When Written Words Are Not Enough

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I’m a writer. I love to write, but writing has its flaws. Every word, every phrase, every sentence that flows from my heart to my keyboard isn’t always interpreted in the way I mean it. The hardest thing about writing is knowing that, sometime…somehow…somewhere…someone may get hurt.

And I hate that.

I remember how much I enjoyed writing creative stories for my high school English classes. I didn’t always write well, though. Sometimes my teachers rewarded me with A‘s, but sometimes there were so many red marks all over the pages of all my hard work and there in the top right-hand corner for all the world to see would be a big-fat C. Instead of looking at the creative content, they looked at all the misplaced commas, misused adjectives, and misconstructed phrases. I was always deeply wounded by those C‘s, but I knew it was part of the learning process.

I’ve since learned that writers each have their individual styles. I can’t say I use every bit of information I’ve ever learned about proper grammar and the right way to construct sentences. I have my own style. My sentences are fragmented and when I want to convey certain tones of my voice or certain emotions of my heart, I do all kinds of unconventional things. Like this. (I don’t think that’s really a sentence.) And this. (I don’t think I’m suppose to start a sentence with a capital And.) And this….(I don’t think leaving my thoughts hanging with a bunch of dots is proper.)

Anyways, something happened to me yesterday that has caused me to sorrow in the written word. I sent an email to a friend and it hurt her feelings.

I didn’t mean for it to hurt. But, it did.

If you’ve been keeping up with me through my blog you know I’m hearing impaired. Severely hearing impaired. Hearing aids are my constant companions and they don’t work well with my cell phone or any phone at all, for that matter. I depend greatly on the written word…email, text, Facebook, and YES! Gasp. Seriously?! I still write notes the old-fashioned way…with ink on pretty notecards. But when I want to convey serious matters or things that are very important to me, I want to talk with someone. Face-To-Face. Because I don’t believe that an email or a letter or a Facebook message can truly convey what’s in my heart.

Alas. It grieves me that it can’t always be so. Busyness gets in the way. It’s not anyone’s fault that I’m hearing impaired. This is my life. I do as much as I can to keep myself out there…to make myself sociable…to get out of the house…to get involved in people’s lives…but I’ve learned that my hearing impairment leaves me at a disadvantage when it comes to matters of the heart. I try to be as patient as I can and as understanding as I can when it comes to busyness. If email is the only way someone can communicate when busyness intervenes then, believe me, I try very hard to place my commas and use my adjectives and construct my sentences in a way that others will truly hear my heart.

And yet….sometimes…no matter how hard I try or how much I pray or how long I think before I write, I am still misunderstood.

When it comes right down to it, as beautiful and timely as written words can be, sometimes the written word just isn’t enough. Nothing can take the place of sitting beside a friend and sharing the spoken word face to face.

“Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances.” Proverbs 25:11

The written word doesn’t allow someone to hear the tone in my voice, or see the compassion in my face or desperation in my eyes. I don’t care how busy I am these days, I’m still a meet-me-for-coffee-kinda-girl. Maybe it’s because I’m hearing impaired, but I still believe God wants us to be face-to-face-kinda-people ’cause He’s a face-to-face-kinda-Friend.

“Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend.” Exodus 33:11. 

There are just some things that need to be said, talked about, and shared face to face. They were never meant to be put to paper or typed on a keyboard. Some things are just too important. Like this. And this. And especially this…friendship. Because even though I didn’t intentionally hurt my friend with my words…heaven knows I thought too long and hard about what I wrote to even consider it!…my written words were still misunderstood. I knew in my heart I needed a face to face but busyness got in the way and I felt backed into a corner.

I’m so glad my Faithful Friend in heaven, who knows me so well, can interpret my heart when my friends on earth misinterpret my words.

