On Silver Linings and Being Real

I may have whined a time or 7 about our internet woes since we’ve moved.  DSL is still not offered on our road and the next best option – a service called Boonlink that operates on radio signal, requires no contract, and has no usage limits  – wasn’t available to us because pre-tornado our “foliage density” blocked the transmission. 

Since our landscape has changed considerably I decided to try Boonlink one more time just in the off-chance the flattening of our foliage cleared the path for reliable service.  And praise the One who dwells in the High Heavens amidst silver-lined clouds, we got it!  I have internet!  I have internet!  I have internet!

What I still don’t have is a laptop.  I’m borrowing one that belongs to the church so I can work a little this week but the good news there is that I finally ordered a bright, shiny, Georgia Bulldog RED Dell that should be arriving in a couple of weeks.  We don’t even want to discuss how laboriously I wrestled with the Mac vs. Dell option but at the end of the day, I decided to stick with what I know because you know what they say about Old Dogs and their inability to learn New Tricks.

On another note of happiness, I had a fabulous weekend in Pigeon Forge, TN with some of my favorite people in this world.  My MIL plans a bible study retreat every year for her church ladies, my SIL brings a large contingent from hers, and several other friends and family join in the fun.  I also take Sydney with me because it is an excellent chance for us to have an Mom/Daughter getaway and she is more of a help to me than a hindrance.  It is always such a comfort to be among those who love you knowing that if you flat out blow it, they will still love you and not compare you unfavorably to all the awesome teachers they’ve had in years past.  They can’t do that because they’ve never had another teacher and I like it that way just fine.  Because I’m insecure like that.

One of the things we talked about was authenticity where we considered the question, “Are we the Real Deal?”  I normally don’t Tweet while I’m set aside for teaching but I was out shopping with my girl on break and opened it to see what was up with all my imaginary friends.  Beth Moore had quoted Melissa (her daughter) as saying that most of the time what we mean by ‘real’ is something negative. That struck me like a ton of bricks because something very similar was already in my teaching notes for that night and I took it as divine affirmation I was potentially on the right track.

The point I suggested was that if we find ourselves ending sentences with “I’m just saying”, it may be that what we just said wasn’t our just being real, it was our being real mean.  The one who prides herself on ‘telling it like it is” may just need to repent of hatefulness rather than glory in her plain-spokenness.  If we are fully aware that we are abrasive and hurting feelings on a regular basis, it’s not the public-at-large’s responsibility to learn to deal with us and our ‘authenticity’.  Does that mean our criticisms are unfounded? Not always.  But there is a world of difference between speaking truth in love and spewing the truth in hate. As NeedtoBreathe so eloquently states it, “Just cause I’m wrong it don’t make you right.  No you ain’t right.” 

And lest you think I’m pointing a mean finger, I only write these things because I’ve recognized it in my own self.  This *ain’t* always about you.  But if it is, maybe we can work on it together.

I’m just sayin’.

 

 

A Millionaire for Ten Days

I have to warn you that what you are about to read may be about as welcome as if you had taken a trip to the beach, carefully packed a cooler full of your favorite snacks, tucked away a book you had been dying to read in your adorable tote bag, carefully placed your chair so you were getting just the right amount of sun, just sat down and dug your feet in the sand only to feel a drop of rain on your nose.  And then another.  And then all its brothers, sisters and friends it has ever known come to join the party.  Unfortunately for you, yours is now over.

Rain clouds are funny that way.   They don’t dissipate until they are spilled.  Consider this a spilling.  My spilling.

You may need to take cover.

******

Your notes of concern and desires to help our town recover from the storms that devastated us on April 27 have been balm to me. I want to mention a  particular type of note because it is the wording I’ve struggled with most.  They are the ones (this is a representative sample and I’m only quoting here) that read, “I don’t kn0w how you are handling this like you are. You have been so strong, brave, helping others while you are suffering too, blah, blah, blech, etc.” (Emphasis mine.)

I don’t add those end words to disrespect your sentiments.  Again, these are appreciated expressions of care for me and mine that have ministered more than you imagine. (Do you know the word “minister” means “to provide, to add to”? Love that.  You have added to me.)  But the exactness of those perceptions is untrue.  Because I’ve not been handling this well.  Not when I’m alone with myself.

