Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sometimes a Red Light Means Turn Right

--

The hands of the clock were giving their best impression of fan blades as I tried to get She So Sweet to her new school on time. Instead of taking the much faster freeway route, a little trouble with my tires had (for safety's sake) forced us to go through town where it meant navigating about a million (give or take a few) stoplights and the erratic traffic patterns that go with them. I was praying for green lights (I'm sure my girl was too), and things were going along reasonably well despite that still-ticking clock. We had hit 3 or 4 green lights in a row (clearly divine intervention!) when, less than two miles from the school, a car in front of us slowed our roll to about half-speed, and you guessed it, we inevitably hit a red light.

Groan.

The clock seems to spin twice as fast when you have to sit still at a light.

A split second before I was really about to come unglued, my mental GPS kicked in and I thought about the intersection where I was sitting. With sudden inspiration and without hesitation, I turned right. She So Sweet gave me a quizzical look, to which I replied, "Watch," and proceeded eagerly, without hindrance, to our destination in about half the time it would have taken if I had stayed on my original course. She So Sweet was duly impressed and dashed into her teacher meeting with a big smile and minutes to spare!

As I drove away, now with the ridiculously relieved giddiness of having no further deadline to meet, I thought about that red light. Red lights mean STOP. It's one of the first things we learned as young children, and it's true. But sometimes a red light means stop . . . and turn right. Sometimes what looks like a hindrance is a divinely serendipitous redirection--otherwise known as Providence! That one, apparently inopportune, completely unwelcome red light at exactly the right intersection had just eliminated 4 lights, 3 tenths of a mile, and probably at least 5 minutes off of a trip where every second counted.

How easy it would have been to sit at that red light seething inside about Murphy's Law and the inconsiderate driver who had slowed me down and made me hit the red light in the first place! How easy it would have been to feed the grumpy attitude that was bubbling up in me like a foul brew in a witch's cauldron. How easy it would have been to miss the opportunity to see a different route, a better route! How easy it would have been to miss the gift, yes, the gift of the red light when I thought I needed a green one.

I think too much of you, my dear readers, to oversimplify and make it seem that every proverbial red light we hit is going to work out so neatly and obviously for the good. But I do want you to see an example of how our initial impressions of the red light may stop us short of the truth. Maybe the stop at the red light is just an opportunity for God to inspire you with a right hand turn that quickly or over a long time will prove to be a better route. I pray that you will be aware of God showing up in your traffic patterns this week and that His loving, providential care will be very obvious to you in all your coming and going.

"I will teach you wisdom’s ways
and lead you in straight paths. 
When you walk, you won’t be held back;
when you run, you won’t stumble."
Proverbs 4:11-12 NLT



Has God surprised you with a better route lately? Tell me about it!
________________________________

Joining Ann Voskamp in counting His graces for her Multitudes on Monday
I hope you'll join in if you haven't already!
In the counting of the endless gifts I say with C. S. Lewis,
"This also is Thou!"


Counting my next 1000 Gifts, joining Ann in The Joy Dare--like a scavenger hunt for graces, gifts and glory!! Wanna come along?  I dare ya!!

The continuing JOY DARE: 
#1148-1168 (February 19th-25th)

19. 3 gifts that were 'Plan B's'
       University of Phoenix instead of community college
       Mommy's longer than expected stay in the hospital that works to her benefit (Home on Tuesday!!)
       Countless adjustments in our plans to accommodate schedule changes, basketball games and dream fulfillment
20. a gift at breakfast--Craisins
       a gift at lunch--the delicious Indian food made by Hero Husband
       a gift at dinner--time with Hero Husband, eating baked potatoes while watching The Voice
21. 3 gifts white
       paper that cradles words
       snow in other people's pictures, since I don't have any here
       fruit blossom petals falling like snow in a spring-y wind
22. 3 gifts that changed today
       starting the Book of Proverbs--oh to gain wisdom!
       our fun friend Dianne back at Peet's--we enjoyed our visit!
       voice mail from Mommy to let me know their package arrived
23. a gift of tin--garbanzo beans for my homemade hummus
       a gift of glass--windows that let me see out
       a gift of wood--the cross my little brother made that hangs (when I'm not wearing it) right beside my computer where I can see it
24. 3 gifts before 11 AM
       a little bit of needed extra sleep on a weekday morning
       phone conversation with Mommy & Daddy--always so much fun
       time at home to bring some order to the laundry
25. a gift nearly worn out--the old pillowcase that serves as my favorite pressing cloth, holes and all
       a gift new--special tape for my knee that really helps  
       a gift made-do--the glasses I wear, the ones with the frames that are showing signs of wear and tear, the ones that bring me a measure of clarity

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A heartfelt thank you to these generous bloggers
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Monday, February 20, 2012

Make Me a Drop That Sparkles

--
 "Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise."