If I’m completely honest, when I unintentionally hurt someone with written words, I consider giving up writing. Just canceling my WordPress account, deleting my Facebook, ignoring my email for the rest of my life, refusing to ever send another text, but I know I can’t. This is my lifeline. This, too, is my life. Without social media I would shrivel up and die. The truth is, I need the written word to survive because hearing impaired people risk shutting themselves off every day of their lives. Hiding themselves away. Becoming hermits. Losing themselves in a very lonely place. And now, as I write this, I find the tears just flowing down my cheeks and I can’t seem to stop them.

Because I hurt someone with my words in this very lonely place.

And I hate that.

And sometimes saying I’m sorry, please forgive me needs to be done in person but busyness gets in the way of that, too. So, I’ll say it here for now and pray for the day when my friend and I can meet face to face.

Yes, I’m a writer. I may get discouraged sometimes, but I was born to write. Even as I pour out my heart writing this post I’m experiencing the healing that can only come from The One who heals. God is my Teacher. He’s forever instructing me. My Faithful Friend. For every C I find in the top right-hand corner of my paper, there are a dozen A‘s waiting around the corner, given to me by the One who upholds me by His righteous right hand.

And I love that.

“A man’s steps are established by the Lord, and He takes pleasure in his way. Though he falls, he will not be overwhelmed, because the Lord holds his hand.” Psalm 37:23-24

I cannot even begin to tell you how grateful I am that God will always be the Holder Of My Hand and when He speaks to me, His words will always be enough.

The Hope Of The Harvest

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I’ve learned something over the years about ministry: It comes with a price…it just might cost me something.

True ministry isn’t really an easy thing. It can certainly be fun, but it isn’t always. It isn’t glamorous. It’s not about fame. Or fortune. It’s not about advancing a career. It takes work, patience, and determination. I’ll get out of it what I put into it. The blessings are spiritual and the rewards eternal because true ministry is really a labor of love.

The word ministry is actually derived from a Greek word meaning, “a person who serves.” We get our English word “deacon” from it. It’s a service role, but we’re all called to be servants, to be involved in the lives of people…meeting needs, showing kindness……..and loving well. Ministry isn’t just for pastors. We’re all called to be ‘ministers’ right where God places us.

I was watching the farmer plow his tobacco field the other morning across the street from my house. The last of the tobacco leaves were picked last weekend. The sun was rising brightly above the tree line, shooting rays of light across the clay dirt. I heard in my spirit, “the hope of the harvest,” and thought to myself, “What a beautiful picture of ministry!”

The farmer plants thousands of seeds, but he doesn’t get a plant off of every single seed. Still he labors on. He lives off hope. He knows it takes many seeds to produce a harvest. He doesn’t cut corners. He doesn’t count costs. He was born to work the fields. It’s in his blood. He loves it. He can’t imagine doing anything else.

Year after year the farmer plows his fields, preps his soil, plants his seeds, fertilizes and then he waits. He prays to God for rain to water his fields. Sometimes God answers yes. Sometimes, no. Sometimes God says not now because not every year is a profitable year. Yet, the farmer can’t imagine doing anything else. Even after a bad year, he’ll do it all over again the next season. He does it over and over again for the thrill of working the land. 

And…because he has hope…because sometimes the harvest is plentiful and when it is, it’s worth all the hard work, all the disappointments, all the heartache.

Ministry is like that. If I minister to others for any other reason than to see God bring forth a harvest of people who love Him and bring Him glory, then maybe I’m not serving for the right reason. I’ve gotta love it, but I’ve gotta love God more because He’s the One for whom I labor. He’s the One who brings forth the harvest. I’m just the farmer, the vessel, and I have to be empty of all self-promotion, personal agendas, and self-gratification.

Yes, sometimes, I’m going to work hard, but I remember my labor isn’t in vain. Sometimes I might be disappointed, but I remember that God is never disappointed in me when I give Him my very best. Sometimes I might have heartache, but I remember that God brings joy out of sorrow. Sometimes I might grow impatient and wonder if I’ll ever see the fruit of my labor, but I remember that God isn’t on my time table. He’ll water what I plant in time. There’s only One Water of Life.

