Choose Gratitude Over Fear Then, Give it Away

We have been living in a new normal for nearly three weeks now. What was normal, taken for granted and routine is for the present, absent. COVID-19 has pulled the rug out from us, rendering us homebound, strategizing how to score toilet paper and remain sane. It’s a big job.

Fueled by Fear

Many among us are fearful of what’s to come. The stock market plunges, rises and plunges again. Once bountiful supplies of food and supplies are absent from the stores we shop at. Hoarding abounds. With school and work cancelled (excepting essential workers) students are home and parents are scurrying to both educate their kids and keep up with their own work remotely.

Panic And Hoarding = Fear and Anxiety

Enough of the bad news.

Tensions are running high. The good news is we’re in this together. Ask those not accustomed to being in this quite so together and they may say it’s also the bad news. There are a lot of “what ifs” to think about. And yes, fear abounds. Life is uncertain. Tomorrow is not promised.

ENOUGH WITH THE BAD NEWS

The good news is still good. There is a God in Heaven who loves us and who has not been surprised by the events that have taken our breath away. Seventy-seven years ago, CS Lewis wrote:

Satan: “I will cause anxiety, fear and panic. I will shutdown business, schools, places of worship and sports events. I will cause economic turmoil.”

Jesus: “I will bring together neighbors, restore the family unit, I will bring dinner back to the kitchen table. I will help peple slow down their lives and appreciate what really matters. I will teach my children to rely on me and not the world. I will teach my children to trust me and not their money and material resources.”

The husband reading our morning scripture to me- a wonderful new normal!

How is this good news? It’s good because God is at work. He is causing us to re-examine our lives which are often so busy we have little time for self-reflection. For most of us, right now we have an abundance of time. Time for the best things, the most important things. Things like prayer, sharing a family meal around our tables, staying in touch with those we love have too often taken a back seat to the things that matter most- the things that ground us- the foundational things. We’re busy with lots of stuff, much of it ostensibly good, things like book clubs, church activities, exercise classes, sporting events, meals with friends, volunteering, deadlines, celebrations and even work commitments. Then there are those other things- the binge watching, social media scrolling, on-line shopping, excessive work, etc,.

We as a culture have fallen prey to what what Charles E. Hummel so eloquently called “The Tyranny of the Urgent.” If you haven’t read it, google it now. It may well change your life. If the meantime, let’s change the tide, starting today.

What if we decided to cease worry and anxiety? What if we decided to change our focus? Let’s begin to fix our eyes on the One who came to bring hope. Let’s remember how much we have to be thankful for. Let’s be intentional about releasing fear and resting in His peace. Let’s take the challenge and walk forward as light to a world stumbling in darkness. In a word, if you have light, shine it.

Be the light that guides someone home.

Begin today. Here are some ways to start:

If you are a person of faith, share it with someone who isn’t. If ever the world was in need of saving, it’s now. If you know the Savior, share the hope that is within you. Give it away.

Pick up your phone and call someone you’ve neglected to maintain contact with in your normal day to day life. Time is a gift. Give it away.

Write a note or card to someone you love and appreciate. Tell them what they mean to you. Pop a stamp on it and leave it out for your mail carrier to send it on. Everyone thrives when they’re shown appreciation. Give some away.

Open your Bible and begin to read the book of Matthew. You’ll come to know Jesus in a more intimate way and you may be amazed at how relevant his words are in the midst of this chaos. Then encourage someone else to do the same. Give it away.

Love in a Bag

My friend Tracy who has an orange tree, picked a bunch of them, sanitized and bagged them up and then delivered them to doorsteps of others. My friend Cindy left little cans full of flowers in her drive way for her neighbors to claim and enjoy at home. Find something, even something small that you can do and do it. Caring for our neighbors is love. Give some away.

Loving Your Neighbor Isn’t So Hard!

Greet everyone with a smile while practicing 6 foot distancing. You may have someone to go home to but they may not. Be a vessel of joy to everyone you meet. Give it awayway.

