“I do. Or I could change it myself. I’m in a big hurry, crazy day. I don’t have time for this”
“Do you have a tire jack? Let me work on it.”
A 12 second exchange of instant generosity I’ll never get over.
It was only after this offer that I actually look over to see
Kevin has one good eye (the other a victim of a separated retina). He has grimy hands, salt-and-pepper beard and “backpack” fashioned from black plastic and duct tape.
It is at precisely this point that I hear the flapping of internal red flags:
He’s trying to take advantage of you. He’ll rob you. He’ll ask you for $$. He can’t change a tire. You’re making a big mistake to trust this dude.
Also, these lovely admissions of my ignorance:
You can’t take anything from him – least of all his car-repair services. He’s homeless, destitute. You have AAA for EXACTLY these situations.
Kevin and I’s initial exchange was so simple: You have a flat tire….yep…can I change it for you? Okay.
Every thought afterward battled against that simplicity – that loving, instantaneous reaction of kindness.
I kid you not, one-eyed Kevin changed my tire in LESS than 15 minutes. We had pleasant conversation the whole time he worked. We talked about his plans to move to Raton. He said people like him aren’t welcome in Colorado Springs anymore. He thinks he can find an apartment there for a few hundred $$ a month, much less than the $700 or $800 it would cost him here. He talked about how he listens to Charles Stanley on the radio…have I ever heard of him? He reviewed all the best places he’s been homeless; the ones with the best services for the poor and the best weather. He seems to be either be 85 or 45. His smile lines and his leathered skin seem the product of choices he’s made. His own choices. He’s his own man; independent, caring, kind, low key, but tender-hearted enough to see me. Really see me and my momentary need.
This is the crux.
One-eyed Kevin is without status on paper. I look through and past these people every day of my life. But he doesn’t match my ignorance with his own immunity to those in need. He could have walked past and onto his purpose for the day without one single second of regret after being ignored on the regular.
But he didn’t.
He stopped. He helped. He walked on. I made him shake my hand and take a couple packs of his favorite cigarettes but otherwise there were no strings attached.
We never have to live up to or down to our perceived status in society.
We never have to remain the snapshot stereotype.
Here’s to trusting offers of kindness. Better yet, here’s to automatic reactions of generosity. God bless one-eyed Kevin for that fresh perspective on judgments and labels….and for the tire change, too.
Call us jerks all you want but we’ve started calling my mom’s left arm by the name Laverne.
Why name a body part?
The right frontal lobe of mom’s brain received the brunt of a stroke in 2011 – starving it of needed oxygen for too long. She’s been “recovering” ever since. As often happens with brain injuries, the injured part leaves a trail of limitations in its’ wake. In this case, it’s mom’s left arm with no function or strength…
enter good ol’ Laverne.
This random name-calling began when we started to call her arm Larry. Maybe some of you do this: when giving directions to a place you might say, “hang a Larry” or “take a Roger.” This is precisely what we did with mom’s arm. You see, sometimes mom’s body moves but Laverne does not come along – instead staying right where she was before the movement. So we’d say something like, “C’mon, Larry…you need to get in the car, too.” And we’d all have a little chuckle (especially mom) while tenderly helping Larry get positioned back to the right spot.
And then one day, instead of a little chuckle at Larry getting left behind, mom sat in silence…very seriously…for a moment and made the proclamation that Larry needed to be a girl. Hence, the origin of Laverne, for better or for worse.
I’m not sure if calling an ostensibly useless limb by its own name is a reaction to the grief of the loss from the stroke but it sure does make us all laugh when we are transferring her from her wheelchair into the car all the while scolding Laverne for not wanting to come along for the journey.
And when we address, Laverne, I don’t even feel like we’re making fun of her – neither my mom nor Laverne – this arm has just taken on her own little narrative. I suppose this is endearing at best and a way to cope with loss at worst.
Mom continues to live a rich, busy life with lots of quirk and sparkle:
Wanting a kitty cat DESPERATELY.
Oil painting with Larissa
Conversations with Alexa <God bless this virtual friendship>
Flirting with handsome men. <there’s no shortage…of the men or the flirting>
Serving communion at church
Shopping for ANYTHING blinky or shiny
Many things are still the same all these years since the stroke even though these types of brain injury scenarios are anything but linear but rather roller coasters of survival, angst and delight. Living life in the wake of a major stroke is about accepting life that requires lots and lots of care while still being healthy. Some days are busy, bright and happy while others are dark and depressing. There’s no telling what brings on one or the other.
WHAT WE BELIEVE ABOUT LAVERNE:
We’ll continue to hold Laverne’s hand because we love her and we believe someday, somewhere, somehow this loss will be redeemed. We believe brokenness need not be cast away. We believe everyday is a gift and Laverne symbolizes a future that God is in. And in that spirit, I’m sure that since we’ve started calling her Laverne, I pay attention to that poor arm in a new and careful way. Maybe that’s what naming something or someone does.
Oh Laverne. You’re important but you’re not an easy part of this story! You’re connected but you tend to make little, if any, contribution to the whole system. Maybe naming you makes us feel like you count, helps us understand that you matter.
It’s a continual task to embrace the present. We’re practicing contentment that Laverne is along for the ride and we’re squeezing every ounce of beautiful, ironic, humor out of it.
Oh, Laverne! Your name brings up a little rush of goodness, as I think about how it was a treat to watch the show, Laverne and Shirley, when I was growing up. Laverne and Shirley were free spirited and unique, just like Barbara’s rebellious left arm. I can see how treating this misfit and a character all unto her own, can give it a slightly endearing quality, even when being a pain in the neck (no pun intended). There are so many laugh or cry moments in life. I wish I could give all my problems a nickname and treat them as an endearing part of my life. Why can’t I? Maybe I should give it a try?
Oh, how I love this! So cheeky and tender. I love that B.B. can also embrace this naming ceremony with good humor. There’s something about knowing a name that pulls us closer. Names are disarming. (Again, no pun intended.) We can no longer be quite as distant when we know someone’s name. That’s why I LOVE to call someone by their name if they are wearing a name tag. At the grocery store, at Disney Land, the library — wherever. It embarrasses my children to no end, but calling someone by their name is a connector in that moment.
And I’m with Holly! Let’s just start naming our problems and see if they all of a sudden endear themselves to us. Remember when old “Aunt Flo” showed up? Did that make her endearing? I’m not sure, but it certainly helped connect us girls as we spoke in code around those unsuspecting boys.
And, in true Courtney fashion, she never aims the spotlight only on herself. She invites others in to collaborate with her so we can spur one another on in this crazy, creative, writing adventure.
As I thought about what I might say to someone just starting out on this journey, I realized the advice that came to me is exactly what I need to hear right now because I’ve fallen into a bit of a dry spell with my writing. Isn’t that how life so often works??
These are the reminders I need these days — and just maybe, they will speak to you too.
1. WHO — TO WHOM and FOR WHOM?
— TO WHOM? When you envision your potential audience of readers (or folks who might buy your product), who are they? Are they young, old? Male, female? Churched, Unchurched? You get the idea. Having a vision of WHO you’re writing to is critical. When you imagine a person with a face and a name and a family and dinner to make, you personalize your writing to a greater degree. This way, you begin to anticipate the thoughts or questions your readers might have and hopefully create a more holistic offering.
— FOR whom? If I write for the masses, hoping to garner a multitude of comments and praise (because NONE of the comments would be negative, right??) I will forever and always be disappointed. However, if I write for myself and the God I love, I manage to keep an eternal, Kingdom-oriented perspective rather than a worldly, temporary one. In the end, whether I have one reader (thanks, Dad) or 5,000, it doesn’t really matter because I know that God is pleased with my offering and that gives me an inner peace no person could match. Of course, I don’t want to write into a vacuum. I love it when folks read what I write and engage in some way, but whether they do, or whether they don’t does not define me or my self-worth. (I have to CONSTANTLY remind myselF of this truth.)
