When You Don’t Get What You Want

We were going to camp at Wallowa Lake.

It’s our very favorite spot, because of the memories there and the nostalgia that the name brings. It’s where we sat down with the deer, where we fed the squirrels in Oregon’s own alps, where we biked with sleeping kids in the bike trailer and rented paddle boats and fished the lake and listened to daddy’s stories in the tent at night.

We’ve only ever been there once as a family, but you’d think it was an annual thing – the way we talk about it.

We were going to visit again this summer. We wanted to spend four days traveling and relaxing and re-creating the perfect camping trip.

Summer swallowed us whole, though, and the window of opportunity slammed our fingers in the sill and we’re still a little sore about it.

Sometimes life is just that way.

You don’t always get what you want.

Life’s not fair.

Quit pouting and be thankful for what you have.

God works all things together.

All my parenting skills and wise-things-parents-have-said-for-generations turn on me, all of them pointing their fingers at me and talking at once. I don’t like this flip-side of my own words. I don’t like disappointment and plans that fall through. I don’t, I don’t, I don’t.

My worldview and the rubber-meets-the-road part of my life sometimes come into conflict. My worldview is something along the lines of God does work all things together for my good, and sometimes those are hard things, sometimes the things that are for my good are hard lessons I need to learn.

But when it comes right down to it, I want what I want and I live like I deserve it. The truth of my living is sometimes akin to a 3 year-old’s, and it’s not pretty.

Of course, it’s on a larger scale than missing my favorite camping spot. It’s apparent that I’m a whiny three-year-old when I want what other’s have, without the work other’s have done; when I fight for my rights and trample other’s rights and trample their feelings, too; when I focus on all I don’t have or didn’t get or can’t do, instead of being thankful for the abundance I do have.

And sometimes, in my mind, everybody else is doing everything right and enjoying life way more. Because I’m three.

I’m working on this grown-up thing. 

The beach

So we went to the beach for the day, instead of Wallowa Lake. We packed a picnic lunch, grabbed some bags for sea-shells and other rotting things that wash up on shore, and we loaded in the van with admonitions to any grumpy people that they ought to remain silent.

This was our family trip and we were going to enjoy it. Period.

Most of us would have preferred the trip to Wallowa, but we made the best of the beach and we came home refreshed, with energy to spare, and we still liked each other. Who knows what the 9 hour drive to Wallowa would have done to us – with much larger children than last time, and a huge tent and coolers and tired parents?

Most of us are disappointed with life at some point.  

We should be.

What spoiled brats we would be if we got everything we wanted, all the time. 

One of the goals we have for our children is to raise them to be thankful. It’s tough.

I can’t blame them for their small perspective on life. I can’t blame them for being disappointed sometimes, or even whiny and cranky and self-centered. I’m a “grown-up” and those sins are still present in me now and then. 

But when our plans fall through and our dream vacation gets canceled, maybe the good that God is working out in us is really for our vision to be smaller.

Maybe it’s really time for us to grow up and also to be small again, to see the small things and show our kids how to be thankful for sunshine and blue sky and a van that fits us all in; for ice-cream, even if it’s not exactly the kind we wanted; for low-tide and warm sand; for playground equipment that makes us all kids at once; for a short trip that doesn’t leave us exhausted and spent.

Sometimes when we don’t get what we want, I think God is making us small again.

 

Linking up with EmilySheDoesJusticeGrace Laced Mondays, MercyInkThe Wellspring, and  #TellHisStory

 

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Five Minute Friday: Story

faded rose, sepia

 

There are crumpled bits of paper on the floor all around.

Some wound up tight in frustration, others just neglected, falling on the floor carelessly.

I kick my way through and around and over them but never bother to pick them up. I never bother because my hands are full of more, and I furiously try to write a new page.

He comes in.

I’m all embarrassed and red. Crimson blood rushes to my face to show my shame and who am I kidding? Nothing was ever hidden, really. Nothing was ever unnoticed and now all the papers lie at His feet.

He picks one up and I shudder.

He smooths it. Puts it on the desk. I think He’s reaching for an eraser or a big-fat-red pen, but He’s crimson, too.

It drips on the page. All my ink spots turn red and I slump.

I should’ve known.

The paper is white.

All of them are gathered up and washed with crimson, all of them are bound up together. He signs His name at the bottom of every. last. one.

He’s made it a story.

My trash, His treasure. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This post is part of Five Minute Friday, where we write with a timer set and we don’t edit or overthink. Today’s prompt is STORY. Link up with us?

