Sitting With Joyce

(This is a chapter from my book titled Sitting With Joyce. My dear friend of 30 years passed away last week and my heart has been swirling with hundreds of important moments with this amazing woman. Joyce did not know how to do small talk, she immediately looked you in the eye and went to big talk. I am a reserved and quiet person, so this was not my favorite thing about my friend. But she was a teacher in my life in so many ways, and I knew that she loved me, so I trusted her. She gave me SO MUCH. The following story was a huge lesson for me and I love that it blessed her too!)

THE FRONT OF THE large church sanctuary is crowded with people coming for prayer at the end of a beautiful service. The band plays softly. People are standing and worshiping along with the music. Many are kneeling as others pray for them.

I look around and wonder what I ought to do.

Should I go find someone to pray for?

As part of the large church staff, there is an understanding that we are there to minister to others whenever possible. But on this morning I do not really feel like moving from my seat on the front row next to my good friend, Joyce, another staff member who definitely lives up to the first three letters of her name.

Her eyes are closed and I can sense such a sweet peacefulness there that I wish we could just sit like this forever. Seriously. Stealing a glance at her, I see that tears are flowing silently down her cheeks.

I gently reach over and place my hand on her back. No words right now, not yet. I take a deep breath; the sweetness of God’s presence is so real that I smile at a memory. I am thinking of a message I heard recently about “being out of our minds in love with God.” It was based on  

Ephesians 3:18,19, where the apostle Paul prays that we would “understand the love of Christ which passes understanding.”

..that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being grounded in love, may be able to comprehend…what is the width and length and depth and height…to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:17-19 NKJV

It sounds more than a little bit contradictory, doesn’t it? This is why I am smiling as I ponder it. Ephesians is recording a prayer that we would be able to somehow grasp and understand the huge love of God. But right there in the same verse it states that this love is beyond our understanding! Hello?

The love of God is too big for our mind to comprehend. The only way to “get it” is to let go of the idea that our little minds can understand it. We can believe and know the love of God only by getting “out of our minds” and believing it. It is a spirit thing, not an intellectual thing, at times.

So, normally when I am in the situation of praying for someone, my mind is racing with inner questions. Should I pray aloud so they can hear me? What should I be praying about? Maybe I ought to ask them what their need is. What are You doing God? What do You want me to say to her?

But on this morning, sitting in the front row of a large church sanctuary, I relaxed and waited. I did not strive to figure out what God may be doing in Joyce or in me at that moment. I remembered the truth about being “out of my mind” and remained silent. I knew something was transferring from me to my friend and I just sat there with my hand on her back and enjoyed the peace of the moment. 

Joyce and I probably sat like that for 10 or 15 minutes without a single word being spoken. I watched the people around us beginning to move about and do the normal after-church chatting and laughing. Lunch plans were being made, but I felt no desire to move out of our silent bubble of sweetness and rest. My eyes were open and I smiled at others, but did not want to talk to anyone just yet.

After about 15 minutes Joyce opened her eyes and looked at me. She softly spoke, “Sooz, really good stuff was happening in me and you did not even need to “go there” with me verbally at all. Your presence truly carried me into God’s presence. This atmosphere-changer thing is very real in you, Sooz.”

Her words brought tears to my eyes. Not only did my peaceful atmosphere affect my friend, but the words she spoke totally confirmed the silent prayer I had sent to God. I had asked Him if I needed to verbally pray for her and felt it was time to be quiet. I was blown away.

This is the power of His love. The love of God is an atmosphere changer. And we get to be the carriers of this amazing power. The power of His love can bring peace into a turbulent situation and rest to a struggling heart. When words will not do, a simple touch can make all the difference. It is beyond our understanding, this God-size love.

When Ephesians reminds us to seek to know the love of God, which is too much for us to understand, it is a call to get out of our minds. It is a challenge to those of us who tend to over-think and ultra-analyze our every waking moment. I do not have to feel peaceful in order to carry peace into a situation. My desire to have everything understood and figured out can hold me back from grasping His love because it is simply too big for me to comprehend.  

If we wait until we can understand God’s love, we will never be able to truly enjoy it and rest in it. This book is all about God’s love for you and for me, but it is an inexhaustible subject—a limitless truth without boundaries or borders of any kind.

