Be Still And Know — A Not So Perfect Family Christmas

Have you ever received what seems like an impossible suggestion or request or even command? How do you deal with it?

It was late December. I’d been sick for about a month, and found out the previous Tuesday I had a sinus infection. I’d probably been sick with it most of that month, but at least now I was on antibiotics. The Friday after my diagnosis, we learned my husband, who had also been sick all month, had one, too. He was given the same antibiotics.

Being sick, however, didn’t stop the massive, out-of-control freight train that was my “To Do” list and schedule. I tried to delegate some. I asked my husband (who was home and retired while I was still working full-time) to wrap the gifts. Our son took on a majority of the cookie baking, as he had every year (whether I wanted him to or not) for the past 4 or 5 years. (I still had to do the ones for the Cookie Exchange at work, and of course I’d signed up for the most complex and painstaking monster of a project imaginable!!.) The pair of them even decorated the house and yard with lights, and put up the tree, though it stayed without ornaments for over 2 weeks. My husband helped me stuff the stockings. I asked our daughter to make our traditional Christmas dessert which her husband adores, Pumpkin Cheesecake. But I was still rushed, frazzled and quite frankly, worn out. There was just too much on that “To Do” list, too little time to do it, and I was still sick . . .

Finally, at church on the Sunday before Christmas, a friend read a Scripture that touched my heart. It spoke to my illness, my “To Do” list, my hectic schedule and my lack of joy in what is normally my favorite time of year. When I heard it, I felt like God was speaking the words to me, gently slapping me upside my head.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;

I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in the earth.”

Psalm 46:10

“Be still and know that I am God.” The words spoke life to my rushed, troubled heart. Sweeping aside my “To Do” list, my schedule and my self-imposed Christmas insanity, the words of Psalm 46 demanded a paradigm shift of my priorities, my schedule and my life.

“Be still and know that I am God.” They called me to rest. Not just sleep, which my still sick body desperately needed. No, these words were calling me to true rest and peace in God. To know that perfect isn’t required, and okay is good enough. To know that the menu isn’t important, it’s who is eating the food, and making sure was Jesus our Guest, too.

“Be still and know that I am God.” They called me to remember the Reason for the season. They reminded me again of what I’d known since childhood: Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus, our Savior. It’s about His life, His sacrificial offering of Himself for us so that we can have a relationship with Him and His Father. It’s not about the food, the presents, the lights and all the other trappings, no matter how good they are. Because they are the “good” of the season, while the gift of Jesus was, is and always will be God’s greatest and best.

“Be still and know that I am God.” They insisted I deal with the emotional weight I’d been avoiding, of that first Christmas without my Mom being among us after her death the previous March. I was reminded she was celebrating the holiday with Jesus, and even though it’s different without her, and always will be, that’s okay.

“Be still and know that I am God.” They reminded me I’m not in control of my life, and God is. Even when I tried to give in to the illusion and deception of being a (recovering) control freak, the words cut through my feeble efforts to direct my life and reminded me there is One who is ultimately in control. And He is in control not just of my life, but of situations and circumstances beyond my comprehension, even reaching to the far-flung galaxies of the universe. The words reminded me I can trust the One who spun it all into existence, and holds it together by His will.

That last reminder was very helpful 2 days later (and 2 days before Christmas), when I got a call at work, telling me our daughter and 6 month old granddaughter had influenza, despite having gotten flu shots! (CDC says the shots don’t cover every strain, and they got one it didn’t, of course!) Our daughter and son-in-law wanted us to take the 2 older children (who were not sick), and have them stay with us from that day, through Christmas and for several days after.

“Be still and know that I am God.” These words ran through my mind repeatedly as I spoke to my husband, working out first if we could do it. Then, when we decided we could, we discussed the logistics of my work schedule and transportation needs, all now more complicated by the presence in our house of 2 girls, ages 4 and 6, for a few unexpected days.

“Be still and know that I am God.” Stuff I’d planned and we “always” do didn’t get done. Our daughter didn’t get the cheesecake baked before she got sick. Since small granddaughters prefer Christmas cookies to cheesecake, we were okay with that. My husband and son decorated the tree with the help of 2 small girls. As long as my delicate, breakable ornaments were put high by one of the men, I didn’t care what it looked like.

“Be still and know that I am God.”  The 4 year old and I started having coughing fits on Christmas Eve. I suspected exposure to my daughter (for me, prior to her showing symptoms on Sunday) was the culprit. Instead of the “perfect” family Christmas, we had one that was a different and not so perfect kind of family Christmas. We were missing Mom, and almost 1/2 of us were ill. But in its own way, it was perfect, because those ancient words prompted me to remember Christmas is perfect when we are with people we love and we have invited God and His presence and peace to be in our midst.

