Sometimes life gets complicated. Most times we make it more complicated than it has to be.
When there’s so much piled on our shoulders, it’s really easy to get caught up in the chaos of it all. We lose focus and feel out of control.
Our spirits lose a little more of that precious peace we need so badly. If we stay in that kind of chaos, spinning aimlessly, we will inevitably spin right out of Gods will.
Not long ago I was feeling buried. I’d taken on too much. My mind was on a constant loop. With several projects going at once, I was consumed with keeping all these different plates spinning.
I was tired.
I was worried.
I was distracted.
When I finally asked God for clarity, to simplify things for me, He led me to Deuteronomy 6.
Not the entire passage but the simple title above the chapter in my bible.
It leapt off the page with a life of its own. It happens every time God speaks through the word. His message comes with a profound gift of understanding.
It’s like God is shining a holy light into our personal situation. He is an unmoving lighthouse of truth in the darkness of an ever-changing storm.
Love The Lord Your God
Love. The. Lord.
All we need to do is keep our eyes fixed on Him.
Keep loving Him more than anything or anyone else.
Keep seeking Him for guidance and wisdom.
Keep trusting Him to work out all things for my good.
It was a lazy Thanksgiving morning even though I had a few things to get done. Bill had to work half a day which meant more of the load would fall on me. The house needed picking up. I’d have to drag the fleshy twenty-two pound turkey out of the cooler it’d sat in all night, soaking up brine and put it into the oven. I went over the dinner menu in my mind, tallying up the hours and minutes I’d need to start cooking the side dishes before my sister and parents arrived for dinner. I contemplated showering and getting ready first thing that morning but opted to stay in my PJ’s instead. Mid-morning, Sarah finally wore me down and convinced me to give her a much-anticipated haircut. She wanted bangs and had begged for days now. We put on the radio, dancing around to Yesterday by The Beatles, and cleared a space for a mock salon by the kitchen sink. I laid out the comb and scissors while Sarah perched on the stool, twitching like a nervous squirrel.
“You’re going to have to hold still if you don’t want me to mess up, Sarah.”
She stiffened in a valiant effort to hold in her excitement. I parted the hair at the crown of her head and combed it forward. I could see her smiling behind the curtain of hair. I wondered why she wanted bangs so badly. It had taken her months and months to grow her bangs out the last time. Whose haircut was she admiring so much, she felt compelled to imitate it? I held the scissors up to the edge of her face, the first strands of hair in between the blades.
“Are you sure?” I asked one last time.
“Yes, Mommy. I’m sure!”
I let the scissors close with a snip. A six-inch clump fell into her lap.
“No turning back now,” I declared.
She sat quietly as I made my best attempt to cut a straight line across her forehead.
I was just finishing up when Bill walked into the house. Something about the way he stood in the doorway, smiling through the beard he keeps because he knows I like it, or the outline of his strong thighs through his jeans, or the same familiar black and white sneakers he buys over and over, or his laughter as the girls tackled him to the floor, just took my breath away. Suddenly, I wished more than anything I’d gotten myself ready first thing that morning. I wanted to kiss him but I turned away because I hadn’t brushed my teeth. I didn’t hold eye contact with him either because, in all his overwhelming handsomeness, I suddenly felt shy.
It’s amazing that after twenty years together, there are still these rushes of unexpected affection that send me into a slow swirl of stomach flutters and teenage self-consciousness. To me, this proves that, in all the things we have gotten wrong through the years, we are still doing something right. I don’t believe in soul mates. I believe love is a choice and yes, sometimes very hard work. It’s not easy to put away your pride for the benefit of this thing called marriage, or act lovingly toward your other half when the elusive romance muse hasn’t shown up in months. It’s not easy, but the effort is worth it.
When you can reach out and feel his strong hand in yours while walking the dog, or fall asleep with your head tucked into the nook of his neck, or sink into his arms and let the tears roll freely without having to explain why, it’s worth it. I’m convinced there are no good or bad marriages. Like fruitful or barren backyard gardens, there are only those that are richly tended to and those that are dispassionately neglected.
This Thanksgiving I stole a thousand glances towards Bill and drowned in the fullness of gratitude for my husband’s presence. I’m thankful for the way he fathers our children, the way he loves me through my worst moments and yes, the way he looks in his jeans.
Today’s post is part of the Hearts At Home blog hop, encouraging mom’s to lighten up and laugh. Please visit jillsavage.org for more great viewpoints.
“I got one! I caught a fish!” My six year old daughter, Annie, waved frantically from the edge of the dock. She’d developed a thing for fishing since school let out for summer, spending hours casting lines into the lake behind our house and relentlessly teasing the mossy green slider turtles with her fishing bait. Her first catch ever was a striped, twelve-inch long Mayan fish that she’d snagged using a piece of a hotdog as bait. After that, just like that Mayan, she got hooked.
