journal, jingles, four A.M. thoughts

Four o’clock in the morning.

I’m hugged up around my coffee mug, under my favorite blanket, pen with journal in hand.
I NEED these few minutes desperately.

Just moments ago. Down the hall. Before my alarm even sounded. I had begun listing.

And when I say “listing,” I mean I had begun making mental lists. Things I need to do, purchase, clean, and organize. Budget listing had begun. What to spend on each item on the list to achieve everything and retain surplus funds. Time listing had begun. How to do all the things and spend all the money in an order which provides total success, free time, and rest.
I made these lists repeatedly while the moments before the alarm sped by my bed. I rearranged each item and number over and again trying to make it work. Trying to solve the puzzle as if it were a Rubik’s cube and I played to beat the clock.

Did you know boats list?

When a boat lists that means it is leaning to one side or the other. Listing too far will cause the boat to take on water.
When you think about the way all my thoughts were evoking panic and causing me to wade down the hall to the coffee pot as if I were striving up steam against the current through knee-high water, this boat definition of list probably applies to me as well.

I say again. I desperately NEED these few minutes with the quiet, seeking God to take my thoughts captive, make them obedient, and resolve my mental Rubik’s cube dilemma.

After refilling my cup once, I’m ready to begin. With a sigh to release stress, control, and to center myself on just Jesus, I put pen to journal and write the words, “Lord, order my steps today. I’ve already got the crazy, and I don’t have the time or money to do any if this wrong. I need your…”

And that’s as far as I get because my not-quite-two-year-old granddaughter wakes up and toddles down the hall.

She wants my pen. I tell her no. I put my journal down.
She wants some milk. I get her milk. I pick up my journal.
She wants to watch a Christmas movie. She holds the DVD box up, and says, “dog.”
I tell her not dog. It’s a reindeer. She smiles, waves the DVD box and says, “DOG!”
I set my journal down and put in the “DOG!” movie. Refill my coffee and reach again for my journal.
Now, the kitten is awake and fighting for the spot on my lap where I hold my cup. So, I move her.
Now, the toddler is playing with jingle bells she captured from their perch on a shelf obviously not high enough to keep them safe.
Now, the kitten and the toddler are fighting over jingle bells, while the “DOG!” Movie plays but no one watches.
Now, the kitten steals a bell and climbs up my leg to reach the safety of my lap.
Now, the toddler suddenly decides my lap is the best place to be, if only to recover the stolen bell.
It’s all I can do to keep from spilling the coffee as it gets cold in my cup, and save the kitten from certain death, as the toddler finds footing on my left thigh.
Where is my journal? Under me?  I just don’t know…

At some point and for just a moment now, the toddler decides to just sit in my lap. Now, she’s not jingling bells or wrestling kittens.  Now, she just sits. Leans back against my chest. And sighs.

And I sigh too.

In moments, the chase will be on again.
For all of us really.
Wants and needs will shout to make themselves known. Jingle bells and all things Christmas will try to run us ragged. Stresses and duties of the day will attempt to run off with the thoughts, time, and money we try so hard to control and keep for ourselves.  Expectations will mock us, as we move forward failing to meet so many of them in one way or another. In fact, some of those expectations will pout or tantrum in the corner, hoping to keep our focus all day.

All this because ‘tis the season.
All this because we’re so very human and too often beautiful means perfect.
And too often Christmas means try harder.

Now, the toddler asks for fuzzy socks. I put her fuzzy socks on her tiny feet. Now, we match. I taught her about the magic of fuzzy socks.
Now, we sit together for another still moment.
Just a breath between this moment and the rest of the race.
And I’m grateful.
At some point today, I will have to budget and rearrange lists. I will have to go to the store after work. A trip to the mall may even be unavoidable.
But while the “DOG!” movie plays in the background and the kitten sneaks off with more jingling bells,
we sit still
in fuzzy socks, and I’m grateful for this time in the chaos.
I asked the Lord to order my steps, and He showed me what was important.
Immediately.
Because He is a God who Loves and Sees and Listens.
Because He is Emmanuel.
God with Us.
He name is proof we are not alone.