Just smile!

Remember physical distancing doesn’t have to be social distancing. Stay in touch with others everyday. Call someone who lives alone, someone who is disabled, isolated or anxious. Be a lifeline, make the call, bring cheer. Give it away.

Practice intentional gratitude. Make it your practice to write down at least three things you’re thankful for today and everyday. If you’re fortunate enough to share a meal with your family, share among yourselves what each is grateful for today. Gratitude isn’t gratitude until it’s shared. Give it away.

A page from my gratitude journal circa 2005
(I’m now up to 1734!)

Finally, if you haven’t already, consider that there is One who created this world and who has a plan. Ponder the possibility that we may have gotten off track thinking our independence is a good thing, that we have things under control and that God’s ways are outdated and unnecessary. I believe that because He loves his creation so much, He will allow us to come to the end of our own ropes waiting patiently to be acknowledged. Cry out to Him, call to Him for help. He is standing ready, to give it away.

Don't Worry…All is Well

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

…Jesus (Matthew 6:25-27)

PeRsPeCtIvE

It was Christmas morning and I was savoring the quiet of my home, having celebrated with family the night before. The husband was downstairs reading his news and I, nestled under the covers, a cup of coffee in hand and a sleeping dog at my feet, was remembering the long expected news that I awakened to on Christmas Eve. The message read:

A lifelong friend released her beloved mother to her final destination, after five weeks of hospice care at home. She was a neighbor when I was growing up, one of my own mother’s dearest friends and a woman who touched my life significantly. She spent her first Christmas on streets of gold in a new home specifically prepared for her.

John 14:1-2

PERSPECTIVE

Putting the finishing touches on Christmas eve prep’, I discovered an army of ants taking possession of two pies and a package of dinner rolls. When I say an army, I mean hundreds of tiny black ants that have been terrorizing our home for the last several months. They were currently having a picnic at the expense of my sanity. I frantically summoned my husband and sent him on a replacement mission as I contended with eliminating the swarming soldiers that had overrun my laundry room. I was sharply scolding said ants in very stern tones, feeling very sorry for myself, when I was reminded that my friend lost her mother just hours ago.

How it shoulda been

PERSPECTIVE

Three dozen cookies, baked, frosted and artfully drizzled with chocolate, prepared to be gifted to my neighbors and ready to be transferred to the refrigerator, slide out of my hands landing face down on my kitchen floor after hours of labor invested. Peppermint icing and chocolate syrup splashed onto cupboards and floors mocking any thought of delivery to anyone. Woe is me. Then I am reminded that my cupboards are full and my troubles are few.

How it Was

PERSPECTIVE

An hour later we’re walking into Christmas Eve services when I catch site of my dear friend Nancy, she with a scarf wrapped around her head and a mask over her face as she recovers from a recent stem cell transplant. In the interest of limiting the possiblity of infection of any sort, she has been largely unable to leave her home, let alone worship in our large congregation for many, many weeks. The sight of her fills my eyes with grateful tears and heart to overflowing. Great joy.

Day Made

PERSPECTIVE

A friend shares that in the midst of a trying conflict with one of her children, she gets in her car, upset and discouraged at the failure to find peace. She proceeds to back out of her garage when she catches sight of a neighbor whose own child was killed in an act of violence recently. In an instant she was reminded that despite the momentary disharmony in her own home, she still had her child.

PERSPECTIVE

There is great unrest in our world. We hear news that more Christians in Nigeria have been beheaded by representatives of the Islamic State. Daily we are bombarded by reports of our own leaders slinging horrifying accusations at one another and our culture becomes more devisive by the moment. Those who accuse others of hate, speak their own hate. Facebook reports another missing person every day and what was once shamed is celebrated. Even so, the entire world paused to celebrate the birth of a king who came to save us from our sin. There is still hope in this chaos.

