For better, for worse

One morning, I was playing referee as my coworkers Abigail and Rebecca discussed an important topic: which was better, the panache of Denzel or the swagger of Idris.  The debate was abandoned when the conversation funneled into talk about men in general. I listened as the two older women dosed out tidbits about their experiences with the opposite sex. But both Abigail and I stood incredulously as Rebecca told us this story. 


When she was younger, there was a woman in her church who always intrigued her. Grace was beautiful with a head full of silky springs of curls. Every Sunday, she’d leave her seat and walk up to the altar for prayer.


Every Sunday. 


Rebecca wondered what on earth could be troubling her so that she sought prayer every week. So, one day, she asked Grace what was she praying for.


Grace said years ago, her husband, a deacon in the church, left her for another woman. He moved out of their home to a new town with this new romance. Since the day he left, Grace had prayed and prayed for God to bring her husband back to her. 


Some time later, her husband had a stroke that left him unable to care for himself. Grace went to the town he was living in and brought him back to her home so she could care for him. 


Her husband indeed did come back to her. 


Grace probably never thought her husband would break their vows and leave her. But I’m sure he never thought that the woman he cheated on would be the one who so willingly would take care of him in such a state.  


A story like this makes me fervently pray for wisdom when it comes to a mate. A man who has integrity and an ear tuned into the Father but one who is also committed in every sense of the word. 


It’s sort of scary. How do you know that the person you’ve married will truly stick with you when it gets tough? 


This past week, I read an article about a woman who suffered brain damage during the birth of her triplets. Her husband, left to care for the triplets virtually on his own, divorced her two years later, telling her parents that he was ready to “move on.” Her parents are currently caring for her and fighting her husband for visitation rights.  While reading this, I thought, “Did she ever think that he would do something like this?” 


It’s easy to stay dedicated and true when times are good. 


When paychecks are plentiful.


 When children are innocent. 


When looks are unblemished, bones are strong, and the twister ripping apart the neighbor’s house looks like it going to miss yours. But it almost never works like that.  

I definitely pray for wisdom when it comes to heart matters. 

Someone who will dance with me in life’s sunshine and get drenched with me in life’s rain. 

Someone who won’t run when it’s hard but stay and fight with me. 

No

Eager to please. 


The first time I saw that phrase, I must have been 6 or 7. A teacher had written it in the comments section of my report card. I remember seeing her blue ballpoint cursive on the paper, and I had asked my mother what it meant. 

My mother said, 

“It means you like to please people. 

You’re always ready to do what she says.” 

Throughout my childhood and adolescence, that phrase defined me. I went above and beyond with my school work so teachers and my parents wouldn’t be disappointed. I was quick to apologize to friends for any slight, real or imagined, for fear of losing their companionship. 

Most of all, I said yes. Too many times. 

Brewing the courage to refuse was physically painful, and I couldn’t bear to see the damage of my “no” splattering all over someone’s face. 

So I committed myself to causes that my heart was not in,bending over backwards so a person could smile and have an easier day. 

My comfort zone is padded with cotton soft acquiescence, easy compliance with anything anyone asks of me.But, lately, as the Lord continues to erase my life limits, He’s put me in tough situations where I’ve had to deny a yes. It hurts but I know it’s needed.

As God so gently told me today,




 Sometimes wisdom means saying no.



Thank You

Sometimes, it just hits you. 


This morning, my co-worker, Diane,  walked into the office wearing a tear-stained face, her eyes tinged with red. When I asked if she was all right, she couldn’t speak. Her mouth opened but then twisted, as if her words suddenly spilled down her throat. She motioned for me to follow her into the ladies’ room. 


The glass door had barely closed behind me before she said in a hoarse whisper, “God is so good! He is so good!” During her morning drive into the city, she had begun to think about how much God has done for her in her life. As the list of things grew, so did her gratefulness, and tears of gratitude began to flow. From the little things like having a washer and dryer to the big things like transforming the behavior of her 9-year old son. “God just turned him around. There’s no way my son could have changed so without God in the mix.” 


Our conversation was interrupted when another co-worker, Rebecca, entered the restroom. When we told her what we were talking about, she praised God with us, saying,

Don’t try to understand the favor of God.  We will never be able to figure it out.

We can’t figure it out. Who knows why God loves us as much as He does? Who knows why He wakes us up every morning, provides for our every need, protects us as we travel treacherous roadways? All we can do is thank Him for it. 


Thank You, Jesus.



Comfort zone

I wonder when we begin to build our comfort zones, the lanes of our life.  Some design their lanes with a red carpet, blazing lime lights, and velvet ropes fastened on platinum pillars. Some construct theirs with brick walls, a steel roof, and a skinny doorway. Others complete their zones with a rose petal carpet, diaphanous curtains, and a smoky pink haze.

In our individual lives, we handle material that’s familiar. We use formulas that are tried and true and easy. We take the same route in our customized comfort zones because it’s comfortable, we know it already, and it’s safe.

But at some point…

you have to step out

The carefully laid limits in my own comfort zone are being divinely stripped. God has slowly been pushing me out of warm solidity and into unfamiliar realms.

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How do I get out of this? I stared at the e-mail and thought. I reread it, blinked, and thought again.  I had been invited to a company luncheon with a handful of other co-workers. It was a free meal with a group of friendly positive people.

And I was scared of going.

A quintessential introvert, the idea of making small talk with colleagues, some of whom I see maybe once a month, made me queasy. What if I embarrass myself? What if I say the wrong thing? What if they don’t like me?

But I erased all negative scenarios, gave myself a mental pep talk, and forced myself to accept the invitation. And it turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made. I instantly clicked with my co-worker, Amy, who is quickly becoming a solid link in my chain of friends. Our conversations are always lively, encouraging, and, at times, challenging. Her periodic pushes have garnered great and surprising results, successes that wouldn’t have happened had I played it comfortable. I definitely see how God is using this friendship to perfect me.

images

Women pin our beauty on various physical elements: body shape, height, skin tone, skin quality, hair style, etc. If any of those elements falls short in our eyes, thoughts of ugliness can quickly swim in and take over.
As I write this, my hair is the shortest it’s ever been. The trim was unexpected and it’s taking some getting used to. Daily, I run my palm against the mini strands as I look in the mirror. I smooth, I brush, I slick, I gloss.

But I don’t feel beautiful.

I feel the complete opposite:

insecure


unattractive


unpretty


However, I’m starting to believe that this is simply a part of the Lord’s plan to destroy the haze of safety I’d been living in. It is not my hair nor my figure nor my complexion that makes me beautiful.

It’s God.

External factors are always subject to change and deterioration. But the Lord’s constant and never-ending internal renovation give me a beauty that glows from the inside out, an aesthetic aura that isn’t visible in a mirror.

Whenever I take that first step outside my life lane, it’s scary. The ground beneath my soles is unknown and feels quivery, like jelly. But if I just remember that God is ordering every one of my footsteps, including those that lead me out of my comfort zone, the jelly will turn to solid rock.


The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.”
-Psalm 32:8