Bob, Bob Bobbin’ Along

images-1Well….spring was official March 20, but I don’t think anybody thought it actually arrived. I wore my winter coat one day last week. Snow has surprised us and rain has besieged us leaving some of us on the moody side. I know God is in control of the weather, but its unpredictable~ness suggests an attitude all its own. I find it completely frustrating. Sometimes winter just seems to drag on too long. Unfortunately, my mood can match the gray of the clouds I see rolling across the great expanse of sky above me. On and on they seem to go with no break between them to shine the light of the sun. I know the sun’s there, but I want to see it. I want to feel the warm rays on my face. I want to wear my cute little sunshades and take a walk around town without an umbrella weighing me down. I want to see the buds on the trees and the birds feeding on the new green sprouts of grass.

I thought of a song this morning that I haven’t heard in years. Al Jolson probably made it the most popular back in the 1920s. No! I’m not THAT old. For those of us who are gettin’ on in years, we had the pleasure of hearing our parents sing it when we were children. Maybe you know it:

When the red, red robin comes bob, bob bobbin’ along;

There’ll be no more sobbin’ when he starts throbbin’ his old sweet song;

Wake up, wake up you sleepy head;

Get up, get up, get out of bed;

Cheer up, cheer up the sun is red;

Live, love, laugh and be happy….(Harry Woods 1926)

How can anyone be sad or moody when they hear these lyrics? Listen to Al Jolson or Bing Crosby or Doris Day sing it on YouTube  for yourself and I guarantee it’ll put a smile on your face. The music is fun and upbeat and expresses the way a soul really longs to feel.

Did you know a robin is one of the most abundant birds in the country? Who hasn’t watched a robin bob bobbin’ along the ground in a backyard or hop hoppin’ along the branches of a holly tree? I saw one last week in that ice cold weather, fat and fluffy without a care in the world, it’s bright orange-red belly setting it apart from just about every other bird on the planet. I mean, come on…they’re so plentiful, everybody knows a robin when they see one. Have you ever wondered why there’re so many of them? Why they’re so recognizable? Why they’re so indigenous all over America?  Robins are supposedly migratory, but that doesn’t mean some of them don’t stick around all winter long. They just seem to have a different kind of spirit that makes them strong and adaptable.

There’s just something about a robin…

A robin is one of the first birds to build its nest in the spring after returning home. It’s one of the first birds to lay its eggs and one of the first birds to awaken the dawn. I think that’s what I love the most. The robin rises with the sun, whether it’s shinin’ or not and belts out a tune. It bobs along in life, with a dance in its step and a song in it’s heart because that’s what it was created to do.

“My heart is steadfast, O God; I will sing and make music with all my soul. Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn…” Psalm 108:2

I long to be one of those people who rise with the sun, a song in my heart. I long to awaken the dawn not just on bright shiny days, but every day. I know this is possible, but I don’t always live like it is.

Today, the sun is actually shining. Oh happy day. I’m thinking my winter coat is officially retired for the next eight months. Spring is on the loose. The daffodils are bursting forth and the blooming pear tree outside my bedroom window attracts every bird this side of Raleigh to feed on the pods, including the robin.  A word to the wise…don’t park your car under a flowering pear tree in the spring. Just sayin’. Funny how this tree can be so absolutely beautiful but smell so absolutely bad.

Sorta like my mood when it matches the weather, but how much more do I appreciate the beauty of spring after the deadness of winter? How much more do I appreciate the brightness of the sun after the darkness of cloudy skies?

We all have tough times. We all have seasons when life is hard, but one of the things I’ve learned in my faith journey is that even when things seem dark the light of Jesus is always there. God always shines His Light in dark places. Winter seasons do not last forever. More importantly, you can’t have spring without winter. The earth needs to lie dormant for a season to produce a beautiful spring.

“See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come…” Song of Songs 2:11

And some serious singing comes with the robins. When I’m tired and don’t want to get out of bed, the robins still sing their old sweet song, just as they’ve done since the day they were created: Get up! Get up! Laugh and be happy…

So I wake up. I get up. And I laugh. Yes, there will always be cloudy days, but there will always be Jesus to greet me. He’s the Sonshine in my heart. Because of Him, I have a different kind of spirit. Because of Him, I keep bobbin’ along.

Because of Him, I can shine on…

The New Normal

IMG_0439Two weeks ago I had an appointment with my ear doctor who just happens to be my sweet daughter-in-law. How providential that God gave me a daughter (I raised two sons) who truly understands the needs of the hearing impaired. Laura has helped me understand hearing loss in a way no other expert ever has. She may not be hearing impaired herself, but she has her own health issues. Serious health issues that have given her a compassion and tenderness people long to see in their health specialist. She “gets it.” She gets it when someone needs reassurance. She gets it when someone needs understanding. She gets it when someone needs comfort. She gets it when someone needs an advocate.