PERSPECTIVE

I give little time and attention to politics or our changing culture, except to pray, for our leaders, all of them, that they would be wise, that they would do good, and that they would be used for God’s purposes here on earth. I don’t trouble myself with the details of who said what. Some may say I’m willfully ignorant of what is happening around me. The truth is, I don’t believe our problems are political or even cultural. I believe our problem is spiritual and hence I take the spiritual road to address them. If I look at the condition of our world, the sorrow of death, the frustrations of daily life and allow them to discourage me, I will be without hope. Instead, my hope is firm.

PERSPECTIVE

They say hindsight is 2020. Well, here we are. It’s 2020. Nostalgia is fine in small doses but to immerse oneself in it too deeply or too frequently generally results in rewriting history, smoothing out the rough edges and idealizing what was while missing what is. Right now. Looking back is useful only if we learn from it and repent from behaviors less than stellar. To repent is to make a u-turn. To learn from the past is useful. To live in the present, with perspective is priceless.

EMMANUEL In the Waiting

“He’s in the waiting…” This lyric from Bethel Music and Kristene DiMarco’s song, Take Courage keeps rolling around my head in this season of advent and reminds my heart to take comfort in His presence as I wait. His answers are coming even as we wait for the celebration of the birth of the Christchild.

What are you waiting for? Advent is about waiting for what is to come. In this case, the coming savior/child in a manger, who came as an infant to die on a cross some 33 years later. The entire world is waiting for Christmas right now, for all the gatherings, celebrations and tender moments we can muster.

For the last two hours helicopters have been circling my neighborhood. Sirens have been wailing. Schools are on lockdown. We’re in our home, doors locked and waiting to be told what the heck is going on. We’re all waiting for something aren’t we? And, sometimes the waiting is a little scary. Whether it’s for a healing, a relationship, a promotion, a broken heart to mend, a conflict to be resolved, a fear to subside or something else; waiting is an integral part of living. And, what we do in the waiting says everything about where our hope lies and how content we will be.

If our hope is in our own ability to create, manipulate, manage or control the events of our lives, we will surely grow weary. We will be heart sick.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12

If our hope is in the Creator of the universe, the Saviour of the world, we can release our grasp and trust that not only will He deliver every good gift on time, but that He is, indeed, with us as we wait for events to unfold, trusting that He never withholds what is good for us and what will bring Him glory. He who came down from Heaven to walk this earth with us and who will return to gather us to our eternal home, is big enough, powerful enough and loves us more than enough to manage all the things that confound us, worry us and keep us up at night. Emmanuel. God with us.

I’m waiting for friends to be healed from cancer, people I care deeply for struggling with mental illness to have sound minds, loved ones in need of work to find jobs, grieving ones to be comforted, the faithless to find faith in Jesus and for the peace on earth that only He will bring. That’s a lot of waiting, friends. While I may not understand the delay or even the “final answer” in any given situation, my hope is in the God I believe is good. Believing so doesn’t mean we won’t experience sorrow, tears or disappointment, but it does mean that in the end, our hope is in Him and not in our own screenplay of what our life should be. Spoiler alert: His script is far better than anything we might imagine.

We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses… Hebrew 4:15

Whatever you are waiting for, He’s in the waiting. He knows your heart and He is able to carry you through it dear one, so don’t lose hope. We don’t wait alone. He’s right there with us.

Emmanuel. God with us.

GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST

Write On

It’s safe to say that no one was more shocked than I that Friday morning in 1972 when my name was announced. The panel of judges had chosen me as the first prize winner for news writing at the 19th Annual Press Day at El Camino College. Sitting in the darkened auditorium awaiting the results, I had zero hope or expectation of being recognized. In all honesty, I had strongly considered not even showing up that day as nearly 400 student journalists from 17 South Bay high schools convened to compete. It was truly a last minute decision to jump into my ’65 Mustang and head to the competition. What the heck. All my friends were going, so, why not?