Sadly, many of us miss out on the fun of His love because we are using our heads to believe it. Remember the Ephesians passage?

His love will not fit in our heads.

It does not compute.

It makes no sense.

It is illogical.

We are to seek to know the love of God because He wants us to know Him better. His love is who He is. There is no separation between God and the love of God, it is not a part of Him, it IS Him.

God IS love.

 

YOUR TURN…

God is in you, Dear One. You carry Him and so you are a carrier of His love. You are an atmosphere-changer. When you walk into a room, the love of God comes with you into that room.

Believe it.

Walk in that truth and watch the difference you can bring into a tough situation. Don’t worry about finding the perfect words to speak. Do not strive to be the all-knowing wise counselor everywhere you go.

The beauty of this truth is that you will bring peace into a room without even working at it. You are a carrier. His spirit in you will change the atmosphere of a situation when you rest in Him.

Just BE the love carrier that God has designed you to be. That will be more than enough.

Thank You, Father, for choosing to use me as Your love-carrier and peace-bringer. Even when I do not feel perfectly peaceful, I know that You are big enough to enter a room with me and make a difference for everyone within my circle of influence. I am overwhelmed that You would do this through little old me. Thank You, Father!

 

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“Sooz”

Soul Space

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It is early morning on my first real day of Spring Break from the preschool where I teach. I am watching the sun rise through the window and taking deep breaths and getting ready to “ease into my day.”

Those last four words are the way Soul Space ends each short meditation. I have been relishing a new online Christian Meditation app every morning since having a small health scare a few weeks ago. My mind, heart and body need rest. My thoughts can be an enemy, but they can also be a savoir when managed well.

My sister has been suggesting I check out Soul Space for the last several months. It is the sweetest, deepest and easiest way to corral your thoughts and spirit at the beginning of each day. Each gently led meditation is only 3 to 6 minutes long. So beautiful and simple, and yet so powerful in the middle of our crazy lives.

I have struggled spiritually in recent years. My normal go-to tools that I used to use to enter God’s presence are reminders of old places I do not want to revisit. Even my old Bible is full of memories and margin notes that take me to the past instead of the future with new possibilities.

I have a good history with God. But I long for a new experience with Him. For a fresh start, without old baggage. I want to know Him in the reality of my life today. I need a new way to hear Him and see Him in this new life.

So, on most mornings I wake up about 15 minutes early, I get comfy, close my eyes and tap the tiny crown emblem on my phone. Soft music and a comforting voice nudges me into deep breaths and an atmosphere of the love of God.

Once again, the love of God is my resting place…my high tower…my sanctuary. Psalm 27 has long been my life passage and these moments are described in my favorite verses, 4 and 5 of Psalm 27.

“Be Still.”  Is it even possible in this day? Our world clamors at us in a constant noise that we invite in every time we look at our phones or click on the TV. And in the last several weeks those noises have been especially ugly and frightening.

“Be Still.” It is possible. But not by accident. Not by hoping. Finding rest for our spirit and our mind has to be intentional. I believe that even a simple three minute meditation is a good beginning. (Just now, as I wrote that last line, I recalled my literal hours of meditation and worship that I used to do. See? The mind can mess with our good intentions and cause us to doubt any forward movement.)

Thank you Sis, for nagging encouraging me to subscribe to Soul Space. You were right (it happens) and now I am ready to “ease into my day.”

Susie

 

What Made Them Bow Before a Toddler?

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What Made Them Bow Before A Toddler?

I quickly reached for a pen from my purse when I heard that question posed to the church congregation. There was something jarring about it that resonated with me, and being a lover of words, this little sentence was a great one that I knew I would be exploring further.

The stories of the nativity tend to have a fable-like feeling to them don’t they? We hear them so often and many of us first heard them in a children’s version. Sadly, that simplistic fairy-tale like quality stays with the Biblical stories of shepherds, angels and kings long into our adult lives. It is so easy to forget that these were all real live people who were not that different from us. They must have had a few questions, don’t you think?

Since hearing those words, “What made them bow before a toddler?” I have been turning it over and over in my mind and heart and my only answer is that the famous shepherds and the royal wise men must have had some kind of major encounter that caused them to bow before a baby, a toddler who looked like any other in the world.