 

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India Chronicles, Part III

We all got on this bus together.

Hindus, Animists, Muslims, Christians, and maybe even some non-believers if there is such a thing in India – all of us traveling together on the same bus to various destinations.

India passes by out our windows, every one of them down to bring in fresh air.

Father and son on bicycle

We had moaned a little when we learned that we’d be riding a bus with no AC for 13-ish hours.  After more than a week with no power and 100+ degree temperatures, we had kinda looked forward to some cool air. So when we slid our windows open and the bus began to roll, we were so relieved.

Pastor Steward had handed me a bag of chocolate cookies and bananas through the bus window before we pulled away. This wasn’t going to be that bad, after all.

Because, you know, God-forbid that we should suffer.

I get a window seat and Tim is next to me, shielding me a little from the bumps and lack of personal space as passengers file on and off. Every single man that walks by gawks at us, and when your eyes meet their eyes there is no turning away. They just continue to stare.

So I face the window and snap pictures of the bicycles and vegetable stands and I watch as the sun sets, burning orange above the never-ending valley.

This place is beautiful and marred and rude and lovely, all at the same-sweaty-time.

The man in front of me rests his seat back and puts his hands above his head, on his head rest. It’s so close to my face that I have to turn my head to avoid touching it.

The man behind us wants to talk to Tim. He asks too many questions and then laughs when Tim says he doesn’t have a Facebook. Doesn’t everyone have Facebook?

I think he’s offended and he stops asking questions.

For awhile, there’s a baby in front of Tim and she smiles as her mother dances her on her lap. She has shorn hair and sweaty skin and I take a sneaky picture with my phone. Only my flash is on, so it’s not so sneaky.

Her mom glances back and then sets the baby down on her lap.

The man in front of me begins a conversation with Tim. Again, I feel like there are too many questions and when he flicks his hand for emphasis, I’m hard pressed for face-space.

He doesn’t seem to notice.

He’s coughing, and since he is reclined practically in my lap, when he turns his head he literally leans forward into Tim’s lap and coughs. No hand over mouth, no attempt to shield anyone from the spray. He actually leans forward and coughs on my husband’s legs.

I may have laughed.

But for the rest of his ride he is coughing and spitting out the window and I’m leaning in for cover. Too many wads of mucus have escaped one window, only to enter another, so I’m wary and awake.

I fell asleep sometime after he got off the bus.

I dream about social reform as well as spiritual life, about all the ways to make the air cleaner and the food more nutritious and the living easier for 1.2 billion Indian people. I get all idealistic, and then plummet to irritation and disgust at all the enemy has taken here, all the bondage and all the suffering.

Some things break my heart, and some things just plain irritate me.

__________________________________

I was thinking yesterday about Jesus, walking in to Jerusalem. I was thinking about money-changer’s tables and cages of doves, about coins crashing all around, about pharisees and prostitutes and blind men and adulteresses. Dirty streets and sickly lungs and poor housing and curable diseases.

I was thinking about the crowds who wanted a king, not a Savior on a cross. They wanted some social reform and  political maneuvering, and they got upheaval in their souls instead.

Jesus didn’t come to overthrow Rome and He didn’t give the answers people wanted.  He didn’t lead a march to freedom from foreign oppressors. He didn’t come in the way people expected a Savior to come and He didn’t stay and fight the way they had hoped their Messiah would.

The streets weren’t cleaner and the diseases didn’t stop. Evil men still persecuted the poor and oppressed the helpless. When He ascended, Rome was not even at the peak of her tyranny.

Sometimes, when I want everything to be better and nicer and cleaner and healthier, I remember suddenly that this is not supposed to be heaven-on-earth and God is not supposed to work according to my plans.

He has His ways.

And sometimes the evil is overcoming, but I read that I’m supposed to overcome evil with overcoming-good, a descriptive, adjective kind of overcoming. Like overwhelming.

That’s how I hear it when I read it, that’s what I hope we left behind, and that’s how I picture it when I’m back home in my garden, when a plane ride takes me back to comfortable and everything is beautiful because my heart is thankful.

On the other side of the world and in my own home, evil always thinks it’s overcoming. But this tidal wave of good, this overcoming and overwhelming and overachieving good, is mounting up. It’s rising.

__________________________________

We all got on this bus together.

And everyone was beautiful.

The end.