So go the first lines of one of my favorite hymns. It rightly characterizes my Heavenly Father as the "Fount of every blessing."


A fountain . . . a constant, gushing, rushing flow of water under enough pressure to launch it high into the air, making the beautiful arcing patterns we so enjoy watching. What is known, but isn't so easily noticed, is that the flow of a fountain is made up of millions of individual drops, all directed by the design of the fountain.

Blessing. I like blessings! Blessings never ceasing? Yes, please! I am so conditioned by my very BLESSED Western culture, and by the desires of my own flesh, to want a constant, gushing, rushing flow of blessings. Whether they be spiritual, physical, financial, emotional, personal, I love to be in a state of obvious blessing. Sometimes, when challenges come, like during the last several years of personal and national recession, I can be tempted to FEEL that the flow has been interrupted, that maybe something is wrong on the Fountain end of things.


NOT SO! C. S. Lewis, in the letter from which Up the Sunbeam got its name, talked about some of the things that can prevent us from noticing and properly experiencing God in the blessings He gives, both great and small. He points to "inattention" as one obstacle, and describes another obstacle as our tendency to enjoy the blessing but to "ignore the smell of Deity that hangs about it." He goes on to say, "A third obstacle is greed. Instead of saying 'This also is Thou,' one may say the fatal word Encore"  (Lewis, 1973).
 
OUCH!! Shame on my greedy self! A fatal word indeed. The flow is NOT interrupted. There is NOTHING wrong with the Fountain! He has just shifted my perspective so I can notice His blessings drop by drop. When I notice each blessing and rightly inhale the scent of Divine love it brings to my senses, then my heart, like the hymn says, is tuned to grace, and I am compelled to sing "songs of loudest praise."



"As they make music they will sing, 'All my fountains are in You.'"
Psalm 87:7 NIV




Not only do I desperately need to notice each individual drop of blessing like a tiny liquid diamond, perfect and astounding in its own right, but I need to be more concerned with BEING a blessing than getting one. If God is this Fountain of Blessings, then the people of God must also be part of the motion of His blessing, flowing at the direction of the Fountain Himself.

I am reminded of one of my all-time favorite scenes and movie quotes, from the 1967 production of the Lerner and
 Leowe musical, Camelot. In the final scene, King Arthur, devastated at what appears to be the death of Camelot and his dreams with it, faces a battle he doesn't want to fight. Moments before dawn when the battle will surely begin, a young boy emerges from the fog who wants to fight at his side--he still believes in Camelot! Arthur, with his hope renewed, knights the lad, but tells him he must fight for Camelot in a different way; he tells him to go back to his home and tell people about Camelot, to keep the dream alive wherever he goes. As the boy runs to do the King's bidding, Arthur's friend, aging King Pellinore asks, "Who was that?" Arthur replies, "One of what we all are, Pelli--less than a drop in the great blue motion of the sunlit sea, but it seems some of the drops sparkle, Pelli! Some of them do sparkle!" (Warner & Logan, 1967).

I too have a message, given to me not by King Arthur, but by the King of Kings, and His is not a dying dream but a living one. He has commissioned me to take it wherever I go--to bless the world with His love. Father, let me sparkle for You and Your Kingdom! Let me be more passionate about being a blessing than about getting one! Remove the word "encore" from my spiritual vocabulary and replace it with "This also is Thou." Help me to know You as the "Fount of every blessing" and consistently sing with songs of loudest praise,



"All my fountains are in You!"

Warner, J. L. (producer) & Logan, J. (director). (1967). Camelot [motion picture]. USA: Warner Brothers/Seven Arts.
Lewis, C. S. (1973). Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer. London: Harcourt, Inc..

I beg your understanding for this edited post from the archives--I pray it is a blessing to someone!
________________________________

Joining Ann Voskamp in counting His graces for her Multitudes on Monday
I hope you'll join in if you haven't already!
In the counting of the endless gifts I say with C. S. Lewis,
"This also is Thou!"
Counting my next 1000 Gifts, joining Ann in The Joy Dare--like a scavenger hunt for graces, gifts and glory!! Wanna come along?  I dare ya!!

