Why I’m Doing the Job I Didn’t Want to Do

I recently accepted a job. This job was an answer to prayer in so many ways—and it’s a job I said I’d never do again.

Before we ever went overseas, I taught first grade for a year. That was one tough year. First year teacher, mid-year created class, and a group of students who hadn’t been told why they had been moved made for a deadly combination and one defeated teacher when the end of the year rolled around.

When we moved back from Ireland the first time, the plan was that I would teach while my husband went to graduate school.

Well, you know how to make God laugh, right? Make a plan.

It wasn’t in His plan for me to teach that year…or any of the following ten years. As time went on, the realization grew stronger and stronger within my heart. I never wanted to teach again.

I love kids, and I love learning, but the farther removed I was from the classroom, the happier I became.

When we returned to the states and knew we would be staying, we had no idea what we would do for jobs. I really did not want to teach. As in, I would feel physically ill thinking about it.

“I told you, I never want to teach again!”

I said that to my husband, to anyone who asked about if I would return to the classroom, and I said it to God. A lot. And it was true!

However, I now find myself planning curriculum and activities for a middle creative writing class this fall. And you know what? I’m excited.

It all started when I renewed my teaching certificate when we returned to the states. You know, “just in case.” I wanted to be willing to do whatever it was He wanted/asked me to do, including teaching. And I really thought I was willing.

However, when I landed a different job, I was overjoyed and quite proud that I had been willing to “sacrifice” and God had allowed me to do something else.

Then, towards the end of that year, we needed a little extra income. My husband was already working long hours and I felt it wasn’t fair to ask him to be away from home even more—nor was it fair to our kids. So, after talking with him about it, and praying about it, we decided to explore me tutoring for a company just down the road from our home.

It was just a couple of hours a week, but the money helped and I noticed something changing in me.

My heart was softening towards the kids, and my mind was beginning to spin with ideas and possibilities for lessons that would help the concepts finally click.

Over the course of the last eight months, God has been working in my heart and changing me from the inside out. I had asked Him to change my heart if He was going to have me teaching again. And friends, He is doing just that.

So, when I accepted this middle school position, it wasn’t with dread and clenched fists. It was will a heart full of joy and hands open wide and lifted in gratitude for His faithfulness and provision.

Friends, I learned a long time ago never to tell God never. He has a funny way of working around our demands and ultimatums. Is there something you’re saying never to? Is it something you sense He is actually leading you to do, and you just flat don’t want to?

You’re in good company! The Bible is chalk full of folks who felt the same way. Noah. Moses. Jonah. And Saul, who eventually became Paul and wrote a good chunk of the New Testament, just to name a few.

However, those folks also discovered the key to spiritual happiness and growth. They were honest with God, and then let Him change their hearts and equip them for the job.

Is there something you’re white-knuckling, terrified or too exhausted to consider?

1. Pray. Be honest with God about how you are feeling. Explore why you feel so strongly, and let Him hear all the reasons, excuses, fears, and fatigue fueling those thoughts. Then, ask Him to help you be willing should he ask it of you. Ask Him to change your heart so that you can step out in obedience when He asks.

2. Seek wise advice. Talk with your spouse, pastor, counselor, or trusted friend. Talk through the same things you’ve been praying about. Ask them to pray with you for heart-change. Even if God never asks you to do that thing, the freedom you enjoy from releasing your never is worth the work.

3. Decide your yes. This is where the rubber meets the road. We have to decide if God has our ultimate and eternal yes. Will our answer always be yes, no matter what He asks? Choose now and it makes obedience down the road much easier.

4. Stay close to God. Nothing is more spiritually draining or frustrating than wondering whether or not a certain tug you feel in your heart is from God. Keep your relationship with God close through talking with Him daily, listening to Him, reading His Word and gathering with others who follow Him. The closer your relationship, the easier it will be to discern His voice when He speaks.

So, yes, I’m doing a job a never wanted to do again. But do you know what? It’s no longer drudgery. There is joy, excitement, anticipation. So don’t fear, dear one. He can do a mighty work in you and grow love where you never thought it possible.