We know that an angel appeared to the shepherds while they were doing what they always did; watching sheep, sleeping, sitting around a campfire talking and laughing. Am I the only one who has become so used to hearing that “an angel appeared” that it actually sounds normal? But it was most definitely not normal! Those poor sheep chasers were freaked out! An angel APPEARED from out of nowhere, from out of the darkness and he or she had to say, “Don’t be afraid, I’m bringing you some good news!” (Luke 2:8-18)

Then when the shepherds had finally begun to breath again, SUDDENLY there was a huge ARMY of angels praising and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” Would you agree with me that these words were probably shouted or declared with loud voices rather than simply spoken in quiet tones? This was a once in a lifetime supernatural encounter for the shepherds. It shook them up and caused them to look at one another, once the darkness of the night returned and the angels disappeared, and say, “Let’s go see this thing!”

The Bible says that the wise men, the appointed advisors to kings, saw something unusual in the stars and because of their training, they recognized that this star was not an ordinary one. These spiritual sky-watchers recognized the sign of a baby king spoken of through generations of handed down stories. The wise men, the intellectuals of their time, dropped their current studies and pursuits to “follow the star.”  This was no simple act of jumping on a plane and checking out an interesting rumor. What did their families and colleagues think of this? (Matthew 2:1-23)

These respected men must have felt a stirring in their hearts. Did they look at one another just like the shepherds did and say, “Let’s go see this thing!”?

Even Joseph did not take the miracle of Jesus at face value. He too experienced an angelic encounter to help him understand and agree to stay beside Mary through the coming months and years. He was a normal man getting ready to marry a normal woman. In some ways, his sacrifice and obedience is greater than any of the other characters in this amazing story of Christmas! But he had an encounter. A supernatural encounter in the night with an angel telling him what to expect and what he must do. (Matthew 1:18-25)

All of these individuals were living their lives just like you and me. Until an unexpected and unexplainable encounter changed them forever. Do you think that those shepherds, wise men and Joseph were ever the same again? A supernatural encounter turned their worlds upside down (or right side up).

What made them bow before a toddler?

A personal encounter.

Something extraordinary happened to them and in them. Each one came face to face with a reality that was more real than anything they had ever known. A personal encounter with the supernatural will move you from a spectator to a participant.

Every year as the Christmas season approaches I wonder what my own personal encounter will be that year. It seems that I always have a particular ‘moment’ where the deep reality of what God did hits me close and sweet. That moment comes in many different shapes and forms; I never know where it will be or who may bring it. It could be in written words on a page, lyrics of a song or simply sitting in front of a lighted tree in my living room.

I pray that your own personal encounter with the supernatural side of Christmas is a rich, surprising and delightful one this year!

Susie Klein

My Accidental Holiday Hack

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“Did you get this snowflake one for me? Thank you!”

“Oh Grandma you’ll love this!”

“What the…?”

“I got a car! I can’t believe it!”

“That Nana!”

“Do you love it, Lucy?”

“I got this one for you!”

I heard all of these sweet exclamations the other day in my living room. From my five year old grandson.

Was he opening gifts? Nope. He and his two year old sister were happily opening and closing a pile of decorative gift boxes that I had on my coffee table and under the Christmas tree.

A couple of years ago, I accidentally stumbled on an amazing holiday game that continues to surprise me. I had saved a stack of pretty boxes that came with popcorn, candy and nuts in them from Sam’s Club or Costco. They were gifts to us and since I love containers of all kinds, I saved the pretty boxes.

When my grandson was 3, I let him play with them as long as I was near, because I did not want them broken and ruined. He happily stacked, unstacked, nested and lined them up  for days. Then he started putting random toys in them and presenting them to me with a twinkle in his eye.

Now, as a five year old big brother he has introduced them to Little Sis and it is hysterical to me. The conversation is so funny and so full of heartfelt gratitude and joy!

They are enjoying the boxes so much! Brilliant, right? It is also distracting them from the ornaments a bit too.

Seriously, I think this could be a powerful “Christmas Hack” for young families to try. They are using their imagination and it is good for the small motor development to open and close the boxes and learn which size fits inside another size.

Pass it on…

You are welcome.