Can you possibly understand what this has done for my own self-esteem? No longer do I want to hide or retreat. Laura has educated me. As my hearing deteriorates this education has gone a long way in helping me deal with the ignorance of the misinformed. I no longer get on the defensive…I educate. Seriously, I think by the time I’m done with the class lecture the misinformed person is sorry he or she ever said anything negative to me at all. LOL. To those without hearing loss it can be B.O.R.I.N.G.

So Laura gave me an updated audiology exam. I sat in a sound-proof booth and big fat ear phones were placed over my ears. The door to the booth was shut tight and Laura played back a series of sounds in all different volumes and tones to determine what I can and cannot hear. She spoke words to me and I repeated them as best I could. This test helped her determine how to program my hearing aids so that I can hear as well as I possibly can.

Can I just educate all who want to know: Hearing aids are NOT a substitute for normal hearing. They amplify and clarify, but they aren’t really natural. After all, I wasn’t born with hearing aids already in my ears, but I wasn’t born with perfect hearing, either. My hearing is degenerative so I’m always needing updates.

After Laura reprogrammed my hearing aids I was shocked. The change was so completely unnatural to me that at that moment I didn’t know if I would be able to adjust. Laura assured me I would get used to my new way of hearing.

She was right. This is now my new normal.

What is normal, anyway? We all want to be normal. We want normal lives. Normal families. Normal relationships. Normal this. Normal that. Normal. Normal. Normal. Do we dare to believe that normal in the eyes of the world is highly over-rated?

Webster’s Dictionary defines normal as this: Conforming, adhering to, or constituting to a usual or typical pattern, level, or type; functioning or occurring in a natural way.

I don’t hear anything the way a person with normal hearing does, but it’s normal to me. Without hearing aids I wouldn’t hear much of anything at all, but I’ve adjusted to this new change. I’ve conformed to the new program. What was typical for me the past couple of years is now void. I’ve adhered to my new normal. I’m sticking like glue to what has become a lifeline into the world of hearing for me.

God doesn’t want me to get stuck in what was. He wants me to live with what is. Some things God wants to change so my life will be better, but there are just some things that won’t change. Like the fact I hear poorly and the fact I see imperfectly. As a matter of fact, yesterday I had an appointment with my ophthalmologist and guess what? It’s back to the ocularist for me. If you read my post last fall, Sweet Child of Mine, you have a bit of insight into this part of my life. I’m learning that sometimes God wants to do a new thing in me through changes in my physical issues.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19

When change means adjusting to a new normal, then maybe God wants me to experience Him in new ways…like a way in the desert or a stream in the wasteland. When there’s no path laid out before me in a dry hot desert, God reminds me His footsteps are marked in the sand. All I have to do is follow them. When there’s no water for my thirsty soul in a barren wasteland, God reminds me He’s an oasis of underground springs. All I have to do is pitch my tent and drink freely. I can live in the past if I want to, but why would I when He’s in the new and very real present?

Last night before training began at the Pregnancy Care Center in Rocky Mount (I’m hoping to serve in this ministry. See? God is doing a new thing!) we began with a devotion from Hebrews 4:16,

“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” 

Help in our time of need…for you, that means a different need than mine, a different circumstance, a different change, a different adjustment, a different desert, a different wasteland…a different normal.

Yet help is there for us no matter the need. So is the confidence that God supplies the grace straight from His throne….straight from heaven.

Sounds to me like God wants us to experience a bit of heaven on earth…who would ever have thought that there would be a bit of heaven found in each new normal we learn to accept and adhere to as part of God’s plan for each of us. I think this is a very cool thought. I feel educated.

So…I’m stickin’ like glue to Jesus….my Lifeline, my Advocate…the One who gives me all I need to live in the new normals of life.

 

 

When A Mask Hides The Real Me

d3ca19b2258c77da791a9a3e93514413Two years ago I took a personality test, “Wired That Way,”  while attending a weekend retreat at the beach with a fabulous group of ladies. I had never taken one before and was completely frustrated and confused by my responses to the questions as I took the test. My results actually produced “unnatural results.” Figures.

There are four different personality types: Popular Sanguine, Powerful Choleric, Peaceful Phlegmatic, and Perfect Melancholy.