And this season, is NOT about perfection or try harder.
This season is about Love. Rescue. Grace.
It’s about the NOW you have been given.
It’s about the Love you give, right NOW.

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the awe of off-center

Recently I attended my church’s women’s retreat. We gathered at a Bible camp just outside of Brenham, Texas. Although I was only a couple of hours from home, the distance from the city and suburbs brought me closer to all the outside than I experience daily. So being an early riser, my coffee cup and I walked out to the middle of the camp’s courtyard to watch the sunrise.

As I sat on the pathway, I silently told God I was prepared to watch Him show off.
And then I asked Him to allow me to see Him in a new way.

As a side note I strongly encourage you – in fact, consider this a challenge: Make it a practice to ask God to reveal Himself to you in a new way. You don’t have to wait until you’re away from home. I’ve asked while sitting at a red light, in the grocery store, even during worship.
He will honor your request. He may not show up the way you expected. But He will NOT disappoint.

Meanwhile back on the path,
I sat in the darkness waiting for the light to begin.

At first, the darkness simply lightened. I began to see the outline of the tree tops and layers of dark, blue-gray in the sky. As the layers slowly became clouds, the distance filled with the sounds of birds waking up. I could hear acorns falling from their branches and softly hitting the leaves which had traveled to the ground some time before this morning.
I was all alone and yet surrounded by everything. Somehow part and still un-apart from the whole. Something like the centerpiece in a snow globe – but still knowing I wasn’t the center at all.

And then there was light.

A tiny glow across the tree tops at first. I realized this sunrise took longer than they seem to at home. On any given day, I can look up on my way to work and see it beginning. However by the next time I take notice, it’s over and the day has begun rushing off into tomorrow.

Everything rushes if you aren’t intentional about slowing it down.

As I watched, anticipation grew. A little more light. A slight glow. Slowly shadows come into better form and the details can be seen in the clouds. And as I sat, a peaceful urgency began to tug at my anticipation. I felt an increasing need to see the finished view. I felt like a child on Christmas Eve, or a mother waiting to meet her unborn baby.
Something amazing was going to happen and the whole of the experience was exciting.

And at the same time, I felt a sincere desire for this moment to never end. I wanted it to linger like a grand suspended forte, while all the details of what I watched soaked into my heart.

And light grew all around. And more of the world began to stir. And I looked over my shoulder and realized the piece of the morning I was watching wasn’t even the main event.

I wasn’t actually facing east. I sat watching God from my perspective, and amazing things were happening. But while I watched in awe in my tiny corner of the Off-Center, the sun was rising in a place I wasn’t looking. God’s glory and splendor abounded in front of me, and it wasn’t even the center ring, or the main event.

Something more amazing than I could ever imagine was happening in the Big Picture.

And I thought truthfully, this is what it is to love and follow Jesus.
We trust. We watch. We wait. We get excited when we catch a glimpse of God. But all too often, shortly after the first flicker of light, we become impatient and discouraged because we just don’t see enough fast enough.
Or we wake up remembering at first we are Jesus people, but as the day rushes ahead we forget to watch for Him, His leading, or His love.
We stop noticing. We stop trusting. We stop anticipating.
We feel like the center of a snow globe shaken, upside down, and waiting for the pieces to fall so we know where we stand.

Too often, we forget where we stand is on the Rock. We wait for the One who is able to do immeasurably more than we can imagine.
Too often we forget to trust, He is doing something.
It may not be what we expect,
But it will be good.
Because the Son has Risen. And in the end He does not disappoint.

this moment

I wish I had a funny Thanksgiving story to tell. Sadly, most of the humorous anecdotes for this holiday fall into the “you’d have to be there” category.  If you aren’t part of my family’s Thanksgiving tradition, you won’t find the humor in the story of the famed and precious fruit salad being prepared by meticulous hands and then those same hands dropping it to the floor. You also probably can’t appreciate my memory of the exploding green bean casserole. And of course, there’s always the sad tale of the smoked turkey tragedy. However, even my memory of that one is fuzzy.

