Compassion for Mary and Martha

Who are you more like Martha or Mary?

I’ve asked that question more times than I can remember. Today we were discussing it at the Widow’s Support group and a brand new thought occurred to me.

We typically associate Mary and Martha’s behaviors with their personalities and their spirituality. Whole books have been written about this: Having a Mary spirit in a Martha World.

Nice. But in this case, what if we consider their behavior in context.

These two women just lost their brother. There is no mention of any husbands, so they are either widowed or old maids by cultural standards. That means their source of support and sustenance was gone.

These women were facing a dire situation. Their brother died and the one guy they knew who could have possibly done something about it drug his feet getting there. Jesus waited three days after he received the news that Lazarus was dying…and then he showed up when Lazarus was four days in the tomb.

Now let’s consider their personalities.

Martha handled her stress by getting busy in the kitchen. Slamming some cupboards and banging some pans can be very therapeutic. At least for me…and Martha.

Martha didn’t stuff her feelings. She was not going to get an ulcer from swallowing her anger…or her grief. She walked right up to Jesus and let him know she was miffed…hurt…disappointed…confused. She poured out her heart. No, it wasn’t pretty. How could it be?

Why does her response to Jesus’ appearing at the house surprise us? Why does she earn bad girl points for expressing herself? She just lost her brother and the future was looking pretty terrifying.

And while she was at it she took a couple shots at Mary. Siblings do that sort of thing, too.

Mary. A very different kind of personality. Mary shuts down. Mary pulls inward. Mary may be angry, hurt, and confused…her expression is tears. Banging pots does nothing for her.

How do you handle your grief?

I remember when my dad died. He had cancer. He was at home and we had hospice services. He took his last breath around 6:00am. The funeral home came for his body around 7:00am. By 8:00am my mother had turned the once dining room turned hospice equipped dying room back into a dining room–you would never have known the room was used for anything else. She got busy, that’s how she handled her grief.

If you only had that snapshot of my mother she might have appeared cold and detached…but she wasn’t. She was just functioning the only way she knew how. And the hospice worker noted that she was responding according to her personality.

What if all the world had of you was a snapshot of your most difficult day? What would it say about you? Are you a banger or a weeper?

Actually, I’m not sure that’s the most important thing. Jesus doesn’t value Mary’s weepiness more than Martha’s banging. What he valued was that she brought it to him. So go ahead, bang the pans if that makes you feel better, but don’t forget to come to Jesus.

Mother’s Day Gifts

(I wrote this as a gift to my mother for her birthday. I didn’t send it then. So it became her Mother’s Day gift instead.)

 

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Dear Mom,

I hope that you don’t mind that instead of sending you a card with someone else’s words I have chosen to write you a letter. I know that are very few things that you “need” and less that you might tell me you want. So rather than a plant you have to fret over as it dies (through no fault of your own), or a geegaw that you have to dust–not even another owl picture or mug, I’m giving my time and my heart.

Much love, T

Gifts from My Mother

I considered flowers, but decided against, knowing they would just die. What do you get a woman who wants for little when her birthday comes again?

This year I opted for time and thoughts. Perhaps I could put pen to paper and express my gratitude for the gifts she has given me.

You see, this amazing woman has a tendency to blame herself for all the bad that happens in our lives. She will say things like, “Oh, I guess you got that (bad habit or problem) from me.” Or, “That’s my fault, isn’t it?” She’s quick to assume the blame, but I’m not sure she’s aware of how gifted we are because of her.

I have two siblings. They will have to share their perspective on their own time because this is just about what I am thank-full to have received from my mother.

From a very young age, I knew my mother wanted me to succeed. She wouldn’t let met settle for less than my best. Okay the downside is that I became a bit of a procrastinating perfectionist, but I am getting better. She would groan when I waited to the last minute to start whatever project was being required of me, but knowing how to use that last minute burst of creative energy has saved my butt on more than one occasion.