So, friend. Are you clinging to a never? Do you need to put your yes on the table? Share in the comments and let’s lift each other up.

When You’re Not Who You Thought You Were

I slowly sipped the steaming coffee, letting it soothe me with it’s warmth.

As I cupped the mug in my hands, my eyes lingered on the faded Scottish flag painted upon it. We had bought it while in Scotland on a work trip back years ago. Back then there was no mistaking the stark white X slicing through the vibrant blue background. Today? You have to know what it used to be to recognize it.

I feel like that mug.

I’m not sure if it was a thought or a prayer, but I couldn’t let it go.

Some days, the reality of our 10 years of expat life is vivid and strong, shaping and informing the way we see everyday life.

Other times, like today, it seems faded and dull. So much of that lifestyle made up who I was and I couldn’t escape the thought:

I’m not who I thought I was.

When You're Not Who You Thought You Were

You know, I was the American girl living in Ireland, then Vienna, sharing inspiration about marriage, motherhood and faith. I was the one who would post surreal photos of a Viennese cafe or rolling moss-covered hills and declare the goodness of God that could be found there.

This place has sat quiet because I don’t know what to offer you anymore.

It’s a strange thing reconciling this faith journey and where life has taken us.

Can you relate? Have you ever woken up one day and realized you aren’t who you thought you were?

Needless to say, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to know who you are.

Identity.

And what it means when you just. don’t. know.

I started thinking about the woman at the well. You know, the lady who offered to give Jesus a drink of water and He ended up calling her out on her promiscuous lifestyle in the the way that only Jesus can. The way that convicts and cuts you to the spiritual quick, but endears you to Him in the most magnetic of ways. And she ran to her village — the village the had shunned her; treated her like such an outcast that she had to run her errands at the worst possible, most illogical time of day just to avoid running into them — and declared, “Come and see the man who told me everything I’ve ever done!”

Her life changed that day.

Her identity changed.

The more I look at Jesus, the more I see that time after time, when someone encountered Him, they woke up realizing they’re no longer who they thought they were.

Fishermen no longer fished — instead they told other men about the best story ever.

The shamed prostitute no longer damaged and soiled — instead, she was the one given the honor of preparing her Lord for burial with the most fragrant of offerings.

Friends, I still don’t know. I don’t know exactly who I am in this new phase of our lives. I do know as a follower of Christ my purpose never changes, but the manner in which that purpose is carried out sometimes does.

So, I think, dear ones…I think I will look to Jesus. I will seek Him. I will let Him call me out on where I’ve been unfaithful, let His words cut tdeep so that I can adore Him all the more.

And all those years spent overseas in that other life that seems like an eternity ago and only yesterday at the same time? I will choose to believe they weren’t wasted. Because I can still see their imprint on my soul. I may have to squint in just the right light; and who I was then may not be exactly who I am now, but I can’t be who I am now without having been who I was then.

Do you need to join me today? Do you need to run — or crawl, or hobble, or collapse — into the waiting arms of Jesus to let Him speak over you your true Identity? Then do it.

Don’t worry about words or fancy prayers. Let’s just open our hearts, open His Word, open our ears and let Him change us in the miraculous way that only He can.

Shall we?

When You Realize Your Own Insignificance

I woke up with a jolt.

Something wasn’t right.

I sat up in bed and surveyed my surroundings. Pale blue light seeped lazily through the slats in the vertical blinds, and my husband slept, undisturbed, next to me. No children stirred down the hall, no bird welcome the day with his song.

I’d heard something. It was a pop. Or a bang. Or a…I don’t know. But now all was silent. All I could hear was my own heart pounding in my ears as I became aware of the cool beads of perspiration lining my forehead.

I scanned the room, the doorway, and listened.

Nothing.

I looked at the clock. 4:00 am.

All was silent, but for the gentle rise and fall of my husband’s breath as he slumbered beneath the covers.

I eased myself back onto the pillow and fell into a fitful sleep.