Each of us has a dominant personality type with a secondary personality that compliments the dominant, but…and this is where it gets interesting…there are two combinations that are not natural though they’re often seen together. In other words, they do NOT belong together. They are Popular Sanguine/Perfect Melancholy and Powerful Choleric/Peaceful Phlegmatic. Either of these two combinations indicates misunderstanding the test questions OR a personality mask.

Of course I would have to be one of those who produced an unnatural combination. Finding out that my two personality types are in opposition to one another really did nothing for my self-esteem. Duh. No wonder I’m a mess. My drama-queen-self nearly overloaded from the drama it created in my soul and spirit. I’m thinking identity crisis with a capital I.

And then there was the ultimate question, which personality was the mask and which one was real? Because in all honesty, I really did think I possessed a lot of the character traits in both Popular Sanguine and Perfect Melancholy. Talk about a moody woman.

What I learned from taking this test is that sometimes we let our life experiences build up walls in our persona. We wear masks to hide our pain, our hurt, our insecurities, our weaknesses, our frailties. Life experiences can shape us in ways that are unhealthy, unnatural, undesirable. Part of God’s perfect plan for each of us is that we take our life experiences…the ugliness, the dirt, the trauma, the grief, the loss, the pain…and let Him use it all for His good by shaping our character in positive ways and strengthening our faith.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who know Him, who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

God wants to use my life experiences to shape and mold me into His image. He doesn’t want to cover up. He wants to expose because only then will I truly be able to embrace the work of His hands. Only then will I get to see the real ME.

“He makes everything beautiful in it’s time…” Ecclesiastes 3:11a

After some proper instruction and a lot of discussion, embracing the Sanguine in me wasn’t an issue. Putting aside the mask of Melancholy, though, has been a process. I want to be who God created me to be without covering up, without hiding, without wearing a mask I wasn’t created to wear.

I may have adapted well as a child living with moderate disabilities, but as a teenager I reacted differently. I learned to hide what I was feeling in my heart. I wanted to be just like everybody else. I spent a lot of time acting out in ways that weren’t healthy. I don’t even remember when I first put my mask on, but after many years I discovered that acting really is exhausting work.

Ironically, I’ve learned in my faith journey that I’m not to be like everybody else. I’m called to be different. I’m called to be set apart. God made me one-of-a-kind. What a boring world it would be if we were all the same. My disabilities are a part of who I am, but they don’t define me. I’m a child of the King. Saved by grace. And washed in the precious blood of the risen Lamb. This is my mantra. This is my identity. (Repeat as often as needed.)

Oh my, I do believe I hear the Hallelujah Chorus ringing in my ears.  

We have to be careful we don’t re-identify ourselves when life hands us some B-A-D stuff…

…like living in a home with alcoholism, severe illness, or extreme dysfunction.

…like strong feelings of rejection or feeling unloved.

…like emotional or physical abuse.

…like living with domineering or controlling parents or spouses.

…like physical impairments that cause emotional trauma.

(and the list can go on and on and on….)

I really do want God to produce good things in me so I’ve learned to let Him use the bad things that have happened in my life to inspire and encourage others in their own walk of faith by sharing how He makes me, ME.

It’s okay to want to know what makes me tick. It’s okay to want to know why I am the way that I am. It’s okay to want to know how I’m wired, but in the end I want to be as “natural” as I possibly can be. I want to be real. I want others to see the real ME.

More importantly, I want others to see JESUS in ME. Because Jesus isn’t fake. He isn’t phony. He’s real. He’s honest. He’s true. He’s faithful. He’s trustworthy. He’s genuine. He’s all these things and so much more. All the things I want to be.

Jesus is the ultimate in real beauty.

So, here’s to removing our masks.

Here’s to Christ. In whom my identity is sure. If I wanna hide, you better believe I wanna hide in Him.

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right head of God. Set your minds on things above, not on early things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Colossians 3:1-3

So Graced

ee52388ba75604b092e0f7b991357b18Let me tell you how bad my hearing is these days…not too long ago I parked my car in a busy parking lot and went to do some shopping in a pet store. Thirty minutes later I walked back to my car and found my keys still in the ignition with the engine running. I guess I’d been distracted before I got out of the car, but seriously, not even my hearing aids picked up the sound of my idly racing engine. Don’t even mention the stupidity of getting out of the car without my keys. I was so thankful that no one had stolen my car.

And so very thankful for the grace of God.

I quit my job last summer at the town cafe. A restaurant may seem an unlikely place for a hearing-impaired person, but a hearing-impaired person who is also visually-impaired? Definitely not likely. When I applied for the job I was honest with the owner, Mike, about my hearing disability. He said, “I don’t have a problem with that…”

…so graced.