Whenever kwe moved to a new town, Mom always sought out the church with what seemed to have the best choir. From this I received the awareness of the importance of praise and worship. Church never seemed to be about the dogma, theology, tradition, or practice. We were in church to praise God by lifting our voices in song.

Additionally, these churches also had strong programs for children and teens. Looking back, I can see that this was also a gift. Mom was surrounding us with godly teaching and wise mentors, without cramming spiritual nurture down our throats. It was like placing all the food on a buffet and allowing us to choose what we wanted…and when.

Mom was involved in community theater and at one point got me involved in a production. I never felt the bug bite, but I was hooked. Being on stage became very natural to me. As I grew and realized my call to preaching and teaching ministry and I was well-prepared to feel comfortable in front groups of people. Add to this: my husband and I met and fell in love during a drama production in college, and you might begin to see why I truly appreciate this gift.

There was always a crossword puzzle to be worked when cooking and cleaning was done. It became the obvious gift as we were growing up and each one brought many expression of thanks. Mom was always working with words and hungering after knowledge. She had her personal research library right beside her chair and she seemed to delight with each opportunity to dig for some answer. My love for learning seems to be a direct result of this. One time in Sunday School a teacher asked one of my daughters what she wanted to be when she grew up. Her reply, “A student like Mommy.” I could say the same.

But her love for words didn’t stop there. Many nights my siblings and I would be shuffled off to bed just as the Scrabble board was being set for a game between her and Dad. She tells the story that she started playing while I was in her belly–I was pre-ordained to love the game. I’m not so sure about that, but I know that I have a love for words, and also the strategy that goes with winning that game. One of the greatest joys in my life these days is the times Mom and I spend stretching our brains for hours and days playing Scrabble and laughing together. Honestly, I don’t think I get enough.

Growing up I didn’t appreciate my mother’s organized and patterned lifestyle. I often complained that it cramped my style. Truth be told, She held up a standard that I never felt I could measure up to. Her house was always clean. Our clothes were laundered and pressed. We were well fed. Like many, we may have wished for more, but we always had what we needed. Being able to distinguish between wants and needs may not sound like much of a gift, but it has carried me through some sparse times with a deeper appreciation for what I have, which has resulted in deeper peace, trust, and ultimately joy.

I was recently asked to lead a Bible study for widows. I agreed, but wondered how I could identify with them. What could I bring? Though clearly not the same, I have known grief and loss, and I have seen the amazing example of courage and perseverance in my mom. I watched her draw from resources I didn’t know she had as she walked with my dad through his battle with cancer. I was amazed by her strength when he died. When she struck out on her own and moved to Arizona, traveled around the world, and then bought a house, I wondered briefly if perhaps aliens had abducted the woman who raised me. In the back of my mind I could hear the refrain of the song from the “Unsinkable Molly Brown,” I ain’t down yet! In my life I’ve only had a few opportunities to unpack parts of this gift, but I know that this courageous and strong woman’s example will serve me well long into my future.

I could go on and on, but perhaps I’ll save some things for the next time I need to send a gift. As I was trying to figure out how to close this, I remembered a time as a teenager when I was exasperated by something Mom wanted me to do or some opinion she held–the specifics elude me, but they aren’t the crux of the story. What I remember clearly is how I stomped away with a sigh and a slam of the garage door. I went out to where my dad was working. I rolled my eyes and questioned quite dramatically, “How do you put up with her?”

My dad laid down his tools and calmly, but sternly replied, “That woman is your mother and you will show her respect.”

I didn’t get it, but I did it–or at least I tried. Years have come and gone since that scene in the garage. Respect may have started out because of position/role, but it has clearly transitioned into a deep appreciation for who this woman is and how much she has gifted my life.

And this I know with every fiber of my being, I love her more and more each day.

Thank you for blessing my life in so many, many ways.

xo, T.

Puzzle Pieces

Sometimes it feels like God dumps a thousand-piece puzzle in the floor of your heart. ~Susan Stillwell

I read this quote this morning and it resonated deep in my heart.

I have ADD. Literally and spiritually.