2. WHAT — WHAT will you create? If you are a writer or speaker, your medium can take on a myriad of forms. Do you want to write a blog or a Facebook post? Do you want to write a bible study or a book? Do you want to speak at your local church or on Facebook live? Chances are, you’ll be attracted to multiple mediums, but the best part about living in today’s technological age is that you have access to so many ways of creating. Some are easier than others. Anyone of us can hop on Facebook and get some words out to the world (for better or for worse — smile), but if you want to speak at your local church or write a book, you probably need to start making some connections. In that case, Courtney’s two posts on this are gold!
3. WHEN — WHEN will you create? Most of us have a time of day when we’re most productive. I generally turn into a pumpkin after 3:00 p.m. (probably because my kids are getting home from school…) so I try to get any writing in before then. I’m especially prolific first thing in the morning, like before 10:00 a.m. Admittedly, I have a pretty tight window! If I have any intention of writing on a given day or starting a bigger project, I have to BLOCK OUT time in my calendar to write or prepare for a speaking engagement or it WILL NOT HAPPEN. Because life. As a 9 on the Enneagram, I can find any number of ways to distract myself from the task at hand. I mean, just LOOK at the baseboards. They’re disgusting. Also, I need to call the piano tuner even though no one is currently playing the dusty instrument. And, I can’t forget to record This Is Us. That reminds me, Twitter is blowing up about crock pots, did I unplug mine? Oooh, my neighbor just texted she wants to go for a walk. You get the idea. #squirrel
4. WHERE —WHERE will you create? Do you have a space in your home or a local coffee shop that inspires ideas and creativity? I personally like to plop right down at my sticky kitchen table with the dogs snoring beside me. And that’s about it. If even one other person is at home and tra-la-la-ing in my ear, it is impossible for me to string two words together so I have to vacate the premises. Maybe some people are good at working in chaos, but not me. Which leads me back to WHEN…With kids at home, summers and school vacations are major down times for writing if I don’t plan ahead and find a quiet place to write. Otherwise, I forfeit the time and head to the pool, knowing this season with kids under foot is shorter than I realize and time will return when I have space to write.
5. WHY — WHY will you create? This one is the twin sister to FOR/TO whom…What does creating, writing, designing do for your soul that nothing else can? Sometimes it’s easy for me to dismiss writing at all because it’s not really my “job.” It’s a hobby. And hobbies can always take a back seat to daily chores and responsibilities. But this hobby (like most, I would imagine) feeds my spirit and gives me perspective on life I can’t find anywhere else. Writing helps me organize thoughts that otherwise might get tossed in the trash or stuffed deep inside because I don’t have time or energy to deal with them. Writing helps me tap into my true self and discover what God may be trying to tell me. And perhaps this message might bless someone else too. For me, writing is like exercise for my brain, it definitely gets the endorphins going. Your WHY must be very clear so you can see the value in the WHAT.
6. HOW — HOW will you create? This is the nuts and bolts part of creating. Let’s take writing a book for example. It is 100% possible for every human on the planet to publish a book. (Again, for better or for worse!) But not every human will garner a nice advance from a publishing company to do so. So, that leaves us with how…If you’re hoping to get a book contract, like Courtney mentioned, you can go to a writer’s conference such as She Speaks or any number of others and meet with editors and agents on the spot. They may not buy what you’re selling, but you can meet with them nevertheless. (You can read about my crazy experience here…) Or, you can self publish. And the self publishing world is a vast one! You can go as independent and quick as Amazon’s Create Space or work with a more traditional and comprehensive company like I ended up doing with Xulon Press. Talking about the process of self-publishing is probably a whole other post, but if anyone wants to connect with me and ask questions, I’m happy to do so! There are also, a number of blogs you can follow that will help with self-publishing questions. Goins Writer is a good one.
Once you do a little self reflection and journal through some of these foundational pieces, the last and final bit of advice is to —- JUST DO IT!
Create. Write. Dream. Speak.
You will be exhilarated and doubtful, you will be bold and you will shrink back. You will have moments of brilliance and you will make mistakes.
This is the life of the creative.
It is beautiful and messy. And that is precisely why we do it because we wouldn’t want to live life any other way.
I love hearing this download from you about your creative process…
I have found that the most compelling reading comes from the most genuine voices. But finding that voice and expressing it with authenticity is the ultimate mystery!
…and I’m so glad you finally noticed your filthy baseboards.
On Dave’s death day, December 21, 2017, I wrote on facebook, “Today is five years, alright. This is not a good time to try and reflect, because Christmas time is just so busy. Thankful for today to be with my kids and Rachel, (my niece) and holding our loss. I don’t like this day, but I couldn’t live without it. It’s necessary. Five years later and the nightmare of Dave’s death lives on. It’s not that there are not amazing things woven in and I do like who I am becoming (on my less cynical days) and I do still think there is purpose to this pain, but I seriously thought that my hard road would be much shorter and have more beauty and “hurrah” to it, at this point.”
Nightmare might seem to be a strong word in that post. It feels strong to me, yet fitting. On December 21, 2012, the nightmare was his death. The nightmare was raising three kids alone. And the most nightmarish part was getting down to Spencer’s level and telling him that his dad died. Today, the nightmare isn’t that we live without Dave, although it hurts. The nightmare is the fallout. It’s that there is this crack now, that Satan loves to play in.
The actual day of acknowledging the anniversary of Dave’s death is NOT a nightmare at all. It certainly has some sweetness and some sorrow and tenderness and joy. I mean, when I went to wake up Leah, she was reading Psalms out of one of Dave’s old Bibles. Sweetness! And then to sweeten it a little more, when she realized that she was on Psalms 21 and it was the 21st of the month, her eyes lit up with amazement. I loved that little gift from God to get her so excited about His word. It’s not common practice that she reads her Bible with her own motivation, but I’m sure she knew it was a sacred day of sorts. I deeply love that her response to a difficult day was to pick up her Bible.
The nightmare is NOT the season. The Christmas season is nutty to begin with, in a purely busyness standpoint. It’s all good and great and fun stuff, but for me, there is a steady low level of sorrow underneath all of December. The year he died, we chopped down a tree and rode four wheelers at a friends house in Crystal Park. We went to his best friend’s birthday party/Christmas party. He hosted the Memorial Rehab Christmas party at our house one week prior to his death, with tons of people. I even remember him talking about how he was afraid one of his co-worker seemed headed for a heart attack. We were just getting ready to ski at Wolf Creek and spend Christmas in Pagosa with his entire side of the family. He just happened to die, right smack dab in the middle of the most joyous Christmas seasons ever. Blah! Don’t like it!
The nightmare IS the product of deep pain and how that deep pain gets played out. I always joke that when I see the first three numbers of the school phone number pop up on my phone, I pray that one of my kids has an infectious disease and is in the nurses office. Obviously, I don’t really want that, but I also don’t really enjoy hearing the words, “Do you have a minute. We have a situation,” from the Dean of Students. So, there I sat, for an hour in the principal’s office, trying to understand where the disturbing behavior of one of my cherubs is coming from. Hopelessness sets in. Chaos like this surrounds Dave’s death day. Did this child feel like Dave might overshadow him/her, so this child needed to do it up big? Or, is it that this child’s grief and shame still can’t find words, so she/he pulls other innocent children into his/her world of pain? I then battle whether to allow this sweet cherub to participate in Dave’s death day, because I just want it free from chaos. Is it my guilt that allowed this child to participate or is it grace? I don’t even have any idea? In the end, by the true grace of God, I did not regret my decision and this precious child only added to the day and was able to make it about Dave. Thank you sweet Jesus.
Then I returned home and another member of this family is dealing with his own pain over Dave’s death, which comes out in the form of passive aggressiveness. It was aimed at me, but ended up hurting one of my kids. Hello Mama Bear!!! Then I’m accused of making him feel little, because all I care about is Dave. I get accused of having no grace for his hurts. I get accused of only caring about myself. That is the nightmare. A husband that is still fighting a ghost.
Death, itself, is a fierce enemy, but I tell you what, shame is the fiercest enemy I have ever witnessed. In my own life and in this family. Satan knows when to strike. Satan knows that we will be pointing to Jesus as our hope and light, on December 21st, in particular. He is a crafty distractor. But I keep repeating, from this two minute movie that our church has played at the beginning of the sermon lately. “Jesus Shines Brighter.” Sorry shame. Jesus Shines Brighter. I do say that with a bit of a caveat. Lately, when I say to myself, “Jesus Shines Brighter.” My knee jerk reaction is, “No, it doesn’t.” It just DOES NOT FEEL LIKE IT! But then I remember that there are many lights. Many bright lights everywhere. They look like the real deal. They are so fancy and pretty and flashy and I’m drawn to them and I think I’m looking at real light, but it’s not giving me light. Then I realize that I’m not actually looking at Jesus. It is true – that his light shines brighter. It just does.