I’m up at 4:30 a.m. this morning because I awoke from a dead sleep certain I heard someone crying.  After checking the kids’ bedrooms, they weren’t.  It may have been me.  I had been dreaming like I do every night that I am in an unstable environment. The typical nightmare is being in our house and it suddenly collapsing or just falling onto its side.  Last night I was at a mountain resort where I was supposed to be teaching.  It was snowing and I was crouched down trying  to protect myself as people pelted me with enormous snowballs. I don’t know if this was before or after the lesson.  Either way, not good.  About that time the mountain began to rumble and I knew a landslide was coming.  I proceeded to run and trip and fall and get up with snow all in my face and try to run some more as the earth was catching up to me.

It has caught up to me.

I’ve been trying so hard to hear God, to see Him in all this destruction. So many have loved us and made that manifest so please don’t take my melancholy as being unappreciative of the ways He has used you to bless us.  I have seen neighbors push pause on their lives to help those who have lost everything.  I have seen Him bring to existence a ministry center where our church can meet the needs of those in our community and our people rise up to be Jesus to the hurting.  So yes, indeed I have seen Him but I feel like a witness of where He belongs to someone else instead of the God-Presence  I take home.  I am terrified that somehow these days will pass and I will not have gained the riches of what *I* was intended to find in Him.  My mind and heart have been dark from physical and mental exhaustion and I’m frustrated to no end because I know what it feels like to get it, to get Him, to gain some new experiencial, relational knowledge of Him.  I feel I’m on the outskirts of His ways, trying to understand the thunder of His power and hearing a very small whisper instead. (Job 26:14)

I’m a voracious reader and sadly do not often take time away from commentaries and study materials  for good stories.  I decided maybe I just needed a mental break during this time so I went to the library and opted for something light to read before I went to bed at night.  Ironically, what I picked up was Mark Twain’s “Roughing It”.  I adore Twain and the title spoke to me.  Twain’s satire and wit and penchant for exaggeration convinces me we would have been the best of friends save for the fact I find no indication he was more than an observer of the Christian life (of all walks of life actually) rather than a practicer of it. All that said, there is a portion of this memoir in which he details his going to Nevada and later California during the days of the silver and gold rushes.

It’s hard to quote Twain because he uses a great deal of speach to develop a thought rather than wrapping it in a pithy statement.  (Did I mention we could have been bff?)  With great pains and many adjectives he describes the process of pocket mining as opposed to mining from an underground cave.  Think of pocket mining as the stereo-typical movie visual of an old 49’er panning in a mountain creek.  The miner would dig and sift until (prayerfully) he found gold flakes and through process of elimination would find where the gold was more concentrated, hence the ‘pocket’.  The pocket could yield $50 or $50,000 depending on its depth and the tenacity of the miner.  He tells of one who worked a particular area for a very long time and in the evening would sit on a boulder to regroup and decide where he would next search.  He eventually moved on only to later learn the boulder itself was a very rich pocket and all along he had been sitting right on top of it.

In another story Twain recounts a time when he and his partner find a silver vein that will make them millionaires.  The process of staking the claim as their own required they do a significant amount of work at the site within 10 days of registering it in the claims office or else it would be considered abandoned and released to be claimed by another.

As the story goes, Mark left a note for his partner that he had to go tend to an ailing friend and assumed the partner would do the necessary work.  The partner never saw the note and was called away on business assuming Mark would do the work.  At the end of the 10 days their tract was considered abandoned and another made a  fortune from their neglect.  He concludes, “And that is how it came to be that I was once a millionaire for ten days.”

There is a related scripture that captivates me:

“6In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested byfire—may be found to result inpraise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him.Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9obtainingthe outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” ! Peter 1:6-9  ESV

If necessary, you are grieved.  If necessary.  When mining for treasure, it is often necessary to insert a stick of dynamite in invaluable rock to get to what lies beneath.  We’ve had our blast and now it’s time to sift through the rubble for that which is priceless.  There are the obvious treasures of relationships with people, but God is there too and I’m still searching.  Still panning.  Still gazing into the swill and praying I find the glory that is certainly there.  Lord, do not let it be that I was sitting on You the whole time and didn’t even know it. Let it never be said that I abandoned the work and left the find to another.