The continuing JOY DARE: 
#1127-1147 (February 12th-18th)

12.  3 hard eucharisteos
∙ knowing Mommy needs surgery to repair her neck (on Valentine's Day no less!)--so thankful for the team of doctors, nurses and therapists, AND all the people praying who are moving heaven and earth to help her heal
∙ being 1200 miles away (VERY hard eucharisteo)
∙ waiting
13.  3 gifts found behind a door today
∙ our treadmill that gives me a way to walk without having to be out in the wind and rain
∙ phone call from Mommy, eager and raring to go, letting me know her surgery is at 8:00 in the morning--an answer to prayer so she doesn't have all day to wait around!
∙ She So Sweet's charitable cookies and Drummer Boy's amazing music
14.  3 ways you feel the love of God
∙ my family gathered in our dining room to pray, and so many people praying for our whole family during Mommy's surgery today
∙ sweet Kathy, pastor's wife and dear friend, who went to sit with Daddy while he waited
∙ GETTING WORD THAT THE SURGERY WENT WELL, and her pain is dramatically reduced!
15.  a gift in losing something--the grey cloud that hung over my head until I got that package in the mail
        a gift in finding something--a pair of open tables at Peet's (not always easy to come by!)
        a gift in making something--time for each other
16.  3 gifts in shadows
∙ rising from the shadow of our beloved old Mervyn's store, the shiny new Safeway store where Drummer Boy is a proud Starbucks barista (not to mention free food and big discounts at the Grand Opening!)
∙ when the shadow of disappointing news moved in (finding out we had to buy our new tires immediately because of two that are irreparable), the sun came back out when I got to meet a bull rider--so fun! I'm making this a two-fer because I also have the most wonderful husband who did not hesitate to do what was necessary to put sound "shoes" on my Dream Car!
∙ my computer, the light that keeps shadows at bay in my dining room at midnight--my online classroom
17.  3 gifts found giving/serving
∙ playing taxi-driver mom and getting all that time in the car to hang out with my kids (and their friends)
∙ the sweet fragrance of the cinnamon-dusted apple slices I made for She So Sweet's French class
∙ learning the practical dynamics of team-building in school--every team member gives their effort and expertise, and we all serve one another which is fascinating when we've never met except on the phone, we're spread across three time zones and are all pursuing different degrees!
18.  3 gifts on paper
∙ Hero Husband's paycheck stubs--it wasn't long ago we didn't get to have them--Thank You Father for how hard he works to earn them to provide for us
∙ highlighter ink and scrawled notes throughout the pages of my Bible
∙ instructions that help me know what to do and how to do it

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A heartfelt thank you to these generous bloggers
who make these communities available!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Embarrassed?

--
I arrived in the smaller of the two gyms at my daughter's high school. Thin rubber mats covered the surface of the floor to protect it from the scratchy feet of the long tables that marched in long rows stretching nearly from wall to wall. In this room and several other locations in the school, 700 sophomores were about to file in, pencils and minds at the ready. A couple of other moms and I were there as parent volunteers to help oversee the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE).

The kids were in a 10 minute morning break between classes and we volunteers took the opportunity to get acquainted. We told our kids' names and ages, talked about how long we'd been at this school, and inquired as to whether any of us had done this before--routine parent volunteer small talk. Just then another mom came in, peering inside to make sure she was in the right place. We assured her she was, and I couldn't help noticing a slight sadness, the almost apologetic expression she wore.

She explained that she hadn't been sure where the Small Gym was and with the halls teeming with the 2800 students hurrying to lockers and 2nd period classes, it had been a challenge to find us. She said, "I passed my daughter in the hall, but I didn't ask her or even speak to her--I didn't want to embarrass her." Her eyes looked down and away as she said it. "I saw one of her friends and asked her for directions, so I finally found you."

Just then the doors were opened and the administrators let the students in and I didn't have a chance to say anything . . . I'm not even sure what I would have said or wanted to say, but I just felt so sorry for her. Clearly she cared deeply about her daughter and was a loving mom. She was living out her love for her daughter, but somehow she thought her daughter was ashamed of her, or would be embarrassed to be seen with her, so she passed her daughter in the hall without speaking, a little sadder for it . . . maybe a lot sadder.

