No Regrets

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My husband used to call me the Queen of Regret, because I second-guessed most every decision of any significance. In my mind, scrutinizing and analyzing past decisions would scientifically help me to make better decisions in the future and bring me to that peaceful place of No Regrets.

The place of No Regrets is elusive.

I say he “used to” call me that, because a few years ago I began to make a concerted effort to change that thing about me, and I was doing pretty good about living peacefully with past decisions until my daughter died suddenly. Now I find myself in this regret battle again. The whys and the what-ifs threaten to overtake me if I’m not vigilant to recognize their tormenting game. It’s not a happy place.

I don’t usually make new year’s resolutions, but as 2014 arrives, one thing I resolve to do is to leave behind the regrets. The past cannot be changed. I must learn what is to be learned and move forward.

I absolutely know I cannot do this without the help of Jesus who IS my peace. (Ephesians 2:14)

I am reminded of a verse I haven’t thought about in a long time. In my Amplified Bible, I have it underlined and highlighted, and I can quote it by memory:

“And let the peace (soul harmony which comes) from the Christ rule (act as umpire continually) in your hearts–deciding and settling with finality all questions that arise in your minds–[in that peaceful state] to which [as members of Christ’s] one body you were also called [to live]. And be thankful–appreciative, giving praise to God always.” (Colossians 3:15)

That’s a road map to the peaceful place of No Regrets. I’m setting my GPS for it.

I Came for You

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Thumbing absently through Facebook posts before bed, I read this one that stopped me in my tracks.

It brings to mind what I consider to be the most romantic line in cinematic history, or at least of the movies I’ve seen.

The movie is “The Last of the Mohicans” starring Daniel Day-Lewis (Hawkeye) and Madeleine Stowe (Cora Munroe). The moment is when a murderous tribe of Indians is about to capture a small group of the English, and their only chance is for Hawkeye to escape alone, then come back for them. In the moment before he leaves, he looks deeply and desperately into Cora’s eyes, the woman he loves, and says with conviction, “I WILL find you!”

What love! It melts my heart every time! It’s a love that says nothing will keep us apart, and I will see to that! A love that says don’t fear, because I will find you, and I will rescue you!

And so, when I saw the picture above wherein Jesus states, “I came for you,” I thought of that passionate, extravagant love. He came for me. For ME. (And for the whole world.) He rescued me. He went through hell–literally–to do it. Nothing stopped him. And now, nothing can separate me from that love. It’s a love that’s big and passionate and pure and strong and unrelenting.

Can you just see him looking deeply into your eyes and saying, “I came for YOU!” It’s like, “I did this for you, because I love you. Now what’s your move?” It’s like when someone tells you for the first time, “I love you.” There’s an expected response of some kind. A waiting. An anticipation.

He came for us. It’s our move.

 

 

What’s love got to do with it?

I think in my previous blog posts I’ve made the point that life is hard, life is messy, life is crappy, and yes, life is beautiful. Sometimes all in one day.

Stuff happens. And people happen. And stuff happens to people. And people make stuff happen. And people make stuff happen to other people.

Sometimes in the process of all of these happenings, someone gets hurt. Let’s say that someone is me.

Ok, it’s me. (It is I, English majors.)

After all, I’m writing this, and it would be useless to pretend I am talking about someone else here.

Let me cut to the chase. Sometimes when I am hurt or disrespected by someone, I tend to want to lash out in a manner inconsistent with my Christian walk.

But let me tell you something I have learned in this life: God’s way is the best way. He does all things well. And He’s pretty much infinitely smarter than I am. (It’s so helpful when I remember this!)

His way is love. (After all, He IS love.)

Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commands.” (John 14:15). Well, I love him. Then he said that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind; and the second greatest is to love your neighbor as yourself. (Luke 10:27). Paul said all the commandments are summed up in one: Love your neighbor as yourself. (Romans 13:9, Galatians 5:14). James calls it the “Royal Law.” (James 2:8 NIV).

What does it mean to love someone? I Corinthians 13:4-7 in the Amplified Bible makes it painfully clear:

Love endures long and is patient and kind;
Love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy.
Love is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily.
Love is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride);
Love is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly.
Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking.
Love is not touchy or fretful or resentful.
Love takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong].
Love does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail.
Love bears up under anything and everything that comes.
Love is ever ready to believe the best of every person.
Love’s hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening].

That is such a tall order. That seems so impossible a task for me to achieve. How can I do it?

The Bible tells me that the love of God has been shed abroad in my heart by the Holy Spirit. (Romans 5:5).

What He tells us to do, He helps us to do.

Doing things the love way goes against the grain. It goes against popular advice. It goes against the flesh nature that wants to lash out and hurt back.

But the greatest part about this love thing is that IT NEVER FAILS. That’s right! LOVE NEVER FAILS! (So says I Corinthians 13:8.) I like a sure thing, but it doesn’t come easy! Walking in love is a daily thing, and sometimes even moment by moment. I remind myself of how Love–how GOD–how God’s love in me acts. Then I try to act that way.

