Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Married Life

Twenty-eight years ago, I left the comfort of a loving, secure family environment and got married. The night before my wedding, I panicked. What in the world am I doing? I thought. I’ve got it made here at home. Why am I getting married?
As soon as I stopped to breathe, I felt God speak to my heart, I’m scooping you out of one nest and placing you into another, equally secure one. And He did. But although my marriage has been a place of love and security, it has not always been without troubles that have tried to shake that little nest. We’ve struggled over the usual topics. If you’re married, you know what I’m talking about. If you’re not… well, I won’t spoil the surprise, but I’ll just give you a little preview.
In our marriage, there have been many more discussions over small issues than big. Like whether or not we should replace the front door, get a new pet, or buy additional Christmas gifts for the kids. And it’s often during these conversations that I call a time-out and announce that we are really on the same side. We both want to make the wisest decision, so we work together to figure something out.
Sometimes I feel like the smaller the topic, the more animated our discussions become. Such was the case the night that I couldn’t find my toothbrush. I searched the bathroom, but it wasn’t there. I mentioned it to Michael and he said, “Oh, I threw it away.”
“WHAT?” I said, as I turned and spotted my toothbrush in the garbage can.
“I decided to straighten things up, and your toothbrush looked old, so I just threw it away.”
“So when you went into this cleaning mode, you passed up the stuff in the garage, decided not to tackle the kitchen, ignored the stack of magazines on the fireplace, and headed straight to the bathroom to throw away one toothbrush – mine!”
We laughed about it as soon as he returned from CVS with a new toothbrush.
Although I’ve mentioned really minor issues, we’ve had major ones, too. We’ve had better and we’ve had worse. We’ve endured sickness, and we’ve enjoyed health. We’ve been richer, and we’ve been poorer. And, twenty-eight years later, we still meet hurdles. We still ask God for help, and He still meets us where we are, and shows us how to get to where we need to be. And I pray that it will be this way, until death parts us.

Friday, November 20, 2009

So Thankful

Here we are on the brink of another Thanksgiving. Before getting busy with the shopping, cooking, and eating that usually accompanies this holiday, I wanted to create a list of all the things for which I am thanking God. It didn’t take long before I realized that this list would be complete with just three items.
First of all, I’m thankful for the past. A few months ago, my sister, Kay, and I decided that we would not become people who long to relive those days gone by. Although the past holds many wonderful memories, there are also times tucked between the good that were bad. To be honest, some were awful days that we never wish to repeat. Kay and I agreed that we would be thankful for the blessings of the good days, the growth that resulted from the bad ones, and the ability of God to weave them all together, making us the people we are today.
Next, I’m thankful for the present, the gift of today. I only have today, so I’m going to squeeze all of the life that I can out of every minute. I want to live in such a way that the people in my life have no reason to doubt my love. Before most of them even open their eyes in the morning, I have already lifted their names in prayer. In addition, today I am going to work diligently to complete the projects that I have begun so that I can start new ones. This gives me little time to weep over the past, or worry about the future.
And speaking of the future brings me to my third area of thankfulness. I am so grateful for the future. It’s all in God’s hands, and I trust Him. As the days are revealed, He will provide the wisdom and grace to live each one to the fullest.
I hope to remember my Thanksgiving list every day. If I do that, I will follow the instructions in I Thessalonians 5:18 to “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Redeeming Mistakes

Ivory soap wasn’t designed to float. Chocolate chip cookies were accidentally developed. A tension spring designed to monitor horsepower on naval battleships fell, and the Slinky toy was invented. Mistakes. All of these successful products were the result of mistakes.
Learning to press on despite what we believe to be failure is a valuable skill. It’s okay to fail, but it’s not okay to quit. Jonas Salk tried 200 unsuccessful polio vaccines. When asked how it felt to fail so many times, he said, “I never failed 200 times in my life. I was taught not to use the word ‘failure.’ I just discovered 200 ways how not to vaccinate for polio.
One of the challenges of teaching art to first graders was turning a perfectionist into an artist. All too often, as soon as one mistake was made, the student wanted to start over. Rarely lacking art supplies, I refused the request simply because I wanted the child to dig deeper and figure out a way to redeem their mistake. I would kneel down next to the student, and we would work together to find a way to make something beautiful out of the mess. We didn’t quit until we had a first grade masterpiece.
In much the same way, I have made a habit of bringing my mistakes to God and asking Him to work through them. I don’t know why I keep messing up, but I trust God to show me how to go beyond my mistakes, learn from them, and even turn the experience into a beautiful life-lesson. Whenever this happens, a song that I heard over twenty-five years ago fills my mind.
Something beautiful, something good, all my confusion, He understood.
All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife, and He made something beautiful out of my life.
Failing to bring our mistakes to the Master so that He can turn our lives into a masterpiece is probably the greatest failure of all.