Never one to have suffered from SAD (seasonal affective disorder), and having easily weathered (quite literally) many bad winters in my lifetime, I find it curious the last few days how impatient I’ve become with our transition into Spring. Less about the season and more about the color, I’m tired of brown. Not white, as in snow. Not gray, as in skies. Brown…as in, everything is blah.
Don’t get me wrong. I love brown. I have brown throughout my home. But it’s a happy, chocolate brown. The kind you can almost taste. The brown to which I refer is the brown I see as I gaze out my picture window. Brown trees with no buds. Brown grass, crunchy and lifeless. Brown mist, compliments of the local construction projects and the rainfall.
Scanning my house, popping with sage and muted yellow walls, red kitchen cabinets and blue denim slipcovers (and, yes, some chocolate brown), one would wonder how anyone could be complaining about the brown beyond her window. I roam, room to room, and count the houseplants as I water. Thirty one in all. But it’s not enough greenery to offset the brown mood I’ve adopted.
Perhaps it’s not the brown at all that bothers me. Perhaps it’s the lack of life and the holding pattern we’re in. That “in between” time. It’s no longer Winter, and it’s not quite Spring. Internally, I feel a similar pause. Anxious to transition but not knowing what’s next. The image of a cat, bum in the air, wiggling, ready to pounce comes to mind. I, too, am ready to leap.
But not yet.
It’s not quite time. Underneath all the brown, there is a secret work being done. Things I cannot see are happening. Life is forming. Percolating. Perfecting itself. The art of nature cannot be rushed.
Neither can the masterpiece of ourselves.
I don’t do well in the wait, the meantime. We live in an instantaneous world. We can have everything immediately. Everything except patience. It can only be learned one way.
And so I wait. The rain will stop. The trees will burst. The grass will grow. Brown will give way to many colors.
My sister-in-law knows me well…intimately, you might even say. She has been my hairdresser for some 30 years. During the years that she’s been washing, cutting, and coloring my hair, she has come to understand just how it behaves. (Curls easily, doesn’t maintain curl. Is fine, thin and poker straight.) She not only knows my hair, she also knows my personality and my preferences. She knows I’m not a woman who wants to put much, if any, time into doing her hair every morning.
Last month, I entered her salon and announced it was time for a change. Pulling out my phone, I showed her roughly six pictures of various women sporting similar, but not exact, hairstyles.
“That!” I said. “I want that. Will my hair do that?” I said poking my finger at the screen.
“Well, yes,” she said slowly. “But…”
And then came the buts. I knew they were coming. Jenny began to explain each of the styles and how my hair would behave if she were to cut it like the models’. She explained the maintenance involved and how to achieve the looks.
“Just remember, you won’t be able to pull your hair into a pony tail at these lengths,” she cautioned.
I’m a massage therapist, and Jenny knows how important, no crucial, it is that I be able to pull my hair back for work.
“Oh, I’ll use a bunch of pins and just pin it back on the sides,” I argued. “Who cares what I look like while I’m working. They all have their eyes closed anyway.”
I smiled to myself having refuted each one of her warnings against going shorter and more layered. Jenny began the process of pinning up chunks of hair and chopping away at the bottom. I watched in the mirror as pieces cascaded to the floor.
Roughly thirty minutes later, I was sporting a new cut and style. It felt lighter, and I liked the fun, flirty length. For 24 hours, I enjoyed my new look.
And then, I went to work.
Minutes into the first massage, I was experiencing buyer’s remorse. Long strands of hair from both sides of my head met in the middle of my face as I made the first few strokes up my client’s arm. Head down and forward, I could barely see what I was doing. Messy, oily hands kept me from tucking the hair behind my ears, forcing me to continue the massage visually impaired. For the next 50 minutes, I could think of nothing but how badly I regretted my decision. My sister-in-law tried to warn me about this very thing, but I refused to listen.
Sometimes, despite the urging of people who know best, we insist on our own way because we think we have a brilliant idea and want to see it through. Sometimes, we just have to learn the hard way on our own.