“Be still and know that I am God.” I pray your holiday season will be filled with the gentle stillness of God’s loving presence and at least some of the people you love.

Merry Christmas!

When Pain Mocks The Song — Even In The Christmas Update Letter by Terri Brady

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Happy Mother’s Day (guest post)

I was just rereading Terri Brady‘s amazing job with her Shout Out to Moms! from 2012. It reminded me of the late great humorist Erma Bombeck, who wrote a special piece one year for Mother’s Day. I have read a lot on mothers and Mother’s Day, but so far, no one has been able to duplicate it.  I laugh and cry every time I read it. I hope you enjoy this Mother’s Day gift as much as I do.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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“When God Created Mothers”

When the Good Lord was creating mothers, He was into His sixth day of “overtime” when the angel appeared and said. “You’re doing a lot of fiddling around on this one.”

And God said, “Have you read the specs on this order?” She has to be completely washable, but not plastic. Have 180 movable parts…all replaceable. Run on black coffee and leftovers. Have a lap that disappears when she stands up. A kiss that can cure anything from a broken leg to a disappointed love affair. And six pairs of hands.”

The angel shook her head slowly and said. “Six pairs of hands…. no way.”

It’s not the hands that are causing me problems,” God remarked, “it’s the three pairs of eyes that mothers have to have.”

That’s on the standard model?” asked the angel. God nodded.

One pair that sees through closed doors when she asks, ‘What are you kids doing in there?’ when she already knows. Another here in the back of her head that sees what she shouldn’t but what she has to know, and of course the ones here in front that can look at a child when he goofs up and say. ‘I understand and I love you’ without so much as uttering a word.”

God,” said the angel touching his sleeve gently, “Get some rest tomorrow….”

I can’t,” said God, “I’m so close to creating something so close to myself. Already I have one who heals herself when she is sick…can feed a family of six on one pound of hamburger…and can get a nine-year old to stand under a shower.”

The angel circled the model of a mother very slowly. “It’s too soft,” she sighed.

But tough!” said God excitedly. “You can imagine what this mother can do or endure.”

Can it think?”

Not only can it think, but it can reason and compromise,” said the Creator.

Finally, the angel bent over and ran her finger across the cheek.

There’s a leak,” she pronounced. “I told You that You were trying to put too much into this model.”

It’s not a leak,” said the Lord, “It’s a tear.”

What’s it for?”

It’s for joy, sadness, disappointment, pain, loneliness, and pride.”

You are a genius, ” said the angel.

Somberly, God said, “I didn’t put it there.”

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Related Posts:

Terri Brady — Shout Out To Moms!

Because I’m Me, That’s Why

At different points in our lives, particularly in our childhoods, many of us have heard it. We’ve heard it from a parent, a teacher, or some other authority figure. Or even from someone we thought was our friend. “It” was a question, in some way phrased to say,

Why can’t you be more like so-and-so??

As grow, if we are aware of such things, we understand we hear it daily from our culture. As adults, we are told we are just not good enough, that someone is more attractive, smarter, more successful, better than us. Our culture has applied its ruler to us, and we’ve been found wanting. We just don’t measure up.

For people who start from a basis of a low self-image, this is a devastating message! Even for people whose self-image is good, the message can be hard to drown out. The constant barrage of negativity will wear even the most confident of us down eventually, leaving secret vulnerable places in our souls. It will, unless we apply a cure. But what can cure such devastating and pervasive attacks? What, or who, can help us?

Some seek to actually try to measure up. As I mentioned in Our Endless Pursuit of Perfection, it’s a frustrating and fruitless end. Others turn to psychology and counselling. Having been through these paths, I can tell you that while they teach valuable skills, they don’t get to the heart issues. And when heart issues aren’t dealt with, the problem remains. Still others turn to religious efforts, trying to measure up to the standards set by the religion or its founders, and only finding frustration. Because if you follow the laws of a perfect God using the ways of men, I’ve learned we doom ourselves to disaster. By now, I am sure you are asking by now, Is there any good news in all this??”

I wouldn’t be writing these words if there was no good news to be found, no answer I’ve discovered for myself. I would be a hypocrite and charlatan (and a very bad blogger!) if I would post such thoughts and not offer something.

Chris and Terri Brady

Chris and Terri Brady

In her recent blog post, The Stranger’s Sketch, Terri Brady spoke of similar ideas. She said,

Any time we are measuring ourselves and our worth based on bones in our chins, (yes, I’ll leave that plural for the fun of it), our skin tone or eyelash length, we are doomed for unhappiness. True joy doesn’t change.