Later that morning while scanning the news, I was made aware of what had roused me.

Photo by: Deibel Photography

Photo by: Deibel Photography

A large asteroid had entered earth’s atmosphere, causing a sonic boom and hundreds of meteorites to scatter all over central and southern Arizona.

A strange feeling washed over me when I read that. Kind of like that feeling you get just after the roller coaster clicks over the crest of the tallest drop.

While I had spent the previous week working, cooking, folding laundry and playing with my kids, this massive rock had been on it’s own journey. It had hurtled towards earth with God-only-knows-what speed, and God-only-knows how many others could potentially join it.

I could suddenly see in my mind’s eye the vast expanse of outer space and all the magnificent goings on that would steal our breath and bring us to our knees in awe if we were to witness them firsthand.

A feeling overwhelmed me. A feeling similar to when I had awoken to the news that our friends halfway around the world had experienced a large earthquake. We were going to the grocery store and talking about schooling for the fall, while their livelihood was being threatened in a dramatic and violent way.

Or like the feeling I got standing on the end of the pier looking down in the dark depths of the Pacific Ocean, imagining all the amazing and wondrous creatures stirring below.

I spend so much time focusing on my momentary and immediate wants and needs, and so little time considering the vast enormity of everything else.

Suddenly I feel like that beloved cartoon character standing beneath the expansive night sky shouting, “I’m significant!”

Except I know that I’m not.

In no universe, other than my own, am I the center-point. There’s no version of this story of humanity in which I am the fulcrum about which the rest of creation swings.

It’s in these moments — these momentous, yet altogether mundane moments — that the severity of my insignificance smacks with the full force of a thousand hurricanes.

In the grand scheme of things, my plans, my agendas, my purposes, don’t mean a single solitary thing.

I am utterly and completely insignificant.

Not in a self-deprecating, I-have-nothing-to-bring-to-the-world sort of way.

No.

I’m insignificant in the most gloriously significant way.

When I see my true place in this majestic, glorious, chaotic and dangerous world, it is then that I am truly free to fulfill the deeper purpose for which I was placed here.

It’s when I realize the petty nature of my shallow desires that I am released to pursue the dreams and callings of eternal significance.

When I remove any claim — albeit a false claim because nothing was ever mine to begin with — of control of my surroundings, I am empowered to reach out with love and compassion to my fellow brothers and sisters traveling this sod of earth alongside me.

I hope to never lose the wonder, and terror, of moments like I had the other night. I don’t want to forget the awe and trembling of the unfettered realization that there is something so much bigger, more powerful, more wild and dangerous, yet more compassionate at the helm. And that He owes me no explanation.

And while I walk along the daily to-do’s and want-to-do’s and passionate-to-do’s of this life, I never want to lose the awareness that there are infinitely more things, people, heartache and joy happening all around me than what I can see with my feeble eyes.

And I never want to stop being grateful for the opportunity to realize my own insignificance.

The Exquisite Ache of Learning Something new

I started a new job last week. And after a decade of living the non-traditional expat lifestyle, I can tell you the learning curve was steep. Not just the learning curve, but the mental energy stamina.

It’s been a LONG time since I’ve used my brain in this way.

Oh, I’ve learned new stuff while we lived overseas, sure. Languages, cultures, how to parallel park on a busy European street with cars flying by.

But this…its stretching me. Its awkward and humbling and it stings as the proverbial muscles in my brain stretch and torque in ways they haven’t had to for the largest portion of my working adult life.

And I’m loving it.

The Ache of Learning Something New

Oh sure, I’ve had to go to my boss, red-faced and sheepish to admit when I messed up. A lot. It’s not totally dissimilar to learning a new language. Just like when we moved to Vienna, I wanted to be able to have all the complex conversations by day 2, I found myself the second day on the job frustrated at myself that I couldn’t remember all the myriad responsibilities that accompany my job, and unable to independently navigate the databases I had never seen until the day before.

Sometimes we shy away from learning new things because it’s uncomfortable and hard and awkward. We wobble around like Bambi on his newborn legs, and hope no one notices when we slide, limbs akimbo, across the ice.

