Gifts and Memories

I had a coworker recently ask me what my favorite Christmas gift of all time was and I had to stop and really think. What easily came to mind was a gift I got on my birthday instead. I was eight and it was a life-size Alf doll. My birthday party was in the park that summer, hi Southern summer birthday baby, and I had a Snow White cake. The cake was terrible-the bakery had decided to get the river effect on the cake they’d use gel toothpaste instead of food coloring in the frosting.

At 35 I still won’t use gel toothpaste, especially blue gel toothpaste.

Bur more than that, I remember getting that Alf doll. I carried that sucker everywhere. He was my dude. (and probably between he and MacGyver, my start of loving aliens and crime shows) If I am not mistaken, my mom has actually kept him tucked away in case he decides to make a comeback.

The longer I thought on my coworker’s question though, I had a hard time recalling these standout toys or gifts with the exception of Minnie Pearl, my gorgeous pearl Kitchen Aid mixer I received. When we are honest with ourselves, I’d say we all have a hard time remembering what we received when we were 10 that we begged to get…or at 23. We may be able to pick out a handful of things but more importantly I think we remember the people we were with, the feelings we shared, and the moments.

I remember the Christmas when my dad started getting sick and what would lead to six months of unknown and questions of his survival, hope for a liver transplant. I remember the first Christmas with a cute little 9 month old nephew, and subsequent Christmas with a three week old second nephew. Christmas spent mourning the loss of a beloved grandfather, and some spent dodging the awkward family interactions.

We wrap up gifts in pretty paper and ribbons, with expectation that this is something the receiver has wanted or didn’t know they wanted. The expectation of joy on their face and delight in their hearts. I do that too y’all, especially as the nephews get older.It’s about the memories and moments, some joyous and some difficult. But all woven into our Christmas story.


What’s a gift or story you remember at Christmas? What was a favorite gift you received or that you gave?

A Story Worth Telling

Do you ever get invested in a story? A really good book that when it ends you kind of wish it just kept going, although you know that if it did it wouldn’t captivate you as it has over the last few hundred pages…or maybe it would. Maybe the story, the characters, were just so vibrant that you developed a full version of them within you and enveloped their world into your own.

That’s how I feel with Ruth.

I have camped out with these women for the last couple of weeks and I just can’t bear to see this story come to a close. The joyful part is that it doesn’t though, right? I mean this story stretches from the days of Adam straight through David and runs headlong toward Christ. It’s a story that begged our attention, the need for restoration and redemption, and took us to see the woven fabric of a life redeemed again and again throughout the timeline of Ruth and Boaz, to Obed, on to Jesse and then to David.

The richness of the story that points from emptiness to fulfillment.

From the thought that God dealt bitterly towards you to being blessed by Him not leaving you without redemption. From the thought He is a taker of life to the knowledge that He is the Restorer and a Nourisher. Not only does He set you back, He provides what you need for growth, for health…

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I have been in that empty place, where I felt He had dealt bitterly with me. My story all but done and left by the side. Feeling more set aside by God than set apart for God. But my fleshly knowledge in no way compares with His Truth. Because the Truth in the whole matter is that this tapestry, this story, He is weaving and telling isn’t complete, it’s being restored and redeemed by Him for Him.

It’s a story nourishing us to grow, to heal, to maintain and be sustained by a God who restores. As much as I want it to be about my feelings in the moment, it’s ultimately about the weaving of a grander story, one that stretches before me and long past me. A story I am uncertain of sitting in, let alone being a major character of. Yet He reminds me that this isn’t my story, it is His. His story of the history of redemption, restoration, nourishment.

That story? Well that’s one I can fully invest in for however long it takes to tell, knowing the ending is so much sweeter than the current plot line.

God of the Unfinished

“Sit still.”

A mother said this once.

My mom has said this countless times to me over the years. Mothers and grandmothers, aunts and nannies whisper those two words, cajoling or even sternly warning with those words.

Yet I find them here in Ruth. Words that echo across our lives in profound ways if we but take a moment to revel in them, to see them as relevant to what we find ourselves in today, this week, this month, our lives.

Naomi’s put herself at Boaz’s feet, quite literally, to seek redemption for her and her mother-in-law. We think, “This is it!” and Boaz reveals that there’s another relative that can handle this for them, one closer than he. (If this isn’t a Hallmark Movie production waiting to happen, I’m not sure anything is)

Let’s change up the circumstances a bit and see if we can’t put ourselves in Ruth’s position. You feel called to something, bigger than yourself something, from God Himself as you see Him written across the calling in your heart, a drawing near. (or maybe it’s even a turning from something and you know it’s turning to God now) You go with obedience and a confident YES (or maybe it’s a quiet yes filled with concerns, questions and doubts), still  you go.