Have you ever seen a farmer come in out of the fields clean and spotless? He’s most likely covered in dirt and sweat. Sometimes ministry means I’m going to  get my hands dirty. I might have to dig a little deeper, plow a little farther, and stay on my knees a little longer. I think the most valuable sacrifice made in ministry is time–and prayer. As busy as everyone seems to be these days, time is the thing we all seem to hoard, but it’s what we most need to give away.

Because I’m hearing impaired, I enjoy mentoring, discipling, and teaching Bible study. I haven’t always done it well. I haven’t always had a lot of time to give. I haven’t always been faithful, but I’ve found that I most enjoy spending time with other women one-on-one, whether in my home, over a restaurant table, at the Pregnancy Care Center or on a park bench, pouring over Scripture, holding hands in prayer, sharing a listening ear and most likely a few tears. Time just seems to stand still and I always feel so blessed. It’s true…true ministry isn’t just for the one I’m pouring into. God is pouring into us both. We bless each other.

“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us to do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Galations 6:7-10

Jesus’ whole ministry on this earth was a sacrifice. He gave up all the glory of heaven to live, breathe and walk among us. He labored among us, He taught us, listened to us, prayed with us, ate with us, laughed with us, cried with us, and, above all….He truly loved us. Because He loved His Father.

I’m coming to understand that our lives are meant to be lived as a beautiful offering. There are people in my little part of the world that need to know God cares, God forgives, God heals, God comforts, God gives joy, and best of all…God loves them madly. I can minister in Jesus’ name right where I am. One person at a time. One day at a time. One season at a time.

For the glory of God and…

for the hope of the harvest.

When I Can’t Be Liked By Everyone

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I wish I could be liked by everyone I meet. I know there are some genuine, warm-hearted, sincerely lovable people out there who don’t seem to have an enemy in all the world, but I’m old enough and mature enough now to admit…I’m not one of them.

Sigh.

I remember the first time a best friend got mad at me. Really mad. Mad enough to decide she didn’t like me anymore.

I was in the fourth grade. Still too young to understand all the insecurities I battled being visually and hearing impaired in a hearing-seeing world. Our teacher was marching us single file from the classroom to the playground for Recess. (A school child’s favorite time of the day!) My best friend at the time was  behind me in the line-up where I couldn’t see her face. When we got outside she was angry with me. She said she had called my name several times in the hallway, never mind the rule of no talking in the hall, but I didn’t answer her. When I told her I hadn’t heard her she insisted that I did and she was never my friend again.

I never really enjoyed Recess after that. In fact, I recall being so upset that day I made myself sick. I couldn’t even go to school the next day. Thank goodness graduating to the fifth grade meant we were too old to play on the playground. Drama. Sometimes we girls are all about drama.

I learned early how to build walls around my heart. When someone got too close I backed off, not wanting to put myself at risk of another betrayal. I certainly didn’t want to get too close to someone who might ask me questions about my eye. Heaven forbid. The few brave enough to ask were usually met with a stunned silence. I was sure they could see the rising heat in my face, flushed with humiliation, and hear the pounding of my beating heart, rushed with fear. It was all I could do to keep from turning on my heels and high-tailing it home where I could hide under the watch care of my family who loved me and kept me safe.

I once had a woman in my adult life tell me that when she first met me she had tried to talk to me, either behind me where I couldn’t hear her or beside me where I couldn’t see her, and I never talked back so she thought I was a snob. A snob!! But it made me think…is that what people have thought of me all along? Maybe if I’d learned in my early years to be honest with my friends about my disabilities they would’ve been able to understand me a little better. It’s hard enough being a teenager with up-and-down hormones and emotions out-of-control without adding a prosthetic eye and hearing loss to the package. I guess I just did the best that I could with what I had, but I still made some people not like me.