I couldn't help thinking about the relationship I enjoy with my own kids and how at every age and right up to this day (at almost 21 and 16), both of them would be more inclined to tackle me (or their daddy) in a bear hug in front of all their friends, and then would proceed to introduce me to all of them! They would have been deeply wounded had I tried to pass by them without speaking. I also thought back to how much I loved having my daddy for a teacher and how proud I was to be his daughter, and how cool it was to see him in the halls and to be able to give, and get, a hug from him in the middle of the school day . . . in front of all my friends who wished they had a dad as awesome as mine!


When I told my own almost 16 year old daughter about this, I thought her response was so insightful--she said, "I'd tell that mom to go ahead and embarrass her daughter!" While there is a certain amount of healthy pushing away our children must do to become themselves, we should not take that as a reason to pull away from them. If anything, they need us to stay even closer, not in a hovering, smothering way, but in an I'm-not-going-ANYWHERE way that makes them feel secure and loved through every minute of their growing up, even while we're gradually, appropriately, necessarily letting go.


As so many parenting moments do, this little vignette I observed made me think of our Heavenly Father and how we relate to Him as His children. Seeing this woman's sadness over her keenly felt distance from her daughter, it made me wonder how God feels when His children act ashamed of Him in front of their friends. Are we ever embarrassed to be seen with Him, or do we walk with Him unashamed, excited to introduce our friends to Him? Would we tackle Him in a joyous bear hug if He walked through the halls of our school or workplace?
"If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels." Luke 9:26 NIV1984
These are sobering words from Jesus . . . words I never want to test. I think I'll take a bear hug instead!
How about you?


What is your favorite way to stay close to your kids (even if they're pushing you away)?
How would you like your life to make God feel?
________________________________
Speaking of mothers and daughters and our Heavenly Father, my awesome mother is going in for surgery on Tuesday morning to correct some problems in her neck. May I ask for your prayers for her, for her wonderful team of doctors and nurses, and for my daddy as they all work toward getting her well? You have my very humble thanks--it's hard for this daughter to be so far away and your prayers feel like one way I can close the 1200 miles between us. Thank you.
UPDATE: Just got word that her surgery is all done and that it went very well! Continuing to pray for a smooth and complete recovery!
Thank you so much for your prayers!
________________________________

Joining Ann Voskamp in counting His graces for her Multitudes on Monday
I hope you'll join in if you haven't already!
In the counting of the endless gifts I say with C. S. Lewis,
"This also is Thou!"
Counting my next 1000 Gifts, joining Ann in The Joy Dare--like a scavenger hunt for graces, gifts and glory!! Wanna come along?  I dare ya!!

The continuing JOY DARE: 
#1106-1126 (February 5th-11th)

5. one gift stitched--a football (Super Bowl Sunday!!)
    one gift hammered--cymbals played in worship by Drummer Boy
    one gift woven--our hearts, together, watching the game, cheering and celebrating the win!
6. 3 gifts found outside
    peach and purple sunrise
    oranges the size of grapefruit to pick . . . and eat . . . slurp!
    wise old moon winking through gathering storm clouds
7. 3 gifts red
    my dream car that I get to drive every day
    delicious red bell pepper
    apples, Braeburn and Jonagold
8. a gift broken--my left knee (not actually broken, but certainly not a happy knee-a gift nonetheless)
     a gift fixed--dishwasher working like it should again after running a little CLR through it
     a gift thrifted--Drummer Boy's 1980's karaoke machine from the Goodwill store that he thinks is a better guitar amp than the one he has and with which he is going to rescue my old cassette tapes!
9. 3 gifts that were surprises--unexpected grace
      the child-hearted fun of stepping on the gas through a big puddle just to make a huge splash!
      help for my knee
      unexpectedly getting a day at home that I desperately needed!
10. 3 times you heard laughter today
      4:15 AM and Hero Husband getting a good laugh out of Drummer Boy's understandable disorientation at having to get up for work so early
     Tickling battles with She So Sweet
     Drummer Boy in unbridled joy at finally having the majority of his gear for his recording studio!
11. 3 gifts found in working
      teamwork
      checking accomplishments off on the to do list
      built in exercise

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A heartfelt thank you to these generous bloggers
who make these communities available!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Finding My Rhythm in a Season of Beginnings

--

I've been having a hard time finding my rhythm. That isn't really new. In fact, I think I say that at the beginning of every school year, the beginning of every summer, the beginning of every new season.