“Yeah!” shouted my husband, Bill who’d been sitting on the patio. He raced the length of the yard in her direction. He was the designated fish “unhooker”, the one who guides the hook out of their gasping mouths and places their wiggling scaly bodies back into the black water.
I ran behind him. “Don’t let her touch it! God knows what kinds of germs are crawling on those fish.”
No doubt, Annie would put her fingers in her mouth, or rub her eye before she’d washed all that slime off.
“Oh,” he said with a snap, suddenly turning back. “Let me get the camera.”
“Oh geez, the fish is going to die! Why do you always to this? Are you going to take a picture of every single fish she ever catches?”
“Yes. I am.”
Annie was blissfully hopping on one foot in front the day’s catch, a slick black catfish, as it lay slithering on the dock.
“Put it back in the water until Daddy comes. It can’t breathe.”
She lifted the pole, peeling the fish off the dock and placed it into the murky water. Immediately, it began thrashing back and forth, splashing us with the dirty water. I shuddered, imagining what bacteria could be lurking in the droplets. Brain eating amoebas? Flesh eating bacteria? I recalled a new article a few summers back about a boy who died from meningitis after swimming in a lake.
Annie gripped the pole tightly and looked up at me with wide blue eyes. Her smile was beaming brighter than the afternoon sun.
“You have to take a shower after this,” I said quietly, wiping her face with my shirt.
“Alright Annie!” Bill cheered as he jogged towards us, camera in hand. “What’d you catch?”
“It’s a catfish! It has whiskers, Daddy.”
“Those are the slimiest of them all.” I muttered.
Bill brushed past me. “Let’s see. Bring it up and let me take a picture of you with the fish.”
“Don’t touch it, Annie.” I cautioned over Bill’s shoulder. “Just hold it up by the pole.”
Annie reeled in the line a few feet and then carefully lifted the pole out of the water. It bowed under the weight of the fat catfish, dangling in front of her like a piñata. She threw her shoulders back, puffed out her small chest and holding tight to the fishing pole, she grinned towards the camera, like a true fisherman.
“I can’t get the fish in the shot. Hold it closer to you, Annie.”
Annie pulled the pole upright into a ninety degree angle. The fish swung like a pendulum on the wire.
I slapped my forehead. “Oh my God. Really? The fish is suffering! You’re going to kill it for the sake of a dumb picture.”
“Relax. The fish will be just fine. It’s got at least five minutes before anything happens,” he said, still angling the camera.
Annie squinted at the fish each time it passed close to her face. The silver hook jutting out of its mouth flashed in the sun beams streaming through the tree branches above us.
“You don’t know that for a fact,” I argued. “Ugh. Just please hurry. Annie, put it back in the water for a minute.”
Annie let the pole drop towards the water.
“No!” said Bill. “Annie, just grab the line and pull the fish a little closer to you. I’ll take the picture really fast.”
Annie jerked the pole upright again reaching for the end of the line as the fish swung back towards her like a wrecking ball. Before she could gain control of it, the slimy fish slapped against her cheek. She scrunched her face and turned away, as the fish swung back out over the water, only to circle around, barreling back towards her. Bill reached out, trying to stabilize the fishing pole and the camera crashed onto the damp wooden planks of the dock. The fish landed against Annie’s chest with a thud.
I gasped. Bill cringed. Annie was a wide-eyed statue with her face pulled as far back into her neck as it would go. The mucky fish squirmed against her thin shirt.
She looked back and forth from me to Bill. Finally, she shrugged. “Eeww?”
Bill and I locked eyes. His face contorted trying to stifle a giggle. Then Annie joined in with a laughing snort that sent us all into such fierce hysterics, I had to cross my legs and cling to the dock railing in desperation.
Bill picked up the camera. “Hold it right there, Annie.” She smiled a wide exaggerated smile, revealing one adult sized front tooth crowding out rest of her tiny remaining baby teeth. Bill snapped the picture and got to work on removing the hook.
Within seconds, the catfish was diving back down into the quiet darkness of the lake.
As our laughter died down, Annie put her little hand in mine and gave it a tug. “Mommy, don’t I have to take a shower now?”
I looked down at all the new little brown freckles that had surfaced on her nose and cheeks so far this summer.
“Why don’t we try to catch another fish first, Peanut?”
He was sitting on a bus bench with his head leaned slightly back, eyes closed against the fresh light that warmed his wrinkled face. He looked like an old turtle relishing the morning sun.
“Good morning,” I said breathlessly, jogging past him.
He opened his eyes, turning his head in my direction but I didn’t wait for response. I passed several others on the way, a spandex clad man on a bicycle who nodded at me; a middle-aged woman gave me a half-smile as she and her fluffy Pomeranian crossed me. I was a good 500 feet away from the old man when the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart.
Go talk to the man on the bus bench.