What is neverchanging is our real worth. What really matters is not our self-description, but who we are in the Lord’s eyes. “Whose we are” should radiate!

It was only when I began to cultivate a relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ that I began to find my own true self-worth. For years, I’d compared myself to smarter, more athletic siblings and schoolmates, more attractive and successful fellow entrepreneurs and others against whom I felt I just didn’t measure up. As I told Terri in my comments to her post,

I remember I used to look at the slender, lovely women on stage (such as your beautiful inside and outside self!), and compare you all to me. I compared what I saw as your perfections to my obviously glaring imperfections, and became convinced I could never be like you, never be that lovely, that accomplished, that successful.

It took a while, but finally I listened long enough to what you all were saying, and what God was telling me in my heart through you. God didn’t want or need me as a carbon copy of any of you. He had you. He needed and wanted me as ME, just as imperfect I was, willing to grow, learn, change and be used by Him for His glory. Like clay with the Potter, my job is only to coöperate with His process. As I become His more finished handiwork, the glory is His, and not mine, because He is doing it and will have done it in me.

If you struggle today with your self-image, dear reader, the chance to be free of it is available to you. The God Who made the universe, Who spun the stars, Who holds all creation in His hands, cares for you with a fiercely tender love. He is fierce, because He wants you to love Him and no other above Him. He is tender, because He is the greatest Gentleman, and will never force His will or way on you. You have to ask. Let Him in and begin this marvelous work in you! Learn for yourself that no matter what you look like, no matter what you’ve done, no matter who you are, you are completely and forever loved.

As you learn God’s love for you, you will know the freedom to be wholly and completely yourself. You will be able to look at your critics, those who ask why you cannot be like someone else, and say, “Because I’m me, that’s why.” You will be free to grow and discover all you were created to become. Because if we’re wise, we’ll always be growing, changing, striving for more. It will be a life-long process. And instead of trying to measure up to impossible and even unrealistic standards set by others, our efforts to grow will be our very realistic expressions to become the best us we can be. They will be our loving response to the immense love first shown to us by God.

Is Orrin Woodward REALLY All He’s Cracked Up To Be?

I am often asked, “Is Orrin Woodward REALLY all he’s cracked up to be??

Orrin Woodward

Orrin and Laurie Woodward

Please allow me answer that, once and for all, with the following (true) story,  names unchanged to protect neither the guilty, nor the innocent.

I will start by saying I got an iPhone late last summer. I read the manual and became rapidly proficient in its use. Or at least, I thought I was.

Recently, a group of ladies had the privilege to attend a retirement dinner to honor Pat Tefel, the delightful and grace-filled lady leader of our TEAM LIFE business team. It was a wonderful evening, highlighted by the presence of leader, blogger, home schooling mom and all-around lovely woman,

Chris and Terri Brady

Chris and Terri Brady

Terri Brady.

Terri’s husband Chris recently had a birthday, so when I briefly spoke to her at the start of the evening, she suggested I go on FaceBook and give greetings to his partner Orrin Woodward, since it was his birthday that day. After getting a photo with Terri and my husband, I went to my table and linked into the wifi where the event was being held. I found Orrin’s page on FaceBook, and thought I left him a message on his wall.

The next morning, on my break at work, I went on FaceBook to check up on things, and see if anyone had posted photos of the party. The first thing I found was a private message from Orrin Woodward!! I had posted my birthday wishes to him privately!!! Oh, my goodness!!!

Orrin’s was the message of a gracious gentleman, honorable and kind in all his dealings, as he said,

Thank YOU Cathy! I hope you are having a blessed day.

To understand the importance of this exchange, think about having the CEO of a multi-national corporation, who has thousands of people who look to him for leadership, combined with the public acclaim of a best-selling author like Steven King, all rolled into one incredible package, on your FaceBook friend list. You are a tiny, insignificant speck in his radar, and are pleased just being acknowledged as his friend, and with a blanket group thanks to everyone who wished him birthday greetings on his wall. That is how big a deal it is to me!

When I realized the size of my blunder, and the graciousness of Orrin’s response, I posted the following, being very careful to do it to his wall:

Thank you so much for your gracious and lovely response to my accidental private message birthday greetings last night! I meant to post that on your wall!! Clearly I have more to learn about FaceBook for iPhone . . . (Color me red-faced.)

That evening at the party, I had told Terri I was a high-end tech user, and promptly proved it. I even had the boldness to call myself “the app queen!” Horrors!! In my bragging, I totally forgot Proverbs 16:18, which says

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.