Motherhood in particular, and life in general, both seem to be characterized by irregular time signatures, and I frequently scramble to adjust to those odd beats. Above and beyond the usual oddities, new things are swirling all over my schedule these days and the tempo has moved up a few notches on the metronome. This has the effect of putting me in a mild state of panic when something unexpected happens. I've just found the beat . . . okay, there it is, I can do this. I'm concentrating like crazy to stay on it now that I've found it, and then, out of the blue, someone throws in an impromptu stop, or points at me for a solo, or the time signature changes without warning and I'm afraid the whole audience will hear me missing beats and flubbing my part until I make the adjustment, IF I'm good enough to make the adjustment that is. (Maybe Drummer Boy can help me sort it out. He does this all the time like it's nothing--he can even twirl his sticks in the process!)

This time of change for me is all a little thrilling and terrifying, and sometimes just downright funny. The trick is to notice the humor in the moments when I'm flailing--I'm not always so good at that. I don't like to feel out of sync. I don't like to feel like I'm back on my heels. I don't like thinking about what the critics might say ("The band was amazing, all except for the drummer who couldn't find a rhythm to save her life! GET A NEW DRUMMER!")

From one day to the next, sometimes from one hour to the next, I don't know what my time will look like. Even when I think I know, there is always the potential for the unexpected. Seasons like this-- when the rhythm is hard to find-- are wonderful for developing our flexibility, and the ability to trust our Band Leader. He is never thrown by the funny rhythms of our lives and He always knows how to make it all into music, even when we lose our place and get off the beat.

"For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven."
Ecclesiastes 3:1 NLT

Father, please fill me with Your calm assurance, and provide me with the skill required for the rhythms I need to play in these wonderful and challenging days, in this very special season. Please take my faltering and somehow make music out of it all as only You can do!


Do you ever feel caught off-guard by life's funny rhythms?

P.S. While I adjust to all the newness of being back in school and new work and school schedules for both my kids, I ask your patience with any inconsistencies on my part in posting. I pray that I will settle in before long and will be able to stay on track with my blog publishing schedule, but if I don't post as regularly as I aspire to do, please bear with me. Thank you so much for being here!
________________________________

Joining Ann Voskamp in counting His graces for her Multitudes on Monday
I hope you'll join in if you haven't already!
In the counting of the endless gifts I say with C. S. Lewis,
"This also is Thou!"
Counting my next 1000 Gifts, joining Ann in The Joy Dare--like a scavenger hunt for graces, gifts and glory!! Wanna come along? I dare ya!!

The continuing JOY DARE: 
#1085-1105 (January 29th through February 4th)

29. a song heard--"Water Tower Town" by Scotty McCreery--yeah, I'm from one of those!
       a soft word--"Thanks Mom."
       where you saw light--our shed, all cleaned out, light shining deep inside
30. 3 old things seen new
       heirlooms that are on the wall every day, but whose stories She So Sweet had not heard
       cassette tape of an old performance with an old friend, and reconnecting--JOY!
       the framed piece of my high school gym floor that fills me with precious memories
31. a gift found on a paper-- wonderful thoughts on writing by Max Lucado, sent to me by Momma & Daddy
       in a person--Momma & Daddy's call to wish me a happy first day of school!
       in a picture--Grandma Fagen, wearing the watch that is my touchstone of inspiration
1. a gift found at 11:30 AM, at 2:30 PM and 6:30 PM
      11:30 AM--Hero Husband & She So Sweet on their way to her school where he spoke for her Christian club
      2:30 PM--Walking out of first meeting with She So Sweet's new Independent Study teacher thinking she was hand-picked, tailor-made just for her!!
      6:30 PM--Being able to offer a ride home to Lois, a dear friend who does so much for us
2. 3 things overheard today, all gifts
      Barista at Peet's greeting every single customer with a cheery, "How you doin' this morning?"
      My kids' laughter
      Hero Husband to She So Sweet, "I'm so glad you're mine!"
3. 3 gifts found in writing
     my own voice
     having to think clearly enough to put thoughts into words
     discipline
4. 3 gifts found when bent down
     the strength to get back up (even with a misbehaving knee)
     humility
     warm blankets, fresh from the dryer

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A heartfelt thank you to these generous bloggers
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