Anywho . . . I’ll just get to the point. I guess I’ll just give a simple account of what we did on Dave’s five year anniversary of his death. For all the chaos surrounding it, is was the most perfect way to celebrate, remember, reflect, cry, laugh and talk, all about Dave.
We started our day with reading from Daniel 10, which is a passage in the Bible that Dave read to me, about a year before he died. It was an angel trying to get to Daniel, but he was detained by a prince of darkness for three weeks. Dave was fascinated by this passage and it was cool one to read to the kids about angels and princes of darkness literally battling. The angel that finally came to Daniel, was like, “Sorry, I tried to get here a bit sooner, but that pesky prince of Persia, held me up for 21 days.” Sometimes, the Bible reads more like a soap opera, (is that sacreligious to say that?) I have seriously started to fall in love with stories from the Bible. God is just, and holy and righteous, but he is also pretty funny.
Next, we ate Swedish pancakes. Then we headed to the dog park, where we all spread some of Charlie’s ashes. Charlie (the dog) and Dave were pretty much attached at the hip and call me crazy, but I think they are once again, and if not, I’m fine being wrong on this one. Then we went to Chick-Fil-A and in the parking lot, somehow we got started talking about the day he died and recounting what everyone remembered. It was one teary car in that parking lot. Fortunately, chicken nuggets and waffle fries work wonders in bringing calm to weary hearts. Then we were off to one of those places where you paint on canvases.
Only a few short months before Dave died, his mom brought a box of his artwork from high school. I was seriously amazed at all that he had created. In all the first eight years of marriage, I knew he could sketch up a quick plan for a house project, but I didn’t know he was an artist of sorts. As it turns out, Leah and Spencer are little artists of sorts. It’s been such a gift for them to be so good at something that CLEARLY comes from Dave. Weirdly, we all ended up picking out pictures of trees to draw. It was fun to watch the kids take their paintings so seriously. Inspecting each color choice and never rushing the process . It was the perfect outing for that day.
Then we headed to the Broadmoor for our tradition of seeing the gingerbread houses and getting a chocolate, but they weren’t letting anybody in, unless they were part of a private party, of which we were not. So, we went to the Chocolate Factory, instead, to honor Dave’s love of chocolate. On the way home, we listened to his funeral service. It was such a quiet ride, with a few sniffles, a few light laughs from the stories people shared about him at his funeral, and some heavy, heavy air that is ours to breathe. The heavy air of still trying to grasp that he actually died and what that means for us, and the heavy air of saying goodbye to another day, where we got to press pause on life and experience a little bit of Dave.
Wow. You recounting all this brings back memories for me too. I remember the exact song I was listening to on my drive to Penrose Main after I got the news. It was Kristian Stanfill’s version of the worship song, “Always.” I remember singing it at the top of my lungs, willing God to make this news not be true. That somehow a miracle would happen and Dave would be alive. I remember walking into the little hospital waiting room to see you, Holly, already surrounded by a small group of grieving friends. When I walked in you looked me point blank in the eye and said, “Megan, this can’t be true! You said adoption was like ‘life insurance.’ God wouldn’t allow our kids to be orphaned twice.” My heart immediately sank like a boulder thrown into the sea. I didn’t know what to say. And truth be told, I really don’t know what to say now, except that your faith continues to inspire and amaze me. The way you hold the grief of each member of your family with such intentionality, recognizing it for what it is, is so brave. I love the lot of you, and I am praying that Jesus’ bright light continues to pierce the darkness, dissolving any strongholds that have yet to be redeemed.
What a day – December 21 – will always always be. It was the day we lost Dave, the day children lost their daddy and the day you lost your husband. It was also the day that catalyzed so much else – other CRAZY moments of real, of beauty, of redemption. I remain hopeful and expectant that joy and purpose can be found as the narrative continues to unfurl itself in your family – never predictable, always precious. Love you for this honest update, Holly-girl.
As I sit in my gated off kitchen cleaning up puppy pee every three minutes, I wonder when in the world I had time to write a whole blog about the possibility of hearing from God?? That “life of leisure” is a distant memory today.
But the new normal in this season got me thinking — can one only hear from God in the silence? In the calm seasons of life? When the conditions are perfect, the candles are lit, the coffee is freshly brewed, no kids are awake and no puppies are peeing?
Or is it also possible to hear from God in the midst of the chaos? In the storms of life?
I have to believe the answer is YES. To both.
Silence/solitude is SERIOUSLY IMPORTANT for hearing the still small voice. If some kind of silence isn’t naturally grafted into the mix of our daily routines, we must figure out a way to carve it out. Sometimes that means putting the puppy in a crate and going into another room, getting a babysitter and heading to your local coffee shop, or asking those you love to give you a hot minute alone to think and process. It may not be a long amount of time, and that’s okay, because God can breathe His Spirit on you in an instant — if you are open to the possibility and allow Him access to your soul.
Hearing from God isn’t necessarily about the DURATION of time, but it always requires SOME time.
Time alone, to recharge and reconnect with God, is non-negotiable (however creatively you can enter the space) if you want to practice the relational art of hearing from God. Especially in this day and age when the input from everything else can be 24/7.
If I don’t seriously make ways to spend time with God, even if it’s just listening to worship music in the car, I notice my stress level begin to creep up from “kinda hanging in there” to “she’s gonna blow” in no time flat. This is majorly NOT PRETTY for me or any of my proximate beloveds.
And, yes, on the flip side, God can break through the noise and find us even in spite of the crazy. We may just have to be a little more intentional about taking a deep breath and asking the Father to reveal himself in that moment. We can often find God in the embrace of a trusted friend, the kind word of a stranger or the emotional impact of a beloved song. But we won’t recognize it’s Him if we’re not aware of the possibility that it could be!
So — Just how does God find us? Speak to us? Compel us? Move us? Engage with us?
Like I mentioned in my first post, it could be SO. MANY. THINGS!! I found a wonderful article that describes eight ways God can speak to us today. (Feel free to pop over and read it on your own to further develop these ideas.) But the gist is this — God can speak to us, find us, move us, compel us to action through:
1. His Word (Scripture)
2. His Son, Jesus Christ
3. Nature & Creation
4. Other Christian Believers
6. Personal Circumstances
7. The Holy Spirit
And I’m going to add a 9th! JOURNALING.
Journaling became EXTREMELY IMPORTANT to me in discerning the voice of God several years ago, when we were seeking God’s word for us regarding adoption.
One day, August 23 to be exact, I sensed a clear impression from the Lord that I was not to go about my daily to-do list, but rather stay home and spend the day fasting (from food and social media) and engaging in prayer and reading Scripture. That day I wrote down every verse I could find regarding the themes of “adoption” or “orphan.” Turns out God has a lot to say on the subject. Go figure.
A couple months later, Scott came home from a Young Life retreat with a vision that could only have come from God because we would NOT have thought of this on our own. Scott told me every time he thought about our future family, the Lord gave him a vision that we were to adopt two kids! What in the world?? That was definitely not our idea.
As we carefully sought God’s lead on this one, and mentioned to our adoption agency that we MIGHT, MAYBE, POSSIBLY be open to the idea of two kids, they said they had several sibling groups available and would we want to see any pictures? Like that very day! As we sifted through the pictures, our hearts were IMMEDIATELY drawn to a brother and sister pair. The young boy’s bright eyes beamed and his young sister looked up at him with an adoring smile. When I looked at the date at the top of the page, I saw that their birth mother had relinquished them to the orphanage on — AUGUST 23rd! The Holy Spirit sent a shiver through my veins. Coincidence? I think not. We sensed a clear leading that Kelel and Senait were supposed to be in our family.
When they got home however, and all hell broke loose due to the deep grief and trauma our kids experienced, we wondered if we heard God right at all?? How could this have been God’s plan? Life wasn’t “better” for anyone. In fact, it felt much worse.