Attempting to maintain normalcy, we planned to have a traditional Thanksgiving dinner only a few short weeks after my dad’s death. The holiday fell on Dad’s birthday that year. In an emotionally strategic move, Mom decided to celebrate Thanksgiving the weekend before the actual date. She also ordered a smoked turkey to avoid sentimentality. My parent’s bickered non-stop in the kitchen as their official holiday schtick. I suppose by eliminating the actual cooking of the turkey, Mom thought she could avoid feeling sad Dad wasn’t in the kitchen complaining.

This is where the story gets fuzzy.
I don’t know whose idea it was to heat the smoked turkey in the oven.
I don’t remember why anyone one of us decided it needed to cook longer.
And I don’t know how it happened, but the pre-cooked, re-cooked turkey (now, practically turkey jerky on bones) ended up on the floor.

Possibly my memory isn’t even clear up to that point.
I know we decided to celebrate early. I know we didn’t eat turkey that day. I know we had laughter, but the strained kind, the kind of laughter which is only the precursor to tears. But I do know, it wasn’t a bad day.
Hard.
Out of sorts, like playing a warped record on an old turn table.
But not bad. Just a room full of people attempting to move forward from awful.

I don’t bring all this up to reminisce or make you sad. Or even because I’m sad. A huge amount of life has happened since those first hard days. My cup overflows, and I have more joy than ever. I’m finally at a point in my life where I can see ashes being made into something beautiful and immeasurably more than what I ever hoped they would become. I believe my life is proof our God wastes nothing and Jesus works in even the darkest details.

So, the reason I am sharing is …

Well, to be totally honest I don’t know why I’m sharing.
Maybe it’s to let you know, I know this day and all holidays are hard for many of you.
Maybe it’s to let you know other people have dropped the fruit salad, left paper between the cheese slices on the deli tray, or cooked a pecan pie until it became some kind of hard candy in a crust.
Maybe it’s to let you know family gatherings are about love and relationship, not about the dressing. Maybe, I’m writing to give you permission to laugh even when it hurts.

Maybe it’s to tell you, my family has broken a gazillion traditions looking for our new normal for the holidays, and most of it’s been good. As much as I love my childhood memories, I think I’m ok if we just keep trying new things and never settle into a pattern. I’ve learned although patterns offer some comfort, they can also keep you from appreciating the beauty born from change.
Maybe I’m sharing to tell you simply, I don’t know if this moment for you sits in ash. I don’t know if it’s blindingly beautiful, or somewhere in the middle of a rebuild and remodel.
Where ever this moment finds you, grab it with a wink and a smile.
Don’t miss it trying to make it better.

 

 

 

treats & tricks: a tale of darkness

My parents filled my childhood with all kinds of amazing stuff. Stuff like building puppet stages out of old boxes, creating a Halloween carnival themed birthday party, and setting up a tight rope in the front yard because my sister and I wanted to see if we could walk it. (Thinking about it now, that time was probably more my dad. Not even sure mom was home for that one…)

Halloween costumes were a big deal too. Many years they were homemade. Custom designed to suit purpose and creative vision. I learned my gift for making something out of nothing from watching my folks be creative.

One costume stands out above the rest. I think of it every time the first Halloween decorations hit the retail shelves. I remember it for two reasons. The first one being because it was so cool.

I wanted to be a robot, and my parents went to work making it happen. Two boxes covered in foil served as the shell, one for the body and a smaller one attached to the top for my head. They attached spray paint can lids on either side of the head like ears. Foil, flexible dryer tubing made the arms. It also used a C-3PO mask for a face. COOL!
(Did I mention this was the late 70’s?)

