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!

He Is Not Dead

My mom, little sister and me on Easter morning.

(A repost from Easter 2018)
I looked across the lunch table in my preschool class and noticed a little girl with tears streaming down her cheeks. She was quiet, but obviously something or someone had upset her.I knelt beside her in the middle of the noisy chattering group of 4 year olds and asked why she was crying. She pointed to her friend sitting next to her and said, “She said that Jesus is gonna die on Easter! I don’t want Easter to come!”

I hugged her and said that her friend made a little mistake and that on Easter, Jesus is alive and that’s what Easter is all about. About Jesus being alive and not dead at all! By this time the whole class was quiet and listening to me. She smiled and said she felt better now.

Our preschool is a Christian school but we don’t talk about Bible stories much in my class. I did make an exception this last week though. I told a story of a little girl with brown hair, brown eyes and freckles on her nose named Susie. Our Circle Time true story was about the Sunday many years ago when the little brown haired girl came running and shouting into her parents arms in a church sanctuary, yelling, “Mommy, he’s alive, he’s alive!!”

My mother told me this story about when I was only 3 or 4 and a Sunday School teacher must have somehow got the message across to us little ones with clarity. I don’t remember this moment, but I love it.

Today my main big thought is simply that He is alive. Jesus is alive! I will admit that I do not feel Him as clearly as I did years ago, but I still know and believe that He is alive in me.

When so much around us is negative news, this is the good news. The BEST news. I am sitting here in my living room feeling weepy, listening to Keith Green and 2nd Chapter of Acts ( I am old, you guys. Whatever).

In a few minutes I will get in my little yellow truck and drive around the corner to the sweet Methodist church behind my house. I will bask in the gentle music and smiling faces. I will rejoice in the knowing that He is alive.

Happy Easter y’all. (Yeah, I said Y’all.)
Susie

UPDATE: I am home from the Easter service and this time it was my turn to be the quiet one with tears streaming down her cheeks. But my tears were an overflow of thankfulness for my Jesus. He knows me, loves me and is alive today. In the people around me and in the swaying trees in my backyard that I am looking at just now as I sit in my yard and tap these keys.

Once again I choose belief, I choose faith, I choose to trust the unseen; illogical and fanciful though it may seem. I choose Him. It is so simple and so complicated. But here I am choosing faith.

Here I am quietly shouting, “He is alive. He is alive!”

Tada!

*  You cannot see the smile that is next to this creative masterpiece. I so wish that I could show it to you! The just-turned-5 year old worked hard and with great concentration. I mean look, it is taller than she!                                                                                                                                                       IMG_20190221_103648628 - Edited

Wearing brand new glasses that make her even cuter than she was before, she finished the job and looked at me expectantly.

I said, “Wow, that is so awesome!”

She was disappointed in my reaction. “Aren’t you going to say the “Dah” thing?”

What?

“You know, the “Dah!” thing you always say when something is awesome?”

Then I understood what she needed. “TADA!!” 

Now she glowed with satisfaction and practically bowed her “humble” thank you.

*  During our preschool Circle Time or Morning Chat Time it is not at all unusual for frantic hands to shoot up in the air accompanied by outbursts such as, “I have a rug, teacher!”, “We have a dog!” or “MY sister is 10!”. Any tidbit of info that strikes a common cord with our discussion, no matter how far from the actual subject it is, it seems vital that they share it immediately.

I may be reading a book that uses the word “rug” and they excitedly inform me that THEY have a rug at home! Their eyes are shining with happiness that they have this important news for me.

*  Last week while the kids were all working on their art project, I made the mistake of holding one little girl’s picture up to everyone and saying, “Wow, look how pretty this is!”. She quickly went back to her seat and grabbed her other drawing, handed it to me and said, “Show them this too.” I realized I may have started something that would be difficult to continue.

These three little stories have been an intriguing lesson for me. The common thread is a need to be recognized. I believe that it starts early and pretty much lasts forever.

Actors, musicians, writers, artists and athletes all want recognition. Parents want to be recognized for their sacrifices and never-ending hard work. Politicians, teachers, medical experts and architects all want some credit for what they do. We all want it. 

And how easy it is to give it. In this day of harsh words tapped out on social media, and cruelty as entertainment. It can take only a moment to express recognition. Enough to make a day!

“I hope you have a good day too. I know it’s been a long one.” Spoken with eyes connected to the eyes of the cashier can make a difference. It doesn’t have to be a big deal. But it might be to the one on the receiving end.

I know that “Teacher Appreciation Day, Pastor Appreciation Day and Secretary Appreciation Day” are all manufactured, made-up holidays. But wow, I have loved every bit of recognition that came with them. I eat it up! Maybe that is just me. But I don’t think so.

I don’t gush all over my students with false praise. That would dilute the real moments of pride and rejoicing in their accomplishments. But I also do not hold back on my true delight in who they are and what they can do! They know the difference. I am pretty sure that these little people can smell a phony.

I hope that in my day-to-day life, in and out of the classroom, I can look for opportunities to give recognition to the people around me. I want to be generous with my words of encouragement.

Maybe we can all remember to be recognizers. We can all start to look others in the eye and tell them how amazing they are. A little kindness can go a long way. We know that already, right? Kindness does not have to be providing a family with a new car or house like Ellen or Oprah. It can be as simple as a gentle word in the middle of a busy work day.

