Disappointed
• Irritable / Angry / Hostile
• Ungrateful
• Negative
• Stressed
• Bitter / Unforgiving

There our heart is, completely exposed, much like myself on the shore that day in Hawaii. Believe me, the enemy is waiting for those moments of unmet expectation. He will quickly swoop in and fuel them with fire that is deadly to our soul.

I find myself in this place…more often than I’d like. David also found himself in such a place and speaks to it in Psalm 42.

Why am I discouraged?
Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise him again—
my Savior and my God!
(Psalm 42:5&11) HCSB

Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul?
Why are you crying the blues?
Fix my eyes on God—
soon I’ll be praising again.
He puts a smile on my face.
He’s my God.
(Psalm 42:5&11) MSG

Do you see when the shift occurs in David’s heart? David places his eyes on God, taking them off of anything or anyone that could deliver disappointment, placing his hope and trust in God.

God says in Isaiah 49:23:

“I am the Lord, those who hope in me will not be disappointed. “

I desire to walk free of expectations that will leave me disappointed. May we seek to expect that God is faithful, trustworthy and true. Holding on to the expectation that one day He will deliver us to our ETERNAL PARADISE, that will not disappoint!

some days and moments may be more difficult than others…

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place your expectation in Him…

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(the last day of our trip…)

I was not disappointed!

finding the “WANT TO”

Do you ever find yourself in a place lacking the “WANT TO”? Struggling to find the desire to do what maybe needs to be done, should be done, or maybe must be done? Yet, there you find yourself, arms crossed, tapping your foot in full stubborn toddler mode, declaring,

“I don’t want to!”

Just a bit ago I was wrestling with my own “WANT TO” moment. I was sitting at the park and suddenly I needed to tinkle. I had few options, one being the dreaded outhouse. Once I succumbed to the necessary action, I entered into this less than desirable facility to take care of my business. I kept telling myself “Don’t breathe. Don’t look. Tinkle and get out.”

Now, sitting at my park bench, on the other side of my outhouse dilemma, I’m thinking, that wasn’t so bad. Why do I feel that way now? Really, in about 30 minutes my Starbucks Refresher will be beckoning that I return to the dreaded outhouse, and once again, I will be gearing up to find the “WANT TO”.

Finding the “WANT TO” can come in both small and large packages. It can be the child who needs extra grace, the spouse we are called to respect, the relationship calling for great humility, and the list goes on.

I recall a place of a lacking “WANT TO” that was one of those large package ones. God had gifted me with an incredibly precious 7-year-old girl as my daughter by way of adoption. The first time we met did not go as I had anticipated. You see, she surprisingly did not run into my arms at the civil affairs office in Zhengzhou, China and express her deep gratitude that she had a mother to love her forever. What did take place however was a significant wall of rejection that tore my heart in two. It was pain unlike any I had ever experienced, and it took me 3 years to recover. Over the course of those 3 years, I had to wake up every day and look for the “WANT TO”. Looking for the desire to be with this gift of sunshine. Quickly, after our arrival home she had welcomed me into her heart, yet I found myself searching for how to welcome her into mine.

This “WANT TO” obviously did not happen over night. It was a fight, giving absolutely everything to move closer to victory, making every effort, in every moment to uncross my arms and stretch them out with open hands to a God who was completely capable of giving me the “WANT TO”. I just had to take the first step of surrender.

I’m not sure how this might resonate with your heart. Maybe you’ve been in a place such as this, simply not wanting to, but knowing you have to or need to. Actually, maybe you find yourself in this place now. Look at what Peter says in 2 Peter 1:3-11 (HCSB)

3 His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. 4 By these He has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in the world because of evil desires. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge, 6 knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with godliness, 7 godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they will keep you from being useless or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 The person who lacks these things is blind and shortsighted and has forgotten the cleansing from his past sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, make every effort to confirm your calling and election, because if you do these things you will never stumble. 11 For in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be richly supplied to you.