AND to make it even MORE AMAZING – instead of carrying a candy bag, Dad cut an opening in the front and taped a lunch sack to the inside of my costume. People could just drop the candy right inside the little slot.

The candy slot not only went with the robotic design on front. It was necessary. I didn’t have much range of motion. The boxy costume was awkward. The top box for my head couldn’t turn. I could only see directly in front of me. My line of vision traveled through the holes cut in the box, and then through eye-holes in the mask. It was like having tunneled tunnel vision. To make movement more difficult, once I fit my arms through the holes in the box and down through the tubing, I could only bend them at the elbow. However, the trickiest part turned out to be walking because the bottom of the box ended about my knees and didn’t allow for much stride. I had to really pay attention when I walked or my legs would hit my costume – wump wump. Wump wump.

But even with limited mobility, I was proud of my costume and excited to trick or treat. Well actually, excited and a little apprehensive describes my feelings better. See, I was afraid of the dark, and the creepiness of the season always nibbled my courage after sunset. It was Halloween after all. Who knew what lurked in the shadows. However, the idea of showing off my costume and possibly getting EVEN MORE candy because of my costume’s coolness mustered the courage I needed to head down the block with my sister while my parents stood outside and chatted with the neighbors.

About midway down the block, we came to a house with no lights shining. The yard sat totally black and bare except for one tiny sticker bush right smack dab in the middle. I think this neighbor kept that bush there just to keep us from playing ball in his yard and killing the grass. Who knows, I just remember my sister and I decided not to go to the door because the lights were all off.

And now we come to the second reason I remember the robot costume.

Just as we were halfway past – basically in the dead center of the darkened area – something jumped up from behind that loan sticker bush, moaned an awful holler and lunged for my sister and me!

Unable to turn my head and assess the threat, I screamed.

And I took off running in my box, wumpwump wumpwump wumpwump.

I had no idea what happened to my sister. But I could hear something chasing me.

SOMETHING CHASING ME AND MAKING HORRIBLE NOISES: “AEYYYYYY.  AEYYYYYYYY.”

IT WAS GETTING CLOSER AND

I WASN’T GOING TO GET AWAY!!

Wumpwumpwumpwumpwumpwump.

“AEYYYYY AEYYYY. HEY TONI WAIT! YOU DROPPED ALL YOUR CANDY! WAIT!!!!!”

 

It was an older boy from down the block.
Dressed in gray rags like a mummy.
He had laid behind that sticker bush in the dark spread eagle waiting for someone to pass so he could jump up to scare them.

He too was very proud of his homemade costume.

 

But when I bolted, I kicked the candy bag loose from inside my costume. I lost all my candy without knowing it because I was wumpwumping for my life.

Most of the time he I thought he was chasing me, he was actually TRYING to return my candy.

Does this happen to you?  Not mean boys in mummy outfits, BUT

When you are in a dark season, or dealing with loss, or unexpected challenges

Do you find yourself running from imagined monsters – all the possible “what if” scenarios?

Do you lose focus when you can’t see the path clearly, and overlook the blessings provided during the tough stuff.

If you do, you’re probably human.
We all miss the trees for the forest sometimes. We see only the scariness of the big, dark Unknown, and miss the gifts, and kindnesses in the details.
I’m talking about:
The growth of trust, the encouragement from others, the slow steady root of patience trying to form. I’m talking about hitting your knees in surrender instead of hitting the walls of your boxed in ideas, and recognizing the lovely blessing in having that moment with Jesus.

In times of stress and darkness, try to remember our Heavenly Father is a remarkable creator. He not only designed you for a purpose, but He also designed the path you are walking. He’s filled it with amazing stuff to provide for you, protect you,
And challenge you.
And during the times your movements are limited and you have no clear vision for what happens next remember these two truths:

Jesus’ unlimited power is made perfect in your weakness
And NOTHING jumping from the shadows surprises Him.

