Majesty

While I was enjoying a walk in the marina today, I spotted a heron standing on a rock. Awestruck, I stopped to watch the gangly, beautiful-ugly bird. Someone walked by and said casually, “Majestic, isn’t he?”

And I agreed. I spent the next ten minutes rooted to the spot, videoing the heron. At first, he seemed frozen as though he was listening or looking for something. Then he started to move slowly toward whatever caught his attention, and he twisted his neck into all kinds of shapes: an S, straight and tall, bent down into the water. He picked up something in his long beak shook it, put it back, picked it back up over and over. Eventually he flew off into the distance.

I continued my walk, but the stranger’s comment rattled around in my head, majestic.

Majestic.

God is majestic. Holy. Deserving of praise, honor, and glory.

Do I spend enough time awed by His majesty? Do I stand in awe of Him? Do I give Him the praise, honor, and glory He deserves?

After all, He made that heron I enjoyed. And the ocean I love.

He saved me. He loves me.

God is majestic. Praise Him.

Surrounded

Yesterday I was surrounded by God’s goodness. For the entire day, I basked in His love, peace, and joy with all of my senses.

As someone who has taken Ann Voskamp’s Joy Dare http://onethousandgifts.com/, I will fill pages of my joy journal with gifts He gave me yesterday.

I was at my favorite place, the beach. I was with most of my favorite people: my daughter, Erin, my granddaughter, Katie, my grandson, Zach, and my daughter’s fiancé, Phil.

Wisps of God’s sculptures, clouds, floated across a sky my favorite shade of blue.

The tang of saltwater wafted through the air (along with sunscreen, of course).

The ocean played a symphony: crashing waves that then gently kissed the shore and snuck back, a faint chiming of bells.

Laughter rang everywhere. Laughter I’ve hungered for from my daughter . . . and from myself.

Through the entire day, I realized how good God is and how many gifts He was giving me.

But there was one moment when I realized He had completely surrounded me with His goodness and love: Katie and Zach were in front of me, laughing, and playing in His mighty sea.

The water lapped over my feet and the sunshine warmed me all the way through while a breeze gently stirred my hair. The sunlight danced over the water.

Behind me, Erin and Phil played smash ball, laughing and talking.

And I was right there. In the middle of it all. Surrounded by God.

Pure joy.

And so I say with the Psalmist:

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth

Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.

Know that the LORD is God.

   It is he who made us, and we are his;

we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving

  and his courts with praise;

give thanks to him and praise his name.

For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;

 his faithfulness continues through all generations.

(Psalm 100).

Be Blessed in what I Do

My dad likes to be called Daddy, even though he’s 79 and I’m almost 58. It’s a little thing, but it makes him happy, so I do it.

Calling him Daddy instead of Dad not only makes him happy, it helps me. It helps me remember the man I admired and who was my hero for so many years.

The one who worked two or three jobs, but was always at home to go to a Father-Daughter Dinner, a ceremony where I got a Girl Scout badge, a promotion, or a graduation.

The one who made sure I understood and could be successful working out algebra problems without once getting irritated or frustrated.

The one who took us on Sunday afternoon drives and made an interesting field trip of seeing the California aqueduct and why it was important or taught me what a box canyon was while we drove around in one.

The one who rode his bike with us to Lanark Park on the Fourth of July to let us swim all afternoon and then spread a blanket on the grass so we could watch the fireworks. And then stopped at Baskin Robbins for an ice cream cone–a rare treat.

The one who took us to the circus and Knott’s Berry Farm every summer when he worked as a playground supervisor. Then, while all the other kids went off to have fun, my brother and I hung out with my dad.

The one who sat with me when President Kennedy was shot and explained every historical detail of his funeral.

The one who taught swimming and junior life-saving to my entire Girl Scout troop one summer.

The one who taught me how to roll up my sleeping bag and make sure it was aired-out before the next camping trip.

The one who took me to UCLA football and basketball games from the time I was eleven and then made sure I knew what to do to get into the school he helped me love.

The one took me to the Billy Graham crusade in the Los Angeles Coliseum and let me go down and sit on the scratchy green blanket with a lady so I could ask Jesus to be my Lord and Savior. And who sat with me and taught me John 3:16 and the Lord’s Prayer, the Protestant Lord’s Prayer since my mom and I attended a Methodist church. He was Catholic.

I need to remember that Daddy, especially when I’m with him, because as he got older and more successful, becoming a principal and teaching night school so he didn’t have to work so many jobs anymore, he was harder to please, more critical, more demanding, rude, and demeaning.

As I got older, I learned never disagree or challenge anything he said. He could ruin a family dinner or holiday with a nasty comment or unreasonable expectations.

Instead of enjoying time with him, I dreaded it.

But now he needs me.

Three years ago, he suffered from the effects of a blood thinner. A heart attack finally forced him to go to the hospital and then to a convalescent home for rehab. I think he aged ten years in those sixteen days. He used to be independent and constantly busy, but now he does nothing for hours at a time. He can’t remember how to do things that once kept him busy and interested.