The South Bay Daily Breeze gave me my fifteen minutes of fame…

I remember hearing speakers, attending the informational session and being told to write a news story about it. I was as nonchalant about the contest as a seventeen year old girl could be, still pondering whether to even bother to write the assigned article or not, with no thought of a win. I was already there, and the time was going to pass anyway, so why not just write and get my participation badge?

When I look back on that day, nearly half a century earlier, I view the experience through different lenses. I now see that day as confirmation that I am, indeed, a writer- that I was born with an ability and a desire to write. This, not because I worked so hard at it, or because I studied long or honed my craft– not because I was the best prepared, but, because God gifted me with something that He wanted me to use for His glory. When I least expected to be recognized, He singled me out and shined a light on the gift He gave.

Redondo’s HIGH TIDE featured all the winners on the front page.
My very brief moment of high school glory!

Though there was a time when I had aspirations to write on a grander scale, I am happy now to share my little stories here with you, whoever and wherever you may be. I will continue write to share with you the meaningful moments and lessons He blesses me with, as I endeavor to fully live this beautiful, difficult, joyful, challenging and precious life He has called me to. Gifts are meant to be shared, so, I will write in response to the One who gives and Who consistently reminds me to pass it on. The act of processing life through these humble words is my response to the Giver of all good gifts. It matters not whether only one person or a million reads them. He made me a writer and, so, I must write.

I am well aware that blogs like this are a dime a dozen and that there is a plethora of writers far more eloquent than I. I am a little fish in a big pond. My aim is not for wealth or fame or a certain number of followers. In fact, the older I get, the more I crave a quiet life. Still, in the rhythms of my quiet, everyday life, I see the simplest moments as stories waiting to be told.

What gifts might you be hoarding that He intended you to give away? No matter where you are in life, it’s not to late to begin. Take a step of faith. Give it away.

To Everything, A Season

It’s Labor Day weekend and your local barista is already offering all things pumpkin spice. I have lamented multiple times, this week alone, that Summer has flown by faster than a whistling 4th of July rocket. I often express surprise at how the seasons sneak up on us, but the truth is, they are predictable, unlike some other segments of our lives. As the curtain on another Summer draws to a close, I am reminded that one of the few things we can absolutely count on is change.

To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under Heaven…

Ecclesiastes 3:1

Be it the weather, our health, relationships or the seasons themselves, we can be certain that life will frequently be in flux. There will always be new mountains to climb and inner strength will be necessary. Our ability to find our “sea legs” will determine how we will ride out the subtle changes and larger storms of this life.

There will always be mountains to climb…

A time to be born, And a time to die…

Ecclesiastes 3:2a

Pressing through the grief, disappointments and irritations that are common to all takes not mere tenacity and resolve but a faith that propels such endurance. Releasing those we love to death stings. Disappointment makes our hearts heavy. The ability to press through the changing and challenging seasons only heightens our instinct to cherish the sweeter moments.

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; A time to mourn, and a time to dance...

Ecclesiastes 3:4

The blessing of new life as we mourn the loss of another we love

Three weeks after the death of my beloved father, my first grandchild was born. As I navigate through my own seasons, I have learned to embrace the reality that sorrow and joy often collide on the streets of life. They are in fact, the most intimate of friends. We won’t engage one without eventually engaging the other. This is a hard certainty. Change will come and we must change with it. As we ourselves are changed, we have the opportunity to bring change to the world we inhabit. I have recognized my only hope (and I believe, yours) is to cling to what is unchanging.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever

Hebrews 13:8

In the shifting seasons, sands, circumstances, moral codes, political climates and relationship issues we all encounter, I have found Jesus to be the single source that will never fail. Wherever I am, He is there. Whatever my sin, He forgives. However gravely I am wounded, He will comfort. However late I call, He will answer. However undeserving I am, His grace is greater. However deep the pit I’m in, His hand will reach down to draw me out. Not because of any good thing I have done, but because of His grace and mercy to me despite my many shortcomings and failures.