But the thing is, the struggle makes us so much stronger. So much more flexible. To quote the incomparable Tom Hanks from the movie A League of Their Own, “It’s the hard that makes it great.”

Though my feet are more firmly planted in my new role than they were last Monday, I know that I will still wobble and slip for awhile yet. But I’m really loving the feeling of accomplishment at the end of my day. The delicious mental exhaustion that reminds me that I’ve used my mind, struggled, and overcome.

So, I ask you dear reader, what are YOU going to learn new his week? This month? This year? Are you shaky-legging it in some new venture? Or are you sitting on the sidelines, worried about falling flat on your face? Let me encourage you, to get out there and wobble, Bambi-friends! I’ll be right there beside you.

What Anxiety and a Buffalo Taught me About Grace

It has taken a long time for me to feel comfortable talking about my struggles with anxiety publicly. Who am I kidding, I’m still not comfortable with it, but I believe that what God has taught me and used to encourage me in my journey may just be exactly what you need to hear in this moment. So I am being faithful to share more.

Be Still My SoulThere’s been no diagnosis, no medication. But anxiety has struck nonetheless.

Today, I’m over at The Better Mom talking about a time when panic set in at the most unexpected and inopportune time; and how God is using that experience to let me experience grace in a more tangible way, and hopefully be an encouragement to others.

So, if you struggle with anxiety, or know someone who does, won’t you join me at The Better Mom today?

If you’ve just clicked over from The Better Mom, I just want to say how much I love having you here and sharing this space – and my heart – with you. It is my prayer that you at home here and leave feeling uplifted, encouraged and/or challenged to stretch your faith in some way today. Welcome!

When Your Dreams Disappear

“What are you longing for, deep down in the depths of your soul?…Use your imagination…go on, close you’re eyes and dream.”

I stared at those words on the page in front of me and blinked hard.

What are you longing for?

Sleep!! Came the cry from my heart. Ha!

Beyond that…what are your dreams? Your callings? What makes you come alive?

Alive?!

I can’t remember the last time I would’ve used the word alive to describe how I felt.

There was a time that I had dreams, longings; things that I would desperately love to do “if time and money were no option.” Yet now, when faced with that question, I couldn’t even venture a guess. What do I want? What are my dreams? Do I even have dreams anymore?

Longing for ParisIn her new book, Longing for Paris (Tyndale House, releasing August 2015), Sarah Mae asks us these very questions and helps us discover that the God who created us does, in fact, care about our dreams. The creator of the universe who has painted uncountable sunsets in unimaginable colors and beauty made us in that same imaginative, creative image.

We – as humans and as women – were made to long, to dream, to create, to laugh, to enjoy. However, sometimes, life has a way of stealing those things from us. We lose our ability to relish the beauty of a sunset or revel in the coolness of a soft summer breeze because we are so caught up in just surviving the day to day grind.

If we are married, we are called to devote ourselves to our marriage, making it our top human priority. If we have children we are, of course, called to raise and nurture them, training them in the ways of the Lord and how to navigate the great big world.

However, recognizing and respecting our dreams does not necessarily have to drag us away from the calling of home and family. In fact, when we are fulfilling the longings and giftings the Lord has intentionally placed within us, we are able to fulfill our roles of wife and mother even more fully – and flourish doing so.


So, what do we do when we go to explore our dreams and realize they are no longer there; no longer recognizable?

When Your Dreams Disappear

1. Observe. Pay attention throughout your daily and weekly tasks and routines. Is there anything you do that energizes you? Makes you feel alive? Feeds your soul? What drains you, leaving you feeling dry and dead inside? Anything that answers any of these questions can give you good insight into what your dreams my be. Don’t forget prayer, too! Ask God to show you those gifts, talents, interests and dreams that He’s given you.

