Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Chance Encounter

Native American
Down on luck
Donations and Food Appreciated
God Bless You

I slowed to read the words scrawled on a cardboard sign as I passed the man. His clothes looked worn and his scraggly hair was falling from the loose braid. I didn't dare make eye contact. That would be too heart-wrenching. But I glanced long enough at his face to make the assumption that joy had been depleted from his life. For whatever reason he said he was "down on his luck," I believed him.

I was in conflict. My heart wanted to stop but the morning rush of traffic in front and behind me were not going to let me pass up the green light ahead of us. Forward motion was the only option despite the twinge in my heart. 

I was immediately overcome with emotion. I felt guilty for the banana I had inhaled in the car and the iced mocha I had been sipping. I knew the only thing I could do in that moment was pray for him. For provision. For God's presence to be felt. For his needs. For his soul. 

I went about my day and admit that the busyness it brought caused me to forget all about the morning encounter. Until I was headed back to the office by the same route and there he was. Only this time, five hours later, my light was red and I was the only car in my lane. As I slowed to a stop, I pulled out my wallet to check for cash. I found a stack of ones surrounding a larger bill. That in and of itself was a miracle. I never have cash. I couldn't even tell you why I had cash or where it came from so I knew with certainty that this time I was supposed to stop. 

I was certain to catch his eyes this time. I needed him to know my intentions. I rolled my window down and reached over the passenger seat as he approached my car. With timidity in us both, he carefully took the money from my hand, thanking me and saying "God bless you" as he turned to go. I replied with the same, "God bless you, too, sir. I prayed for you this morning."

The last phrase seemed to stammer out of my mouth and it must have caught him off guard too because he had already been in motion to turn away when he paused and looked back at me. His eyes filled with tears as he thanked me once more, only this time he was the one stammering. I pulled forward as my light changed and I uttered another prayer for him.

I don't know what good my money and a few food coupons will do him. But I do know what good it did me. I can't give to every person begging on the street. And normally I'm more inclined to want to roll my window down and ask them how many jobs they've applied for rather than hand them anything. But today was different and I could feel it in my spirit. It was not the time or place for the conversation of whether or not he knows Jesus. Whether or not he really is down on his luck was not for me to judge. To ask what jobs he's applied for was also not my response today. 

Regardless of the little I was able to do for him, it did so much more for me. I continued in an attitude of prayer and thankfulness, overcome with all the things I have to be grateful for. For a car that runs, for gas to go, for a rewarding and fulfilling job, for a bed to sleep in each night, for food to eat each day, for family who love and support, for friends who encourage and care, for the many blessings that I forget to notice each day...I'm thankful.

Today a chance encounter at a stoplight cost me a little bit of money. But today a providential lesson caused me to gain fresh perspective and appreciation for the many things I take for granted each day. 

 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Full

Yesterday I was studying the fullness of God. He is full of compassion. Full of mercy. Full of love. It could better be described as overflowing or an abundance.

The only reason I am able to give any amount of goodness is because of what he gives to me first. It is his very nature. And yet innately within me my flesh wars against it.

So I asked God, what does this mean for my life? How could I show his fullness to others? I asked for him to give me an opportunity to express compassion and mercy.

Within the first hour I believe I had already failed the challenge. Be careful what you ask for, right?

I had encountered a rather challenging person in a situation that I simply didn't want to deal with. It wasn't my problem and I didn't feel that I needed to be the one to solve it. And then it hit me. Is this not what I had prayed for? Was I not being faced with an opportunity to express compassion and grace and mercy and to show God's love in a situation where I ordinarily would not have been given this opportunity at all? I had failed.

I was determined not to let discouragement ruin my day considering it was still early in the morning. But I do admit that it was rather disappointing.

It was later in the afternoon I was making a delivery run for my job. A few days ago a request came in for some teachers needing encouragement. I was no integral part of the plan, I was just delivering a cookie tray. It led to an encounter with a sister in Christ, someone I had never met before, who encouraged my soul. In that moment I realized that God was redeeming my earlier Failure. Only he was not granting to me an opportunity to share of his fullness, rather he was granting me an opportunity to receive it.

Lord, why are you so gracious to me? Time and time I fail, still his mercy remains. And that is when I realized the lesson of his fullness that I have been begging to learn.

See when you just gorge on yourself you get so full that you're absolutely miserable. You go beyond the point of enjoyment to making yourself physically uncomfortable because you just simply couldn't stop. When you feast on the fullness of God, you will never ever outdo him. You will never go beyond his reach. You will never mess up beyond what he can Redeem. Whatever you lack, don't worry, he has an abundance.

I prayed to give out of his abundance but what I had lacked in doing was receiving it from him first. Out of my own abundance I will just be miserable and uncomfortable. But out of his, then and only then, will I ever able to know any kind of a blessing.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Parenting 101

I love the fries at Five Guys. Although it was taking an exceptionally long time for the food and E was not into being patient. As a matter of fact, he was bouncing off the walls. Literally. He was hanging from the partition wall that separates the line from the dining room, calling it his "exercises." After what felt like a near eternity, we finally had food and I felt certain this would lure him to his seat. Who was I kidding?

Maybe it was his sudden outbursts loud enough to cause the entire restaurant to look, or the up-and-down nature of taking a bite and leaving his seat to run around. It could have even been his ignorance of my constant scolding. I'm sure all of that combined with the fact that seated at our table was my friend and her three boys who hadn't so much as made a peep. There they sat, quiet little angels, perfectly behaved. The only muscles moving were those in their mouths as they silently consumed their dinner. Whatever it was, I admit. I was mortified. Frustrated he wouldn't listen. Upset he was disobeying. Weary from fighting a losing battle.

Despite the hilarious E'isms that keep us all laughing, or the endearing moments when he tells me how beautiful I am, there are other moments not-so-post-worthy that bring me to the brink of thoughts I never knew a mother could be capable of.

Add to my less-than-motherly instincts factors like single-parenting, different living environments, family dynamics and other topics I'm not yet ready to breech on the blog. There is blame. Is this my fault? There is guilt. Am I failing as a mother? There is questioning. Is it him testing or is it the situation...or maybe both?

And then there are those saints who have gone before. You know - the ones whose children are grown and in that solitary moment of "preciousness" they remind you to "Cherish every moment...they grow up so fast."

I sometimes fight back the urge to yell, "By all means, take him for a few hours and remember what it's like!"

Last night I left my mom's group feeling like an utter failure after a lesson that described consistency as being overrated. "Get to the heart," the lesson challenged. "Shape their character. Be more concerned about the root - who the child is - than being consistent." I wondered how I was supposed to redirect my consistent approach with the balance of grace.

I dare say I try, but with a nearly-five-year-old who is not always aware of his emotions or how to process  them, I don't always get the answer when I ask what he's feeling or what is in his heart that caused him to do a certain thing.

What I'd much rather those older, wiser, seasoned parents tell me is "Parenting is hard...but you're going to make it!" Tell me your war stories. Let me read your survivor's guide. Just reassure me that in this moment - that point where I reach the brink and feel as if I may never recover - that I'm not the only one.

I can't believe my Heavenly Father is so patient with me. How does He never give up hope when I keep ignoring His instructions? Why does He continue to offer grace when I go my own way? How could He possibly continue to offer unconditional love when I disrespect Him so?

No, parenting is not easy. Being a parent is a process. Whether you were planning it, not expecting it, or even desperate for it, however it comes, it's a miracle. (However we make it through may also be a miracle...) So I'm going to do my best to remember these moments are all-too-fleeting, which means "this too shall pass." One day when I'm the older wiser parent who's child is grown I'll make sure to share that advice!