You do the work, you dig in and while it is hard you begin to see small changes leading to a bigger revelation, to a God promise that is affirmed within. Then comes the crestfallen “wait” of the situation. It’s not where you thought it was headed, and now expectations are soon ushered out while disappointment and alternate scenarios are quickly rushing in.

Someone you trust, maybe a parent or a mentor, a close friend or confidante leans in and says, “Just wait. Sit still in it til we see how it shakes out.” And you want to smack them…or maybe that’s just me in my fleshyness. You’ve been moving along and now you’re told to sit still? To wait? It truly is the hardest part in all this. Not the starting, not the doing, the waiting. You are smack dab in the middle of it and you’ve had your story hit the pause, the buffering stage to load the remainder of it.

I don’t know how long it took for Boaz to find that relative, to orchestrate that meeting at the city gate and discuss the matters with him. In the story it seems like it happened that same day, and we just want to look at Ruth and say “Girl, it ain’t that hard.” But it might have been days, weeks or even months to locate this other man who would be her redemption and not this man she’d come empty to looking for filling. Our own waiting may be much longer than we anticipated, we may be seeing it as a hindrance to the work we began by saying yes to Him.

But we sit still. We wait to find out how things will go. For God will not rest until this story is finished, our redemption brought to fullness. Because here’s the thing…

God never leaves our story unfinished;

He never leaves us unredeemed.

While our expectations at God’s work has morphed the outcome a bit, we have to sit in the stillness of His redemption at work. The people He is pursuing and meeting in special places and times so that our story is His story, our work is His work, and our redemption is fully in Him.

So we sit in the stillness of a wait. Not looking to the what-ifs and should have beens, but to the God of finishes. The God of redemption. The God of our story. Because He will not rest until the matter is done. That’s a story worth being a part of. That’s a God worth saying yes to, no matter the plot twist or long pause.

Write Your Story

Recently the thought of story has been a centerpoint in my mind. The idea of our story and what a story can tell, and many times what it doesn’t. I am surrounded by books and people that give voice to all kinds of stories day in and day out. From the knowledge-based variety where you get just facts or the grandiose, vibrant descriptions of a narrative.

I love story, and I think I always have and most certainly always will. Story is what gives other an idea of who we are, why we are, and how we are. Story removes the scaffolding of an unfinished project and breathes life into what otherwise would be a rather meh experience.

More and more I am seeing others desire to create a story not for themselves but for those around them. It’s something I initially saw with fascination but grew sad in seeing the root of it. You see people want to write stories for other out of selfish means, devious minds or to divert the reading of their own story, one in which they are ashamed to tell or allow to be read.

Initially when someone wants to take pen to my life it may be out of great intentions to see me get the best value out of my life, and “only with the best for you in mind.” While they may be telling themselves that, please be aware that someone laying lines of script to your life isn’t what is best for you. But they may not know your hopes, dreams or goals. They may not get or understand your current story-telling technique or avenue simply because they are not you. Maybe you have shared that your hope is to be in a completely different career field than the one you are in now, or that you know you have experience in this area that has told your story for a decade, but you just no longer see yourself as the lead in that story.

Our story may make those around us uncomfortable because it’s not the story they had outlined for us, but let’s be clear it is still our story to tell. We own our story and giving away our authorship to someone out of fear or doubt is releasing our lives to be defined on someone else’s terms, and not our own. Maybe someone else speaks lines into your life that ignite a rewrite of your current script, which brings life and beauty to your life. That is fantastic! Give them a place in your story, don’t hand over the entire script.

Story gives us the evolution of something-our lives, our hearts. That we get to choose to take pen and paper to for ourselves and for others. Our story is one we need to write, with certain references and defining turns, but ultimately one in which we are penning.

Hating Your Story

I love hearing people’s stories. I love the whole art of storytelling. I grew up not far from the national center for storytelling, and each fall we would field trip it down for their big festival during school. We would sit in big canopied tents, or on tree stumps and hear these vivid tales of long ago spirits and families.

I knew most of it was fiction, but as I grew older I found that the stories of people’s actual lives truly enthralled me. As much as I love to talk, I love to listen because you find out about a person by the stories they share.

But some people wish their stories were different…that parts of their past would just not have happened or that it wasn’t theirs to own. I have thought much on this recently as my own story found itself being written in a way I truly did not ever think it would be. While I have had to truly work and pray through the story as I write with God’s hands on the pen, I am not hating the story I have in me.