Since we brought our kids home in December, this time of year is profoundly special to me because I vividly remember the darkness that ran through our house in that season, a heaviness so counter to the sparkle and shine of Christmas. But now, six years later, after much hard work, healing and unconditional love, I feel the grace of God over our family in so many ways! Now, when we dress up and sit in church, worshipping calmly as a family on Christmas Eve, my eyes always well with tears at the gracious goodness of the Father. The transformation is not lost on me.
Hearing from God is not always this over-the-top. In fact, I don’t have many stories that are this overt.
Recently, one of my children was having a very hard time with friends and I was stumped as to what she should do so I simply said, “Let’s pray about it.” We bowed our heads and asked the Lord for his divine wisdom and intervention on this issue. Trusting, hoping that He would download some divine wisdom. Thirty minutes later, she bounded into the kitchen and declared, “I believe Jesus is real!” I said, “Really?! What happened?” She went on to tell me she had just received a text (out of the blue) from another friend involved in the drama offering grace and answers to the problem. Again. God moved through prayer.
Not one of the aforementioned ways of hearing from God is “better” than the other, rather an awareness and engagement with all of the above creates the most holistic and soul-filling way of relating to Him. Of bringing about the abundant life.
However, let me be clear.
If you are a Christian, belief in, acknowledgment of, and surrender to Jesus is paramount in order to connect with the Father.
The glory of nature can speak to any of us of something greater. Beautiful music can move even the most stoic of us. Other people can impart profound wisdom across the board — regardless of our personal view of faith and theology. Even those who don’t believe in Jesus, have their own form of prayer as they send good thoughts or meditate. Mindfulness is generally universally accepted and encouraged as a healthy practice — even by Christians!
But, I would suggest, the game changers in this list are: the WORD of God, JESUS CHRIST, and the HOLY SPIRIT. Of these three, there is no substitute. There can be no “fence riding” here.
To be honest, it feels extremely hard to write those words. Faith is a personal journey. I would never want to insinuate that someone who doesn’t believe in Jesus doesn’t hear from God. When in fact, I believe the opposite can be true. God speaks to all His children.
The question is — when you hear/sense something that feels like it might be supernatural, something greater than logic or reason, to what or to who do you attribute that thing? Do you call it wisdom? A higher being? Other? Or do you name the name of Jesus Christ?
For me, calling on the name of Jesus is paramount to hearing from God. There is no other name in heaven or on earth that compares to His. Holly’s girls saw Him standing behind her the day before Dave died. My own son, Kelel, told us he saw Jesus in our dining room after a particularly rough day when he first came home. I can’t explain it. It just is. Jesus. Is.
In my previous post, regarding discerning if what we ‘hear’ is from God or not, Christina commented, “The reason I attribute it to the Lord is that the idea was something I couldn’t have come up with on my own and it was consistent with scripture and what I know about the character of God.”
That right there is a pretty good litmus test to beginning to figure out how God speaks to you.
If the answer to these ideas is, YES. Perhaps you shouldn’t brush it off too quickly. Ask God if it’s Him. Ask Him to confirm His voice. Often, He will confirm His word to you 2 or 3 times through various mediums. Same message. Different medium.
Did you open your bible and find the very verse your pastor preached on that week? (Maybe God is saying something to you!) Did you have a thought that you should call a certain person and then that person “randomly” texts you? (Perhaps God is orchestrating something.) Do you have a strong impression you are supposed to go to the store at that very time instead of waiting until later like you planned, only to run into someone you had a great conversation with, knowing God must have orchestrated the whole thing? (Maybe God knew that encounter would minister to you both in deep ways.) Do you have an unction to be generous with money and then you receive an email from a friend that she is raising money for a mission trip? (Again — God?!)
Of course, these ideas are just the tip of the iceberg. He speaks to us in as many ways as there are individuals on this earth!
Heaven knows I won’t always “get it right,” but the idea that I could hear from God at any moment of the day – even in the midst of the washing and the folding and the pee cleaning – is enough to get me looking at life a little differently!
**So what about you?! How do you hear from God? How might He be speaking to you even now? I would love to hear what you think….
Oh good gracious! The story of bringing your kids home after hearing from God and being so sure that he was orchestrating the whole deal . . . to get home and question it all??????? I’d be lying if I hadn’t wondered about the validity of God’s call to adopt Macie, even though I was SURE He was all over that. And am I the only one who feels like I might have not heard correctly in marrying my husband? It hasn’t been easy and lovely, like I thought it would be. I thought if I heard God say, “go for it,” with adoption and marrying Tony, shouldn’t it all be amazing at best and slightly uncomfortable at worst? And then there was this puzzling story from this guy I knew, whose family made the bold move to move their family overseas to become missionaries, only to move back months later, when he was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes??? Did his parents wonder if they got their lines crossed with God??? Is your next post on these situations, Megan? Do we get the hearing wrong, sometimes? Or do lives on earth just make no sense, until we get to heaven?
Or is it true, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts,” Isaiah 55:8-9. Was Jesus tempted to ask that as he was hanging on the cross? “God, did I get that wrong the other day, when I thought you heard me say to tell people to say, ‘I and the Father are one.’ (John 10:30). If I hadn’t said that and a few other things, I thought you were urging me to say, maybe I wouldn’t be in this predicament.” Was there even ever a flash of anything like that in Jesus human mind? Or was he so trusting of God, that no matter what, he trusted God, no matter the comfort level of his life. This isn’t where I was going with your post initially, but this is where I felt God was leading me. Hopefully, I didn’t get it wrong. 😉
Megan, you do an incredible job putting possibly the most indescribable concept into words! And if I were to ATTEMPT to put my sense of whether hearing from God is possible I would say:
I have had one experience back in college on a study-abroad trip to Europe. I was taking a run on a lonely, isolated country road in Holland with my bright yellow Sony Walkman cassette tape player when all-of-the-sudden I knew FOR SURE – NO DOUBT – ABSOLUTELY that I was not alone. But it wasn’t a creepy sensation…it was intensely personal and -well- warm. I came back to the place where I was staying with some other students and I remember looking around like maybe they would notice that I was a completely different person than before I left for my run that day….completely assured, now, of the presence of Jesus in my midst. I access that important marker in my journey of faith often – it’s part of how I continue in it (faith, I mean).
I have been pretty quiet on this blog since this summer. Let’s face it, I pretty much only know how to write about one thing and that one thing is myself. I write mostly because it is a way for me to keep moving through this crazy life of mine. When I write, I feel lighter and able to release whatever has got me all twisted up at the time. Since I can only seem to write about myself, when my life is a mess and my mess is my marriage, I become paralyzed. I am incapable of coming off like all is well when all is nowhere near.
I’m not going to write about my marriage and family right now. What I will say, is that I have been in some serious counseling for me alone and it has been amazing. Amazingly difficult, (I feel like I run an emotional half marathon every time I leave) and amazingly revealing and amazingly daunting. It takes a lot to unsugar coat my life and flat out feel the hurt. It takes a lot to sit in and not think that to be a good Christian, what I need to do is trust that God will bring “beauty from ashes.” Counseling initially caused some real isolation and some real internal chaos. It left me feeling like I was completely not who I thought I was or that all the trauma in my life left Holly far behind and in her place was some other random, ungrounded soul. But now it seems to be bringing me not only back to who I am, but into a much fuller understanding of who I am and how I have landed in the place where I have landed. To feel Holly-ish, again, feels awfully significant to me. Mind you, it’s still only in glimpses, but the sense of contentment I have when I capture it brings such relief. You know what made me feel a glimpse of Hollyness the other day? Probably, not what you expect . . . .It was a morning of a medley of misfortunes.
Tony had a business trip in California and since time away with him was not really a desire of mine for the past few months, I figured maybe I was ready to give it go. I found cheap tickets, my parents sweetly agreed to watch the kids and so all was lined up. I packed the night before. Most of my stuff was going with Tony, so I didn’t have to pay to check a bag. All I needed to carry was a large purse, which would be FREE. My phone had been on the brink of collapse for quite some time, but since I don’t like to spend money, I kept saying that I’d get a new one when mine dies.