2. Experiment. In Longing, Sarah Mae talks about how she embarked upon experiments and adventures with her family in order to find and bring more beauty and enjoyment into her life. If you don’t come up with much in the way of answers after some observation, experiment a little. Try a Zumba class. Join a baking group at the local community college. Start a blog. Write a song. Take a woodworking class. Just find something that piques your interest and try it. You don’t have to be great at it, but you may just find something makes your soul feel alive and free in the process.

3. Prune. We can’t have it all, and we can’t do it all. Sometimes the reason we’ve lost sight of what fills our souls with color and life is that we’ve said yes to some things we should’ve said no to. After you’ve observed and experimented, you’re in a good position to find things which you can prune from your life. Things that drain, time suck, or serve no real purpose for your personal/family goals. Sometimes the biggest thing we can do to rediscover our dreams is to give ourselves room to breathe.

If you do these three things, you will be well on your way to reconnecting with the things that make you tick. Those things which bring light and life to your heart – which make it easier and more fulfilling to pass that light and life on to your family. It may not happen overnight, but it’s a process that can be highly freeing, and make for a happier, healthier, more well rounded wife, mom, and daughter of the King.

Happy dreaming, sisters!

 

Ripples of Grace – A New Perspective on the Mommy Wars

The internet has been all a flutter recently over the arrival of the new royal baby. You would be hard pressed to visit any news website or social media outlet and not see something about the big news.

And for each media outlet post, there has been every manner of remark about Kate herself, and the timing and fashion in which she left the hospital. I have seen everything from undying devotion and awe to downright hatefulness. She went home too soon, too fast, she was dressed too nice, and on and on.

April was C-Section Awareness Month and for every article I saw float across my Facebook feed, I saw hundreds of hateful, argumentative and judgmental comments from all sides of the C-Section “debate.” Even an article I wrote about my own experiences with my third baby received some of the most spiteful and downright vicious comments I’ve ever heard in my life. Ripples of Grace: A New Perspective on the Mommy Wars

How is it that we who nurture sweet babes at our breast, who lovingly tuck notes into lunch boxes and blankets under chins long after the lights go out, can be so destructive to one another? How can we who love, hug, cry and defend; we who care for and nurture because it’s in our nature suddenly become divisive, angry and hateful to the very ones with whom we should declare unity – all because of the way in which our children came into this world; or how soon we came home from the hospital; or how we choose to educate; or immunize; or, or, or…

I truly believe that all women mother someone, whether or not that’s what we call it. LisaJo Baker just wrote a stunningly beautiful article on this very idea. As she says so beautifully:

We mother because we can’t not. Because there are friends in the cubicle next to us who have been hurt and need a soft, safe place to come undone. We mother because we’ve watched our grandmas make slow, determined soup for the sick. We mother because the next door neighbor can’t change her tire in the blistering March wind and of course we call AAA for her and wait and shuffle feet and rub cold hands because she asked for help. Because, of course. This is what we women do. We give ourselves away — little bits and pieces of who we are, of our courage, of our deep faith even on the nights we’re the most afraid. We bear down and we find ways to bring life to people desperate for air.

Every decision we make is a global decision.

Like the dropping of tiny pebbles into a pond, every word and deed splashes deep in this world and then ripples out unto the farthest reaches of the shore. One standing on the other side might see the tiny motion of a minuscule wave and not realize the point from which it began, so small and insignificant it seems, but it reached that shore none the less.

It is the same with us, dear sisters. Each harsh word, every divisive comment, every hateful and smug action against one of our sisters ripples round the world and shakes deep the core of our humanity.

Likewise, every act of kindness, each word of compassion, every hand extended in peace changes the landscape of this world. Though they may not seem to splash as loudly, I believe they reverberate far deeper and reach far wider than any act of hate could ever hope to.

What if…

What if it started with me, plopping a pebble of grace here, a stone of kindness there, as I walk alongside you, my sisters? Then, what if you joined me? And then your neighbor? My teacher? What if one by one we made our mark? What if the ripples of grace and compassion surged and spread until the whole good earth resonated with the weight of it until one day, pulsed to action by the rhythm of grace, we moved together so that our grandchildren awoke to find this world a very different place? 