I have found Him faithful. Through every season for more than half a century. There is:

  • No sin He can’t forgive
  • No circumstance too messy
  • No addiction He can’t break
  • No pain He can’t comfort
  • No brokenness He can’t restore
  • No lie He can’t speak truth too
  • No foolishness He can’t redeem
  • No weakness He can’t bring strength to
  • No chaos He can’t bring peace to.
  • No hate He can’t conquer with His love.

Through all the seasons of life, this extraordinary Jesus invites common people like you and I to enter into relationship with Him. Imagine! Your Creator, singling you out to walk and talk and live with Him now and throughout eternity. And, it has nothing to do with being good enough, because none of us are worthy to sit in His presence. Still, He invites us to enter into an intimate, personal, life giving relationship with Him.

Throughout every season of life, He stands at the door of your heart and knocks. Will you open that door?

It Hurts to Write These Words…

“Ben died…”

Those were the first  words I read  upon awakening  this past Friday.

“May he rest in peace and rise in glory”

I hail from a large extended family and some I know better than others.  Ben, not so well.  But, his father, my cousin, is like a brother to me, having lived in our home for a substantial  period of time when I was growing up.  He gave me my first Beatles album.  (Rubber Soul)  He let me drive his pink corvette one day.  He has an infectious smile and laugh.  I have a million memories of and with him.  Like each  of us, he has strengths and weaknesses.  Like me, He loves Jesus.   I have dearly loved him as long as I can remember.  Although he is miles away, I am grieving with him today and will be in the days to come.  There is a hard road ahead.

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Ben was his youngest.  His one and only son,  from a mother I have yet to  meet.  He was the child who most resembled him,  from where I stand. He was the husband of   a kind and  beautiful wife who loved him and a sweet daughter he claimed.  He had siblings who also grieve.  Shockingly,  his exit from this life on earth has been splashed across television screens which omit his name,  for now.  A devastating end to a sometime tumultuous life. But then, whose isn’t?

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In the wee hours of the morning while riding his motor cycle on a deserted street in a town I once  called home, Ben was struck by a car.  His broken body slammed to the pavement and abandoned.    A helmet lay on the ground near a single white shoe.   A lone witness called for help as the driver of the car fled the scene, no doubt fueled by sheer panic and fear.

Emergency crews arrived to  transport him to a local hospital, where a kind young woman tried to reach my sister, several states away,  via Facebook.  Having found Ben’s ID, she searched for his name there and and saw my sister as a friend and attempted to reach her in the hours before dawn.  The kindness of strangers. 

In a sterile emergency room, surrounded by the good people who worked hard to save him, Ben breathed his last breath.  And now,  we, his extended family grieve, praying that he crossed over to glory.

The witness at the scene of the accident shared information allowing  the police  to identify a  suspect early on.  He was urged  to surrender and  tell his story.  His  car was found, windshield shattered and other damage to the front.  But he was in the wind.IMG_1324Truth be told,  there was no where to run.   Adding more sorrow to an already tragic situation,  he was found dead,  from what is assumed to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.  My mind shouts “senseless-tragic-why?”   But- I am not God, hence I cannot comprehend the whys.  But, what I do believe, is that God will somehow use it all for His purposes and our good as this sad story continues to unfold.

There is more “collateral damage” than is known to us.  Both of the dead  were 41 year old- young men who  were sons and fathers,  loved by those who suffer in sorrow  today and who will grieve for many days to come. No doubt many  will ask the perennial question, “why?”  1 Peter 5:8 reminds us  that we have a ruthless enemy, described as “a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” He is always anxious to tear us away from everything that is good, every  gift God freely offers us.   By all we can see, it would that the enemy and his lies seem to have  won this battle.