Because my mom is out of town for a few days, I went to see him yesterday instead of Sunday, which was Father’s Day. And I never know if he’s going to be my hero or cantankerous. Too often, I go in already on edge and defensive.

Not at all what I wanted to do yesterday.

Several years ago, my pastor gave a sermon about dealing with difficult people. He recommendedgiving them the spiritual gift they needed. So instead of just going to see Daddy, I prayed before I left. Not that Daddy would be pleasant, but that I would be patient, kind, gentle. To put Daddy first.

We had a lovely day. He spent time telling me about growing up in Watervliet, New York. Stories I’ve heard over and over. But I was inspired. I got out my iPad and looked up Watervliet. We took a virtual tour, at first with streets. Then I showed him the satellite image. Amazingly, he could find the house where he lived growing up, the church he attended and where he went to school, where the ice cream parlor was, and even his grandmother’s house. While he found places, he told old stories I knew, but new ones as well. Just like when I was growing up, he taught me things too, on that virtual tour: about Uncle Sam and where the name comes from since Uncle Sam originated near his home town and Shakers.

He loved it. I loved it.

Even though I know God’s way is best, I still struggle to live like I am in His Kingdom NOW. My time with Daddy yesterday was the reality of living His Word:

James 1:22-25
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

I was blessed. With another good memory of my dad. With a wonderful day. With love.

New Normal

I have a wound. It’s deep. It scabbed over, but the scab keeps getting torn off, and it bleeds. Sometimes it just seeps a little around the edges. Then it scabs over again. It never heals completely.

Every time I think it’s getting better, something rips off the scab. I cry out in pain.

But since I’ve had the wound for a long time, people don’t want to see it anymore. They don’t want to hear my pain. They want to forget about it.

They want me to forget too. Or at least not mention it. I definitely should never show any sign that it still hurts. I am supposed to act as though there is no wound. They don’t even want to see the band-aid I keep on it.

What I should do is cover it with something pretty so no one sees I have this ugly part of me that doesn’t heal.

They call it move on.

Get over it.

Go with the “new normal.”

There is no such thing as new normal. It’s a fallacy.

There is just keep on going when nothing will ever be normal again.

And I try. To look normal. And act normal.

Those closest to me are aware of the reality that my wound is still open and raw. They try to keep the scab dressed and covered. They buffer me with words and their own gentle touch.

But some days, some circumstances, pull the scab all the way off and the only thing left to do is cry.

I have learned to cry when those who expect me to “be normal” aren’t there. I even applaud my little successes of keeping the bandage on tightly enough that nothing of my pain seeps through the bandage, let alone the pretty covering.

I say with Job, “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the Name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21).

I know God understands. His Son died. For me. And for you. He doesn’t mind my tears, my pain, my grief. He is here with me. He comforts me when the wound seeps slowly and when the scab is torn of and I must stand as though all is well.

“He will heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds.” (Psalm 147: 3)Psalm 147: 3

In His time, in His way.

And He doesn’t expect me to be “normal.” Just faithful, trusting, and obedient. To Him. No one else.

He is the beauty I cover my wound with. He is the soothing balm that takes away the ugliness. So even on days when the wound is ugly, gaping, and raw, I pray He is what I let people see.

His Eye is on the Sparrow

Yesterday, coming out of Trader Joe’s, my attention was drawn to the sound of birds chirping loudly and persistently. My eyes scanned the area to see what the ruckus was about, and I was greeted with an amazing sight: Three sparrows stood in a cluster, their wings straight at their sides, the end feathers fluttering like fingers. They were clearly distressed. I wasn’t sure why they were in such an unusual spot—there is a constant flow of people going in and out of the store and an endless banging of carts as people take them in and out of the queue.

I watched, expecting them to take off, but instead was delightfully surprised when a slightly larger bird swooped down in front of the agitated trio. Immediately the three birds opened their beaks wide and each received a tidbit from Mama. Then she flew off to find more. The babies went back to their frantic “I want my dinner” call.

Sure enough, within a minute, Mama returned with another tidbit.

I reached for my camera, but just then three kids, tired of being stuck in the store with their own mom, were freed to run outside. They ran immediately to the rail, laughing and talking, and started climbing.

The birds disappeared under the carts. Mama returned again, and just like any good Mama, she ducked under the carts to keep giving to her babies.

I moved to a different spot, hoping they would reemerge, but a huge bus of people began unloading and streaming into the store.

I stood quietly for another minute or two. I could still hear the birds, but I knew I wouldn’t see them again. It was amazing I had seen them at all.

It was a gift to add to my 1000 unending gifts.

And it was a reminder: God really does care for the sparrows (Luke 12:5). He cares even more about me (Luke 12 6-7). He will provide food, protection, and care even in the most difficult places.

When my life is full of noise, chaos, confusion, I can trust God will be there. If I pay attention, I can hear His voice and receive all He has for me. Why? For the very simple reason, He loves me. Just like that mama bird took care of her babies, God takes care of me.

What do I do?  Be like those baby birds. Keep my attention focused on my provider. “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness,” (Matthew 6: 33-34).

God will do the rest.