What if they found themselves raising children alongside one another with support and love regardless of homeschool, public school, un-school, under-the-sea-school? Whether home birth or VBAC or in-the-car-on-the-way birth, each woman discovered herself and her story truly valuable? Truly beautiful?

So, sisters, on this Mother’s Day – and every day after – let’s give one another the gift of grace…and maybe a piece of cake that we don’t have to eat hiding in the bathroom…and together let’s start a ripple effect that will change this world.

When You Long for Home

I’m standing in the heart of the city, trains whirring past. Dogs barking. A hundred languages mingle in the chilled, pre-spring air. I’m in the middle of a vibrant, metropolitan city but my heart is a million miles away. It roams far green fields, sits on rock walls and watches the fog roll in from the ocean. It’s in a pub with lilting music, pungent air and a steaming cup of tea cozied elbow to elbow with friends. I’m standing in Vienna, but my heart longs for Ireland – for home.

When You Long for Home

I was standing on a hill, wind whipping my hair, sheep bleating in defiance of the rain that incessantly pelted their coats. I was in the middle of one of the most beautiful countries known to man, but my heart was a million miles away. It was lying poolside gazing up at a forever-blue sky, roasting in the summer heat. It was in the desert with cacti stretched tall in the orange-red-violet glow of a Sonoran sunset. It was in the living room with kin, drinking the memories in deep. I was standing on a hill in Ireland, but my heart was longing for Arizona – for home.

I was sitting on a beach, staring at a coast I never dreamed I would see. Incredible food filled my belly, and friends who had gone years unseen sat on either side. I was sitting on the Portuguese coast, but my heart was a million miles away. It was in my top-floor flat overlooking a city that never sleeps. It was wandering the streets filled with Mozart and Beethoven where the Sacher Torte is fresh and the coffee flows. It was in my own bed with the window that looks to the east and wakes up with the sun. I was sitting on a beach in Portugal, but my heart was longing for Vienna – for home.

I’m sitting in a pew, surrounded by people with hands lifted, hearts swollen – perhaps broken – with music swirling and words of praise and honor lifting high. I’m sitting among people I love worshipping the God I love, but my heart is a million miles away. It’s bowed low on golden streets, too awed to lift it’s gaze to His face. It’s strolling, weightless and carefree for the first time, hand in hand with the most beautiful Man it’s ever seen. It’s finally at rest, finally full, perfectly whole without an ounce of doubt or pain, not wondering if it’s good enough. I’m sitting in a sanctuary in a beautiful church, but my heart longs for Heaven – for home.

Do you ever feel homesick? Out of place? Like something just isn’t quite right? The longer I live this nomadic expat life, the more I realize that I truly do not have a home here on this earth. Home is so many different places, with so many different people. And it’s pangs run deep and come with a vengeance at the most unexpected – and often most inopportune – times. And the less at home I feel wherever I am now, the more keenly aware I am that I have a permanent Home ready and waiting for me. And it spurs me on to want more – to not settle for just getting by – on this spinning rock we call The World. It makes me want to love more deeply, laugh more heartily, work more diligently, and care more freely, because in the blink of an eye this home will for me be no more, and I will be finally face to face with the One for whom I loved, laughed, worked and cared. I will finally…be home.

So, when you feel the pangs of sadness, and you feel alone. When home just doesn’t seem to feel like home anymore, when you just can’t seem to find your place here, find your place in Him. He loves without demand, and will provide this forever Home to anyone who asks – anyone who dares to love Him in return. And you know what? It’s amazing how knowing where Home truly is, gives purpose and drive and reason to the season spent in the foreign land.

The Woman on the Corner

I see her sitting there everyday. Rain, shine, snow, wind, she’s there.

Her skin is dark, weathered, worn. Wisps of black-grey hair peek out from underneath her near thread-bare scarf, her long skirts gathered around her legs as she sits criss cross on the sidewalk under the tree. That big tree that leafs large in the summer, rains gold in the fall and stands tall and threatening in the winter. Some days she has no shoes; today she does.

