Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Problem With No

As I phoned my husband on my way home from work, it was obvious to his listening heart that something was bothering me.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“Oh, nothing,” I replied.

“Are you sure?” he inquired further.

“I guess I’m just upset at myself,” I finally admitted.

“Why? What did you do?”

“I agreed to help out with an event in the park this weekend.”

“And you don’t really want to do it, do you?”

“NO!” I answered.

“Honey, you are just going to have to learn to say no.”

“Oh, I can say no.” I shot back. “But for some odd reason, when I say it, it is always followed by the word problem. You know, as in, ‘Oh sure, no problem.’ ”

“Well, see,” he said triumphantly. “That’s your problem. You need to just leave it at no.”

We ended our conversation and I continued my drive home.

Oh, if only it were that easy. If only I could say no. Why is it that when someone asks me to do something, I always feel compelled to say yes?

The light at the upcoming intersection turned yellow and the traffic slowed to a stop.

It’s the guilt. That’s what it is. If I say no, I feel so guilty, not to mention selfish. I always end up feeling like I’m a horrible person.

The light now green, I shifted into gear and continued my commute.

Lord, you have called us to be servants. You want us to be your hands and your feet to a world in need. You want us to say yes, don’t you?

Once again, the traffic slowed. Orange construction barrels now herded us into a single lane. Slowly the parade of cars crept through the work zone.

Lord, I’m so torn inside. I want to help people. I really do. Yet, at the same time, I honestly don’t. Sometimes, I just want to do something for me. How selfish is that! I feel guilty if I say no, but then when I say yes, I feel resentful. No matter what I do, I never seem to win. Please Lord. I need your help. Show me the right way…your way.

Having no other option, I continued to follow the car ahead of me as we slowly meandered our way through this work in progress.

What’s that, Lord? What did you say? Yes, I remember. You told us to love our neighbor as we love our self. I’m trying to love my neighbor, Lord. That’s why I always say yes.

What, Lord? Myself? Do I love myself like I love my neighbor?

The lane I was driving on now became uneven, causing my car to tilt to the right. Driving at this new angle felt awkward and made me feel strangely uncomfortable.

What’s that, Lord? Hum…yes, I hate to admit it, but you’re right. When I say yes, I’m only giving lip service, and not truly loving from my heart. My mouth says “no problem”, but my heart doesn’t agree. But wait, Lord. What does this have to do with me loving myself?

Soon, the all too familiar pavement ended and we ventured forward over rough, dusty terrain. The previous pavement had been completely removed, allowing the workers to prepare this area for new improved lanes that would be wider and free of potholes.

Oh, I see Lord. It’s about finding a balance, isn’t it? You have commanded me to love my neighbor, but at the same time, you have also commanded me to love myself. You want my love to be true...both to others and myself.

Finally, we reached the end of the work zone. Once again, I found myself on smooth, even pavement and driving at ease. As I continued my commute, I realized the Lord had been lovingly guiding me through the confusion in my heart.

As I arrived home, my husband came out to greet me.

“Wow!” he exclaimed. “Why the big smile on your face? Last time I talked to you, you were anything but happy.”

“Let’s just say I had a great commute home,” I answered.

“Didn’t you have to drive through that new construction zone? That section of the road is a mess!”

“Yep, but you know what? Surprisingly, it turned out to be "no problem", after all.”

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Faith of a Child

My very first year of teaching found me at a Christian school in Wisconsin. (Did I happen to mention it was a one-room Christian school?!) My assignment - to teach eighteen students, from first grade up to the eighth grade!

It was an amazing year! I know I owe the success of my career to these vivacious, talented, awesome children. (all adults now!) These students taught me well. One lesson in particular came from a little second grade girl named Crystal.

Crystal had mixed feelings about school. She was thrilled to be part of our class, just not excited to be part of the second grade. You see, she WAS the second grade. All the other grades that I taught had at least two children...but not second grade. Crystal was the only one in this grade level.

Several weeks into the school year, Crystal came walking up to my desk with a smile as bright as she was. She had an idea and couldn't wait to share it with me. Her idea - pray God would bring another family to our school - a family who had a second grader.

From that moment on, each time we prayed, Crystal asked God for another second grader. It was obvious she wasn't concerned about if...only when and who. The more we prayed, the more excited she got.