Let it never be said that I was a millionaire for ten days.

No, I’ve not handled this well.  I’ve been afraid, sad, overwhelmed, ungrateful, self-pitying, and without perspective.  But these are a part of my process of elimination and I feel that perhaps now I’m getting closer.

Closer to Eureka.

apPraise

Yesterday Luke and I met the appraiser at the house.  It was somewhat of a mad dash trying to get the floors cleaned and the bathrooms wiped down so the place didn’t so much resemble something that had been dipped in powdered sugar.  That ordinarily wouldn’t be a bad thing if in actuality the dippee was pastry-like and the sugary substance weren’t 7 months of dust.  As it is, my respiratory tract is in active rebellion and I was starved most of the day because there was no food unless I wanted to lick the dirt off the counter tops or eat peanut butter-filled pretzels which I hate.  No, I do not like peanut butter and I am not sorry for it.

Except on days when that’s all there is to eat.  That or dirt.

So, we are ending the end of this long and tedious building process and hope to be closed by mid-December.  In the meantime, we’ve been living lots of life and the Lord has been talking to me about things that may mean nothing to you but have tested my faith, my resolve, and most importantly, my attitude while I am waiting on the Lord.

I wonder if any of you are currently in a season of waiting?  For an answer that could change everything.  For a Word on how to proceed next.  For some good news for a change, for Pete’s sake, and yet you are scared to death you are about to hear the worst and that the proverbial rug is about to get pulled right out from underneath you.  And then there is what we do with ourselves in that excruciating meantime – the moments between when the thing first presented itself and that day when you will finally know.

I’ve been struggling with this one much and conducting a spiritual appraisal of sorts.  There’s this thing I am waiting on and I have had a very clear idea about what the answer ‘should’ be.  Up until this morning even, I was convinced that this was the only outcome that could possibly make sense, give me joy, or be in line with how God has guided up until this point.  Anyone else ever find themselves in situations where they’ve sought God diligently and all the ‘signs’ seem to align in one direction and then the exact opposite come to pass?  Do you think God gets upset when we ask, with humble heart, “Lord, what’s up with that?!  Are you just trying to kill me?!  Can’t this one thing just be easy?!”  

So, the Lord and I have been hashing through those kinds of questions and this morning I had a break through of sorts.  I felt He said, “Lisa, do you really want this if I’m not there?”  {Silence.}  Do I?  Do I really want the thing if He is not present in it even if the ‘thing’ seems so good or appears to be something that will bring Him great glory?  Or perhaps the harder question:  Have I set my hopes on that thing moreso than the Giver of it?   If the removal of that thing brings Him greater glory, can I be okay with that?  Can I trust Him with even that?

And though it panicked me to say it to Him, I answered ‘yes’.  Yes, I can be okay with that.  I can confidently say that I don’t want anything that becomes a barrier between me, my family, and His Presence and His approval over us.  Anything that I could scratch and claw and manipulate to be mine will only be a deadly abomination if His Spirit does not rest upon it.   Job 26:14 says “Indeed these are the mere edges of His ways and how small a whisper we hear of Him! But the thunder of His power who can understand?”  I don’t understand all that He does, but He knows the way prepared for me so when I can’t clearly discern, or when I’ve thought I have heard from Him only to realize I misunderstood, then my faith has to trump my fear and disappointment and follow Him.  And here’s the kicker:  I have to go there free of bitterness or despair or I’ve gained no spiritual ground in the matter whatsoever.

After I prayed this through, the strangest thing happened.  I was at peace.  I’m not saying if the answer isn’t what I want that I won’t cry or that the answer to these times is to pretend the bad things are good.  Sometimes they flat out are NOT good.  But we can all be okay and continue to find refuge in Him because He knows.  He knows what it is like to give up something He loved for the greater good and that when we do the same thing we’ve joined with Him in His sufferings.  We’ve died with Him and in some strange way, that allows us to live like Him and for our souls to remain at peace as we wait. 

“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.”  ~Phillippians 3:7-10

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