She sits and rocks gently back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, one hand clutched to her chest. Eyes distant and empty and I wonder if she wishes she was anywhere but here? What is this city to her? Home? Hell?

The Woman on the CornerWhen someone extends enough mercy to make some semblance of eye-contact with her, she begins her plea…I’ve never been able to discern what language she speaks. Is it German? Gypsy? Romanian? I really can’t tell.

With one leathery hand she reaches out to anyone who will look; with the other she gestures to her mouth. Her eyes telling a story most of us don’t even want to imagine.

Often times I make sure I carry something extra in my purse – an apple, a granola bar, something – so I can hand it to her. I don’t like to give money. You never know what they will do with it.

Right?

Day after day I walk past her…multiple times a day I see her face, hear her garbled speech. And sometimes… I just get angry.

I wonder is she homeless? Where does she go at night? She’s never there at night. Is she embroiled in some kind of panhandling scheme? And will her handlers beat her if she doesn’t gather enough today?

Maybe she’s just unable to get a job. Or maybe she’s just too lazy to work, I think to myself on my worst days; and I hate who I am in those moments.

One day I walked past her and smiled gently, but shook my head no. Not today, I try to say with my eyes.

Later I came by again, bringing lunch home for my husband and myself. It’s our little ritual once a week on a day all the kids are in school: we treat ourselves to a tasty lunch.

I heard her mumblings before I saw her, and something stirred in my soul.

But I kept walking.

I didn’t even look at her.

After I got home, I let myself admit what I was trying to ignore down on the street: I should have given her my meal.

Even later, I needed to go to the grocery store and I told myself that if she was still there, I would buy her some food.

She was still there. This time, she didn’t look at me. She was reclining comfortably on one elbow and smoking a cigarette.

A righteous wrath burned within me. Are you kidding me?? I knew it. I knew it was all a scam. I’m sure she has enough food at home and this is just something she does for the money. How dare she!

However, while in the store I couldn’t shake that stirring from before, so I bought a bag of whole-wheat mini-baguettes.

As I neared her place, I found myself wishing I knew what to say to her. But I didn’t. We don’t speak the same language. So I just smiled sheepishly, and handed her the bread. Not knowing if she truly needed it; not knowing if she really was wanting money instead; just not knowing.

She took it and bowed her head. And then she looked at the bread as if it were gold. She looked at it the same way I looked at my first baby the moment she was born. She sighed a sigh of relief and neither one of us needed words.

I struggle sometimes balancing the mantel of being a “responsible Christian” and not perpetuating an already broken system, and having compassion and extending grace I’m sure I would hope someone would extend to me were our places exchanged.

I still have my suspicions about the legitimacy of her plight, but the truth is I have no way of knowing. And so I smile, and any time I can, I give.

And now I know her name and I can’t help but wonder…what if God is using me to call her by name?

I tried to have a conversation with her yesterday, but we speak nothing close to the same language. However, the smile on her face when she sees me coming tells me that Love rarely needs words and Grace is a universal dialect. So I will continue to operate upon the advice given to me by a friend: when in doubt, give grace.

And I will walk even more humbly with my God because what He is showing me about Himself through this woman on the corner.

 

 

5 Things I Learned About Myself on My First Ski Trip

Having grown up a desert rat in central and southern Arizona, skiing was always somewhat of a foreign concept to me. It was something either rich people did, or college kids on winter break. Certainly not an option for a girl like me: not an athletic bone in her body who lived hours away from any possibility of snow.

Then we moved to Austria.

During the week long semester break in February, just about everyone in Austria who has kids does one thing: go skiing.

My husband, who grew up with a ski-instructor for a father, also naturally grew up skiing. He’s told me fondly many times how he remembers skiing between his dad’s feet when he was only three or four years old. Our nomadic lifestyle, coupled with the fact that most of our adult life had been spent in either Ireland or Texas – two places not well known for great ski conditions – made it so it had been years since Seth had been able to ski, even though it’s one of his favorite pass-times.

