Face raised toward the Son
Thankful for the gift of life
In awe of His grace
I feel God tap on my shoulder sometimes. Call Judy. Have coffee with Denise. Go visit Ryan and Dina and the kids. Make time for those you love and care about.
I ignore the shoulder tap. Work. Fatigue. Tomorrow is soon enough.
God taps on my shoulder again. And, I hear His voice. This is what matters. This . . . is . . . what . . . matters. Love others. That’s what I intend for your life.
Okay, I think. I know that is what You intend for my life. But what about work and all I have to do?
I’ll reach out. . . Soon.
And then the blow comes. This time it isn’t a shoulder tap. But, instead, heart-break. And, regrets.
Too late. No chance for that cup of tea. Or laughter. Or hugs. Or catching up on each other’s lives.
No chance to say thank you for just being you. For being part of my life. Part of my kids’ lives. For making my life better.
Forgive me. Forgive my selfish hours. Priorities misplaced. Excuses for not taking an hour or two just to laugh with you.
Your smile and laughter fade in the distance now. Beyond my reach.
Know that you are loved.
Know that next time God taps me on the shoulder, I will listen because I will hear your voice singing and laughing in the distance.
I sat quietly on the blue couch with my word for the year, “live.” 5:30 am, January 1, 2011. A new day. A new year. A word that seemed to have great significance especially on the first day of the year.
I ask myself, how will I live for Christ today? I had no sooner breathed those words when my cell phone rang. 5:37 am and my 21 year-old son was calling. My heart felt as though it had stopped. That feeling of dread. A son who had been out all night. Who had driven to a new year’s party with a friend. Why was he calling me? At this hour? The “what ifs,” the thoughts of terrible things began to run through my head.
As I answered, I heard, “Mom, everything’s okay, but I need you to come get me.” –Funny how even my son knew that a call at this hour would worry me. He knew those were the words I needed to hear first.
“Are you okay? Where are you? And, where’s your car?” I asked. “Yeah, I’m fine. Just cold. And my car,well, I can’t find it. That’s why I need you to come and get me.”
And so, the story unfolded. He went with a friend to a small party in an area of town where she grew up–and area that my son didn’t know. They parked the car and went into the house. A few hours later, the group walked to the house of another friend–several blocks away. Here, they saw the new year in and some of these young adults–most who lived in the neighborhood–drank a little too much.
As the party began to break up around 3:30 am, my son realized that a few of these folks shouldn’t leave on their own, even though they were walking. So, sober and willing to help, my son pulled on his coat and hat, and walked a few of his friends safely home.
However, when he dropped of the last person and was ready to head home, he realized he had not paid attention when they had left the first house and walked to the second house. He only knew he had walked up a long hill to get to the second house and that he had walked several blocks.
So, for over an hour, in subfreezing weather, he walked the streets of NE Portland, looking for his car. He called his friend–who was asleep at the second house–for direction. No answer. He walked back to the second house and knocked. No answer. And, I’m sure he called a few more friends before he called me.
“I’m at the corner of Stuart and Alameda. How soon can you get here?” I turned on my GPS to see where I was headed, “20-25 minutes. Stay safe and warm. I’ll be there soon.”
And so, as I drove to get my son, I thought of my word — live — and I thought about my son. I thought about how his fun evening–catching up with friends home from college for the holiday, bringing in the new year–had turned into a morning of fatigue, and a feeling of helplessness and, perhaps, foolishness. I thought about how he must feel standing alone on a dark street in freezing weather, surrounded by homes, yet all alone.
And, I thought about how desperately I just wanted to be there to help him.
This moment reflected what it means to live in relationship with others. How necessary it is that we spend time in relationship with others. That we look out for those God has placed before us. And, that we learn to lean on others, even when we are ashamed or embarrassed.
As I pulled up to the corner of Stuart and Alameda, I saw my son’s dark figure standing in the fog. He jogged over to the car and slid into the seat next to me. “Thank you, mom,” he said, with eyes of gratitude. “You’re welcome. Let’s find your car so you can go home and get some sleep.”
That afternoon we laughed about how he had lost his car in the middle of a city neighborhood. But, it made me think about how lost and lonely we can all feel even when we are surrounded by others.
Being surrounded by others is not enough. To live in relationship we need to be purposeful and authentic. We need to engage others, let down our guard, listen, lean, love. We need to live authentic lives loving others.
Christ showed us that model. He showed us that authentic love gives hope.
“Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. . . And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” — Colossians 3:12-15, 17.