The more excited she got, the more anxious I started to feel. I knew God was able to answer the prayer of this sweet, little heart, but would He? What if he choice not to? What would I tell Crystal?

The months passed quickly and soon we dismissed for Christmas vacation. When school resumed in January, we welcomed a new family to our class. This family had four children and it just so happened one of them was a second grader named Jamie. Did I mention Crystal's request was not only for a second grader, but for a second grader who was also a girl?! Jamie fit Crystal's prayer to a tee!

I was so excited! God had heard and answered the prayer of this little girl!!! Crystal, on the other hand, showed no emotion. She knew all along God was going to send someone and her simple response was, "Hi! My name is Crystal. I knew you were coming and I am glad you are finally here."

"You pay God a compliment by asking great things of Him." ~ Teresa of Avila

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Divine Appointment

(I first wrote this back in February 2009. Today, God placed it on my heart to share it once again.)

It was late. I was tired. My husband and I both hungry. As I drove out of the parking lot, I phone my husband to tell him I would soon be home. As we discussed "dinner plans", it was decided take out was our best option and I, the best one to pick it up since I was already out.

I soon found myself at a local sandwich shop. After placing our order, I took a nearby seat and began the process of waiting. All I could think of was getting home, eating, and going to bed. My thoughts were soon interrupted by the voice of an irate customer. Her complaints were trivial. Obviously, her tirade was more about drawing attention to herself than to her order.

The young lady assisting her was amazing. Through all the verbal abuse, unreasonable complaints and demands placed on her by this customer, her countenance never changed. Her smile remained and her voice was calm and remarkably pleasant. As I sat there witnessing this scene, I felt impressed by God to commend this young lady for her professionalism. As soon as my number was called and my order ready, I would approach her at the counter and pass along words of much deserved praise and recognition.

Impressed by the behavior of this young lady, my eyes continued to follow her as she worked. After completing an order, she headed to the phone and began to call someone. I couldn't help overhearing her conversation. Evidently, no one had shown up to babysit her young children and they were home alone. It was quite obvious she had made several earlier calls, just like this one, in hopes of locating someone to watch over her little ones until her shift ended and she could return home. From the look on her face, this phone call only brought with it another "No, I'm sorry I can't" along with mounting fear for her children. As she hung up, she sat in a chair, rubbing her forehead with one hand while wiping tears with her other.

My number was called and I approached the counter to pick up our order. I had been waiting for this moment to speak with her, but now, she was sitting in the back portion of the kitchen. Silently I prayed the Lord would give me the opportunity. She looked up and surprisingly, I was able to catch her eye with the wave of my hand. She smiled and made her way to the counter.

"Yes? How can I help you? Is there something wrong with your order?" she asked, trying to hide the fear in her heart and the tears in her eyes.

"No." I replied. "I just couldn't leave here tonight without telling you how much I appreciate the professional and kind manner in which you dealt with that difficult customer earlier. I know it wasn't easy for you. God provided you with the inner strength you needed. He is always right here with you, and just like He gave you the strength to deal with that woman, He will give you the strength to deal with whatever may be happening in your life right at this very moment. He cares for you and He will be faithful to provide you with all you need. I will be praying for you"

She smiled, thanked me, and handed me my order. I walked in the direction of the door and she returned to her work.

As I reached my car, I bowed my head in prayer. As I had watched in disgust, the behaviour of the self-absorbed customer, God had opened my eyes to see my own selfishness reflected through her actions. How my "I"-rate behaviour must disgust my Heavenly Father! Lord, forgive me. As I had watched the beauty of the young lady serving, I had seen my own need for more of Christ in my heart and life. Lord, live in and through me. As I had glimpsed the deeply hidden anguish in this young woman's life, I had been reminded to speak more kinder and treat others more gently, for we never know what they may be facing in their lives. Lord, teach me to love. As I was given the privilege to speak words of affirmation and encouragement to this hurting heart, I was convicted to seek out every door of opportunity to share words of hope, love and truth with those around me. Lord, use me to speak your words to others.

As I drove home, I realized I was no longer feeling upset, tired and fatigued. Instead, I felt refreshed! I prayed the young lady at the sandwich shop felt refreshed too!