So, I woke up early last week to make my flight and my phone wasn’t charged, even though I had charged it all night long. I figured it was the somewhat faulty cord, so I plugged it into the kitchen. I finished getting ready and the kids were running around getting ready for school, when I decided that this bag I’d be hauling around San Francisco all day was a little to heavy. Being a smart traveler, I pulled my wallet out to remove all the excess Panera cards and library cards, etc . . . Then in mid-card-removal, I noticed that my phone was not charging at all. It was DEAD, DEAD, DEAD! I called Tony as he was making his connection in Denver on his flight to at least get the name of the hotel I’m supposed to go to. Everything was on my phone – my boarding pass, Uber for when I’m there and need to get around the city before meeting up with Tony late that night and hotel reservations. So, I’m frantically printing out my boarding pass and getting last minute instructions from Tony on where to go and getting my kids to thebcar to get to school.
I calm down on my way to drop the kids off at school, realizing that I went a solid 25 years without a phone and managed to survive. I knew I could probably reach way back into my cell phoneless years and discover skills I hadn’t used in a while. About a mile from the airport, my phone decides to charge by 3%. I stay in the parking lot to SLOWLY charge it enough to make one phone call when I get to San Francisco. I walk through the doors of the Colorado Springs airport and get this nagging feeling that I didn’t remember putting my wallet back into my purse. I plop down mid-stride and sure enough . . . no wallet, no license, no money, no credit card. I bolt out to my car and calculate my chances for retrieving my wallet and still making my flight. I had 50 minutes before the doors would close. I hit my first obstacle trying to leave the airport. Miss mall cop parking monitor was not very forgiving. I owed a dollar for the seven minutes I was there and she would not let me leave. She literally kept asking who I could call to bring me a dollar. I was searching my car for change, but since I keep such a tidy car, (all my extra change is in my garage coated with creamer and a light cover of mold, if that tells you how clean my car is), I found six whole cents. She reluctantly let me go. I race down I-25 faster than I ever have, retrieved my wallet off of my counter and race back towards the airport. Surprisingly, I was beating the time on Google Maps and I was even going to get to the airport earlier than I thought.
I slam my car into park and run so much faster, by far, than I have since my herniated disc situation. I slowly sprint across the parking lot, I ungracefully, ballet leap over two chain dividers, I continue across a lawn (who knew they had a lawn), I run to the security line and beg the three people in front of me to cut, I go through security, I half put my tennies back on and race to find my gate. Of course, it’s not printed on my boarding pass, so I ask, while running, where the Frontier gates are. I’m sure you can guess, “At the end of the terminal.” I’m sprinting, because it’s 9:11 at this point and that is when the gates close. I seriously can not believe I’m going to actually make it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Relief is already setting in.
I breathlessly stop at my gate and the people sitting to the left of me, say, “They JUST closed the door.” NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! This was not how this was supposed to end. Evidently, they are pretty strict about not opening that door again, even if you are only 45 seconds late.
So, I do the walk of shame, past everyone that watched me sprint down the terminal just seconds before, and head to the Frontier counter. On my walk of shame, instead of feeling like nothing can go right in my life, or that I’m ridiculous for leaving my wallet, I thought, “This feels like the Holly of Old.” Never quite together, but figuring it all out. I actually can’t explain it. How did I catch a glimpse of Hollyness in that moment? Maybe it’s because my old life used to be made up of moments like these? Who knows? But I can tell you, it actually made it all worth missing my flight.
I ended up flying out of Denver later that day, next to a relatively older, semi-high man named, “Cool Whip,” that repeatedly needed to know from the flight attendants in what model of airplane we were flying. He certainly added to the uniqueness of the day. When I arrived in San Francisco, I found my way to the hotel, where Oktoberfest was in full swing right there in lobby, with free food and free drinks. From that point on, the trip was nothing short of perfect.
Soon after my return, my friend, Kate, gave me this book. I am only about 22 pages in, but I’m not afraid to recommend it already. It is called, Present Over Perfect, by Shauna Niequist. In the first chapter, she said, “. . . those skills I developed that supposedly served me well for the first half [of life], as I inspect them a little more closely, didn’t actually serve me at all. They made me responsible and capable and really, really tired. They made me productive and practical, and inch by inch, year by year, they moved me further and further from the warm, whimsical person I used to be … and I missed her. ”
I gave that an out loud, “AMEN SISTER!!!!!!”
First of all, that airport story is going to be a classic! I was going to say that you should’ve called me to bring you $1, but…I would’ve given you SO MUCH crap. 😉
Second of all, I know circumstances are different between people, but I think every one of us can relate to the idea of “losing” our true selves in various seasons of our lives. And trauma takes no prisoners. I can absolutely understand how you’ve felt off in so many ways. How you’ve needed to dig out of the pit. I’m proud of you for going to counseling and entering into the hard in order to reset the path towards health and wholeness. There is no substitute for walking it out in order to find that bold, beautiful, whimsical woman inside! For you and for all those you love. I am inspired to really give that Shauna Niequist phrase some serious thought — what skills I’ve developed and held on to that no longer serve me or the path that I’m destined to walk at this point. Good stuff.
You’ve been quiet on the blog, sister…that is true. BUT you have not been quiet in life. You’ve been marching through some difficult stuff like a brave warrior. I’m so so proud of you. And I really loved Shauna’s book, too. It’s such an important “re-set button” on the striving of the busy woman.
…and I love picturing you driving like a bat-outta-hell through the streets of Colorado Springs! Makes me laugh just thinking of you in this predicament – not that I would ever wish it on you!! Love to you on this journey back to Holly. Xoxo
Learning to hear from God is a lot like learning to do Cross-fit.
When you’re an “outsider” looking in, the whole thing looks like the world got together and decided to play a big joke on the rest of us. Not only does Cross-fit look miserable, it looks damn near impossible.
At least, that’s what I thought the first day I walked into the gym.
I literally had butterflies in my stomach on the drive over. My husband had started weeks before at the invitation of some friends and was so excited about it, he kept insisting I should come and give it a try.
I was a nervous wreck as I walked in and saw all these happy people, chalking up their hands (what in the world?!) and pulling on their knee braces. There were barbells and dumbells and kettlebells. All the bells. Not to mention stacks of weights and medicine balls and a big black apparatus that looked like an oversized jungle gym. Sweat beaded on my brow as I flashed back to elementary school. I never really mastered the monkey bars then and I was sure as heck not convinced I could do such a thing now.
And the people?! Oh, the people. They seemed so happy and chatty and confident and…BUFF. I seriously wanted to do an about face and run right into the arms of the elliptical trainer. She and I could glide along together at an appropriately comfortable pace where I could pop in my earbuds, shut out the world and fantasize about Chip and Joanna Gaines showing up to my house to perform one of their weekly home-improvement miracles.
Who was I, a middle-aged mother of four, soft and fluffy in all the right places, to be in a place like this? There was no way I would be able to hang with these bronzed, glistening gladiators.
I had a decision to make.
Would I swallow my pride and try a class or would I do a 180 and retreat to the comfort of walking the dog?
I kind of think the idea of learning to hear from God is a lot like approaching a cross-fit class.
We can look at all the “insiders” in the Christian faith — the ones who go to church every week, wake up at 0-dark-hundred to spend time with God, the ones who seem uber spiritual and think we could NEVER measure up to all that. It’s intimidating and unattainable. We think God will never talk to us anyway, so why bother?
It can be tempting to tick off the checklist of reasons why hearing from God is, at best, like playing darts blindfolded (better hope you have good aim) or, at worst, altogether impossible — wondering if God exists at all.
Pre-supposing we’re going to give the idea of God and even Jesus a chance, there are a myriad of reasons that might keep us from hearing from him. Certain blockages, if you will:
Anxiety, Fear, Busyness, Anger, Doubt, Depression, General malaise — to name a few. I’m not saying it’s bad to feel these things. I’ve felt every single one! It’s just that often, we (I) might give them a little more power and control over our lives than they are due.
But — WHAT IF??
What if the God of the universe, Jesus himself, wants to meet with you today? To bring you a word, a thought, a dream, a vision, an impression of full-life meant just for you?! What if He wants to meet you in the deepest part of your soul, right in the middle of the anxiety, fear, and doubt, in the center of your most profound need and bring you a different perspective? His perspective? One that has the possibility of bringing hope and light and life and joy.