I headed out for my morning run. Beautiful, cool, October day. Sun at my back and a light breeze on my face. I felt inspired to find myself running again this past month. Until last month, I had let my running shoes lay idle for too many months, for too many years. I had forgotten how it renewed me. Helped me reflect on my day. To find time to talk to God. And, to enjoy the beauty of creation.
But, as I rounded the corner to the next street I felt a sudden pain in my left ankle. Pain enough to have to stop. No twisting or turning of my ankle. Just pain. I walked home the half mile or so, admonishing myself for not stretching enough, praying it was only a minor strain and that I would be back on the road again soon.
It’s been a few months now and I haven’t been back on the road again. And, I don’t know yet when I will. But I smile and think that, somehow, God had His hand in this. Somehow, my desire to run again, to work towards running a half marathon — even a full marathon–was not part of God’s plan. At least for now.
The road He has taken me down instead, has been transforming. A stress fracture in my left leg just above the ankle, has led to the discovery of a variety of health issues, and, in turn, lots of reading and research. To learn. To understand the underlying causes — not just the treatment. And, ultimately, the decision to eat a plant-based and whole-grain-only diet.
My disappointment about not being able to run has subsided. In its place, I find peace. Peace that this is a life change — a direction — that has bigger implications than I know. That this is what I need to be doing now so that I can live a full life, as God intended.
Eating only fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains–and eliminating all meat, seafood, dairy products, processed foods, and refined sugar and grains–has been easier than I ever imagined. While I would never advocate a particular diet for everyone else, I feel blessed on this diet. For the first time, I see food as nourishment and healing for my body–not as a quest to satisfy a craving or to give my senses momentary pleasure.
I pray that I will continue to see food as nourishment and healing. Not just of my body, but in my relationship with Christ. In spending less time on earthly things — on satisfying my cravings and momentary pleasure–and instead, “setting my heart on things above.” Colossians 3:1.
So, as I begin my journey into the new year, I journey towards Christ — to learn what life Christ wants me to live. My running shoes still lay idle in my closet. And, my soul is not nourished by being out running on the road. Instead, I find nourishment and healing in food. And, I find nourishment and healing seeking God in other places and reading His word. And, I am reminded “not [to] worry about [my] life, what [I] will eat or drink.” Because “life [is] more important than food, and the body more important than clothes.” Matthew 6:25.
I am blessed. I have peace. I have hope. God nourishes my soul.
Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you. . . Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. — Matthew 6:33.
I welcomed 2011 in a little differently this year, as my friend and fellow blogger, Galen Pearl, suggested. I sat down and wrote a letter to say goodbye to 2010 — all the things it gave me–grace, peace, sadness, joy, and much more. And, I wrote a letter welcoming in 2011. I wrote a letter of hopes and dreams. Of anticipation and intentions.
It felt great.
And, as Galen suggested, I picked a word for the year. Galen suggests picking a verb and posting it in places where you will see it — on your computer, by the mirror, on the dash of your car. I picked the word live — as in “live every day to its fullest.”
I picked live not because I’m not productive or happy or can’t pull myself out of bed in the morning. Rather, I picked live because I find that I am often driven by my fears and the “what ifs,” which stop me from living fully. My hope is that by choosing this word and by praying and being mindful about living fully, that I will trust more, take more chances, love more deeply. That I will live for the possibilities of what God has in store for me than by the fears that hold me back.
I wrote two posts in 2010 on how I let fear and “what ifs” shape my life in negative ways. How these fears and this inner dialog of fear move me away from Christ. But, that trusting God to write my life story — a story of hope and grace and joy rather than fear and shame — moves me toward Him.
This year, I want to write the story God has planned for me. I want to live a life of hope and grace and joy. I want to trust Him to fill me and guide me. I want to rest in His arms and seek His face. I want to move toward Christ, not away.
I want to live. And, I want God to write the story of what it means to live. And, I want to see the story that emerges when I trust Him. So, welcome 2011. I’m ready!
Forgive my ‘what ifs’ –those that take the pen from your hand, that make me the editor in chief and relegate you to proofreader.
You write the story of my life. You provide hope and peace.
You imagined the story of life and the story of all things You placed in this universe.
You give life, hope, love, grace.
You are the author of all.
Let me see and hear the ‘what ifs’ You want me to imagine and to live out. Open my eyes and my heart to the possibilities You imagine.
Let me live every day as You desire.
Thank you Galen Pearl for your encouragement. Thank you for the word of the year.