 

Also, you may be wondering what my sister was doing while I was running away.
I have no idea.
And that’s the other thing about fear.
When we’re letting it chase us, we’re not able to support or encourage each other. And that’s just not acceptable. We’re all in this together.
That’s what it means to Love.

geckos and grace

It’s that time.

Spring seems to have sprung. This week we’ve moved from last week’s cool mornings to dog breath humid by 5:00 AM.

Warmer weather brings more than budding flowers, mosquitos, and flip flops. Warmer weather wakes up the geckos.

I’m not a fan of geckos for one reason.

But this post is not about geckos.

The reason I’m not a fan of these little darlings is because my fourteen-year-old daughter is terrified of them.

But this post is not about my daughter.

I drop my daughter off at my mother’s house each morning so she can catch the school bus. Then I drive to work. Like everybody else, our morning routine is lackadaisical until one of us realizes we have two minutes to brush teethe, pack lunches, put on shoes, be in the car, and get it moving toward Mom’s.

And every warm day at Mom’s it happens.

Apparently, Mom’s front porch is a five-star gecko hang out. Truly on any warm day, one can find at least two geckos hanging out. I’ve seen as many as five at one time.  The geckos make Mom’s front porch a great big problem.

Each morning, my daughter steps from the car while eyeballing the porch. I can see no dragons from my vantage point, but she swears she can see their eyes from the driveway. Each morning, she collects her backpack and laptop slowly, glancing back to the porch multiple times, as if waiting for an attack. Each morning, I hold my breath and opt not tell her to hurry. Each morning, she walks the few feet from the driveway to the porch as if she’s walking the green mile. Each morning, I still hold breath, glance at the clock and bite the sides of my mouth so I don’t yell something less than encouraging. Each morning, she reaches the edge of the porch. And stops. And looks. And takes deep breaths. And each morning I don’t honk. Not because I don’t want to bully. I don’t honk because I don’t want to wake up Mom who may still be sleeping inside oblivious to the fact that her home is under attack by an army of tiny geckos. And then finally each morning, my daughter steps up to the door, unlocks it, and walks inside to safety.

All of this feels like hours, when it’s probably even seconds short of a minute. But by the time this process is completed each morning, I feel rushed and flustered.

Accept today.

But this post is not about me.

Today, I remembered the beginning of the school year. I remembered how for weeks I walked my daughter to the door and unlocked it for her. As frustrated as I was to see my teenage daughter terrified of the tiny creatures, I recognized she was truly terrified. Even with me by her side, her steps were slow and timid. She remained watchful for the moment when her fears (of I don’t even know what) would come true. I couldn’t help but recognize what looked like ridiculous fear to me, was my daughter choosing to be brave. Each morning.

She’s bloomed in so many ways during our Winter months. Stepping out. Stepping up. And walking herself to the door- be it ever so slowly – but walking on her own- as I watch.
And today I watched with a smile.

See, this post is about Grace.

We’re all walking our own journey, but we’re called to live in community, hold each other accountable, and share each other’s burdens. Waiting on others to deal with their stuff is frustrating. Sometimes the reason it’s frustrating is because we’ve spent all our energy dealing with our own stuff. We don’t feel like we have anything left over to give to someone else. That’s when we need to remember Jesus first loved us, and offered us His grace before we were brave, or well, or smarter, or even good. Then If we remember our imperfections, and our own slow, timid steps to progress, it’s easier to patiently wait for others while they struggle to be brave, or well, or smarter, or even good.

I wonder, how many times God has wanted to honk at me for taking too long to hear His voice.

I wonder, how many people have bit the sides of their mouth waiting for me to wrap my mind around a truth. THE TRUTH. That I am loved by God and do not have to live in fear.

GRACE.

Offered to us.
And therefore, we offer it to others.