Here’s what I know about ADD and me. If I am presented with a very large task, I have to break it into small, manageable pieces or it won’t get done. For example, when I know I have to “clean the house,” instead of feeling overwhelmed by the vastness of the task, I consider each room individually, or even parts of each room (making the bed, cleaning the closet, dusting, vacuuming, etc.). I do the same thing when it comes to writing anything over a thousand words.

I’ve always done the same thing with puzzles. I’ve never been a big fan of jig-saw puzzles, even though I used them often as a counselor. In that setting they were a tool. I could learn a lot about a child by the way they went about putting a puzzle together. They were also useful with adults for group activities.

But to sit an work a puzzle was not enjoyable for me.

So when I read Susan’s quote…I felt a heaviness in my heart. My life looks a lot like a 5000 piece puzzle, spread out before me. And I don’t want to put it together…but I don’t want to leave it undone, either.

As I got quiet before the image of the pile, I remembered a verse in Psalm 139: You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me (verse 5).

The best way for me to begin to tackle a large puzzle is to find the edge pieces and assemble the frame. God wants to be my spiritual frame.

The next thing is to find blocks of portions that go together: a house, a tree, flowers, or a quilt. In my spiritual life this looks like finding the identifiable parts like fellowship, worship, study, prayer and making sure those parts are put together and active in my life.

Finally, I have to trust that the rest of the pieces will fit together. It works the same with God in my life. It often takes time and even trial and error to put all the pieces together–but nothing happens until I try.

Then, what seemed overwhelming at first, becomes something beautiful and amazing.

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I wrote all that but somehow I just couldn’t push the publish button.

I was so in my head…so Madame Counselor…so preachy…I nearly made myself sick. (Maybe that’s why I was throwing up in my dreams last night…and my house was overrun by cats…or maybe I should have taken my omeprazole.)

It was truth for me. It is how I do puzzles. When I do puzzles. But I don’t like to do puzzles.

And I don’t like when God dumps a puzzle in front of me. Especially not a 1000 piecer.

And the ones I really don’t like are the ones that are all one color, or designed on both the front and back so you can’t hardly tell where anything goes. And I can’t ever imagine tackling a 3-D one.

I want the 25 piecer, or better yet the wooden frame or cardboard kind that have the pieces outlined. You know, the no-brainer type.

That way I can’t mess it up…and I might get it done. God knows to do that, doesn’t he? He knows I get bored and tend to give up easy. He wouldn’t call me to something bigger than myself…would he?

To be continued…

Fresh–Good Words for a Monday

Fresh.
I love fresh.
I love the smell of freshly baked anything, especially bread.
I love the smell of laundry fresh off the line.
I love fresh sheets on the bed.
I love a fresh, crisp morning.
I even love freshly fallen snow.

Today has a unique freshness about it.
Today I am diving into my writing in a fresh way,
with a fresh commitment,
with fresh determination,
with fresh hope,
with fresh desire.

With the good things of recent classes, comments, critiques, and encouragement
I am going to start fresh.

I am starting fresh.
I am writing.
I am setting goals.
I will be achieving them.

Today is fresh for my faith, too.
I will not always be on the mountain top, high on the energy-charged experience,
rubbing elbows with accomplished industry artists and creative genius.
I will walk through average days, difficult days, insanely busy days
and I will walk with fresh and renewed trust that One who has called me to this
will bring it to completion.

Today is fresh.
And fresh feels good.

Lessons Learned

Before Dorothy can leave the Land of Oz, Glinda asks what lessons she has learned:

I feel a little like Dorothy. This year has been quite a journey. Not all of it has been good. I didn’t reach many of the goals that I set for myself.

Part of me wants to stamp the file that holds this year with a big fat: FAILED!