Isn’t it worth opening your heart to the possibility that you could listen to Him, hear directly from Him?
I never in one-million-to-infinity years thought I would ever be able to do a pull-up. I ultimately checked my ego at the door and started doing cross-fit. I hung on the bar like a rag doll for quite some time. Raggedy Ann’s bulge wasn’t budging.
But then, little by little, jump by jump, over time, I began to pull my chin up over the bar. At first, I had to start with my fingers rotated inwards. Doing “chin-ups” as they call them. The grip was easier for me that way. And then, one day I shifted my grip. I held on with my fingers gripped outward and my trainer patiently walked me through the motions of a real, honest to God pull up. I needed to engage my lats. Muscles I had neglected for a long time. (Was I even born with any?) I needed to swing back and up.
I was not successful that day.
In fact, I felt defeated. All this time of training and still nothing.
I hung on the bar just swinging back and forth, envisioning the motions for days on end. And then, one day, the proper muscles engaged and up I went! No assistance. Just middle-aged me doing a pull-up. What the?!
This success did not happen overnight. I had to show up, work hard, and believe that change could someday be possible. I had to trust the process. I had to hope and believe that, in the end, or somewhere in the middle of the journey, things could be different.
Perhaps listening for God’s word in your life is the same way.
Is hearing from God something you’re open to? Would you be willing to take a step towards Him with an open heart and mind and ask Him to speak to you?
Maybe you’re feeling defeated in this area and the faith of your youth has all but dried up and withered away if it was ever there at all. Perhaps the lyrics of the well-known ballad “Hallelujah” ring ever true in the place you find yourself today:
“There was a time when you let me know, what’s really going on below
But now you never show that to me do you?
But remember when I moved in you, and the holy dove was moving too and every breath we drew was Hallelujah…”
I hanker to guess, if you allow yourself to show up, as broken and battered as you may feel, He’ll show up too. The only catch is — you just can’t have any preconceived notions of exactly WHAT that will look like when He does. He is so creative in how He speaks to people!**
Maybe your prayer today is that of King David’s in Psalm 51:10-11:
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your holy spirit from me.”
I think Rufus Wainwright and King David had more in common than anyone may realize. They are two men, cold and broken, coming into the presence of a Holy God. Hoping to encounter Him once again. Hoping to feel the fresh breeze of His Spirit.
Do you wonder if He’s really out there?
And if He is, would He truly “take the time” to encounter and speak to little, old you? My money’s on “yes!” But don’t take my word for it…
Close your eyes, quiet your mind and open your ears. Listen for the whiper. He has something to give you.
What is it?
(**Since this subject is of such complicated intrigue to me, I’m thinking of turning it into a 2-3 part blog series. Next, I’d like to explore the ways God talks to us and how we can discern if it’s His voice or not.)
Good job on the pull-up! I’m inspired. I might even try a push-up tonight, now.
I don’t know what to say on this subject??? It seems to me that you are saying that if we give it enough time and enough effort, our listening muscle will start to function, and then we will be able to hear the voice of God. Did I get that right?
Hearing from God. Some people seem to hear from God about every detail of their life. I used to find that so annoying, probably because I felt like I never heard from God. But now I would never think of questioning others’ beliefs and accounts of hearing from God. Who am I to decide whether it’s real or not? Then some people NEVER seem to hear from God and that feels unfair? So, I’m left with my own experiences.
Hearing from God has certainly helped me put stakes in the ground. I felt like God was VERY clear when Dave and I decided to move forward with adoption as I felt like I really heard from God while painting my friends bathroom. In the initial difficult days (years) of sweet Macie coming home, it was grounding to remember that bathroom moment. The day before Dave died, the girls saw Jesus in our kitchen and that for me, gave me the message, “I knew this was going to happen.” He knew, he saw, he knows everything. (The sovereignty of God is not always a comfort, because even though I knew God knew, I also knew he could have prevented it, and chose not to, but that is a post for another day.) The deal is, I knew that God was with me and that he saw and was seeing and is seeing. There are some mornings where God gives me little gifts that COULD NOT BE COINCIDENTAL, where I feel like God gives me a verse or a song that is so for that moment and it’s not linked to anything difficult or monumental, in life. It’s these moments where God is so incredibly personal and dare I say, even funny, that are my very very favorite God speaking to me moments. Why I don’t seek more of those moments by spending more time with Him, is always a mystery to myself?????? I guess that may be what you are talking about, Megan. It’s like, the more we hear Him, the more we get these super personal gifts from Him and RECOGNIZE those moments as the God over all the universe talking to little old me.
What a compelling topic with unending facets…
I hear two messages in your post:
1) Hearing from God is something you and I can work on and for which we can develop an “ability.”
2) Hearing from God is something we can show up for and be open to…or not (like deciding whether or not to answer the phone, for example).
And I know none of it is that simple, really.
But I think more than anything you’re challenging me to put some intentional thought into hearing God’s voice. I have had moments when I believe I could hear/sense clear direction. The reason I attribute it to the Lord is that the idea was something I couldn’t have come up with on my own and it was consistent with scripture and what I know about the character of God. Mostly though I see God’s faithfulness and direction as I look at the story He is weaving together in my full collection of days on this earth. I see His protection, His faithfulness, His challenge. And I hear it when I process life with trusted members of my community. These are tiny pieces in a really large puzzle I know I’ll spend my life putting together. Love this topic and can’t wait for more, Megan!!
Once upon a time a cute little Colorado native married a Virginia born graphic designer. The two got married, had a son then a daughter 5 years later.
BING BOING BOOM 26 minutes later they have 2 teenagers one of whom is a senior and trying to figure out how to be a man-child while the other navigates allllll the awkward of 8th grade. You can find these old people who had these kids exclaiming with annoying regularity that they can’t believe where the time went.
There is no way I have lived enough years, driven enough carpool rounds, signed enough permissions slips to be at this stage of life. Despite that impossibility it wasn’t too hard for me to draft a list of what I would want my 20-something year old self to be assured of as a brand new mama. If “younger me” had this list, I think she’d feel lighter most days, less burdened by the path of motherhood and woman hood that was before her.
#1 ASK FOR HELP
Mom was in Guatemala in her early 20’s when she caught a parasite that began to overtake her vision. So as a young mom, she’d feel our heads and listen to our voices to determine which of her children was approaching with some need or complaint. And TO THIS DAY she still connects on the deepest of levels with the people who helped her get through each day with her littles and her blindness.
We need people who know us, help us, and love us and let me emphasize that I’m not just telling you to ask for help so that you can have more help. Asking for help is like putting a sign on your forehead that says: I’m willing to receive from you. And if I show you that vulnerability, maybe you’ll be drawn to that. Brene Brown says it better, actually:
“I know that vulnerability is …the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness, but it appears that it’s also the birthplace of joy, and creativity, of belonging, of love.”
Curate your village, people.
#2) BE MISUNDERSTOOD
This one is tricky. In this season of my life I’m sandwiched between an aging mother with lots of needs and 2 kids who, while becoming more independent all the time, still need me. So I make choices every single day that someone is not happy with. And for a long time (TOO LONG) I kept every plate spinning. I’ll spare you the details but there has been more than one instance of when people did not think I was doing the right thing either for my mom or for my kids.
Wise counsel and many days that sucked the life out of me have brought me to the point of saying this:
CARE LESS ABOUT WHAT OTHERS THINK.
Be willing to be misunderstood. They don’t think about your choices as often as you think. They will resume their regularly scheduled lives and not dwell on your life because that’s what we all do. Be willing to be misunderstood and not have to explain it or bring about understanding.
#3) A WORD ABOUT BUCKET LISTS
Who is keeping track of the items on your bucket list? Why is this “a thing?” And for heaven’s sake, what happens when you finish checking all of those items off? Is it time to die? Do you real quick make up some new items for said list?
How about adding items to a bucket list after you’ve done them! That way you’ll never be disappointed. I wouldn’t ever have thought to add:
I survived one of my kids pooping in the local swimming pool in front of God and everybody.