That sounds like such a silly thing to say, but that’s how little girls talk. How do you make people like you? The truth is, sometimes I feel like I’m still in my little-girl-skin, the tendency to build walls around my heart still surfacing from time-to-time. I want to protect myself from those who don’t seem to like me, but one of the things I’ve learned over the years is this: If I’ve done everything I know to do to treat others with kindness, respect and compassion–something I didn’t always do as a teenager–and I still can’t make a friend out of someone, then maybe the problem isn’t with me.

One of the things that aging and grace have given me is a better understanding of insecurities in others. There are plenty of us who have struggled or continue to struggle with lack of self-worth and self-confidence, who build walls around our hearts and shut ourselves off, who feel the pain of betrayal and the sorrow of rejection, whose faces flush with humiliation and whose hearts beat with fear.

The sad truth is, I won’t be liked by everyone on this earth, but maybe it’s not because I’m not likable. Maybe it’s just because some people are a little like me with the same hurts, same battles, same stuff of life. I need to remember that God in His infinite wisdom is able to give me the ability to see some of what He sees and heart some of what He hearts. No that’s not a typo…I meant heart, with a ‘t’. It’s only with the tearing down of walls around my heart that I can “live at peace with everyone.” I don’t necessarily have to like someone to love them as Christ does and that’s such a hard truth to grasp.

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:14-18

What a mouthful. Lord, fill me.

These days, I’m working to build a life that reflects peace in my relationships. I’m working on building harmony, not conflict…self-worth, not self-deprecation…self-confidence, not self-diffidence. How’s that for another mouthful? Because, truthfully, peace in my inner self will affect how I see others, how I treat them, how I bless them, how I pray for them…AND…it just might affect how others see me, too. Maybe. You never know.

I may wish I could be liked by everyone I meet, but I know it’s not likely to happen on this earth. Instead, I’ll just wish for this peace that reflects a heart without walls. I’ll try my best to do my part, as much as depends upon me, and then I think I’ll just let God be God and take care of the rest…

The Lone Red Leaf

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I love fall. It’s my favorite time of year. I love the crisp night air and the chilly mornings. I can hardly wait to get the wood stove cranked up and sit in my comfy chair with a blanket and a hot cup of favorite tea or coffee. I love hot soup, brunswick stew, and mugs of cider with a touch of brown sugar. I love the smell of orange rinds, cinnamon, and cloves simmering on the stove. I love pumpkins, apples, and butternut squash. I love sweaters, warm socks, and boots. I love a scarf around my neck and a hat on my head. I love the sound of tractors harvesting the fields, dried cornstalks, and bales of hay. I love the sound of leaves crunching under my feet as I walk through the streets of my little town. I love jars of acorns and wreathes of pinecones, but I especially love the mountains in the fall.

I just love fall. What’s not to love?

A few days ago, I was walking down the wooded, tree-lined street in the neighborhood where my parents’ live. I had hoped to see more of nature’s fall colors on this visit, but I confess my disappointment. It’s not peak season, yet, but I’m still disappointed. There are usually early signs of season change that spark excitement and anticipation, but the oak leaves just seem to have gone right to a dull brown, abandoning themselves to an early demise. The sycamores are a mass of mottled, diseased spots on slabs of yellow, not at all pretty and pleasing to the eye. I’m hoping the maples will soon burst on the scene with their usual glorious display of yellows, oranges, and reds to redeem what the oaks and the sycamores have lost. Even the dogwoods are lacking in their vivid red and green splendor this season. Fall seems to have fallen short.

As I was walking around a bend on the country road that graces my parents’ neighborhood, I couldn’t help but notice the lone red leaf peering out of a sea of green on a small maple as I walked up the hill. Slightly blowing in the breeze it caught my attention and I stopped to take a look. It was already at its peak color, far ahead of the others. Vibrant with color. Set apart. Standing alone. Even though the green leaves of this tree were mottled with ugly brown spots just like the sycamores, diseased and sickly-looking, this lone red leaf was beautiful, the deep red completely covering the ugly spots and drawing my eye, beckoning me to wonder. I couldn’t help but smile.

