Saturday, October 20, 2012

it's not my story, it's His

the Lord is compelling me to share this story - one of His many stories - although a part of me doesn't really want to. Maybe it's the private side of me or the prideful part of me, as there is some shame on myself in the story. Either way, He wants it told, wants it read, so I will write it.

For several months now we've been visited each week, once and sometimes more, by an older man who lives near our house. A little north and a little west of our house, on a street that ends up on the local news sometimes and for not good reasons. The first time he came was when Jonathan still worked from home at our dining table. The man simply stood out on the sidewalk looking in the dining room window until he caught Jonathan's attention. He said he needed food or money or both. Neither of us had a bit of cash, a problem with debit cards I suppose, so Jonathan fixed him a meal. Before we knew it Miles came back from his room with a few dollars to give to the stranger.

Soon he came back and kept coming. He wanted to work for us in exchange for money. He wanted us to call him Shorty and after a while he told us he hoped he could depend on us for regular work. We don't know much about his life, how he got to this point. All we know is that he rents one side of a duplex from someone who seems to change the rules all the time and take advantage of his tenants. And we know that God sent him to our door. So the deal is this: he comes once a week to work outside and we pay him for that work with a bit of money and some groceries and a meal before he leaves with a "cold drink" which he'd rather not be water.

Shorty usually comes on a set day each week when Jonathan is here and can handle things with him. Sometimes he shows up unexpectedly when the kids and I are alone and although I try to fight it, it can still make me feel uncomfortable when he does, maybe more accurately I feel frustrated. Yes, that's it. Frustration. See the shame?

So now for the story the Lord wants you to read. That's right, all that you've read so far is just leading up to the real good part. Back in early September {yes, I've kept this story to myself that long - for several reasons}, Jonathan was in Nashville for his work for a few days. It was a rough week for me with trying to get the kids to school {on time would be nice} and homework and sibling struggles and dinner and Wednesday night church and my nursery work and one of my own throws up behind the nursery counter during check-in and I'm just a little tired and a lot overwhelmed by Thursday afternoon. I put Milla down for a nap, made sure Miles and Ella were occupied and I had Elijah bring his math homework to do next to me as I tried to rest on my bed for a while. After a little while I slept between questions on circumference and the rest was so nice for this weary mom. Then Ella ran in with, "Mom! Mr. Shorty's at the door!" And I was frustrated and tired and I did not want to deal with him right then, did not want to go to the door.

But I did go to the door, though not without a heavy sigh as I approached it. The kids heard the sigh. I opened the door and said, "You're supposed to be here tomorrow" and he says, "Oh, well what is today?" and I say "Thursday." He said he was confused about the day and I believed him because really, when you wake up each day "when the Lord wakes you," as he says, and you set out in search of work and food for that day, I imagine the days do sort of blend together. I explained that Jonathan would be home late that night and that he should come back tomorrow for work. He said ok and then asked, "You got anything good?" I did not have any cash but I told him I'd get him some dinner. And I closed the door and I sighed again because I was tired of the needs of the children in my house and I felt overwhelmed by the needs on my doorstep. Milla was still sleeping and there was hope for my nap to continue...

As I gathered food for him {four Sister Schubert sausage rolls, chips, two packages of cheese on club crackers, two granola bars and an oatmeal cream pie} along with a plastic cup of root beer on ice, I wondered about his t-shirt because I had not seen him wear it before. I became strangely curious about it as I took his dinner out to him, handed him the drink. I told him to come back the next day at the usual time {between 10 and 11:00}. As he walked off I saw that the back of his black shirt read SERVANT in a white box and above that it said It might as well have been the hand writing on the wall and I knew it was a message for me from my Father.

I shut the door and I texted my man of my shame and about the shirt. I got online at the website, because I needed to know what the front said. I found the shirt and it's words went right through me as the front read "I choose to serve.."

Keep in mind that Shorty can't read. At all. He had no clue what that shirt said, unless he had asked someone. He had no idea he was a messenger of the Lord for me with that shirt. I was quickly and keenly made aware that I am also to choose to serve. I am to serve because He tells me to and I am to serve when He tells me to and I am to serve who He tells me to. For now I am to serve my husband and children, I am to serve my congregation as co-director of the nursery {which is not a position I had in mind to go after, He compelled me to take it}, and He also handed me the lead role in the Moms In Touch prayer group at school {which was frightening to me, really}, and we are to serve our little, old-ish Shorty... even if he shows up when I'd rather he not and even though he never says thank you.

The Lord also impressed on my heart that day that as He uses us to bless Shorty, he also uses Shorty to be a blessing for us. My very busy, working-all-hours-to-build-a-business husband has not once this year had to take the time to mow the yard. The jasmine has been kept cut back, the sidewalk swept, the weeds kept out of the monkey grass and the whatever it is we have beside the cars, and the cars have been washed. I have come to find out that Shorty also has one other family that he works for regularly - an elderly couple. So his shirt was absolutely right, he is a servant. He told me recently, as he pointed heavenward, "I just do what He gives me to do." Yes.