 

Click to read:

India Chronicles, Part I

India Chronicles, Part II

India Chronicles, Part III

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Linking up with HeatherEmilySheDoesJusticeGrace Laced Mondays, MercyInkThe Wellspring, and  #TellHisStory 

 

 

 

 

 

 

India Chronicles, Part II

school room in India

I’ve been thinking about language lately.

With all our western education and resources, the majority of people I know personally are fluent in only one language, and we could all lament improper grammar, spelling, and punctuation – my own included.

In a small apartment in New Delhi we met sisters, 5 and 7 years old, who speak five languages.

Five.

I had momentary visions of a mass-order of Rosetta Stone for our homeschool curriculum after we met, of foreign exchange students and intense language boot camps.

It was momentary, because my next vision was of revolt and failure.

There were just so many moments frustrated by language on our trip, moments shortened because there literally were no words. Over and over I met people who extolled the virtues of America and spoke to me in English (albeit a little broken), and all I could think was how english-centric we’d all become.

And how lazy.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful that there are English speakers in all parts of the world. But it’s more of a lazy thankfulness, I think. I feel that way sometimes when I’m thankful for a hot shower, a soft bed, running water, or coffee, because life goes on without those things but my life is so much easier with them.

Lazily thankful.

Barriers

I struggled in India with laughter I couldn’t join in and conversations I was outside of, and there were so many times when I let language barriers keep me out – me, with fair skin, light hair, shyness and one language.

When there was no interpreter available I sat in a lot of silence.

_____________

On a Monday night I share with a small fellowship group, just like we have at home.  They sit on the bamboo porch of a house on stilts, and to reach the porch you climb a log with crude steps notched into to it – steps that the pigs and goats and cows can’t navigate.

They sit cross-legged on the floor and I settle in a plastic chair, because they are gracious enough to know that I’m probably not that flexible. I’m probably not, but I want to be, because again they have elevated me and all that formality gets uncomfortable.

I share with them about thankfulness and how my attitude slips sometimes in piles of laundry and bowls of oatmeal. I tell them how looking at circumstances drags me down, but how thankfulness lifts my countenance and re-frames my attitude.

 

 

 

 

There’s one wobbly fan above us that blows the hot air and  mosquitoes around, and I try to conceal my swollen feet under the chair.

I wonder what they picture in their minds when I talk about laundry.

They nod in agreement when I tell them that the enemy wants to steal our joy but God wants us to redeem all our time. The days are evil and this is universally known.

They murmur and I recognize surprise on their faces, and then smiles. They are laughing and giggling, chattering in one of the umpteen-hundred dialects of this land so near Babel, and I turn to my interpreter for help.

Did I say something wrong?

Did I cross some cultural line I didn’t know was there?

Did they see my feet?

It’s another moment where I’m on the outside. My interpreter is telling them something and they’re nodding and raising their eyebrows and I just wait. All this waiting for grace and fellowship and I think I’m all alone here – one white girl turning red in the heat of this country that must be a million miles closer to the sun than Oregon.

And maybe they’re laughing at me?

“They thought all American mothers had an easy life,” he tells me, grinning big. They’re laughing with surprise at the thought of me cooking dinner for my family and doing laundry.

Something inside me wants to smash all the satellite dishes that adorn most every thatched-roof hut, that portal of white-anglo-saxon America where everyone is always beautiful and leisurely. They stick out like the sore thumbs of the money changers in the the temple, selling imitations of things God has already freely given.

But I realize I do have it easy in many respects.

I laugh with them instead, and with big nods we cross continents. We fellowship in the common language, the mother-tongue of all moms who wash laundry in buckets and Maytags, who cook oatmeal and rice en masse, who argue with kids over schoolwork and pray over kids with attitudes just like our own.

Someone you've got to meet!

Later in the week our women’s seminar begins and I have three different translators over the course of two days. In God’s wisdom, this program that was supposed to begin a week earlier had been postponed, and during this week I’ve had several opportunities to get to know the women and their lives better. I come to understand their laughter better, and their tears water my own prayers.

They are grandmas grieving for prodigal children and grandchildren, wives wringing hands over drunken husbands, mothers praying fervently for their children’s school exams, and sisters flooding heaven with liquid requests. Such as is common to man. 

Sunday morning Tim teaches from 1 John. He’s talking about fellowship, and when he says that in heaven we’ll all have one language, I scribble hard on the back of an envelope and fight back these tears that I wasn’t expecting. He feels it, too – this longing to communicate unhindered.