Because life is not the green mile. It’s a journey full of hope and challenges. It’s a journey with fellow travelers each carrying their own baggage, fears, failures and triumphs.
All of us are trying to find our way.

And here’s one more sweet truth:

Even though I don’t honk because I’m afraid Mom is sleeping, she usually isn’t. Most days she is waiting patiently with coffee, and a warm hug.

And she is eager to chat with my brave one once she opens the door.

How much more eager DAD must be for us to step inside, and walk in the Grace He has offered.
And He waits, patiently, with a smile, ready to chat, with the children He loves.

bob box

They called it a Bob box.
But I can’t imagine what size box I would need to hold a blessing of this magnitude.

They were new friends. So new in fact, acquaintances may sadly be a more accurate description of the relationship.

I mean we church together, and have Bible class together. And of course, we’re friends on social media. But we hadn’t become what you would call buddies.

They heard my husband was out of work.

We just mentioned it, “Prayers, please.”

We didn’t tell anyone we were struggling. And in truth, we weren’t. Not yet. On my income alone, we would have to do without all WANTs, to meet our NEEDs. And the math on paper proved meeting our needs would be a struggle soon. But we weren’t there yet.
And we hadn’t shared that information with anyone.
But I was struggling in a different way.

The weight and the worry settled on me when I looked at the lists and saw what the sum of the math equaled:
No. Wiggle. Room.
And after a couple of weeks, it would be even worse.

And so, my thoughts took this path:
I know the Lord will meet all my needs… but what if He does and then I misstep, mis-spend, or mis-place a coupon?
What if I make mistakes?

I really struggle with what it means to trust a sovereign God who calls me to be a good steward, and then allows me free will.  I don’t possess the power to thwart God’s plan. However, He’s not necessarily going to rescue me from the consequences of my choices. This creates for me simultaneously, a safe place and a suffocating vastness of potentially wrong choices.  In other words, “no wiggle room” equals the paradox of trusting the Lord while having the weight of the world sit on my shoulders.

And this is where the enemy attacks.
He whispers lies. He tells me all the reasons why God will choose to let us sink. He whispers of places of disobedience, of choices – even from long ago- that demand retribution in the form of struggle and late payments and doing without. Then with the grace and skill of an Olympic figure skater, he darts around the truth weaving his lies in and out of reality. He reminds me of the things on my wish lists, things I will still have to do without, insisting they are things I will probably never have. With speed, he glides to the idea that my husband is to blame. He races to point out all the times I’ve quietly ignored my own wants to make my family happy with their own. And then with no warning, the enemy flies into his triple toe loop: He condemns me for thinking so selfishly.

After all, I’m a mom. Moms do without. Moms sacrifice. Mom and Martyr are synonymous terms.
But I’m selfish. I’m failing as a mom. I suck.

The enemy sticks the landing.
Lies. Division. Hopelessness.
And I didn’t tell a soul.

But God knew just where my heart lay frozen and scared, so He sent His people to the rescue.

As I stated at the beginning, they called it a Bob Box. They named their act of generosity and love after the man who blessed them years before with a box of their own. And God used these people and their Bob Box of groceries and so MUCH MORE to remind me that trusting in Him should come with peace-

Not because I won’t make a mistake. BUT BECAUSE HE WON’T.

And all this happened to really solidify the idea I shared in my previous post titled fight dirty
Love is one of the best weapons against the enemy’s attacks.

I was sinking under the weight of the enemy’s lies. I was listening and believing all He whispered even while I read and sang the truth I say I believe. Then my friends ACTED in that truth. And my heart warmed, and my mind refocused on the God who never leaves my side. In that Bob Box, I found more than milk and eggs. I found friends. I found wiggle room in the budget. I found a quiet melody which replaced the vicious hiss of the enemy. I found God’s loving voice of reassurance and direction.

 

And I found confirmation.

I know now without a doubt.

The time has come to Fight Dirty.

Today, I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and let someone know what it means to be loved.

