What is the fruit of going deeper in my faith? In other words, can people around me see a difference? Am I a better wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, employee ? To be honest, I continue to wrestle with this idea...deeply.
Years ago, I was a mentor for a group of high school girls. I use the word "mentor" lightly because I really didn't do anything extraordinary. To be honest, I was available- period. We met in the attic of our church. I feebly put together a worship song (played on a cd player), a devotion from a youth book I found lying around; I think I might have provided a snack and occasional prize for a memorized verse BUT we always prayed- always.
The last thing I did was drive each girl home. Everyone was too young for a driver's license so that was probably the single most important thing I did. The rest was up to God. He showed up. For example, the night after the high school gun shooting at "Columbine", we were there to discuss, process and pray for that school as well as our own school or the time I was preparing a short lesson on "allowing God to change your plans" and then have my own biological father (who in 30 years, has only come twice for a visit - one was for my wedding) interrupt my lesson plan to have dinner with me and my family. I showed up later that night to our small girls group empty handed of a lesson plan but had, instead, a life experience.
I think that is how God works.
I vividly remember attending a Christian youth conference where after four days of incredible teaching with accomplished Pastors, talented musicians, insightful classes, I was sitting with a group of girls talking about life. I must have said something "quasi-inappropriate" (I don't remember what it was) but one girl, who tended to see her faith in more shades of black/white rather than grey, looked at me puzzled and said, "but because you are married and have three children, I thought you had it all figured out?"
Her disappointment stayed with me. My husband and I are almost 2/3 of the way finished with helping 2 of our 3 children get through college (financially). My daughter is a Senior in college and said, what I believe, is one of the benefits of going to college: "I feel like I know less about the world than when I started". Yes- exactly. I had a similar experience: After starting, stopping, starting, re-starting college, I finally finished and uttered those same words- "I feel like I know less than when I started". I know less about history, cultures, people, everything. I questioned what was real and what I was taught to believe as real. Everything was upside down and topsy, turvy.
If I questioned my formal education from a top college in the U.S., why would I think that God would ask any less of me with my faith? That is the question. I am a wife and a mother. Don't I have it all figured out?
My jeep that sits under the tree in our yard 90% of the year has taken me farther than I thought I would go this summer. It is a metaphor to my relationship with God which is the reason I write at all. It has caused me to wrestle more sincerely, more honestly and more intently and I wonder: can people see a positive difference in me as a result of it? That is the question.
So... I am buckled in my jeep, our dog sitting beside me, the ignition is on, I'm at the closed gates ready, four wheel drive in gear... let's go once again on this trail I seldom take:
What is the fruit of my going deeper in my faith? When I began thinking about the concept of this website nearly a year ago, I had a pretty good idea what I wanted the components to be; I just needed the confidence to begin. Each month, I hobbled along. The past couple of months, however, I feel a depth that is markedly different for me. What is the difference? I have spent much more time alone. Alone with my thoughts, alone with my God, alone with the realization of the many fears I have allowed to shape my behavior. Have I become "emotionally compromised"?
Although I heard the theme song from "Star Trek" a million times, I have been unwilling to allow God, as the lyrics in the tune goes, to "boldly go where no man has gone before" in my heart. My tears have been more heartfelt, my worship more authentic and my confidence more youthful.
I still love that song... but sooo 70's; I know only fans will appreciate it and I might be the only one! Anyways, the first fear: had I spent too much time absorbed in my own thoughts? When my husband and I began a well earned vacation last month, I finally had time to reflect on this website. I began to wonder if I had allowed too much distance to grow between us... Then unsolicited, my husband said "whatever you are doing, take it intravenously because I like this new you". Given this conversation, I decided to read one of my posts aloud to him. He was quiet.. only one sentence bothered him; it was about parenting. I'm pretty sure he quickly forgot about it but I didn't.
There is only ONE requirement I make about this website: although my own embarrassment is fair game, NOT ONE SINGLE person would be hurt, embarrassed or made to feel uncomfortable. So, do i stop the website as a result of his quietness?
This is what I struggled with this month. Before I tally the scoreboard of pros and cons, it is only fair to identify the potential good or bad fruit from sharing what God has done in my heart.
Finally, there was an alter call. Several people stepped to the front; they were of various ages and genders. As I moved forward to help pray for and with them, I was reminded of the sheer boldness and faith it takes for people to acknowledge what is happening in their hearts and then translate that into action and again, vulnerability.
Surrender. What do you surrender at the foot of the cross?
