Heros

Somewhere between a book of my acquaintances and a notecard of my friendships, a space exists for which I have no title. My Facebook page says I have upwards of 900 “Friends” but in actuality, this accounting includes family and friends I have never even met! I would love to have a page appropriately titled for those people in my life who have influenced, awed or genuinely earned my respect, but are not necessarily those with whom I have intimate contact. I often wish I had more interaction with some of these people, but whether distance, opportunity, lifestyle or just priority scheduling  interferes with my wishes, they remain extremely important to me.

One person in particular is a woman I have known for at least 25 years. I first met her and her husband when I was the Director of Children’s Ministry at my church. They volunteered every year of their two children’s preschool and elementary career- and then moved on to middle and high school volunteers with them as well. Her husband ran his own commercial real estate business and she was a “stay-at-home” mom. She is every bit what we Evangelicals call the Proverbs 31 woman. She led prayer groups, supported missions, volunteered in the community, had dinner on the table every night and loved her Savior, her Church and her family and friends with understated passion. Her children were well-mannered, respectful and successful in their pursuits. Her daughter is very much like her, choosing the very lifestyle she observed growing up. 

From my perspective, I would describe Debby as “devoted”. She has an innate beauty about her that was never enhanced by makeup or extravagant clothes. Her speech is slow and self-depreciating. She has one best-girlfriend whose name is almost always said in the same sentence when talking about her. Their families are closer than any blood relationship I know. Even their daughters are best friends.

Debby would probably say that of course we are friends! Yet, although I see her on an almost weekly basis even today, we have never enjoyed the pleasure of one another’s company outside a church event. I don’t think she is even on Facebook or Twitter, but her husband is my Facebook “friend”.

A few years ago, Debby’s husband was diagnosed with cancer. True to her consistent, devoted and unassuming character, she served and loved Jim with true devotion. She prayed, graciously accepted the help of her church family when needed and lived fully and optimistically through the days of treatment. She even cared for her grandchildren on a regular basis during that frightening period. Perhaps the only clue to her worried mind is a touch more silver in her hair, but there is no doubt her faith in God carried her through.

To describe the invaluable relationships  in my life like Debby,  I think “Hero” or in her case “Heroine”  is not too far off the mark. She is definitely one whom I admire for her consistent testimony of faith, her devotion, her courage and commitment to God, family and community. There are others, particularly in my Faith Community for whom this category applies.  I am greatfull that because of our shared faith, I will have all eternity to continue developing genuine friendship with my “Heros”.😊

Burnout/Balance

I’m re posting a comment I made in a friend’s blog to remind me of my tendency to do the wrong thing — even in retirement!
“…I have the desire to do what is right but I cannot carry it out. ” Rom. 7:15
So do I leave houses and land and spouse, and children to devote all my time to ministry. Do I place my health at risk by long hours of service to others without self-care? Do I devote all my income to serve the poor when my credit card balances (and stress) continue to rise trying to meet the needs of my family?
These are personal situations I experienced early in professional ministry. Balance never entered my thinking. Whole-hearted commitment required every sacrifice – seeking first the kingdom and the promise that God would take care of everything else. My mentors would shout “vacation? How can you think of vacation when people are perishing all around you and headed for hell?”

What I failed to consider was that my perspective was flawed, my character defects colored my decisions. I saw God as a Tyrant-King who required continuous unquestioned obedience. I had to be a willing servant or I was rebellious and unfit for the Kingdom.
As my marriage and relationship with my children declined, I spiraled into physical burn-out and clinical depression.

In recovery, medical intervention and therapy, I learned that neglecting my physical and emotional needs put me at risk – so off balance that I needed medication. For me, rest, order and balance became a lifeline through which Jesus began a work of grace that saved my life, my marriage and my relationships. Like Elijah of old, I needed food, rest and care. I needed boundaries and balance.

Perhaps others have a special dispensation of grace that allows for the scales of balance to tip in their favor. Yet it is crucial, in my experience, to consider and solicit accountability for life-balance as well as spiritual growth in order to sustain a healthy and long-term ministry throughout my life.

Excitement

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Sometimes my life is too exciting! I need a “freedom zone” and I need it often.
The reason is that most every week day, I can look forward to a lot of excitement at my house. Three little grandchildren, 3 and under, fill the air with alternating giggles, screams, songs and wails from 8am-5:30pm. Now that’s excitement!
It would be nice to have an unlimited pass to the Freedom Zone at the Ojai Valley Spa, but my go-to (and much less expensive) Freedom Zone is most often the master bedroom.

My sanctuary is tucked away in the upstairs back of my house, away from the buzz of appliances, flicker of giant screens and ever-present street sounds. It is where I begin and end my days with prayer and most of the time, with gratitude.
Lately I’ve found the freedom zone in the newly renovated back yard patio. The weather has been amazing, and the end-of-summer colors, smells and sounds have a quiet excitement if their own. There is a stirring in my spirit that the excitement of the holidays are not far away!