But, God… DSC02948

 

Here’s what I know for sure:

  1. In God’s economy, nothing is wasted or lost.  His Word says that when we submit ourselves to Him, we can move forward from any situation, confident that He will work every situation, every loss, every tragedy and every triumph for our good. Romans 8:28 assures us He uses all things- the good, the bad and the ugly, for our good and His glory.
  2.  God knew both of these men’s hearts and He was there with both of them in their final moments.   While I do know Ben heard the Gospel and acknowledged  the emptiness of a God shaped space in his heart,    I cannot speak for the other victim in this tragedy.   But, God. God knew and knows. By His grace, up until the final  moments of life, He hears the cry of a sinner surrendering to him and responds with forgiveness and mercy, just as He did to the thief on the cross beside him, when he said,  “Today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
  3. As we grieve we all  have a choice;  either to grieve as those who have no hope, (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) or to grieve in expectation of being reunited with those we have loved here on earth, changing a hard good bye to a confident,  “I’ll see you in Heaven.”  After his infant son died, David said in 2 Samuel 12:23 that “some day I will go to him, but he cannot come back to me.” 
  4. When we suffer such great loss, (and we all will)  we must never forget that He still has work for us to do.  We must war against allowing  our sorrow to consume us.  When it’s time for us to be reunited with those who have gone before us, He will then  bring us Home. too.  Until then, we can either be paralyzed by grief or we can use it for His good, by serving as He calls us, waking every morning with the mindset of a soldier reporting for duty, asking for marching orders.  This is our great challenge and the proof of our faith.  This faith trusts in Him more than in the emotions that might derail us from his plans and purposes for our individual and collective lives. It’s us saying, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20)

A mere three days into what might  aptly be described as a nightmare,  I have seen God’s hand at work in so many ways…in  the kindness of strangers…in the emergency workers at the scene of the accident…in the  witness who acted so quickly to call for help and to share information with the authorities… in the  media professionals who withheld Ben’s name so as not to be the first to notify loved ones of his death…in the many who have reached out to both grieving families and– in the visit between a father and a son so recent  that it had the finger prints of God all over it.IMG_0960

It is no coincidence that come July, this extended family of Ben and of mine, will once again gather together for a long ago scheduled reunion.  We will  celebrate an imperfect, unpredictable family that reaches far and wide across our country and the love and legacy we share. Unbeknownst to us until now,   we will also  grieve and celebrate Ben.  Some of us  will come to  know him better in death than we knew him in life as we share stories and remembrances from those who knew him and loved him best.  It is going to be a glorious time of remembrance, sprinkled with some grief, but not without joy.

And I, for one, can’t wait.

 

P.S.

The joy of the Lord is our strength.  If you are grieving, and in need of comfort and encouragement, please won’t you open your Bible (or your device) to the following encouraging Words from the God of all comfort. It is  my experience that

| JESUS NEVER FAILS. |

Please Read This and let me know how I can pray for you today:

Joshua 1:9

Psalm 28:7

Psalm112:6-7

Nehemiah 8:10

Isaiah 41:10

Exodus 15:2

John 14:27

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why I Gave Up My Career as a Super Hero

 

“I cannot go to school today” said little Peggy Ann McKay. “I have the measles and the mumps…” So begins Shel Silverstein’s poem, SICK. Peggy Ann had no qualms about taking a sick day even if she wasn’t sick. I on the other hand…

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I grew up in a household where to call in sick for work was severely frowned upon. With a fever of 102 degrees and a stuffed up head, I told my Dad that I was calling in sick for my shift. He schooled me quickly, letting me know that I needed to pull myself together and get to work. They were, after all, counting on my presence and should I not appear, my absence would impact the entire shift and everyone else left to run things. Mind you, I was not a brain surgeon or even a surgical nurse. I was, in fact, a clerk at Sav-On Drug. I was 19 and my responsibilities were to man the photo department and candy register. I know. Heady stuff. But, my Dad was pretty convincing and so I went to work with my fever, my congestion and a bottle of 7-Up sipped surreptitiously between customers. Crisis averted. The night shift team was saved.