A cold Corona with a slice of lime after a hot day working in the sun, decadent, delicious chocolate that makes my heart want more with the mere taste of it's goodness, "relationship" with a friend at a restaurant. This is an example of the three things I have had to give up lately. Not by choice but my body has decided to "react" in different ways to things I eat. I grew up eating anything and everything I wanted. Before I get the "violins" out, I consider myself immensely lucky; I have seen snapshots of the pain and agony people go through with much more serious things than me and mine is not life-threatening, just inconvenient. It does, however, bring up a measure of humility as I wrestle with fears and faith these days.
The remainder of this post will now take a turn toward the three things, three people, three measures God has replaced with what I have given up. Oh- and you should know, I have never liked the taste of coffee.
In The Water AND a Frappuccino
Friend 1: two years since I have seen her
Out of the blue, I called up a friend that is about 15 years older than I am. What I did't realize is she thought I was mad at her. Because we had spent an afternoon together a couple of years ago, I hadn't contacted her since. The funny thing was, I had sent her a card (or so I thought) thanking her for her friendship and the time we spent together but she never received it and has been living with the idea that she had said something wrong. She hadn't. I was just busy.
This friend was my supervisor in home health care. I was 19-22 years old and probably saw and experienced more in those 3 years than many see in a lifetime. I also lived with her. This ushered water into my life in a tangible way. She lived a couple blocks from the beach, surrounded herself with water: everything from surfing, wind-surfing and snorkeling to Yacht boat races and sailing. Her ex-husband invented scuba diving gear that is still used today. She, on the other hand, opened a famous swimsuit factory (her picture was in an early Surfer magazine) and hangs in the guest room of my cabin; her friends were famous in the surfing, sailing, racing circuit.
We reminisced about those early days that revolved around water. Then she reminded me of an image she and her son had of me: After wind-surfing, I would carry the boards and sails and all the gear while the guys in my company followed behind. Ok- that is not a picture I am proud of but one that God chose to stir up. Why did I feel the need to be stronger than the company I kept? AND, what happened to the girl who boldly walked into a popular Fish restaurant alone, order a beer and clam chowder at the bar and meet interesting, new people? I haven't eaten fish in 25 years.
As we dined at the Yacht Club in Newport Beach, her 70+ year old friend asked if i wanted to join her for kayaking at her Yacht Club in the Fall. She "did aging" in a graceful, youthful way, wearing cute clothes, a smile and the attitude and aura that made her look 15 years younger than her peers. She was enthusiastic and interested in what I had to say and her energy was contagious. I think God was teaching me to trust his outstretched hand and path and enter life with open hands and a hopeful heart.
In years past, I normally would order a cold beer so when Friend 1 offered to split one with me, disappointed but quiet, I declined. I didn't want to get into the reasons why but the wheat content in beer now seemed to bother me. Although I'm not a coffee drinker, when she asked me later in the day to share a "Frappaccino", I welcomed the offer. It is important to me that I develop "relationships" in my life and there is something profound about sharing food/drinks with someone else. We have now gotten our friendship back on tract and have plans to reconnect in the fall. This time, I made sure she knew how thankful I was of her friendship!
To my surprise, the Frappaccino was absolutely delicious! It reminded me of the Fudgesicles I ate at Nana and Papa's house. Aside from the friendship, or food, God was challenging the old ways in which I have always done things. I think we can get into ruts and not allow God the freedom to use people in our lives to change the lens in which we view the world: It was a good lesson for me not to remain stagnant in my way of doing things, my judgements and my expectations but instead, be open to His ways to bless me, His ways to encourage me and His purpose in my life. It is a subtle shift.
View of the Water AND a coffee/Blueberry facial
Friend 2: twelve years since I have seen her
This friend was the first roommate my age since leaving home and college. I worked for a private home healthcare agency that placed me in a variety of health facilities: anywhere from private homes to rehabilitation facilities to regular hospitals. Each day brought a different set of circumstances and patients. I eventually was placed with an elderly woman named Eleanor (in her home) that was dying of cancer. At first, I was scheduled sporadically but eventually, at my request, became her exclusive healthcare aid, taking care of her (and her husband), including cooking, reading books, going for walks and outings, medications and baths; I became a part of their family.
In her final weeks of life, she made a request of me that, in God's grace and mercy, I was able to fulfill. She asked me to stay with her husband after she died until he died. She had great love for him and was worried about his well-being after she left. I agreed. The next weeks were difficult as I watched her slip away. I was the last person to take her vital signs, calling her husband in from the living room to say good-bye, calling her daughter who lived in the other part of the state and finally, to call the coroner's office and witness the removal of her body on a cold and storming night. That was a lot of responsibility for someone barely 20 years old. No wonder I carried the windsurf gear with strength beyond my frame.
