We each have a life story, penned without ink, read by the people around us. Who's writing your story?

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Ready for Anything? When Life Re-defines You - #1

How can you prepare for the unexpected? What do you do when the familiar suddenly becomes unfamiliar and illness, loss, or disaster turn your world upside down? And where’s the balance between trusting God to write your story and taking steps now to be prepared when the unforeseen happens?

These were some of the questions we talked about in my workshop at the LYFE (Living Your Faith Everyday) Women's Conference the first two weekends in June on the campus of Clarks Summit University. It took courage for the ladies to tackle this topic. However, they came away with some helpful strategies to become better prepared.

June 2003 - Notice my red tote bag.
I thought I'd re-cap what we learned together in a few blog posts . . . abbreviated to be sure . . . yet with my prayer that they will encourage both men and women to take some proactive steps with confidence rather than fear.

After our family's car crash in 2003, my surgeon told me very firmly that as long as I wore the halo that stabilized my broken neck, I must have the red tote bag he provided with me at all times. Why? Inside were a couple of essential tools. “Just in case you run into trouble,” he said, “you will have the tools necessary to fix or remove your halo.” I needed to be equipped, prepared . . . ready for anything that might happen.

Think of the following suggestions as tools of preparation essential to be ready for a crisis of any kind. To be prepared, we can't be haphazard, we need a plan.

STRATEGY # 1 - Examine your relationship with God.
"What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes away" (James 4:14). We may think a 20-year-old has more time left on earth than a senior citizen. Not necessarily. One minute we're driving home, the next we may find ourselves in an ambulance. One day life seems "normal" and the next we get that phone call. Humanly speaking, every day is fragile.

Are you ready for the end of life? Are you prepared? Christ offers what every person needs most: forgiveness. "For the wages which sin pays is death, but the [bountiful] free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23, AMP). And then consistent times of Bible reading and prayer bring stability and hope all the time but especially in seasons of trial. 

Strategy # 2 - I brought this pillow with me to the conference, one our youngest daughter made for her daddy when she was little. She picked out fabric she thought he would like and painstakingly sewed it together with her little-girl stitches. Barry would put this around his neck and be reminded of how much she loved him. This represents our second strategy: Check your relationships with others.

How are you getting along with the people God has placed into your life? If something should happen to them or to you, would there be regrets? Healthy relationships are characterized by forgiveness and grace balanced with appropriate boundaries.

But interactions can be tricky. Perhaps that's why Paul instructed, Do your part to "live peaceably with all" (Romans 12:18). Even if true reconciliation isn't possible, we still choose our response. So, let's express love and appreciation now, while we can, for our parents, spouses, children, siblings, and friends.

When asked to name the greatest commandment, Jesus summed it up this way: love God and love others (Matthew 22:36-40). When we consider the topic of readiness, these two elements rise to the top.

Perhaps it's simplistic to think we can be ready for anything that might happen. Yet, taking time to evaluate our life stories in these areas helps us distinguish between what's urgent and what's truly important.

How ready are you?

*Last photo from bing.com/images

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Father's Day . . . With and Without Dad . . .

Today I enjoyed a date with my dad.
Dad and I, Veterans' Day 2016

Well, if you call a trip to Boscov's for khaki pants and a mattress cover a date. But I was intentional about offering to go with him, an 81-year-old navy veteran, retired gas company employee, artist, and widower. I hadn't been downtown to shop in a long time, so with purchases complete, we meandered around in his usual non-hurried way. He treated me for lunch, and we ended our time in his immaculate kitchen with me demonstrating how to make beef gravy. A nice time together.

I'm blessed. Not everyone can enjoy an ordinary day with his or her dad.

Like my own daughters.

Barry's Old-fashioned Roses, 2017
This is the third Father's Day they mark the occasion with only their memories, memories of a dad who cared deeply for each one . . . and not just about what they were currently doing but about their hearts and what they were thinking and feeling and planning. He had a way of asking questions to help them think it through, work it out, and come to a satisfying conclusion. His insights brought clarity, truthful perspective, and often humor.

How we miss those conversations.

And yet, we carry him with us every day. How many times have we said, "Dad would have loved this." OR "Now, what would Dad say about this decision?" OR "Dad would be so proud."

July 14, 2012

How does a family honor a man we can no longer see and hear and touch? How can we ease the ache of loss on Father's Day? Perhaps, it helps to take time to remember all he gave us while he lived, all he stood for and taught and modeled . . . and to carry out his legacy, that of loving God and others with humility, of learning and growing in ways that span the gulf of time and eternity.

This weekend and beyond, let's take time to honor our dads. A handwritten note, grilling his favorites, listening, making a call. Or taking time to remember . . .

No earthly father is perfect. Some memories may hold pain and regret, disappointment and frustration. If possible, focus on the positives. And let's not forget: we have a heavenly Father who loves and cares for us in the greatest way possible, who will never leave us, no matter what happens. 

"The memory of the just is a blessing . . ." Proverbs 10:7