This attitude toward calling in sick was firmly ingrained in my psyche. Over the years I showed up to work many, many times when I was clearly under the weather. After all, I had responsibilities to attend to, things that apparently I believed no one but I could handle , things only I knew how to do, my team was depending on me, etc. etc… While all that felt pretty admirable, in retrospect I realize it was also prideful and careless. In reality, people nearly always carry on when we aren’t there. Often, given the opportunity, they learn new skills and sometimes they shine and feel good about the skills you’ve helped them attain.

‘Truth is, if we are really good managers, we should always be grooming others to step into our shoes should we be unable to fill them. If we have an extended illness or some sort of personal catastrophe, we will then have prepared them for the task at hand and will also have done our employer a great service. As leaders we should be preparing others to step up to new challenges. In retrospect, the careless part of my behavior was that I put countless others at risk by coming to work while contagious and put those around me at risk. My immune system may have been hearty, but I was woefully oblivious to the danger I may have been exposing others to. Having lived nearly 6.5 decades now, I no longer take my health or that of others for granted.

Fast forward forty some years and while much had changed, my inclination to go to work “no matter what” was still quite the strong hold in me. My employer was “re-structuring” and as the newest addition to the area sales management team, I was the first to be downsized. When I got the call I expected, I was told my job had been eliminated. I was immediately asked if I would consider returning to the company should another position open up and I responded affirmatively. My next response was a question regarding my accrued sick time. The company policy was if you left the company, while you would be paid any accrued vacation time, any unused sick time would be forfeited. I had accrued nearly 200 hours of sick time, a benefit of my employment that I essentially was going to lose. I was assured that should I return to the company within the next year, those hours as well as my seniority would be reinstated.

Not three months later, they offered me another position , which I accepted and, as promised, all those unpaid hours returned to me. This was a pivotal moment in how I viewed sick pay. I made a three-pronged decision at that time:

  1. I would not be put in the position again, of losing a benefit that was part of my compensation package.
  2. I would take better care of myself.
  3. I would not foolishly put others at risk because of my pridefulness.

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From that day on, I vowed to stop pretending I was a super hero. The final five years of my professional life I acknowledged that the world would go on and work could get done in my absence. When I needed to go to the dentist or to a physician appointment for preventative care or for physical therapy, etc, I stopped doing so on my day off and used a sick day instead. When I had major issues going on in my life, or a family member was ill and needed care, I took a day or so off in order to serve my family and/or restore and rejuvenate my body and soul. While there were some instances when I believed my presence was imperative, they were rare. ‘Turns out I wasn’t as indispensable as I believed.

Sometimes our bodies need rest and sometimes our minds do. In both cases, when possible I scheduled sick days in advance, so my absence was not a hardship for those who would cover for me. But, if I woke up with a sore throat or a head cold, I learned to stay home, to rest and heal instead of sharing my germs with everyone else. When my husband had surgical procedures done, I took the day to be by his side to support him. I stopped being a workplace hero and started being more of a hero in my own home to the people I love most.

This was the same girl, who years earlier took less than a week off following a corneal transplant. My work ethic, instilled by my hardworking parents, was still strong, but I had failed to realize that our bodies need rest when they are worn down and that failing to give them time to rest and recover was shortsighted. It took losing the sick time I was so proud to have NOT used, to make me realize the folly of my actions. God knows me well and He knew exactly what it would take to adjust my perspective.

Please don’t misunderstand me, I am not in favor of calling in sick for every hang nail. I cannot tell you how often I took sick calls for young women unable to come to work a couple days a month because of menstrual cramps. I suffered with menstrual migraines for many years, but, I powered through and came to work. I want to be clear that I don’t believe we should call in frequently for minor ailments, but, for genuine health related concerns; sick time is for that very purpose- to maintain health and wellness so that we can do our best at home and at work.