Susie

The Problem With Faith

img_20191101_135828705                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               I’ve been feeling down. Not down enough to stay in bed all day. Just enough to sigh and mutter, “Oh well.” to myself a lot. You know how you look in the mirror for a while as you try this and try that and then you say, “Oh I don’t care!” and walk into your day? But you do care. I care.

This really isn’t about my looks, or how I feel about my looks. But that kind of mirror moment is a small symptom of my days when I feel down. It’s always about more than what I look like.

This morning I had my first cup of coffee while still in bed. This has been a new and quite lovely little habit that began while my kids and their kids were living with us. I like a quiet morning, so I usually stayed put until they finished their family breakfast time. I also felt like it was important for them to have at least one meal a day with just them around the table.

Anyway, after my bed-coffee this morning, I began the day puttering around the kitchen and a few sad sighs escaped my lips. I decided to take a faith step and turn on some uplifting music. Some Jesus-loving music.

Even as I asked Google for my song choice, I thought it was probably a wasted effort.

This is the problem with faith. Faith requires faith. Faith takes faith.

At least a tiny bit anyway.

Something inside me had to know that choosing uplifting music could make a difference. Right? Even though a very big part of my mind told me it was a futile effort. Things are still what they are. My issues will still be my issues. The facts will still be the facts.

AND THEN the words floated above me and tried hard to get past my mind and into my heart. I almost batted them away. I nearly grumbled back at them as I sometimes do when a song says that I am loved and treasured by God.

But I did not bat the simple words away this time. I did not fully embrace them either.

I asked myself if I had enough faith to have faith. If I had just enough faith to be open to faith. The Bible talks about how teeny, tiny faith, even as small as a mustard seed is enough. But I’ve had huge faith in the past that did not end well. So…

Faith takes faith. I am not a big fan of this. I am a planner. A precise, meticulous planner. If I have to drive somewhere new, I not only look it up on mapquest, but I also look at the route on satellite-mode so I can actually see the landmarks, intersections and any possible barriers. I PRINT out the directions because I do not trust my gps. GPS only tells me one turn at a time. I like the whole picture, thank you very much!

This morning I had just enough faith to ask Google to play Steffany Gretzinger instead of Frank Sinatra for a change. Nothing wrong with Frank. Both can be heartwarming and soothing. Both make me smile.

Faith takes faith. Or it can take a small step of “whatever, let’s give it a go..”

And it helped. My sighing turned to a soft humming. God knows me. He gets my quirks, my weird requirements. He loves me, even when I don’t. That’s pretty cool.

Susie

Bare Feet Are A No No!

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Every week day I walk out to my front porch, down the one step to a short sidewalk to my cement driveway to our mailbox beside the street curb. Even though my truck is parked right there in the driveway, I try to walk along the little strip of driveway instead of walking across my front lawn.

And every single time I do it, I think about how weird it is.

Our first week in this house I saw our neighbor in front of her house next door and I wanted to meet her. So I hopped down the step with a big smile and walked across our front lawn to say “Hi.”

My new neighbor was horrified and let out a little screech! “What are you doing?” she almost yelled, her eyes darting across my bare feet on my grassy front yard. Did I mention that I am always barefoot at home and I did the unthinkable… I walked across a grassy area without looking down! Horrors!

I laughed nervously and asked what was wrong. She told me that no one walks barefoot in the grass around here, especially her. “Too many critters!” she shuddered a bit as she said it.

I still had no clue what she meant and when I told my husband about the exchange later I made fun of her “irrational fear” of a simple thing like grass. She had even told me that she has never walked across her backyard without shoes or boots on! Said she hates it out there.

Well, we have now lived here in Texas for nearly 5 years and I have flip flops next to both my back door and front door because I have learned a thing or two about the “critters” in this area.

The main one that is most prevalent on our little plot of Texas land is Fire Ants, and they totally deserve the name! The mounds pop up overnight in the lawn and these little guys bite hard and leave a very real mark. Whenever I get bit, it puffs up, burns and itches and hurts for at least a week. Every single time. Horrible!

Apparently they crawl on you as a group and then at a signal or movement from you they all bite at the same time. Pretty sure I read that somewhere. Beyond reading about it, my first Fire Ant experience was exactly like that. And it was not even outside!