Do you see that? God has already given us what we need for the “WANT TO”, but we need to make the effort. It’s there that we find the key. It’s work. It’s what Jesus did for us, giving it up in the Garden of Gethsemane, surrendering to a greater glory that brought us the gift of eternal life.

(Matthew 26:36-38) Then Jesus went with them to a garden called Gethsemane and told his disciples, “Stay here while I go over there and pray.” Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he plunged into an agonizing sorrow. Then he said, “This sorrow is crushing my life out. Stay here and keep vigil with me.”
39 Going a little ahead, he fell on his face, praying, “My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what do you want?”

Then we all know what happened next…
Jesus found the “WANT TO” in the strength of Almighty God, and it carried Him to the greatest sacrifice of all time, the cross.

and YES!…Found my “WANT TO” with this most amazing gift of sunshine to my life!!

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Not by the hair of my chiny, chin chin

As we grow older, or as I like to say…grow more mature, we change. Some changes that occur in the maturing process allow us to maintain a sense of control. Yet, some are just beyond our control. Despite our best efforts, we soon realize it’s a lost cause.

Not all that long ago I was in the company of a beautiful, more mature woman, and this thought occurred to me:

“I wonder when you quit caring about the hair on your chin.”

It appeared this more mature woman had given up the fight.

Was it due to the fact she sincerely didn’t care that a sparse beard had sprung itself lose upon her chin, or could her “more mature” eyesight not recognize its presence?

Facial hair. If you haven’t had the experience yet, you will. One day, you will glance in the mirror, and find yourself doing a double take; catching a glimpse of something that hadn’t been there before. Some of us would dare say it had not been present an hour ago! But, there it will be, literally staring you in the face. Suddenly, you have grown one wiry, coarse, dark hair to stand all on it’s own, upon your chin.

Believe me, I speak the truth when I say these hairs begin to sprout, gaining length and a strength unlike any other hair on your body. They become long and fully locked in. You may be surprised by the difficulty to uproot this newfound little treasure that’s anchored itself upon your chin.

Eventually, you will find success in your endeavor to pluck that unwanted hair. You will feel sweet relief that the horror of chin hair is behind you, but all too quickly you will once again be doing the chin hair dance. Because once it starts, it never ends, unless you surrender to it.

That brings me back to the question. (Finally, right)

When do you surrender? When do you just not care that you have chin hair? My thinking has been, that I will never, I mean NEVER allow these hairs to take up residence upon my face without a fight.

However, recently I was in the investigative process of my face with my 100x magnification bathroom mirror, I was struggling to see clearly. As I squinted and contorted my face to gain clarity, I was soon asking: Is that a hair on my chin? Am I missing some? Has anyone else seen this?

Maturing is not just bringing me unwanted hair growth; it is also affecting my vision. I glance at my face, and sometimes miss what is really there.

So even if I say,

I will not EVER have visible hair growing on my chin…NOT BY THE HAIR OF MY CHINY CHIN CHIN. Unless I continue to examine my countenance with intent I am going to miss one, or two, or Heaven help…THREE!

(Yes, I am going to bring chin hair back to Jesus, because somehow, it all eventually comes back to Jesus.)

Look at what James says:

James 1:22-25

22 Be doers of the word, and not hearers only. Otherwise, you are deceiving yourselves. 23For anyone who hears the word but does not carry it out is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror, 24and after observing himself goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom, and continues to do so—not being a forgetful hearer, but an effective doer—he will be blessed in what he does.

We should all want to be beard free in our spiritual countenance. Get it?

The Holy Spirit is like a mirror to our spiritual soul. He’s the revealer of what needs to change in us to be more like Jesus. So often we take a glance into the Holy Spirit mirror by way of a message on Sunday, or a quick read of the Word, and move on. We forget what was revealed, or so often, don’t meditate on what was revealed to us in the presence of the REVEALER of all mysteries, God. Leaving us with unwanted chin hair.