It's interesting that since I accepted the nursery position God has been bringing words about service to me. He knew full well {of course} the encouragement I'd need to obey Him in this way. I've actually been told that it's not at act of service since it comes with a {small} paycheck. I'd challenge anyone to try it and see if they agree it's not done to serve others. He brought Romans 12:11 to me just as I accepted the role, "Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically." He brought 1 Corinthians 13:12 to my heart in a different way, "Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am known" because I am to trust that there is more going on than I can see, that what He gives me to do, however small it seems, makes a difference for Him.

On Tuesday mornings we are studying James by Beth Moore and on last week's video she said that we don't have to go out in search for something to do for Him, but that He will bring it to us and she cited John 15:16, "You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last..." and I have seen how true this is as He puts things on my heart and compells me to take on roles for Him and as He brings needs right to my doorstep. And so I will kept listening to Him alone to know how He desires that I serve Him, and I will do what Shorty does and "just do what He gives me to do," and I will remember the shirt that reminded me to serve...

the shirt I have not seen him wear again...

Thank You, my Father for speaking to me through Your Word and through Your Spirit in me and with a t-shirt on a man who cannot read what it says. You are amazing.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Dear me at sixteen.

Dear me,

 You are so young, so tiny, so new still to the world, to this life. Oh, and the world? It will attempt, many times with great success, to beat you up and drag you down. Please, please find this scripture and cling to it with all that you are:

 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - His good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

 Seriously. Get. This. In. Your. Soul - wanting to be like others, have what they have, do what they do- it's not only a waste of time, it's a sinful struggle you will deal with for many years. Sometimes others will not understand why you believe the way you do. Follow Him anyway and pray for them. He's worth whatever they may think of you. His paths are clear to those who truly care to follow them. Remember that.

 More than that even, write this Word on your heart because when you do what it says, you'll find peace and purpose and you'll know what you MUST fight for each day:

 Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. Deuteronomy 6:5

 And for good measure, add in this one, because your understanding lacks so, so much:

 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

 Oh, please little me, LEAN NOT upon yourself. Learn now, soon, letting it sink into your very bones - there's so little you understand, so little you can control. This will be hard for you and you will learn it time and again the hard way. When that happens, remember to trust Him anyway.

  You are so sad that you are turning "sweet sixteen" having never been kissed. Hold tight, you'll soon have that first kiss. One day he'll give you a ring, ask you a question, you'll say yes. You'll marry that first kiss, enter into covenant with him, and he will be the father of your children. It will be a gift to you that you never kissed another - I promise.

Go easy on your mom. One day you will learn just how wonderful and beautiful and ugly and terrifying and sin-revealing motherhood is. I can't adequately prepare you for it, it's just so hard and so worth it. Having your heart walk around in four different people, other than in yourself, is pretty tough. Your heart will break many, many times. But other times it will swell so full you'll think it may pop. You'll see. Ask God to teach you how to really love. But for now, go hug your mom and say thank you.

Give your dad a chance. I know he's a goofy goober. I know he likes hugging you too much and you like an extreme amount of personal space. But please, please - just hug him and hold on tight. Ask him to take you on dates, surprise him by showing up at his office for lunch. Let him give suggestions. Ask him questions. Trust in his love for you - it's bigger than you realize. Hear me on this - because one day you'll take care of him in his last, very sick days. You'll be taking turns with your brother all through his last night putting drops of morphine in his mouth, to usher him Home with love as your heart breaks. You'll watch him leave this life. It will hurt so bad you'll feel unable to breathe. You'll find out you needed him more than you knew, so much more. You will miss him so much it hurts. So, please, go give him a hug. You'll miss those hugs all too soon. Talk to him and listen and remember what he says. You'll miss his voice, too.

Love the Word now and more with each day. One day you'll find it can put your broken pieces back together, time and again. Find Psalm 119:105 and see that it says, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path." Twenty years from now this will be your favorite Psalm (after you hear Beth Moore teach from it!). The light of the word lights the next few steps - it's not a strobe light. He wants you to put your total trust in Him, so He won't light the path too far in the future. He wants to be the one you depend on.

Learn to pray. Really pray. One day you will see a prayer answered so beautifully, so faithfully, so perfectly after three years of waiting, wondering. Before your eyes, God will move a spiritual mountain and you will cry tears of joy and thankfulness. So, go hug your brother, because your prayers for him will matter one day. Let God show Himself faithful as He answers your prayers. Then be grateful, whatever the answer and however long the wait. The Lord is always right and He is always on time.

Be full of joy and be full of gratitude in all things. Hard times will come and there will be joy overflowing and sorrow so large it will feel overwhelming. Keep trusting Him, keep following Him. He makes paths straight, He allows you to enter the Most Holy Place, He loves you more than you know (and more than you'll know in twenty years still). But the Lord Who redeemed you can be fully trusted to complete His good work in you. And one sweet day, He'll come for you to take you Home. Keep your eyes on Him and love Him back through obedience, gratitude, praise and living for Him and not for the world. His grace is amazing and was purchased at a high price by your biggest Brother and the way you live reveals your true love for Him and gives Him glory. Love Him well then with your life. He is so worth it.

All is grace (one day you'll believe that it is. ALL is grace.),

Me at just under thirty-six

*This dear me letter was inspired by Emily at as part of the release of her new book Graceful aimed at teenaged girls. Visit the link for other dear me letters and to learn more about the book.