Proverbs 12:15 says it best: “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes; but he who heeds counsel is wise.”
That’s where I went wrong. I asked the questions and promptly disregarded the answers. It was, after all, my hair and my desire to do something different with it. Despite my sister-in-law’s expert knowledge in the field, as well as first hand knowledge of my hair and my personality, I went against her advice and insisted on my way.
So why did I even bother asking at all?
How many times do we charge ahead in our lives, insisting on our own way, disregarding caution from our friends, family, or other trusted individuals?
Do you ask for advice about important matters and then do the opposite because it wasn’t what you wanted to hear? I know I have. Many times.
Sometimes it’s difficult to admit we don’t know everything and that we aren’t always right. It takes humility to defer to someone else.
My refusal to heed the warnings of my sister-in-law regarding my hair resulted in not just a moment of grief and regret, but days. Weeks, even. I’m still waiting for it to grow out! But it was a lesson learned, and since I’m big on metaphors, I believe this is a big metaphor for my life.
Is there something you insisted on doing your way even though you were advised against it? Are you struggling with the consequences of your decisions? Are you charging ahead in a venture that might require the input of others but aren’t seeking it?
Don’t be afraid of guidance or correction. It would be wise to consider that your way may not be the right or correct way. Seek input from someone who’s opinion can be trusted. Heed their advice.
On Thursday morning, with wind chills hovering around -35, I awoke to discover my furnace had stopped working. Despite having had it serviced during the summer (admittedly, something I had never done in all my years as a homeowner), the pilot light went out and refused to relight. I called for service and then lit a fire in the wood stove in my living room and turned on the oven, leaving the door slightly ajar for the heat to escape. There, in my layers of clothing, I waited in the frigid stillness of the early morning hours for help. Rather than worry about pipes freezing, I sat calmly, very aware of the absence of panic in my body.
Only twenty minutes after calling, the technicians arrived. They quickly diagnosed and fixed my problem ~ simply a bad sensor. As they wrote up my invoice, they reminded me of a maintenance agreement I had taken out during that summer cleaning that was saving me $50 on their house call. I had forgotten all about it.
Perhaps to some, this incident would seem like a tragedy simply averted. To me, it had the hand of God all over it. So when my turn came to offer my praises to God during Sunday worship service, I was happy to tell of His generosity and goodness in the expedited 6:00 a.m. service call, the quick fix, the unexpected savings. I rejoiced in the back up heat sources and in the calm spirit in which I waited. He had been there with me, sitting in the living room in the dark, in silence. I appreciated that and wanted Him to know. I wanted everyone to know! I had even written it all down so I wouldn’t miss anything when sharing my praises.
And then it happened. As we left the service, a woman turned to me and said, “Dawn, you didn’t have to write that down. You could have just said ‘Praise God I didn’t freeze!'” There it was, hitting me right in the most vulnerable part of my being, the part that worries that I’ve spoken too much or said the wrong thing. My constant companion: feeling like an idiot. Immediately, I felt embarrassed at having shared my story.
“I wonder how many other people thought I was on too long,” I silently worried. I headed home kicking myself. For days, I would think of it and instantly feel embarrassed that I’d spoken up. A moment of agony would creep over me before I could push it down and away.
Today, during my normal early morning scroll through Face Book, this scripture appeared from a site I follow: “You, O God, make the dawn and the sunset shout for joy.” (Psalm 65: 8b)
“Wow,” I thought. “Wouldn’t it be a real shame to allow something so minor as my embarrassment and insecurity to keep me from praising God and sharing His goodness with others?” And, in fact, that would be the other side winning if I did. I recognized that I was being silenced. Not by the woman who joked with me after the service, but by the enemies of shame and insecurity and embarrassment.
Regret for having spoken up was replaced with a gentle reminder that I should never be embarrassed to give God props. Psalm 51: 15 says, “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Your praise”.
This week, I look forward to more great things that will require a full “Praise Report” on Sunday morning. While I probably won’t report anything that requires writing it down, I make no promises. Pastor may just want to give me my own time slot.