When I retired three years ago, I left with less than one hour of accrued sick time. Prior to leaving I took care of all my looming health issues. I scheduled time with my dentist, physician, optometrist and chiropractor and used my accrued sick time to do so. I didn’t take it in big chunks but a day at a time as those appointments were scheduled in advance on days I knew would have minimal impact on my co-workers. At work I continued to give 100% to my employer. I made a good living and was compensated well. I mentored other employees and trained others to do my job and be promoted. I was a loyal team member who did her best everyday. For the last few years before retiring, when I was given opportunity to provide input on job satisfaction, I repeatedly brought up the issue of sick time not being paid to employees who faithfully executed their duties rather than calling in sick for every minor malady. Such employees should be rewarded for their loyalty, not punished. I was very grateful for the many opportunities my company had provided me and for the opportunity to do meaningful work with wonderful people, but. I left still hoping they would change their policy for future loyal employees.

Sometimes people don’t take the time they need because the work stacks up in their absence. I get that. But, working sick and/or exhausted is bad for you and everyone around you. So, do everyone a favor. Call in sick. And when necessary, call in well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Lived Out

Emmanuel. God with us.  God incarnate.  The God of creation came down to earth as an infant, born a king in the most humble of circumstances, making it possible for both princes and  paupers to be at home with Him.  

Two thousand years later, His book, the Holy Bible arguably remains the world’s  all time best-seller.  Recent estimates tell us that more than 5 billion copies have been printed in hundreds of languages.  While our society has grown more secular and less spiritual, He is not deterred or discouraged.  Jesus still rules and reigns and whether intentional or not, the world still celebrates His coming each December.  

Though it may now be called Winter Break instead of Christmas vacation,  His coming is still marked with every Christmas tree sold, every intentional act of kindness, every gift exchanged, every carol sung, every meal shared, every dollar dropped into a red kettle,  every cookie baked, every family gathered, every recital performed, every card sent, and every “Merry Christmas!” spoken.  His mark in indelible. 

He came to die. But, by His life and through His word, He taught us how to live, and  to do so in ways that often confound our neighbors and friends.  He taught us: 

  • To walk humbly when the world tells us to aim for the top
  •  To give not just from our wealth but sacrificially
  • To put the needs and desires of others ahead of our own
  • To forgive 490 times if necessary, and then, perhaps some more
  •  To seek the pleasure of God vs the praise of men.  
  • To obey His word despite a world that finds it vastly out of date
  • To be inclusive when we long for the intimacy of familiarity
  • To be content, not merely in our circumstances but in Him
  • To build community for ourselves and to be it for others
  • To value knowing Him above every worldly measure of success
  • To be generous toward God, giving Him the  best of all we have and are
  • To share the love of Christ with our lives and our words
  • To fear God more and men less
  • To be merciful when we long for justice
  • To pray for those who seek to do us harm
  • To entrust ourselves to Him who judges justly
  • To recognize the enemy but to know that lion has no teeth
  • To put our hope in things eternal 

All  this so that we could know and be known by Emmanuel,  and be called His own.  

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In his book WAITING HERE FOR YOU, Louie Giglio says, “Christmas led to the Cross, and on both days Jesus accomplished what no one else could.”

 What He accomplished was full payment for our failures, our sins, our just punishment for our sinful inclinations and behaviors.  Not because we earned it, but because He loves us with an everlasting love.   He  came as a sweet little infant boy, wrapped in swaddling clothes,  with impossibly soft skin and  a perfect tiny mouth–no doubt a mother’s dream.  But His destiny was to live and then to die.  For us.  So that we could be transformed to His image and to live eternally with Him free from the bondage of sin and shame.  We cannot earn it, we don’t deserve it, but He came, the perfect gift from Heaven.  

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We have only to receive from His bounty.  Christmas is past, but His gift remains.  Today is the day of salvation.  Take hold of  the hand that reaches out to you with a gift tailor made for you. 

Keep Christmas in your heart. Every day.  It is the source of imperishable hope.