Although I lived with Friend 1, I spent most of my days with the husband of the woman I cared for. My love for that family was so great that I spent one Christmas, just the two of us and the dog, without the company of any other family or friends; I was lonely. The silver lining was that I found his life fascinating: he lived through the "roaring twenties" where he rolled the dice big on Wall Street. There were elaborate parties, horse races and boxing matches and a handful of extravagant friends, including "Bunny" whom he often talked about.
Like the grandeur and opulence of the "Great Gatsby", stories were extravagant, wild and exciting until "Black Tuesday" when everything came to a jolting halt with the Wall Street Crash of 1929. We talked about life and love and everyday things like how the gardner crucified the outdoor shrubs into marshmallow-looking balls which frustrated him to no end. We talked about the proper way for me to make vichyssoise (cold) soup or Eggs Benedict. He had a niece named Debby who often came to visit. She talked a lot about God and faith and took a great interest in my poetry, offering tips and corrections. She wrote a book about being drawn to the light of Christ which intrigued me. For him, the discussion of faith challenged him ... challenged is an under-statement as every other word was profanity. Often yelling at me, he later apologized. In the end, however, he chose faith.
This is where Friend 2 enters. It was time for me to move in with friends my own age, he said, AND he was right. I responded to an ad in the newspaper and met her. Not only gorgeous, but probably one of the most down to earth people I have ever met, we became Instant friends. She worked at a health food store thereby introducing me to a whole new language- brewers yeast on popcorn ? A regular meal as sometimes it was all we could afford. She laughed often and danced louder.. she was a respite of hope in my dying world. I loved Dorsey greatly; I didn't realize how much until God, again began stirring this part of my heart. But, remember? God doesn't have us "jump" into nothingness. He calls us to the edge, though and maybe that is where He wants us to remain.
The View of Water (continued) AND a coffee/Blueberry facial
Before I met these three girlfriends this month, this happened:
A different, very dear girlfriend has been given a raw deal. There are no words to heal her wounds; it is now up to God to bandage her broken heart. She stands as a single mother with a 2 1/2 year old son. After spending the better part of last year back in school to become a esthetician, she just opened her business. I have never had a facial; I tried one recently but my face reacted so violently, I had to suddenly stop. I explained this to my friend prior to my appointment. She assured me, we would start out slow with a sensitive skin product.
God's currency is very, very different than our own. Ask anyone that has worked in any type of ministry and time and time again, they will tell you they received back far more than what they gave. When I worked with a handful of girls in youth ministry, it was true. Yes- I gave of myself but I received back far more than what I gave. This was true for my facial too. Honestly, the only reason I made the appointment was not because of the facial but it was an honest and tangible way for me to support a struggling friend who stepped out in faith to establish a business in order to support herself and her son.
Working in hospitals, I tried repeatedly to greet patients with a touch to their hand. Over three years, I maybe had 100+ patients. The power of touch is hugely undervalued. It is the bridge that unites compassion to feeble, broken, scared hearts. Try touching the hand of a man or woman who has been sitting, sometimes forgotten in a nursing home or under hospice care at home; the power of touch communicates that someone cares. I know these things but forget them.
I arrived for my facial. I changed my clothes and entered a room with soft music, low lights and the coziest grey blanket you have ever seen. I reminded her of my sensitive skin. The remedy? a coffee/blueberry cream made for my skin type. Really? They make coffee face products? Who knew? Coffee seems to be the theme this month- so yes, certainly. Let's give it a try. The next hour was pure heaven.
Sure- you say, how great can this facial be? Let me tell you, she starts with a solution on your face but massages every part of your face, then neck, upper chest, shoulders and then hands, fingers and arms. In those moments, human touch cleared what world corrupting debris had accumulated. A few years back, I learned a relaxing technique. The idea is to imagine (visualize in your mind's eye) a container being filled with water. If you are closely concentrating on it, you see the vessel being filled up. Measure by measure, filling to the brim. Now, slowly and deliberately empty the container of fluid... The next step? Imagine your breathing to be that container and the filling up is God's goodness, the emptying out are the pressures of your life. Try it, slowly, deliberating and carefully concentrating on your breathing. That was what the facial was like.