All week I’ve had to lose the beauty of my language, to simplify my words and leave the embellishments to the interpreter. But truly, in every place I find myself, the Holy Spirit is the Great Interpreter and nothing is ever lost in His translation.

 _______________

Click to read:

India Chronicles, Part I

India Chronicles, Part II

India Chronicles, Part III

 

 

Linking up with Heather, Emily, SheDoesJusticeGrace Laced Mondays, MercyInkThe Wellspring, and  #TellHisStory

 

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Five Minute Friday: Beautiful

Beauty is recklessly abandoned

Beautiful feet

Beautiful is recklessly abandoned and never over-rated. It’s free and precious like gold but even more – it’s not for sale.

Beautiful is dressed in filthy rags and clothed in the glory of Christ. Free from worry and self-awareness, beauty is open for all the beholders who will be held.

Beautiful are the cracked feet of the young pastor who sits for 48 hours in a week to learn more good news: that prosperity isn’t for the rich or the privileged but for the sheep who feed on simple bread. Or rice.

Beautiful is the Word of God, unadulterated, un-Americanized, uncultured, unearned and unending. It’s the truth taught as it’s written, as it is spoken, as the Spirit intends. It’s no guile or greed or creed or ritual. No strings, just nails and a cross.

Beautiful is all the earth as God created it. All the people as He redeems them. All the goodness of a small town church who cares for your children and prays 24/7 for 3 weeks so you can go and see more of it – more of the beauty that needs no adornment.

Beautiful is the bride of Christ in all her workings. The hands and the feet and the mouth and the legs.

Beautiful is the smile that speaks every language.

 

{This is the first time I’ve touched my computer in over 3 weeks, and I can’t think of a more perfect way to break fast than with the beauty-writers at Five Minute Friday. Check out Lisa-Jo’s to join us.}

On Love and Respect and All the Hard Things

I don’t think marriage is supposed to be easy.

It seems that most things worth doing are hard, they require thought and sacrifice, they spend you to the last ounce of energy and the reward is great because of the effort.

Paul says it’s a  picture of Christ and the church, of uncontainable love poured out and lavished on the somewhat unwilling.  Of submission and trust and respect for that loving authority.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. … Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, – Eph 5:22, 25 NKJV

Loving me as Christ loved the church must be tough. 

 

I think submission is hard sometimes, but to love the unlovely, the crabby, grumpy, unthankful,  and mumbling?  The pony-tailed and sweaty?

And to love me not only in the way that makes me feel loved, with flowers or chocolate or date-nights or spontaneous house-cleaning.  Or built-in book shelves.

To love me the way I need it, too.   The way I sometimes don’t want  it.

Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church.

Loving me by telling me no sometimes, telling me to wait, to be patient.

Or telling me, for my own good, to do those hard things.

  You love me like that, and I’m the better for it.

You love me enough to tell me what I don’t want but desperately need to hear.  You’ve never said it quite like this, but you could: “Put your big girl panties on and deal with it.”

Yep.  You married a silly, selfish girl.  Did you know that?   Did you know that loving me like Christ loved the church would be such a sacrifice?

You sure do it well.  You are gentle with me and patient, and I just want to thank you.

 Thank you for being like Christ and loving the unlovely.  For sacrificing and  cherishing and nurturing.

 

Like iron sharpens iron, we bristle and grate sometimes on our way to sanctification.  But what joy in this marriage!  How blessed I am to share life with you.

Thank you.

And that part at the end of Ephesians 5, about wives respecting their husbands?

A man leaves early every morning and sweats and toils, tapes up bleeding fingers and makes beauty out of wood and nails.  He gets up 6 days of the week with an alarm, eats thousands of sandwiches over the years without complaining, counsels, teaches, builds, fixes,  reads stories, preaches to the unreached, runs miles and miles with his slow wife, and sometimes makes pancakes for his family or does the dishes.

Respect almost seems like an understatement.  Couldn’t there be a bigger word?  You deserve more than I give, but I hope, pray, yearn for you to know that I do. 

I do respect you.

You are amazing, for so many more things than I can list here.  

You are amazing when you smile at the end of a hard day and when you play that game of checkers or Linkology.  You are amazing when you laugh at my silly-woman-who-needs-to-get-out-more humor, when you read my words and think I’m something special.

My encourager, my gentle leader, my strong-man and my teacher.  My crush and my best friend.

Thank you.

 

{Edited and re-posted from the archives}

Linking up with Emily at Imperfect Prose, and Crystal at Thriving Thursdays

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