What’s love got to do with it?

Everything.

What a Difference a Day Makes

Saturday was a cold, gray day. Frankly, it mirrored our mood. Missing Emily, feeling her absence. Deeply. So we did what we do, went on with our lives, but our hearts were in none of it. Even the cozy fire in the fireplace didn’t warm the chill in our hearts. The pall hung over us all day, hard to shake.

Sunday dawned bright and sunny. Craig ran out to catch a picture of the sunrise, as has become his daily joy.

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After hot beverages, we dressed. On the way to church, early, we listened to worship music. Once there, well, how can I describe it? I can’t speak for Craig, because once there, we go our separate ways for a while–he, to fellowship with God and men, and I, to worship team practice.

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Something started stirring in me at worship practice. We began by praying earnestly. Then we practiced our songs, but more than singing and playing the songs, we were already worshipping God. We weren’t PRACTICING worship, we WERE worshipping.

After practice, there was time to fellowship with the saints. Thank God for the light-hearted chat with the girls. Thank God for the heartfelt words of comfort from an older woman of God. Thank God for reconnecting with my husband through a few words and a shared smile.

Then it was time to lead the saints into corporate worship of the one, true, holy God. What an honor! To worship Him so that He desires to inhabit our praises! To invite Him into our midst in a tangible way, so that lives are touched and changed! To be a part of His purpose for this time, this place!

The congregation responded, and I tell you, there is nothing like corporate worship.

Afterwards, the message was delivered, ending with a call to dedication, while in the background played a powerful song I’d been listening to and singing all week: “Redeemed” by Big Daddy Weave.

“I am redeemed, You set me free
So I’ll shake off these heavy chains
Wipe away every stain, now I’m not who I used to be
‘Cause I am redeemed
Thank God, redeemed.”

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What a difference corporate worship makes! What a difference fellowshipping with believers makes!

Oh, what a difference a day makes!

The Crappy and the Beautiful

This is the thing: I started this blog to write about life as I see it and as it happens, and what’s happening right now is crappy and beautiful.

Do you know I was well into my married life before I ever said the word “crap”? The word was never spoken in my parents’ house. It was an ugly word. Now I say it quite freely. It’s my ugly word. And when you are in pain, you sometimes want to say ugly words. So I say, “Crap, crap, crap!” Yes, I do. I’m sorry to disappoint you.

And if things get a little worse, I say, “Crapper John.” Worse, “Crapper John, M.D.!” And REALLY bad: “Crappanonymous!” This is my way.

So, the past 24 hours have been crappanonymous. The thing about this dang grieving process is that you get what the experts call “emotional ambushes.” That means you are feeling all fine and good, and then–BAM–something hits you in the gut. Then you have to heave a few sobs to work through it.

I took my grandbaby to a doctor appointment today–a check-up–and this is something Emily and I used to do together. The doctor is over an hour away, so this is a day trip when all is said and done. We would eat lunch and enjoy the day.

And it–Emily’s absence–just fell over me last night like a heavy blanket and was there to meet me when I got up this morning. And the usual people who might have accompanied me today couldn’t make it, so it was just B and me. Oh, if that little girl could talk, she could tell some stories about me today!

So here comes the beautiful part: Brooklyn. She is one of the beautiful parts of my life right now. And to top it off, she is so sweet and expressive and personable. Her smile lights the room.

And oh, her kisses! They are sloppy, and yes, sometimes they hurt when she clamps down with her two upper and two lower teeth onto your cheek, but it hurts so good!

Life is crappy and beautiful. And isn’t that what Jesus said it would be?

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10) “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

The crappy and the beautiful.

Procrastination (Or, Just Do It, Already!)

The thing about writing this blog is that I want to write regularly. If not every day, then at least every other day. And I was doing great (with the three posts so far — ha!) until an unusually harried work week merged with my general procrastination tendencies.

Oh, and I thought I had whipped that procrastination thing, once I started this blog!

So I determined that Saturday morning I would write another blog post. It’s not from lack of material. I’ve got the notes piled high on my desk. It’s just, you know, that P-word. And also the G-word: grandbaby. And the W-word: work. And the…. Oh, never mind.

But back to this morning. So I get up fairly early, at least by Saturday morning standards: 7:30. I eat a little breakfast. I decide to take my laptop to a cozy spot in the bedroom since my husband is watching an old movie on TV in the living room, which is a part of my dining room where I usually write. Too much distraction. I love those old movies.

Before starting, I just want to get the dishwasher going, which leads to looking around for any stray dishes, which leads to finding my grandbaby’s toys still strewn about the front room, which leads to my picking them up, which leads me back to turn the dishwasher on. I just want to file those three receipts that lay on the counter while l am thinking about it, which leads me back to the front room where Katie is now watching a TV show that I hate because it gloatingly pushes moral boundaries while pulling you in to watch it with its great singing! Which leads me to express this sentiment to Katie, who agrees with me in principle, but says she enjoys the music part! Which leads me to watch about 10 minutes of the show I despise, which leads me to despise that I allowed it to steal my time. Which leads me to muse that no time spent with my precious daughter is wasted! (Can you say justification?)