In those moments, God was using someone else to "speak life" into me. That rich, soul-giving life that, like a human touch to someone's hand, says I care about you deeply. That is what God does. He works, not in the abstract, but in the tangible, concrete, life giving hands of grace. Finished and standing at the register, I asked her about young people and facials and all sorts of things... Her reply, "oh- gina, you are entering a whole new world". Oh- and the coffee/blueberry cream? I guess it was exactly what I needed because my face glowed.
Yes, I was giving up decadent, sweet chocolate (I still occasionally sneak a little) but God was replacing it with His goodness.. a facial, an encouraging gesture from a friend, a hand that says, "I care about you and I care with you and I won't let go of your hand."
Flying Above the Water
My favorite scene in the "Titanic" film is the one everyone remembers and makes fun of... it is the sensation of flying. Jack guides Rose to a new perspective; it is one she had not "tried on". It was one which casts wisdom, freedom and possibility into a world that she had allowed to become small.
I took the challenge this month; I took God's hand and "He didn't let go."
Some day, I will write about my father (my step-father) who adopted me in love as his own daughter but not yet; it still is too sad. However, In my obedience to put faith into action, God honored my foolishness with two illustrations of His love. The first blessing was on the front of a boat on a lake I love.
It is important to me that I live out loud in this underground sort of way (my website) in order to intrigue you enough to consider going deeper in your own faith but not loud enough that my own faith is compromised. I will seldom post worship music as I find it sacred to your own story. I now see God has allowed me to see glimpses of sadness in this world in order to share the need for people to reach those "hard to reach" places and people. I won't tell you about my "illustration of flying" as God worked on the inside of my heart because God wants to teach you your own story.
Where thirty years ago, I had no fear to walk into places alone armed with youthful confidence, this past week at the conclusion of this month's post, I decided to approach my Sunday with open hands giving the entire day and night to my God. After dropping off my husband at the airport at 5:30am, I embarked on an all-day solo adventure ending with a worship night at Angel Stadium in Los Angeles. There were three things that were cool about that night: 1) my seats 2) image of water 3) fireworks
Because it was free admission, seats were scarce. I still cannot believe the perfect "behind home plate" seating I had; then again, am I really surprised?
The message was simple and straight forward. The thing that surprised me was how full the stadium was. There wasn't a seat left in the entire stadium... bleachers, up high, down low... they said at the podium, the "Fire Marshall was turning people away". At the conclusion of the message, there was an alter call. I have never seen a site such as this... thousands of people were making their way to the field.. it looked as if water was cascading down the bleachers as people exited in order to "Jump" into God's hands of grace. Jesus was showing me the people He loves. Men, women, children, teens, young, old; race and culture did not matter. They were all making their way to the field. This image of water running was a perfect conclusion to my post.
Next were the fireworks. There is something very cool about fireworks in a large stadium. Twice- one on the East Coast and this time, on the West Coast, I watched enthusiastic, exuberant people enjoying fireworks as "the icing on the cake" for two iconic evenings.
Our days are numbered. We may have to get a little "emotionally compromised" to allow our hearts to "love deeply" in order to love purely. As I cry, abba father, i pray my living out loud is worthy as a gift I lay at His alter. Will you lay down yours?
This month's post has been about friendship and sharing bits of my past; it is also about music. The music that gets us to dance and, ultimately, to live out loud as people that have been changed by a savior willing to pay the sacrifice for us. In honor of music and friendship: the first vinyl record album I ever bought was Elton John. I was in Junior High School. As I close this month's post, it seems a fitting ending to a journey in my jeep. As you discover your story of hope and friendship, love and reaching out to people in need, i will extend my hand of friendship as words spoken by my friend, Spock "live long and prosper".
Elton John was born Reginald Kenneth Dwight on March 25, 1947 in an area outside of London. "He is a singer, songwriter, composer, pianist, record producer and occasional actor. He has worked with lyricist, Bernie Taupin for 45+ years. In fact, both John and Taupin met by responding to an advertisement in the publication, the New Musical Express where Taupin would write a set of lyrics and then mail them to John who would put them to music. John has sold more than 300 million albums making him one of the top selling artists in the world. His accolades include a long, impressive list of achievements. He has been heavily involved with the fight against aids since the late 1980's, establishing the Elton John Aids Foundation which has raised over 200 million dollars.
John has been playing piano since the age of 3 and began formal piano lessons by the age of 7. Both of his parents were musicians and collected records which influenced him at an early age. John's stage name came from the influence of two people, Elton Dean, a Saxophone player and Long John Baldry, an English Blues Singer. John continues to tour today and is considered one of the top singer, songwriter today.
Info from Wikipedia
A person who searches for depth and beauty in the simple things.