I have always had a passion for arranging furniture. As a young 20-something living at home, my mother was subjected (almost weekly) to the thunder above her head as I moved my bed and dressers single-handedly. I’d “walk” the dressers, one end at a time, scooting them a few inches one way and then scurrying around to the other side to lift them forward another few inches. Back and forth I’d go until they were where I envisioned them. I liked mixing things up, having a new “look” to the room without having actually purchased anything. I loved chasing away the staleness simply by moving things around.
Re-arranging furniture became a passion that followed me into my own home. As husbands go, I was lucky enough to have married not one, but two, who were extremely tolerant of my obsession. My first husband, however, used to say that if ever he were to come home in the dark, he’d kill himself because nothing was where it was when he left. My current husband says nothing and lets me to my business. We have some “rules” about where his chair can and cannot be, but that aside, he lets the placement of everything else in my hands.
Physically arranging rooms gives me a sense of having some control (over what, I’m not sure)…and a nice sense of temporary satisfaction. It’s a channel for nervous energy. When the next wave hits, you can find me hip-checking a chair across the floor.
Of course, the older I get, the less I can do this. At least not alone. At 50, I’m much too tired to try out my arrangements by myself. Instead, I sit and wish for the sofas to be in a different configuration and wait for my husband to return from work. Inwardly, I cringe when I ask him to humor me, once again, and move not only the sofas but the other pieces as well. (He knows I have to move the whole thing. Move one piece and it throws everything off!)
It’s been said that our actions reveal our thoughts. If that’s true, one would think I am never satisfied for very long, that I constantly need change. But that would be a big fat negative, and I’m done with those. I would argue, rather, that my passion/habit/whatever has taught me things about myself. For instance, it has revealed…
I like “options” and lots of them!
Exercising is evil unless I’m nesting and then it’s actually blissful.
This is the only time I don’t mind sweating.
Shuffling things around is a challenge that appeals to both my task-oriented and problem-solving personalities. (Yes, just two of many.)
Finding a new, pleasing room arrangement is like solving a large puzzle!
I’ve finally learned how to watch my toes and not run over them with heavy objects.
It’s a great opportunity to clean the places you don’t normally clean. (Come on! Admit you don’t vacuum underneath the couch every time!)
So great is this love, I’ve actually re-arranged the rooms of two friends’ homes. At their request, of course.
Yes, I’m slowing down a bit now. Technology has supplied compulsive personalities like mine with apps that do this very thing virtually. I haven’t tried them. It seems almost, I don’t know, sacrilegious. It doesn’t come with the same satisfactions, or the same health benefits that the real deal does. And let’s face it… someone still has to clean underneath the sofa.
I was nine years old when Lynn Anderson’s “I Beg Your Pardon, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden” first aired on the radio. To this day, I can still sing every word of that song. “I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden. Along with the sunshine, there’s gotta be a little rain sometime…” Even at a young age, I understood the meaning of that song.
I’m not sure how it happened, but somehow we’ve passed down, generation after generation, an unspoken belief that life is supposed to be a bed of roses, and that hardship and suffering are to be avoided at all costs. Despite our best efforts to dodge disaster, personal or otherwise, mankind has never been successful in leading a completely “rose-y” life-style. All of us at one time or another have thought if we could just manage our lives correctly, if we could control every circumstance, we would never suffer.
But in the absence of hardship, without suffering, there is no drive for humans to glorify God. In fact, it’s during times of trouble when God is most near us. Psalm 145:18 tells us “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth.” I don’t know about you, but that’s the only time that I call upon God. When things are going swimmingly, I tend to grow complacent, thinking that all is right with the world because I’m crushing it at my job and in my relationships.
Then disaster strikes. We lose a job or discover an illness. A loved one dies. All of the sudden, we’re on our knees begging to know why, begging Him to deliver us from the mess and the hurt…but only because we’re at the end of our rope. In our weakness, we suddenly become receptive to Him and open to doing things His way, rather than our own. All of the sudden “Thy will be done” doesn’t sound like such a bad idea.