Ask God to show you who and how.
THEN:
Send a card. Drop off flowers or cookies, or even a veggie plate. (You know, for those kinds of people.)
OR MAKE AN ACTUAL PHONE CALL using your voice and everything- instead of sending a text.
DO WHAT YOU CAN WHERE YOU ARE WITH THE GIFTS AND RESOURCES GOD HAS GIVEN YOU.
Playing by the same old rules, being passive, waiting until you feel comfortable about it, only gives the enemy time to undermine your confidence.
Break Free of the normal.

Be Bold.
Love Big.
Fight Dirty!

lessons in harmony

I believe an important aspect of any leadership role is to stretch and fine tune your skills. I also believe people will be more willing to follow a leader toward a goal if the leader shares in that goal. I mean, if you’re only pointing people in the direction of growth but not growing, you’re more like the guy behind the desk giving directions, “Ticket, please. Take the door on the left, please.”

Leaders go with people to new places.

Worship leaders encourage the congregation to connect with God in new ways. We encourage everyone to stretch and take their worship deeper. Because we encourage that stretch, I have been making efforts to stretch as well.

I have been receiving singing lessons for several weeks now from a sweet friend with the patience of Job. Bless her heart, she is trying to teach me to hear harmony parts in the music we sing. These lessons aren’t just growing my vocal skills. There is also a great stretching happening inside me that I consider worship because I’m having to submit and surrender. It’s not easy to practice in front of people. It’s not easy to try something over and over when I don’t feel confident. However, the result will be for the good of the team, and the team’s goal is to bring God glory. So, I keep pushing my vanity and fear of failure aside. I keep trying.

Basically, there’s a few ways to learn music. You can read the sheet music, or you can listen and match the notes. The latter is called learning by ear. We sing everything by ear on our praise team. Melody by ear is easy. It’s the “normal flow” of the music’s path. You listen to it once or twice, and then singing along doesn’t even require the bouncing ball.

Harmony is tricky to learn by ear. It follows the normal path somewhat, but not exactly. It walks along with the melody like Peter Pan’s shadow playfully bouncing about. Harmony “looks” a little like the melody, only it plays above or below its leader-supporting and adding to the story the music tells.

Well…eventually that will be the result. Once I get it right. If I get it right.
Here’s the thing. I don’t NATURALLY HEAR the harmony notes. I practice my part over and over. However, on Sunday when we add the rest of the music, I lose it. Every time.

I can only confidently sing the melody. So far, each Sunday, I’ve reverted to my comfort zone. The place I’m most confident.

I only do the part I already know.

Being in harmony with people is kind of the same.

In church we talk about relationship, transparency, and safety.  So often we just want people to accept us, but we’re a little afraid to run around accepting others. People are messy. My life is messy. At least if I don’t reach out to new comers, my mess will stay contained and covered.

I don’t think connecting comes naturally to all of us all the time. I think we have to learn to connect with people in ways to build something solid and beautiful. It takes real effort to listen for the differences in each other and recognize how they add to the story and give it character and color.

Sure, maybe the story stops following the natural flow. But maybe that’s perfect.

Many people have impacted the story of my life over the years. I had almost nothing in common with most of them, and yet they reached out. They reached out even when they discovered my messy past. They reached out when they realized my present was just as messy.

They Reached Out.

They listened. They shared. And through just talking together we found similarities in our differences. We found surprising places we could relate to each other.

We learned we all have messes we’re trying to contain. And we learned covering messes up takes more energy than making connections.

Friendships formed out of trust.
Rooted in Christ.
Blooming over the years into a powerful story, not about who I was, or who they were,
Not about who we are now.
But about Jesus.

So, be encouraged. I know it’s easy to give up and join the melody. It’s easy to talk to the same people.
But your world is full of people, playing different parts, listening hard for a truth they can follow. Reach out and share your part of the story, and give it time.

And watch, as all the parts fall into a beautifully sung story.