Sometimes I’m a lot like that lone red leaf, all my ugly brown spots camouflaged by the Keeper and Sustainer of my heart, washed in the power of His cleansing blood. My heart beating in time with His, no matter the season. Without Jesus I would be abandoned to a life without much color. Dull. Mottled with brown spots of decay marring any real beauty. Following Jesus means that sometimes I may have to stand alone, but that’s not a bad thing. Because in a sea of green where others may want to look alike, act alike, and talk alike…I want to be uniquely different the way God created me to be.

I’m not created to look like everyone else or be like anyone else, aside from Christ. I just love how He warms the crisp night air and blankets my chilly mornings. I love how He brings flavor to my food and salt to my earth. I love how He brings a sweet aroma to my home and embraces me with His comforting Presence. I love how He covers me with His wings and gives me shelter in His shadow. I love how He showers me with a harvest of blessings and speaks truth over me as I walk through the trouble-laden streets of life. I love how He puts a garland of grace around my neck and crowns me with splendor. I love how He waits for me on the mountaintop because I especially love meeting Him there, high upon the Rock.

Yes, life without Jesus would be dull. He alone completes me and makes me whole. Life is full of seasons, but Jesus is present in every single one. I just happen to like fall the best. He’s the real Lone Leaf. I see Him down every street. In every tree. Around every bend. Vibrant. Set apart. Standing alone. Perfect in beauty. Unequaled in splendor. Always at His peak color. Drawing my eye, beckoning me to wonder. I can’t help but smile.

I want to be like Him. I do. I may fall short. But I’ll never give up trying.

“One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple. For in the day of trouble He will keep me safe in His dwelling; He will hide me in the shelter of His tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.” Psalm 27:4 & 5

I just love Jesus.

What’s not to love?

 

 

God Comes In His Ways

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There’s something very mysterious about fog. When a cloud hovers along the earth’s surface greatly reducing visibility, I drive cautiously and save my walks through town for another time. Although there’s something very beautiful about a misty morning in the fields and woods, I feel safer when I admire this kind of beauty from my front porch. I have no idea what’s beyond what my eye can visibly see.

More often than a low lying cloud, though, is the fog that sometimes obscures my mind or the haze that confuses my thoughts. I’ve heard of overthinking something, but is it possible to think myself to death?!? I suppose not, but I’ve been known to drive myself slightly crazy with thoughts gone wild. I’m a terrible “what-iffer.” Most of the things I’ve imagined in my life have never happened. I don’t know why I torture myself like this because I’ve got this beautiful mysterious God who loves to come to me in His ways…

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways,” this is the Lord’s declaration. “For as the heaven is higher than the earth, so My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8, 9

Sometimes life is mysterious because God is mysterious. God reserves the right to make things known to me in His way, in His timing, in His purpose. After all, He’s perfect and if He’s perfect then He’s perfect in all of His ways. This is such a hard truth to wrap my mind around. If I let it, it’ll drive me crazy, but it’s in these times that the only way I can clear my head is to trust His heart. Instead of fretting about what I don’t know, I can cling to what I do. And, there’s so much I do know about my God.

I know He cares for me: “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

I know He strengthens me: “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

I know He guides and directs me: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5,6

I know He fights for me: “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14

I know He loves me: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” Jeremiah 31:3

So….maybe I don’t have all the solutions to all my problems at this very moment. Maybe I don’t have all the answers to all my prayers or know all the whys to all my questions. One of the mysteries in my relationship with God is growing in faith when the fog is thick and my eyes can’t see beyond this very moment, and growing in trust when God shows up in the misty mornings and I can see Him in the here and now.

Since heaven is higher than anything my human mind can comprehend, I can trust God’s thoughts and plans to be perfect for me and so much better than anything I can dream up on my own. As long as I keep looking up, God will meet me even in the fog of life. He comes in the clouds. He hovers over me and that’s such a beautiful mystery…that’s such a beautiful thought…that’s such a beautiful way for Him to come.

“By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way….” Exodus 13:21