So, this year we decided to embrace our inner Austrians and head for the hills to shoop-shoop-shoop (to quote my gal-pal Rachel Greene) down the slopes. tumblr_m0f36d7Yzz1r5idzso1_500

Guys, I was slightly terrified. Excited, but terrified.

I mean, what if I was awful at it? What if I hated it? What if I embarrassed myself, not even able to make it down the kiddie slope? What if I broke my whole body??

5 Things I Learned About Myself On My First Ski TripWell, friends, I am here to tell you that I not only survived, I really enjoyed it! I even learned a few things about myself along the way, that I’d like to share with you.

1. I’m physically stronger than I thought. My instructor (yes, I took lessons rather than my husband teaching me. We were told it would be best for our marriage…I believe “they” were right. Anyway.) started me out not with going up the mountain on any kind of lift, but side stepping our way up. “To help me get a feel for the skis and my body on them.” Ha. Also, once I did use a lift, it wasn’t the kind with a seat. It was just a rope that I had to grab onto for dear life as it tugged me up the hill, but also had to let go of soon enough that my hand didn’t get sucked into the vortex of death. You guys, I spent the day tugging, pulling, squatting, lifting, bending and all manner of other “-ings” and I’m not too humble to say I rocked it! I had much more stamina and physical ability than I would have imagined (Thank you Shuan T and Insanity!). At the end of the day, my muscles were totally shot and that’s when I learned the next lesson about myself.

2. I’m mentally stronger than I thought. There were several times when I just wanted to give up. Like the time I ventured higher on the run and bit it big time and slid halfway down the slope on my back. I briefly asked my husband to just bury me there and go on; and tell the kids I love them. But I got up anyway, and my mind gave my body the strength to continue on – without breaking every bone!

3. My husband and I make a pretty darn good team. This one I knew – it was cemented home in the deepest corner of my heart just how great a team we make after the birth of our first child. However, I was reminded of it again this trip. After the massive face-plant described above, Seth was encouraging me to try again from the higher spot on the run. I was – ahem – less than willing. He offered to go with me, and I reluctantly agreed. As I started down the slope, speed caught up with me quickly and I started to panic. That’s when I heard his voice behind me, “You got it. Pizza slice the skis. There you go, good. Now turn, gently. Keep turning, keep turning. Great! Now straighten out. Yes! You got this!” and so on. Man, guys, just hearing his voice – so calm, so confident – gave me the mental boost to get myself under control and do what I had been taught to do. Cross over into real life? Uh, yeah. In short, my husband rocks and he’s my hero.

4. I’m more of an athlete than I thought. I have used many words to describe myself over the years. Athlete or athletic has never, ever been one of them. However, as I was skiing down that hill, it hit me: I am actually quite athletic – as long as it doesn’t involve a ball, puck, or any other such device. I’m great at sports that require self-awareness, balance, and good body control. A friend bestowed the word “sporty” upon me when she saw a photo of me on the slopes on Instagram. At first I balked, but now, I take that adjective and own it proudly!

5. I’m still not an adrenaline junkie or extreme sport enthusiast – and that’s ok! I have spent most of my life (and particularly my childhood) wishing I was something other than what I was. I wished I was more sporty, or better at math. I wished I longed for adventure and excitement; that I would love the “thrill” of the free-fall feeling on a roller coaster. The truth is, I just. Don’t. I’m finally, at the age of 36, starting to feel at home in my own skin, and appreciate who and how God made me to be. I don’t want to waste any more time mourning the things that I’m not – and that Susie Smith next door seems to be. No. While I never want to grow complacent in life, and I never want to be unwilling to push myself and try new things, I want to spend my energies and time developing and honing the skills and gifts God placed in me from the beginning. Skills, gifts and talents He gave me on purpose. For a reason. To wish those away for some other trait or talent I see in someone else is not only insulting to my Creator, it is denying and wasting who I am.

So, there you have it. Some deep personal/spiritual lessons I learned about myself last week while undertaking a new and scary endeavor that I ended up loving.

When was the last time you tried something new and/or scary? Did you learn anything about yourself? Share in the comments!