Of course, musing about life and spending time with my daughter reminds me I really wanted to write a blog post, which is me musing about life.

So I did.

Life is messy

This is not intended to be a blog about death, dying, and grief. It’s supposed to be about life. I love life; hence, my tagline: “Observations from a life lover.” But I’ve learned that death is a part of this present life.

The view that I have of life after having lived a half century is not quite as rosy as the one with which I began. Things are not so neatly tied up with a bow. There are lots of loose ends. Life is messy.

Life is hard. In fact, it’s downright brutal at times!

Bad stuff happens. Sad stuff happens. Sometimes it’s a result of our own selfish decisions made outside of God’s will, sometimes it’s a result of simply not knowing better, sometimes our lives are affected by another’s actions, sometimes it’s an outright attack of the evil one, and sometimes it’s the result of living in a fallen, decaying world.

BUT GOD. (Here comes the good part. Because God IS good.)

God is the All-Sufficient One. I’m talking about Jehovah God, the Almighty One True God. The One who sent His son Jesus to wipe away our sin along with the resulting pain, shame, and guilt. Stuff happens! Jesus said it would! He said, “In this world you will have troubles, but be of good cheer, because I have overcome the world!” When we invite this world overcomer into our lives (first, into our hearts; then, into every fabric of our lives)–we will be MORE than conquerors! He always provides a way of escape. He is always a very present help in time of trouble. He always walks WITH us through the valley of the shadow of death. He always provides a way out of every temptation. He is, quite simply, the ANSWER.

I don’t have all the answers, but I know Jesus–THE Truth, THE Life, THE Way. He doesn’t offer pat answers. He offers Himself.

And He is enough. He is MORE than enough.

When the crap comes, He is available in so many ways: as peace, comfort, wisdom–in fact, whatever is needed for the situation. Because He is enough, and more.

I prefer to understand everything. I prefer to have everything wrapped in a neat package. But quite frankly, it ain’t gonna happen (in this life). No matter. REALLY. No matter. I release that need to know all and understand all. That’s called trust. It sounds so simple. It’s not. But when I do it, when I decide to trust Him, OH! Well! He does marvelous things and makes the messy into a message. Thank You, Lord!

Discarded Clothes

Today I went through Emily’s clothes.

Immediately after Emily’s earthly departure, her husband bagged everything up and put it in storage, unable to deal with the process of going through everything at that point.

Then he called today and asked if I wanted to come pick up her things. I said yes.

Upon arriving back at home, I began slowly untying each garbage bag full of her clothes, looking inside to see items so familiar, still full of her scent. Each item with it’s own story. The air-brushed t-shirt she and her husband bought at the fair last year. Her favorite warm-ups that she just about wore out. The fluorescent colored socks that she used to wear, mismatched–I don’t think there were two of the same color. The skinny, before-baby clothes. Shoes.

It hurts pretty bad. I mean, it hurts REAL bad.

I really only have ONE comfort: that I KNOW I will see her again. That’s my main, overriding comfort.

And there are other, smaller comforts, such as knowing that the last couple of years of her life were mostly very happy. And knowing that she is happy and healed and free at this very moment and every moment to come.

And of course, there is her baby. That sweet baby who has such a hold on my heart.

The discarded clothes are leftovers of a life left too soon. They have no value except for the memories they evoke of their owner, a blond-haired blue-eyed beauty with a happy countenance and a gentle spirit.

She left the clothes, and she left the body, which was essentially her earth-clothes.

No matter what age I live to, I’ll be seeing her real soon.

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First Things First

First Things First

“Lord, help me to realize how brief my time on earth will be. Help me to know that I am here for but a moment more. My life is no longer than my hand! My whole lifetime is but a moment to you. Proud man! Frail as breath! A shadow! And all his busy rushing ends in nothing. He heaps up riches for someone else to spend.” (Psalm 39:4-5 TLB)

Having lived a few decades, I’ve become keenly aware of how precious my time is. I really do think about it several times a day, usually as I’m about to read some fluffy article. Sifting it through the mental filter of importance, I find it usually doesn’t make the cut.

First things first. Faith. Family. Friends. And whatever else God puts in me to spend time on.

Of course, I’m talking about FREE time, since I do have a job, and a home, and bills to pay. But having all the other things I must do makes my free time that much more valuable.

So I get picky about those moments. And I put first things first.

“Hooray for A!” Or, What A Change In My Life Has Been Wrought

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Once upon a time, I listened to whatever music I liked, generally worship music. And when I like a song, I listen to it over and over, and it becomes a part of me and my world and my brain and the soundtrack of my day and my dreams at night. Usually, this is a beautiful thing.

Then, along came a grandbaby. When she was about 10 months old, I thought I would introduce her to the alphabet through the world of technology–an app on my iPhone. One such app has a catchy tune for each letter of the alphabet, and Brooklyn LOVES to listen to them.

Now the soundtrack to my life sounds something like this: “Hooray! Hooray! Hooray for A!”

I don’t think I’d have it any other way.