Looking into the perfect law of freedom, which is God’s Word…studying, meditating, reveals what needs to look different about us. This allows for us to be molded more into the image of His Son, Jesus.

Are you pressing into the Word, entering into the presence of God? If not, you might have a pretty good beard going. That’s not attractive. Serious. We should be like magnets to others we encounter. Revealing a beautiful love of Jesus that is beyond any they have experienced.

Look at this passage from 2 Corinthians 2 to ponder:

14 But thanks be to God, who always puts us on display[d] in Christ and through us spreads the aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. 15 For to God we are the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 16 To some we are an aroma of death leading to death, but to others, an aroma of life leading to life. And who is competent for this? 17 For we are not like the many who market God’s message for profit. On the contrary, we speak with sincerity in Christ, as from God and before God.

(This is also a prelude to next weeks post!)

My challenge to you… when His Word speaks, allow it to reveal, moving you to action, removing that chin hair revelation of the Spirit! Walking away from the mirror, looking more like Jesus, to a world that so desperately needs to encounter Him face to face!

Then we can go on living as Christ Followers who declare…not by the hair of our chiny, chin chins!

Becoming

My first recollection on the journey of becoming a woman takes me back to, Christmas Eve 1983. I was 11 years old and blessed to grow up as the only girl in both my immediate and extended family. My hubby may not agree this was a blessing, as it resulted in much feminine spoiling over those growing up years that he’s still trying to undo.

On this particular Christmas Eve, in 1983, I was “developing”, and needed to “harness” these developments with a new addition to my wardrobe. Yes, you guessed it, the infamous FIRST BRA. My mother, I’m sure not thinking things all the way through, thought it would be a wonderful idea to wrap up my FIRST BRA in a ginormous box. The box chosen had held an Atari console the previous Christmas. (For my readers who are unaware of Atari; it was the X-box 360 of the 80’s.) Moving on, this Atari box measured approximately 30″ x 20″, give or take.

Of course, being excited at the size and prospect of this gift, I saved it for last.

There I was, at the fragile age of 11, surrounded by: my brother, 4 boy cousins, uncle, aunt, grandparents and parents. I tore into that huge box! Lifting the box my anticipation grew, and I shook out the prize. Much to my horror, there on the floor laid my very tiny, very FIRST BRA!

Can you imagine this scene? Then, as if that evenings festivities of giggles and humiliation hadn’t been enough! Christmas Day arrived, only to find me ushered into my grandma’s house, whisked back to her bedroom to show my aunt and grandma the fit of my new article of clothing.

My mom and I have often laughed about this occasion, remarkably I have forgiven her. The truth is that, my mom, aunt, and grandma realized this was a marker moment in my becoming a woman, and warranted cause for celebration.

The celebration of my becoming a woman moment caught me by surprise. It didn’t come in a package that I would have chosen; yet it was still cause for celebration. It was part of my becoming who God had intended me to be.

Is there something in your world that has arrived in a package that you aren’t too thrilled about? Just as I needed the bra for whom I was becoming; we often need what is delivered. We may relish how it arrives, but yet it is necessary for whom we will become.

What is that thing for you today?

*loss of relationship?

*child leaving the nest?

*an illness/diagnosis

*rejection?

* hard friend/ marriage?

*difficult child?

The list is unending, but I challenge you to think about what you might add. Don’t focus on the delivery, let go of what your wants and expectations and hold on to what you will become as a result. This is what Jesus did and became for us … our Salvation… our Cornerstone!

 

Psalm 118:21-23(ESV)

21 I thank you that you have answered me

and have become my salvation.

 

22 The stone that the builders rejected

has become the cornerstone.

 

23 This is the Lord’s doing;

    it is marvelous in our eyes.

 

Celebrate the becoming!

Photo on 8-17-16 at 1.10 PM