Just a little “TADA!”

Susie

 

 

 

Overwhelmed By Love

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The little church that I attend now is quiet and very non-demonstrative compared to my past church life experiences. Actually, most churches could be considered non-demonstrative in comparison. I see deep value in both styles and I am slowly falling in love with my new church family. (The “slowness” is all on me. They have welcomed me with open arms. I have just been reluctant to walk completely into those arms.) I am thankful for their patience with me, and have been on both sides of this kind of relationship.

I do not attend every Sunday. I am one of THOSE. Again, it feels weird to be that kind of person. The one who shows up sporadically to random services and church events. I never used to understand “those” people and now I am one.

But today I went to church. I got myself dressed up in nicer clothes than my work t-shirts and jeans, drove around the block from my house and walked through those church doors. I looked into the eyes of the people walking towards me and was embraced by a friend that I work with at the preschool.

I muted my phone and took a seat near some ladies from the book club that I attend once a month. The pastor came and chatted with me for a minute about the school and some changes that are coming up in the next year. Another friend came and teased me about a mutual situation we are in.

I sat down again feeling known, accepted and loved. With a deep breath I thanked God for loving me enough to push me into relationships that scare me.

And one of the first songs led by the “blueGrace Band” was the song RECKLESS LOVE. All about the overwhelming love of God…

“Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
And I couldn’t earn it, I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God.”
(Songwriters: Caleb Culver / Cory Asbury / Ran Jackson , Reckless Love lyrics © Bethel Music Publishing, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC)

I closed my eyes, lifted my hands and basked in His love. Tears came and I did not want the song to end. I smile now as I realize that this revealed another difference from my past church life. This song would have been sung at least 5 or 7 more times in row! Haha! We did believe in getting everything out of a song or message that we could! 🙂

Some people get upset at the use of the word “reckless” in this song. (Sheesh!) I love it, but the word that always sparks my heart is the word “overwhelming”.

That is not a safe and secure word. That is a word that means out-of-control, not normal, unexpected, huge! To be overwhelmed is not all comfy and sweet. It is not carefully contained or bordered. It’s a “swept off my feet” kind of word, isn’t it?

The overwhelmed word makes me think of standing in the ocean when an unexpected wave hits you and at the same time the wet sand beneath your feet gives way and you find yourself floating and tumbling in the water. I’ve known this experience and it isn’t all fun and games until you manage to right yourself again and then you laugh. But being overwhelmed by a crashing wave is an amazing and exhilarating sensation!

If you let it, His love can be like that. God’s love for you is not gentle, meek or mild. It is powerful and can feel relentless. He loves you with all of His being. How big is that? He loves you with all of the power of creation. How much is that?

The love of God can tumble you upside down and around until you are laughing and gasping for air. He will set you back on your feet and then blindside you again with His love from a whole different direction when you are not looking.

If I have any advice to give; it will be the same thing I am talking to myself about. Let Him love you. Say “Yes!” to His big love. Stop protecting yourself from His reckless love. Walk wholeheartedly into those arms. Go ahead and allow the embrace. Tumbles may happen, but you will come up laughing.

Overwhelmed by Him,
Susie

Always Comes Back to Love

My home is quiet right now. My adorable (and sassy) daughter-in-law makes a point of having the two kids and herself out of the house on the days that I work at the preschool. She knows that I need some silent, down time after a day full of 15 busy and noisy 4 year olds.

She loves me and goes out of her way to try and make my life easier. Even in the middle of our crazy co-living situation that can be a challenge for all of us at times. This is one of the things she does because she loves me.

When I empty the dishwasher I always place my husband’s favorite coffee mug toward the front of the cupboard door that I know he opens first. He does not know that I do this silly little gesture every day. But I do it because I love him and want to do all I can to make his life easier, even in such a tiny unnoticeable way.

When we know that we are loved, it changes us inside doesn’t it? I know that it makes me want to live up to that love. I stand taller, feel calmer and like myself better when I am in the company of people who love me.

When I talk and write about how much God loves each one of us, it is not a small message. Most of us have heard the message of God’s love for much of our lives. If you did not hear it from your family or friends, you had glimpses of the love message on TV, in books, magazines and online.

Knowing that I am loved by God has saved my sanity. I am an anxious person. A worrier and over-thinker. Is it possible to be an optimistic pessimist? I am both. Each time I leave the house I practically hold my breath until I am back home. I am also a very happy and cheerful woman.

But / And I am loved by God. He knows me. He knows that every time I drive away from my house alone to go to the store, I spend the first 5 minutes telling myself that I can still turn back and go home for the day instead.

He knows that I hide in the ladies room at church sometimes. I believe that He smiles when I take a deep breath and greet the ladies coming toward me as I leave the restroom.

I am known and loved by God. I know that He loves me because of the small and large things He has done to show me. I know that He gave me my wonderful husband. I know that my job is a gift from God. I know that He loves me when I am on my living room floor playing with my grand kids.

Being loved by God helps me breath. Knowing I am loved keeps me from hiding in my home. Knowing that I am loved makes me stand taller, feel calmer and like myself better.

When I question His ways…I remind myself of His love. When I am confused or angry…I remind myself of His love. When He does not do what I think He should do…I remind myself of His love. It ALWAYS comes back to His love.

We are all loved. God loves you, me and the annoying neighbor. He knows you…and He loves you…still.