A few days after I began work at this completely charming cafe in small town Spring Hope, I had a slight collision with Mike on the floor. He whipped around a corner on my blind side and I nearly knocked him over. I said, “I guess this would be a good time to tell you that I’m also blind in my left eye.” He didn’t even blink…

…so graced.

I learned to be extra careful as I maneuvered around the restaurant with plates of food, trays of drinks, and dirty dishes stacked precariously at every turn. Like the time I ran into a coworker and knocked a drink out of her hand that made a pretty big mess. She actually laughed…

…so graced.

I learned to be purposeful in the care taken to repeat every order so I didn’t make mistakes. Like the time I misunderstood an order and a customer had to wait twice as long to eat while his food was remade. He still tipped…

…so graced.

I learned to be aware of the activity all around me so I didn’t spill food in unwanted places. Like the time I was talking with a customer and knocked a hamburger and fries in her lap because I didn’t see or hear the server approach. She wasn’t a bit angry…

…so graced.

As my hearing degenerates I’m learning that I have to be intentional in many ways. Like when I get out of the car I have to make sure I’ve actually turned the engine off and my keys are in my purse. I check and recheck…

…so graced.

When I go shopping in a busy store I have to move with caution. Like the time I knocked someone down with a few groceries in her arms and had to grovel at her feet. She forgave me…

…so graced.

When I go to church I have to sit in a seat that gives me a good view of the pastor’s face so I can read lips. Sometimes I have to change seats three times before I find one where my view isn’t blocked. My family’s way over being embarrassed by this…

…so graced.

When I go to the bank I can’t go to the drive-in anymore. Like the time I couldn’t understand what the teller was saying through the speaker so I parked and went inside. She said, “I just wanted to know if there was anything else I could do for you today…”

…so graced.

God is so intentional in the way He graces me. Let’s face it, I don’t hear and see like most people around me, but who’s going to know that if I don’t tell them? If I want to get the most out of life I’m learning I have to be intentional, too. That means I have to let God’s grace do the work it was intended to do in me. My limitations force me to face challenges, but it’s grace that frees me to accept them.

I quit my job at the restaurant partly because the struggle was becoming too great to hear over all the activity and background noise, but God’s grace has no limits. I realize that even people with perfect hearing and perfect sight make the same mistakes I do, but sometimes it wears me out mentally and emotionally to be so intentional all the time. So aware. So cautious. So vulnerable.

Part of my lot in life is making the changes necessary to compensate for my physical limitations, but God will never change the way He extends His grace. It never wears Him out. I can count on it. I can depend upon it. I can expect it. I may be facing new challenges these days, but so what?

So graced, that’s what…

So God, that’s who..

“By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them–yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”  1 Corinthians 15:10

And the effect of this grace means my hearing-and-visually-impaired-self gets to shine His light in some of the most unlikely places… 

Strength For The Journey

imagesLife is a journey.

“Happy are the people whose strength is in You, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.” Psalm 84:5

It takes a lot of strength to travel this journey of life. Setting my heart on pilgrimage implies a certain kind of determination, a kind of confidence that I can’t possibly produce on my own.

How easy it is to lose heart when the journey becomes difficult…

My loss of hearing has degenerated to the point that I wonder what in the world God’s purpose is for me in this season of life. I don’t have the hearing capacity to compensate for the loss of sight in my left eye. I have to let God be my Guide. Happy am I when I let God lead me…

How easy it is to lose heart when the journey becomes uncertain…

My present lack of ministry and lack of job have left me wondering what in the world God’s plans are for me in this season of my life. I have to let God cast the Vision. Change is hard and not always comfortable, but sometimes change is good. Happy am I when I let God inspire me…

“As they pass through the Valley of Baca (Tears), they make it a source of spring water; even the autumn rain will cover it with blessings,” Psalm 84:6

How easy it is to lose heart when the journey becomes painful…

My tears have left me wondering what in the world God’s desires are for me in this season of my life. God’s not afraid of my tears, though. He’s not disgusted by them. He’s not insensitive to them. I have to let God be my Comforter. Happy am I when I’m honest with Him about what I’m feeling in my heart…

“They go from strength to strength…” Psalm 84:7a

Yes, life is a journey. I go from season to season, crisis to crisis, change to change, valley to valley…Strength. To. Strength.

Happy am I when I let God strengthen me…

and with every stop along this pilgrim’s way I find my strength restored, my heart revived, my faith renewed. My road is difficult but not impassable. My journey is long but not impossible. My pilgrimage on this earth has a happy ending. It leads to heaven.

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26

My strength is not my own. It’s His. And it’s enough.