I conquered going back to work while having young kids.
I found redemptive aspects in the aftermath of my mom’s stroke
And if the bucket list generally ran the show in my life and I thought I’d made it or failed at it based on how many of those items were checked…I’d be an empty shell.
How about this? Live each day. Don’t turn down opportunities for adventure, for real, for true life.
#4) SPEND TIME WISELY
Do you ever just do something that makes you just giggle? Do you ever pretend you don’t notice your gigantic milk mustache just so someone else would laugh? Do you ever squeeze mashed potatoes through your teeth during dinner? Did you ever have a great sacrilegious laugh in the middle of a quiet church service? Did you do any of these things in the last month? I hope so. We should be working hard to be joyful. What does it mean or look like to work really hard to be joyful.
This world is so serious! Erma Bombeck said long ago about Housework: if you do it right will kill you. So come on. Stop being so serious about it all and get out into some joyful space. This is important. For you and for your whole family.
SPEND YOUR TIME WISELY by making sure to do fun and goofy things.
#5 TELL YOUR STORY
There’s nothing like the old Blankinship family stories like the one where as a little girl I used salt instead of sugar in the cookie recipe making the cookies taste so bad that even the dog wouldn’t touch them. When the sibs are altogether we tell stories about the raging parties we had as high schoolers when my parents had the nerve to get away for the weekend. (Statute of limitations rules state that you can’t get grounded after age 40, people.)
And there’s no equal to the value of telling the stories to my kids of what they did when they were little like when toddler-Jack called umbrellas “un-gorillas” or when his saying “sit on a bench” sounded exactly like the well-crafted phrase “son-of-a-bitch.” AHAHAHAHA! Walk down memory lane crafting that narrative so your kids can hear it And while we’re talking about memories – I’ll tell you what I CANNOT remember:
I CANNOT remember when my kids were officially potty trained.
I cannot remember when Audrey gave up her pacifier.
I cannot remember the day I did the most items on my checklist.
The days pass. They each have their own worries. Take them one at a time and don’t look too far ahead. Pay attention right here. Right now. That’s how to lose the world.
So those are some basics I would tell my “younger me.” Ahhhh…. younger me….cheers to her. She lived a lot of days to get here.
I always love looking back and thinking about what I might have told my younger self. (Of course the trick is to say it with enough conviction that someone else might believe it because, heaven knows, we can be bull headed at times!) And I love these nuggets of wisdom. Especially the part about being willing to BE MISUNDERSTOOD. I think I wasted (dare I say, continue to waste) too much time justifying my actions to other people. While advice is good, making decisions simply to please others is not. If I could add one thing to this list, it might be a very closely related, YOU DO YOU. No one else knows exactly who you are, who your people are and what they (and you) need. But you do. Trust your gut. It’s most likely a direct deposit from God.
I am impressed that you know what to tell your younger self. It’s a good list, I must say. I still feel like a younger self, but a really old one. I’m pretty sure I need my older self to talk to me right now. I think that if my life hadn’t gone haywire, I would have raised kids that were expected to excel in all areas and get mostly A’s, with an occasional B. But now I’m pretty down with whatever grades, as long as they are not biting, stealing, yelling, and that they are relatively emotionally healthy. So, what I now worry about, is their emotional health, but that’s a side note.
I think that in other areas, I haven’t got it figured out either. I kind of want to have more fun right now, yet I also want to make my life count and make sure it has purpose. I feel like if I were to get deeply involved in some purpose that invested my life into a great cause, maybe later down the road, I would say, “I should have taken more time to smell the roses and have more fun.” But if I were to smell the roses and have more fun, my older self might say, down the road, “I should have used my life more intentionally and sacrificially.” So, I guess right now, I’m on a day to day basis. What do you have for me today, Jesus? Some R and R? Some Spirit appointed conversation? Margaritas at Crystal Park Cantina? Yelling at Spencer from the sidelines, to kick the soccer ball to the outside, for the 50th time? Should I enforce a bedtime for good sleep? Should I read one more chapter of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, even though the lights should have been out long ago? I guess this is how I feel. If Jesus is in the background, I feel like I can never get it right. I always choose the wrong thing and go with the wrong priority. However, if Jesus is front and center, I can’t get it wrong, because even if I make a “wrong choice,” His grace is there to cover it. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again. I need that Jesus, SO BAD!
At the ripe old age of 19, I stepped onto the Colorado College campus having sworn off romantic relationships forever (well, at least for a good, long while) due to some unhealthy dealings in the past. It was time for me to shake the dust off and make a new start. No boyfriends. Period.
Just me and school and friends and adventure. That’s where I was headed.
Teenage relationships with boys had been messy and confusing. No sir, it was time to blaze a new trail. But within the first month of school (I’m sure you can see where this is going), enter one Scott A. Nilsen.
He was tall, darker-than-me (who isn’t), and handsome. Not to mention, he was a Christian at a largely non-Christian school. A rare specimen indeed.
He pursued me. He took me on a few dates. He was beyond nice, if not a little shy. And I gave him the stiff arm. (No relationships, remember.) But, by February of my freshman (his sophomore) year, I fell pretty hard for this tall drink of water and the rest, as they say, is history.
When we were dating, Scott wanted to be a doctor. A noble pursuit. My dad was a doctor and so was his. That career path fell right in line with the culture we had both grown up with. Then he took organic chemistry. Ugh and double ugh. Okay, no doctor. How about a sports lawyer? Law school seemed like a viable second option.
I’m not sure when that dream faded. Probably sometime during the “Jerry Maguire” era. Help me, help you.
By the strapping age of 22, we were not only engaged but full on married. At this very liberal arts school, our young wedlock was an anomaly to be sure. With rings on our fingers, we had no clue what the future would hold. Scott had considered traveling down some kind of respectable, white collar path, but nothing seemed to “stick.” Then, throwing caution to the wind, I asked him if he had ever considered going to seminary? He loved God and wanted to work with people. Seminary seemed like a pretty good fit.
The summer before he was to start at Denver Seminary (right before we got married), Scott spent one final summer at home slaying it as a “sandwich artist” at his brother-in-law’s Subway shop. Sometime between squirting mayonnaise and arranging banana peppers, Scott received an invitation from his old high school Young Life leader to partner with him in taking high school kids on a backpacking trip to British Columbia. Scott had LOVED this particular trip as an adventurous high schooler and gladly agreed to go.
That trip changed his life.
High above timberline, on a snow-capped ridge, Scott’s Young Life leader asked him if he had ever considered going on Young Life staff? After all, he was headed to seminary in the fall. It would be easy to go to school and work part-time as YL student staff. He would just have to fundraise a little to help pay his own salary, but he could go to school and work for an organization he loved — the one that had shaped his own path to Christ.
Scott came home from that trip and immediately gave me a call. “Hey sweet, darling fiancee (I’m sure that’s what he called me), I figured out what I want to do with my life!”
“Oh, cool!” I said. “Tell me more.”
“I’ve decided I want to go on Young Life staff while I’m in graduate school.”
“Young Life?” I questioned. “I’ve never heard of that. What is it?”
To be sure, Young Life breeds its own kind of rabid college-football-loving-status type of culture. The people who love it paint their bare chests and scream at the top of their lungs. Everything they own has a YL logo on it. Tshirts, bumper stickers, water bottles. You name it. And the folks who have no idea what YL is or don’t give a rat’s, haven’t a clue what to do with such over-the-top adoration.
As a relative “outsider,” I had a love/hate relationship with YL for quite a while. It took me a few years and lots of tearful conversations with my husband before I too fell head over heels in love with this ministry.
For the first 10 years, Scott and I led Young Life club together. (I’m sure we all but headed for divorce court as we tried to lead teenagers through a rousing rendition of “Brown Eyed Girl” each week.) We took kids to camp, cheered wildly at their soccer games and snapped pictures as they went to Prom. We sat with, cried with and hugged kids through the death of dear friends and everything in between. Let’s just say there were lots of nights when we had to “politely” kick kids out of our house when we struggled to keep our eyes open and knew in just a couple hours time we’d be up with a fussy infant.
And Young Life camp?? It’s simply the best. There is nothing like it! For the campers, the staff and families assigned to work there. Our time spent serving at YL’s Trail West family camp, single-handedly helped our family heal and bond when we spent a month there with our newly adopted Ethiopians.