Personally, it took a mighty long time for the words “Thy will be done” to have any real meaning. Sure, we say it in the Lord’s prayer, but most of us rarely mean it. And if we do relinquish control as a last resort, it’s usually while we’re clenching, thinking “at least until I get out of this mess!” When life finally rights itself, we take back the wheel and commence driving our own vehicle.
But what if we could trust God completely? What if we could be convinced that He is good and merciful, kind and loving? According to Psalm 84:11, He is just that.
“For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord will give grace and glory; No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”
We think turning our lives over to God would mean suffering. Some even believe that God causes the suffering. While God never promised there would be no suffering, He did promise to care for us. “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) In other words, He promises to be right there with you in your suffering and offers to give us peace in the midst of pressure.
But what good is that to me? you might ask. I don’t want Him to just be with me, I want Him to alleviate my suffering.
The answer to that is in His word. In fact, the Lord directs us to “fear not” roughly 74 times in scripture. He also offers repeated reassurances and promises to increase our strength, to uphold us, and to never forsake us. (Read Joshua 1:9; 1 Chronicles 28:20; 1 Peter 5:6-7; Isaiah 40:29; Jeremiah 29:11; Isaiah 41: 13; and my favorite, Isaiah 41:10.) It is in these scriptures that we find peace, calm, and healing. In these passages, we are given clues how to handle what life throws at us.
So rather than clenching, experiment with widening your arms and looking to heaven while praying “Thy will be done.” Release the need to determine your outcome and control your suffering. Because despite the beauty of rose gardens, thorns and stings can still happen there. But we can walk through this life, enjoy all it has to offer, and weather the storms when we look to God to help us.
“God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear…” (Psalm 46: 1-2).
Our nation’s new slogan, “Make America Great Again”, was masterminded by a political machine that purports to be of “conservative Christian values.” However, everything behind this slogan is anything BUT Christian. Targeted at a specific audience, namely, the middle and lower working classes, it hit a nerve and made some believe that America once was great, but is no longer. Stirring the masses, “someone” had to be blamed for the fact that it was no longer great. That “someone” turned out to be immigrants and incoming migrants.
Any self-respecting Christian knows the story of how Mary and Joseph were turned away from potential shelter, thereby birthing their son in a stable. As Christians preparing to celebrate said birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who was born of migrant parents in a land far from their home, we need to check ourselves.
While we decorate our homes, buy gifts, and claim “Jesus is the Reason for the Season”, but simultaneously support the notion of a border wall and the detention of migrants reaching out to us for assistance, I am reminded of Matthew 25: 31-40:
“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
“Then the righteous will answer Him saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
In other words, those who reach out to help those in need will be rewarded in Heaven.
Since getting caught up in the immigration blame-game, we failed to pause long enough to realize that our nation is still great, as is evidenced by those coming here in droves to seek opportunity, asylum, education, and a better way of life. If this nation wasn’t so great, would these people want to come? Their migration is evidence that life in our country is way better than that of other places.
Somewhere, somehow, a group of hard working folks, many of them Christians, adopted a scarcity mentality, and allowed themselves to be provoked to hatred, forgetting their values. Hitting them right below the basic-securities-of-life belt, fear overtook their minds and reduced this country to a nation of hateful, jealous, insecure, and narrow-thinking clans.
Our continued participation in denying basic human needs to people who come knocking at our doors has turned this new “Great America” into the pit of hell. People are angry; races are clashing; too many are physically suffering and even dying. My Christian brothers and sisters, is this the fulfillment of the law? The fulfillment of the law is to love one another. (Romans 13: 9-10: “For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law.”)
Matthew 25: 41-46 goes on to say this:
“Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in; naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’
“Then they also will answer Him saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
I’d say that’s the proverbial writing on the border wall, wouldn’t you?
You cannot profess to be a follower of Jesus Christ and simultaneously support building a border wall and turning away those in need. Your thoughts, beliefs, and actions are in direct opposition to the teachings of Jesus Christ, the birth of whom you’re busying yourself to celebrate. My guess is that, this season, He’d prefer the gift we all open to be our hearts.