But is it a failure? What did I accomplish?
1. I finished a job. The woman I provided care for died in November. I was with her right up to the end. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
2. I did some writing. But more importantly I put my book out there and have started the arduous process of editing and rewriting it. I have started a second book. I completed a daily devotional online for Advent and headed up a published Advent Devotional for my church.
3. I have connected with Word Weavers International and am involved in two online critique groups—one of which I’m leading. This has increased my vulnerability and accountability.
4. My husband and I did some major de-cluttering in our home, reclaiming space and rearranging things for better use.
5. I have made a major dietary change as the result of a major illness and subsequent chronic issues that developed. I have been gluten free for four months.
6. I spoke at three retreats and two speaking opportunities scheduled for next year already.

And that’s just a start. So perhaps not reaching my goals isn’t as much a failure as I initially supposed.

Perhaps God had other things planned for me. I can’t say I enjoyed being sick or the residual effects, but there has even been gain in that pain.

So what do I have to look forward to?

I’m not sure completely, but I know that there is much writing to do, a part time job to secure, a writers’ conference to attend, much Scrabble to play with my mother, and weight to be lost—for good!

The rest is grace and gravy…gluten free of course!

Attitude of Grattitude

At my house Thanksgiving and football go together. This morning my husband called me into the family room so I could watch this piece on Sports Center.

I could go on and on about this story and why it’s so special to me…but I invite you to hear it with your heart. Then pause and give thanks for what you have.

But before you rush from this into your celebrations, however big or small, check your attitude of gratitude. Take a look at what you think you “can’t” do. Then be sure you’re doing all you can. Here’s Jake Olsen’s story:

Blessings to you this day of Thank-full-ness.

Spiders…Blech!

I don’t like spiders. I want to say I hate them, but tend to hold that emotion in strict reserve. Let’s just say I really dislike them immensely (and I am leaving that double adverb pattern in intentionally for emphasis). About the only spider I ever cared about was Charlotte, of the beloved children’s story, Charlotte’s Web. And that barely counts since she’s not real.

I believe that God could have easily used a spider to tempt Eve in the garden. They’re just that evil. Think about the sayings we associate with wicked creatures: “Oh what tangled webs we weave when first we practice to deceive”; or “Come into my parlor said the spider to the fly.” Even the prophet Isaiah understood this evil-natured beast when he described evil people who wove webs of deception to trap unsuspecting innocents (see Isaiah 59:5).

Several years ago my husband was watching a special about spiders on PBS or Animal Planet, and he learned that we are never more than three feet from a spider at any time. He was so intrigued by this tidbit that he told me immediately and has reminded me regularly ever since.

Upon learning about my ever-present nemesis, I began to make it clear that as long as I was not able to see the eight-legged imp, I was willing to co-exist. Foolishly, a bold furry wood variety attempted to challenge my conditions one morning at work. He actually charged at me. Consequently, he was very quickly judging the value of a well-placed book by its cover.

I am not sure if my dislike or my panic is reasonable…I’m not sure if I care.

Recently a new dimension to my loathing has bubbled up. I have never liked walking into a web. It’s creepy, and I’m never quite sure if the object of my disdain has hitched a ride. Once I finish untangling myself from the practically invisible strands of microscopic super glue, I then have do a full body search for free loaders. This process is typically accompanied by a dance that embarrasses my children and brings others to tears from laughter.

I, however, am not amused.

Now when I write one of these pieces it is usually because I have worked through the issue at hand. I have had an epiphany and delight in sharing. That is not the case here. I have just walked into too many webs and danced too many dances lately. And don’t ask my husband about how he had to rescue me from the monster arachnid that I found hiding in my lunch box…it was HUGE!

But I have no resolution. They aren’t going anywhere, and I truly doubt they care about my feelings. That hurts a bit, but I think I might be able to get past it.

Perhaps it’s true, misery loves company. My frustration will resonate with someone who reads this. I like knowing I’m not alone. The other thing I know is that someone else will laugh at my childish behavior. Now while I’m not overly thrilled about being laughed at (not thrilled, but very used to it), I do like knowing that I brightened someone’s day. The way I look at it, if laughter is good medicine, being around me is good for your health.

So in case your husband missed the special and has failed to remind you: remember, there is a web-producing, eight-legged, super glue spitting beastie lurking just beyond the length of your arm.

Have a nice day.

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