The second decade on staff brought many unexpected opportunities as well as big, bold seasons of growth. At the end of the day, this ministry isn’t perfect. Nothing is. But it has been so very good. It has shaped us and given us experiences nothing else could.
Now, 21 years later, we’re sensing the winds of change and new vocational opportunities. The Lord is calling us to our next journey in life.
A dear friend has asked Scott to join his team of partners who lead a thriving business organization and specifically bring leadership to their generosity movement and philanthropic efforts. Although he is joining a team that has business entities throughout the United States, his role will have a global impact. We are excited to continue to make our home in Colorado Springs, invest in the local Pikes Peak Young Life area and see our kids’ lives transformed by this incredible ministry.
We are grateful for any adults who desire to walk alongside kids in one of the most tenuous seasons of life and show them the unconditional love of Jesus. They are showing up for so many kids — including our own!
Just like everything we do, this is a family endeavor.
Honestly, the idea of Scott traveling every other week did not sit well with me at first. (That’s probably an understatement.) To the point, that my anxiety about it all nearly shut the whole thing down. But the Lord has worked on my heart in big ways. My white-knuckle grip has gradually relaxed and I am learning to open my hands to receive this God-given opportunity and trust His provision.
Through tears, as Scott and I processed this new opportunity one afternoon I said, “Honey, I am thrilled for you. I am excited that God has something for your heart. You’ll be traveling and learning and I’ll be…here. Doing the Mom thing. I just hope, if God has something for you, He has something for me — and the kids as well.”
That’s the truth of it. I am believing that if God has something for Scott, He has something for us too. Perhaps it’s a cleaning lady and a personal chef! I suppose that wouldn’t be all bad. 🙂
We will continue to write in pencil and boldly step into the next place God has prepared for us. We are grateful for this time on Young Life staff. It has been a wonderful, life changing privilege!
Another turn in life! It would be like driving through Kansas your whole life, if there were not any turns, right? Here is where you get off the interstate and switch off the cruise control, to check out the six-legged steer. (If you ever drive through Kansas, you probably know the sign I’m talking about . . . of course, how could it still be alive?) What is it going to look like? Will this new road be bumpy, smooth, curvy? You know you’ll be seeing different scenery, for sure. I’m so excited for you guys!!! That’s easy for me to say from the outside looking in, but I really am, and I’m really proud that you, Megan, were able to be open to the change of Scott not being accessible a lot more often. It’s gotta be tough to be sitting where you are with more responsibility in the day to day chores, but not the excitement of a new job in new places. That takes some faith, but no doubt God has something for you in this, too! What will it be?!
Oh man. These aren’t easy shifts for you, Megan! I am praying that you’ll have joy and reassurance that you are not getting “left behind” and there is more for you on this new road as well!! I love your heart to be open and pliable. This will help your sweet littles and not so littles know how to move forward in this brave way, too. Love you!
Generally speaking, I’m not a sentimental person. I might tear up during a particularly moving human interest story on America’s Got Talent or at the end of a movie like say The Notebook. (I mean, who doesn’t??) But by and large, I’m a pretty no-nonsense kind of girl. I don’t usually daydream about yesteryear or the glory days. If anything, I’m more apt to look too far into the future than reminisce about the past.
So, when I volunteered to host my dad’s retirement party honoring his 45 years of family practice, my mind went blank. I didn’t really know how to make this family potluck more special than any other.
I called my cousin Allison, who is AMAZING at hosting parties. I mean, this girl makes Pinterest look stale. I confessed I was a little nervous about hosting because I could never come up with the types of cute, theme-oriented decorations like she could. Just thinking about decoupaging or papier-macheing anything makes me break out in hives.
As I blathered on about my lack of party-planning prowess, Allison stopped me mid-sentence and said, “Megan, you don’t need to plan a party like I would plan a party. You need to plan a party like you would plan one. That’s how you’ll honor your dad best.”
Hearing those words was like finding the long-lost key that could unlock my party-planning handcuffs. Hosting a party complete with string lights and aptly themed name plates is her gift. Not mine.
I’m not a decorations girl. I’m a words girl.
That was it! We would honor him with words.
I hopped on the computer and emailed the office manager of my dad’s practice. I asked her if she could get in touch with folks my dad worked with over the years and see if they would send encouraging messages regarding what it was like to work with him that I would print out and put in a little book.
As I read the messages that arrived in my in-box, I smiled knowing what a blessing they would be to my father.
And luckily, I didn’t have to abandon the cute decorations thing altogether because my beyond-wonderful sister, Katie flew in to help. She procured my father’s old medical bag for a counter-top centerpiece, gathered dress-up supplies for a family photo booth and launched the kids into action creating red-cross themed pennants and a map of the world to mark each location where Dr. Rob and Nurse Marilyn have served over the years. Thank goodness for the village!
Towards the end of the evening, we rounded up playful kids and chatty adults and circled around the guest of honor with the express intention of giving him a chance to reflect on the 45-year span of his career. Katie had typed up some questions that she cut into strips and handed out to the listening crowd. One by one, kids and adults alike got to interview Dr. Rob.
We listened as he told us how his interest in medicine sprouted in sixth grade after reading a biography about the famous missionary doctor, Albert Schweitzer and tried to calculate just how many babies he delivered over the years and why he eventually gave that up.
As I reflect on that night, a few lessons settle in my soul….
1. A 45-year commitment to anything is worth celebrating! According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker currently holds ten different jobs before age forty, and this number is projected to grow. In this ever-evolving information age, careers and marriages alike can change or dissolve on a dime. It’s pretty cool to show our kids just how beautifully rewarding it can be to walk long and obediently in the same direction. Perseverance and grit never go out of style. In fact, they are to be praised.
2. Intergenerationalcommunityis key. This one is not rocket science, but is often undervalued. My heart smiled as I looked around the circle and saw kids giving Dr. Rob their full attention. It’s quite normal and good for kids to be off playing while adults sit around and chat, but I was reminded that every once in a while we need to pull them in close and connect them (and us) with those who have gone before. Those ahead of us on the journey offer much wisdom as they share what it looks like to live and love and, at the risk of repeating myself, persevere in good times and in bad. Their testimonies light our paths.
3. Honor your people while you have them. I have many friends who have already lost one or both parents — often quite suddenly. The fact that both of my parents are alive and well is not lost on me. We all know we are not guaranteed tomorrow, but so often we live as if we are. It was such a blessing to slow down and honor one of the most important people in my life. To let words of encouragement wash over him while he still has ears to hear and a heart to receive.
4. A successful career is not a one-man (or woman) show. Behind every great person is, often times, an even greater spouse. As my mom sat, basking in the glow of all the amazing things that were said about my dad, I realized that she is and always has been his biggest fan. They moved to Windsor, Colorado for his job. Not hers. She often had to share the town’s favorite doctor with so many other people. He was gone many nights delivering babies or working long hours, always willing to take care of one last hurting soul. During all that time, I never heard her complain about him being gone and she even held a successful career as a registered nurse in her own right. May we also honor the cast of supporting characters because they are often unsung heroes and the glue that holds the whole show together.
5. You do you. That is by far my favorite saying in recent memory! I’ve wasted way too much time over the years trying to do things like others would or perform like they might “want me to.” Gracious. Let’s be done with that, please.
Commitment, community, connection…so many super rich elements in this post.
I’m so happy your family decided to take the time to honor your dad and his brilliant career! I think the world of your dad. He’s kind, generous, tender, and apparently a fantastic doc. He has also clearly loved his daughters and his wife very well. May we always take these opportunities to celebrate and appreciate distinct accomplishments and admirable qualities whenever we get a chance. Congrats to Dr. Rob!
I went to a piano conference this summer and one of the talks was on GRIT. I happened to score low on the grit scale, but that is for another time. I learned that the value of grit is starting to disappear in our culture. What an honor it must be to see this fading trait, so present in your dad! I think that is an amazing example for the youngers in your family, especially in a world that says you should work at it. . . until it gets uncomfortable. I am surely, guilty of being grit-less, but I sure look up to people who have got it! Way to go, Dr. Rob!