One night during our first month here I was putting on my pajamas to go to bed. I had them on and felt a tiny pinch that scared me and when I jumped to get the pjs off I felt bites all over my back and legs. Stupid fire ants were in my jammies and yes, Sis, I had ants in my pants!

My quick and frantic dance was memorable for my husband and a returning nightmare for me.

So even if I decide to skip the flip flops to check the mail, I will not walk barefoot in the grass anymore. We also have seen snakes, coyotes and armadillo in our yard, so it is best to keep eyes on the ground when outside no matter what time of day or night.

My cousin posted a funny photo of grassy flip flops that reminded me of my ongoing Texas education. Thanks Renae! Maybe if I found a pair, I could relive my California days of walking barefoot across a huge grassy park and even …gasp!…lying down on the grass to watch the clouds above.

Any surprising habits you had to get used to in a new state?

Susie

 

 

 

What Is It About Water?

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Water is just water. But it seems kind of magical to me sometimes. Today I enjoyed time in this beautiful pool of water with the soft trickle of a waterfall soothing every muscle in my body. Swirling, frustrating emotions melted away as I moved through the lovely saltwater from one end to the other back and forth.

I love the feel of my hands gliding through the water, pushing it away from me to propel this body in circles, or simply treading water . I like to push against the water and feel the resistance. I don’t even know how to swim properly. I do not use any correct strokes or style. But I love everything about being in water.

Depth does not scare me. I was always the last one back in the boat whenever given the opportunity to swim far out in the ocean! I always knew that my body could easily float if I got tired. In my pool I practice treading water with just my legs or just my arms to see how long I can do it and as a delicious way to get some great exercise.

I am not sure why water seems to be more than water for me. It is a spiritually renewing treat for me. Every. Single. Time. Early in our marriage we lived in a tiny “granny unit” type house on the back of a ranch in Petaluma California. It did not have a shower, but it had an amazing old claw-foot freestanding tub! I loved it! The back was slanted at just the right angle and it was my little relaxation station as a new mom. And then in later years in other homes, the tub was where I went to get away from everything and everyone and have a little cry if I needed it. Or as a sweet treat, with glass of wine and a book.

In my current home we have a tub that I hate, actually. It is called a Garden Tub and seemed pretty wonderful when we first saw the house. But it is about 4 feet deep (not really) and the sides are all straight up and down! It takes forever to fill up and then when it is full, it is not comfortable to relax in at all. For now it is mostly a dust collector. Now I have a glorious saltwater pool for my relaxing anyway. I can’t remember the last time I used that tub. I am not going to whine about my garden tub when I have a swimming pool in my own yard. (But I did just complain about it didn’t I?)

I am a February-Aquarius born baby, could that be it? Could that be why water is such a healing and calming thing for me? I am extremely grateful and thankful for my pool and backyard. I am thankful that it backs up to a little wooded area that follows a creek through our city. So when I am floating on my back or on a float raft I can look up into lush trees and hear birds, squirrels and cicadas talking to one another. Looking up and seeing a neighbor’s back windows would not be nearly as relaxing I am sure. (I feel so spoiled!)

My pool does give us some headaches from time to time. It has a leak problem that we have spent a lot of money trying to find and repair. Hopefully it is all good now, but who knows? Our backyard patio cement has shifted and left huge cracks that look like the pool may just decide to slide on into the forest any day now. The wasps that love our yard are a constant battle for me.

My husband works hard on keeping the chemicals just right in the pool at all times. He does not even swim! But knowing that I love it so much gives him great pleasure. It really does! He will text me from work on my days off and say that he hopes I am swimming. And now he loves seeing my son and his family using the pool as much as possible. It gives him a big smile to see the pool full of kids!

There really is no point to this post I suppose. Today as I swam I heard these words tumbling around in my head and decided to write about my crazy love affair with water. I have no explanation or spiritual application for it. I am thinking that you can find your own if you wish. Mostly tonight as I sit on my couch and see the sparkling water out my window, I am simply thankful. God created each one of us and He knows how to bless us better than anyone else. Because He knows us best. “Father knows best!” Haha!

What is your sweet pleasure in your world?

Susie

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Today after a wonderful swim!