I wondered as I thought on the whole topic of your story if Paul hated part of his story (I told y’all I am a Paul girl). The very thing he was killing over was the very thing he became. He was hunting the person whom he would be known thousands of years later for being-a Christian. It’s a redemptive story, and one we love to share in church and small groups.

It’s easy to see the redemption of it years later, how God wove part of his past into his work for the kingdom. But maybe that’s hard for you to see today, as the story is just getting written. Or maybe it has been years later and you don’t like to talk about that part of your story because of the shame you think it will bring back, or it will change how people see you.

I cannot guarantee that won’t happen, because we are human…and like it or not, we judge when we shouldn’t. It’s a product of our sin-nature and one that we constantly struggle and strain against in moments throughout the day.

In 1 Corinthians 15 we see Paul point to something pretty spectacular about his story that he could very easily have hated…don’t miss it:

For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by God’s grace I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not ineffective. However, I worked more than any of them, yet not I, but God’s grace that was with me.  Therefore, whether it is I or they, so we proclaim and so you have believed.

It’s God’s grace that brings our story into light…that turns the shame into joy, the guilt into freedom. Hating part of your story is a sure fire way of missing out on God’s grace to use it for another. It isn’t our story but His that He is continuing to write.

While parts are still being edited and reworked in my story, I don’t want to hate what He is doing and miss getting to proclaim the work He has done. Ultimately He pens the book of my life if I allow Him, and choosing to hate or erase a part that brought me to His mercy, love and freedom would be to hide the very characteristics He authored in me.

A Washing Machine, Concussion, and Your Story.

Saturday was unexpected.

It was nothing like it had been planned throughout the week. I started feeling bad late on Thursday and then Friday it spiraled further down. I was definitely coming down with the crud. I had to end up canceling a volunteer opportunity I was excited about because with a fever I was afraid it might be contagious. Needless to say Saturday ended up being a rather free day for me to be a bum on the couch in my pajamas and recuperate.

Until I did laundry…then all bets were off.

I just happened to hear water coming from upstairs and went to check that I had shut the door to the laundry, only to find the drain hose detached from the washing machine and water spewing out everywhere. I even mean all over me. Thankfully as a new homeowner, and daughter to parents who show you how to do things going for yourself, I shut the water off, unplugged both machines and switched off the power to those outlets. I freaked out for about ten minutes, then went off to buy a wet vac and got to cleaning it up.

You think, “Oh man, that sucks.” Well in the midst of cleaning in behind the washing machine to get all the soapy water out from under it, I miscalculated the shelving above the machine and full on knocked myself out. Yep, saw stars and all…gave myself a mild concussion and some pretty nasty looking bruising coming up.


 

I share all of this because I have been thinking on it more and more as the days pass. Had my plans gone as I thought earlier in the week, I wouldn’t have been home but I would’ve still done laundry, leaving that water spewing for far longer than it did-and potentially a much BIGGER issue to come home to deal with. I could’ve avoided the concussion but who knows what else could’ve happened?

So often we live in this “just missed that issue” or “just dodged that bullet” when in fact there’s a reason why. I don’t think we need to find meaning in every little thing-like if I get through this light then the Broncos will win the Super Bowl. That’s not how it works. I think when plans don’t go as we thought we can often look at it with regret or a “what if?” mentality when it fact it’s painting a much bigger story for our lives, and the lives of others.

Live well in the moment with the story you have, not the one you’d prefer to create for others or even for yourself. You were gifted with the “right now” story, not there the “there and then” story. Maybe that story looks jumbled on the page. Perhaps it’s in the midst of a drama when you thought this would be a romance, suspense when it was a comedy. Whatever your story is currently, it’s worth sharing and being a part of it, not wishing it to be something else.

Live in your story, not what you wish it was.

Singling Out Saturday #4

My life is a story about who God is and what He has done in a human heart.

I found this quote in my reading journal, and unfortunately I don’t have who wrote it noted. Yesterday I reached just this point of “doneness” with my attitude and my heart-problem. This morning I woke up with this refreshed feeling (and on five hours of sleep no less) and knew it was a new day. And I am okay.

You know what, so are you. You are okay today. In the midst of the pain, the struggle, the heartache, the loneliness, you are okay.

My story is unfinished, and so is yours. I think I would rather have God be the author of it though than anyone else, including myself. There are days when I feel much too in touch with my fleshly heart. There are days when I just cannot remember the joy I had. Then there are days like today, when God reminds me He’s writing and I am merely the blank page.

Today let some work be done on your human heart by the God who created it. Let Him author the next page, the next chapter and the whole story of your life.