I fell, alright! The Law of Unintended Consequences (and Murphy’s Law) were very busy with me that night. It is only the kindness, graciousness, humility, character and gentle spirit of Orrin Woodward that saved me from total embarrassment and utter shame.

I am telling you this (and making public my foolishness) for one reason: We all look for leaders to follow, to emulate, to seek to become what they represent. Leaders who show such humility and character as Orrin Woodward did with me are worth following anywhere, and for any reason.

Family Followers — A TEAM LIFE Lady Gives Her Perspective

What is it about our kids that sometimes brings out the worst leaders in us? How can we improve as parents, and lead our children the way we know they should be led?

In the recent article Act Like The Mom!, TEAM LIFE leading lady Terri Brady discussed her own temptations to give up leadership to her kids, and how she deals with it.

Chris & Terri Brady

There are plenty of things my children say and do that are embarrassingly out of my control. But there is a completely different set of things that my children say or do that is just screaming for me to LEAD. I love it when Orrin Woodward talks about the moments in life when he feels like something is going awry, and someone needs to do something.  Suddenly he thinks, “Woodward, you’re the leader; now act like it!”

There are so many times (a day!) that I have to remind myself of that. “Terri, you’re the mom. Now act like it!

There have been many times in my life when I have had to look the problem in the face, leave the mirror and behave like Mom, whether or not I felt like it. Did I like it?  No way!  Did I have to buck up and do it?  You bet!

There were the temperamental times of early childhood, when I picked screeching toddlers off the floor of stores, and walked out, to show the children when Mom said “NO candy,” Mom meant “NO candy!”   Once, I had to leave a full grocery cart at the register, apologize to the store employees and come back after my husband was home, without the child, to find and buy all that food all over again!

There were the occasional tantrums of the middle years, when the sound, “Eeeuuu!  Gross!” was heard when a child was told what was on the menu for dinner.  At one point, I started telling them the menu had 2 options, “Take it, or leave it!”

There were the tempestuous teens, when getting a bad attitude instead of compliance to a simple request seemed to be more the rule than not.  There was more than one time when I had to tell our teens they were not permitted to speak to us with such disrespect.

This is our son David, with the biggest pumpkin we ever saw!

The home is the toughest place we will ever have to show our leadership skills.  Think about it for a minute.  Families see us at our worst, know all the buttons to push, have unerring abilities to get under our skin and have to put up with us learning how to lead them.

It is also the most rewarding.  Launching adult children into the world, seeing them

Our daughter Beth & husband Tom

stand on their own and start to lead their homes is the gold star of success every parent/leader works toward.  Watching them take what they have learned from you and practice their own leadership on grandchildren gives a sense of accomplishment unlike any other leadership role in life.

Cathy

Relationship Terrorism — A TEAM LIFE Leading Lady Tells All

Why do we let them do it to us?  How do our families hold so much sway over us and our lives?  Even after we are independent adults, what happens to us when we get around our families sometimes?

In an article called Trip Advisor on the Guilt Trip: Terrorism a Leading Lady of TEAM LIFE, Terri Brady shares her perspective:

Chris & Terri Brady

How many people have I allowed to “terrorize” me? I have

  • Appeased by attending something for fear of what would happen if I didn’t. (not because there was joy in my heart about going)
  • Given someone undeserved middle ground, sacrificing my family or me to avoid the conflict elsewhere.
  • Been silent in the face of evil – for fear of ramifications (terrorizing!)

Familial terrorists are great at guilt-transmutation. I feel bad if I say something that is in disagreement, but I feel equally guilty if I don’t say anything.  ”Silence in the face of evil is evil itself,” according to Dietrich Bonhoeffer.      

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer


So it comes down to guilt-classification:

  • Is the guilt because I feel like I have sinned against God? –correct guilt, needing to be addressed.
  • Is the guilt because a human has “made me” feel bad and tried (or succeeded in the case of my crying child) to change my course of action? –incorrect guilt, needing to be dismissed.

Too many times, I have been the one allowing others to “achieve their goal through systematic intimidation of …me.”

Sticking to principles is the only way to break the power of the terrorist.  Improper behavior of others doesn’t change what’s RIGHT. Familial and other terrorists exist for as long as we allow them. They have as much power as we give them.

Thank you, Terri, for your wise and wonderful words.  I hope you, my dear readers, took as much encouragement from them as I did.

What powerful words Terri shares for all of us!  Not only is our innate sense of the wrongness of relational terrorism right, we have a way out!  How freeing it is to know if we can just stick to our guns, hold to the principles we love, we can break free from the bonds that would otherwise so easily entangle us.  Being true to ourselves is first, last and always the best thing to do.  Let’s not give our personal terrorists any more sway over us, okay?

Cathy