Oh no. I groaned inwardly, feeling the nervousness rise up like a flock of starlings spooked by a loud thunder-clap. I knew this feeling. God wanted me to do something weird.
Please don’t, Lord. I kept my jogging pace steady but the intensity grew, spilling its silky warmth into my gut. Finally, I slowed to a brisk walk.
But what do I say to him, God?
Tell him that I still see him as a little boy.
I glanced back at the man who was a spec in the distance. Am I really going to walk up to a total stranger, tell him he’s still a boy and then what? Walk away? Run away, as fast as I can? I stared ahead into the distant jogging path, wanting desperately to keep moving forward. I envisioned myself running up my driveway after a good three miles, sweaty and heaving… but would that accomplished feeling be tainted by a sense of spiritual failure?
How do I know this really you, God? If it’s you, please make it absolutely clear before I do this.
I imagined a tree branch suddenly falling, blocking my path, or maybe a sparrow landing delicately on my shoulder. In the bible, wasn’t it Gideon with his woolen fleece and incessant need for reassurance that God had graciously humored?
You know my voice.
God is so patient. Yes, I did know his voice. This wasn’t the first encounter. The few times I’d been brave enough to risk humiliation were always intense, life changing experiences. Other times, I’d hesitated, gripped with insecurity, watching opportunities slip away while God went on to use someone else for His purposes. Still wavering though, I thought, maybe one of these other people I saw before will do it. I looked back again. The woman and her dog were passing the man without as much as a glance.
No. You do it.
If I let this moment pass, I would never know whether this was God or just some random thought in my mind. The only way to be sure was to do what He was asking of me. Reluctantly, I started back towards the man. The blood pulsed in my ears with every step. By the time I got close enough to speak to him, my tongue was a glob of soggy cotton. He was as still as a statue, sitting just as neatly as when I’d passed him the first time.
“Hey there… Good morning.” I stood on the sidewalk shifting from foot to foot. The old man opened his eyes and looked at me blankly. I cleared my throat. “Um, you ok?”
The man sighed, “Not really.” He shrugged his thin shoulders. “My wife threw me out of the house last night,” he slurred. He shook his head indignantly.
“Oh. Sorry to hear that.” This man needed someone and God knew it.
“I was just out celebrating too much with the Budweiser, that’s all.” He chuckled sheepishly. He looked at me, eyebrows raised, searching for understanding in my expression. “I got home late but she worries I’m not coming home to her or something. I don’t understand her.”
I studied him. He looked normal, like someone’s favorite grandpa. His plaid short-sleeved button down hung open loosely, revealing a bright white tee-shirt stretched over his pudgy belly. His wrinkled tan pants were clean. He had a head of thin white hair and his clear gold-rimmed spectacles sat nicely on the bridge of his bulbous nose.
“Mind if I sit down?” I moved across the damp grass.
He smiled, exaggeratedly dusting off a piece of the bench beside him. “Why would she think after all this time I wouldn’t come home to her? I don’t know why she would think that.” He stared at his weathered hands resting in his lap. The veins bulged underneath the skin weaving purple trails among the dark brown freckles. When he finally looked up, his tired eyes blinked behind his glasses. “I suffer from the up and down syndrome, you know?” He made a wavy motion with his hand like the surface of an ocean on a windy day.
“No.” He looked away. “I’m sort of ashamed to say it.”
“What? Bi-polar disorder?”
His downward gaze focused on his tops of his worn brown loafers. He seemed to shrink before me as he nodded. He looked like a lost child, small and vulnerable. “What do you think of that?” he asked quietly.
“Do you believe in God?”
The man just stared.
“Please don’t think I’m crazy but God told me to come back here and talk to you. What I think is that God loves you so much he wouldn’t let you sit here alone. Whatever it means, He wants you to know He still sees you as a little boy, the way you were before all this.”
The old man’s grey eyes searched mine and I watched them slowly fill with tears. Then he sat back looking straight ahead, lost in his own thoughts. We sat silent for a while until a beige sedan pulled off the road into the grass behind us. It was his wife, an older woman with short reddish hair. Her swollen eyes and haggard posture made me want to hug her. After we made introductions, she thanked me for keeping him company and quietly led him into the car.
Psalm 34:18 says The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit
God is so gracious and loving. God is so faithful. He is with us in every moment even if we are not with Him. I walked the rest of the way home marveling at how God interceded for this lonely old man, making sure he knew the almighty God of the universe loved him. God graciously invites us to be a part of it. These divine appointments are gifts that grant us behind-the-scenes VIP access to witness Him at work. It’s in those privileged moments, we catch a glimpse of God’s face and come closer to understanding His loving character. Don’t let insecurity or fear steal those invitations from you. I don’t know what ever happened to the old man but I have faith that the encouraging seed of God’s message to him will eventually take root and blossom into something strong and wonderful and wise.