Seeing My Young Self

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Have you ever wondered if what you remember about yourself and your childhood or adolescence is accurate? I have! On my best days, I remember a happy childhood in a middle class family in a suburban home in the 50’s and early 60’s. On my bad days, I remember being an argumentative teen who made life hard for everyone in my family.

This week, I began transcribing letters I wrote to my family while I was an exchange student in Medellin, Colombia for three months. I was 15 years old and knew very, very little Spanish before I went. And I was a very new believer in Jesus.

These letters were saved by my Mom and a cousin began the job of typing them. For many years they were in a scrapbook my Dad began for me. Then after we had a computer, I gathered both the typed letters and those that were still just as I had sent them- written with pencil on onion skin paper. For many years they were left in a file cabinet only to be rediscovered this past Fall. Just now, I’m actually getting them typed and saved in electronic format.

I am delighted to meet my 15 year old self on my first trip overseas and totally away from everything familiar. I’m being reunited with my Colombian foster family and beginning to learn Spanish and the customs of a different land.

I am seeing what a great foundation that has been in my life for all the time I’ve spent overseas. I was beginning to see that just because something is different, it doesn’t mean it is bad or wrong. This has helped me enjoy new customs everywhere we have gone. I learned that even if I couldn’t use words to communicate my interest in people, I could still show them they were important to me.

I’m seeing the beginning of my personal spiritual development. God was teaching me with only a Bible and an Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. I began to see personal applications for the Bible reading I was doing. God was teaching me to trust His Spirit to guide me even when I was not aware of Bible principles.

The first time I prayed in tongues was like the day of Pentecost. Mamá had a heart attack one evening. I was so concerned for her and sat on her bed, holding her hand and praying in beautiful words that I couldn’t understand. The next day Mamá was well! She wanted to know why I could speak such fluent, beautiful Spanish last night and was back to my baby Spanish the next day. In just a day or so, I read about Pentecost in my assigned Bible reading. God assured me that what I had done in praying for Mamá was praying in tongues. This happened again a few days later when Johnny, the four year old son had a fever and severe ear ache. Mamá woke me at 2am to ‘pray for Johnny like you did for me.’ I did the same thing and Johnny was well in the morning. All praise to God! He used an untaught teenager to bring health to that family. He deepened my relationship with Him and reliance on Jesus through that experience, too.

After beginning this transcription and getting to ‘see’ my young teenage self, I wish I had kept journals throughout my life. I have a few fits and spurts of journals, but nothing as complete as these letters.

If you do not journal, please consider starting now. God may use this practice to enrich your life now and in the future. He may use those journals to bless your children too.

Ask a Question

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I was reminded recently of a lesson I learned while working as an RN in the Newborn Nursery.

I was working part time while studying towards my degree.

One evening I was angry with the aides working with me. They were not doing what they were supposed to do. They had not been reporting to me as they should, when babies were cold. This had happened before and I did not want them to continue to shirk their duty. So I called an ‘all hands meeting’ for when the babies were asleep and fed.

I was brooding as I awaited the meeting time. One young aide walked by the nurses’ station, got my attention and then just said, “Ask a question.” She continued on her way without another word.

Ask a question. Ask a question. What did she mean? What was I supposed to ask?

As soon as everyone gathered, I said, “I’ve noticed that no one is reporting to me when a baby in their nursery has a low temperature. Why not?” Heads dropped around the circle and then one bold soul said, “If we tell the nurse who is here when you aren’t, she gets angry with us and tells us to take care of it on our own.” This opened lots of enlightening discussion. I was able to end by saying, “I want to know everything you know about any baby in your nursery. I will help you and I’ll alert the doctor when it is important for him to know.” The whole atmosphere in the nursery changed.

I had made an assumption. I was ready to make an accusation. But by stating the problem and then asking an open-ended question, the charged atmosphere was calmed. The aides felt safe enough to voice their dilemma and a real solution was found.  

This simple word of wisdom has been helpful to me throughout my life. When I begin to feel agitated or frustrated, all kinds of criticisms jump to mind. I can begin to feel self-righteous or vindictive. By taking a little time to think about a way to ask a question instead of blurting out my charge against them, resolution is much more possible.

Just for the record, children rarely know ‘why’ they do anything. But try asking them other open ended questions like, “What did you expect to happen when you did. . .?” or “Can you think of a safer way to do that?” Sometimes there is only one thing to say then, “Don’t do it again.”

Another time I find myself asking a question is when a friend or acquaintance looks sad or pre-occupied. I sometimes just ask, “Do you want to talk about it?” I may have no idea what “it” is, but they could have been wanting to process their thoughts out loud and not known who would listen without judging them.

Take a moment to consider:

Is there a situation in your life could be helped by asking a question? What question would you like to ask? You might be very surprised by the answer you receive.

Step on the Escalator

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When I was a little girl, the department stores had wooden escalators. I was terrified to step onto that moving step!

Why was I so afraid? Sometimes I imagined I would fall headlong down that long flight of stairs. Other times I thought my shoe would get stuck in the spaces between the treads. The clunking of the mechanism exaggerated the dangers in my mind. My heart would race and I’d shiver.

I’d stretch my foot out towards the first step, but hesitate so long that the next step was halfway there before I could get up my nerve to step on. Then I’d jump back and refuse to get on. Mom would try to assure me I could do it, she’d offer to take my hand and step on with me. I’d refuse so long a line formed behind us and we’d have to let others get on first. Sometimes they would turn around and smile at me and say, “See I’m OK, you can do it too.” I’d blush with embarrassment. Mom would entice me by telling me she would help me pick out my treat from the bargain basement sale bins. I don’t remember now, what finally helped me get over this fear. But to this day, there are times when I still have a momentary hesitation before getting onto an escalator.

We’ve been trying to help some different friends deal with hard things they experienced recently. There are no easy answers to their depression, grief, and illness. The pat answers don’t help! “There’s nothing to worry about.” or “Your loved one is in a better place.” or “Others have much worse problems than you do.” In some cases there is some small thing we can do, but in most of them, the best we have to offer is a listening ear, tender heart, and faithful prayer.

As I was trying to process these different troubles, one thing kept coming to mind. God knows and He knows how we can get through troubles like these. The mental image of me standing at the top of that wooden escalator came to mind. My mom knew I could ride that escalator safely. She knew she would not leave me for even a second. And she knew there was something good for me at the other end of that ride. All I had to do was trust her and step on.

When we are faced with situations that overwhelm us. We feel like that little girl seeing apparent danger. We don’t want to take that ride! It’s just too scary. We get embarrassed that we have emotional responses we don’t seem capable of controlling. We may stomp our feet and ‘refuse’ it, only to realize it is inevitable.

But like my Mom, God will never abandon us (Deut. 31:8). God has compassion on us (Psa. 103:13-17). God has a future and a hope for us (Jer. 29:11). And God wants us to turn to Him all the time and trust Him (Psa. 62:5-8).

Take a moment to consider:

Is there something you are facing that you feel is just too big and scary to face? Is there something that has happened to you or your loved ones that makes you wonder whether God knows or cares about you? Does the future look bleak? Why not pour out your heart to God? He already knows how you feel and what you are thinking, but He wants you to tell Him. Find your hope and strength in God as you trust Him to be all you need to take the next step.

Remember Why You’re Here

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My husband, Mike, wrote the following post. I wanted to share it with all my readers. I have found that remembering why I am here, has helped me focus on the job at hand and trust God with the results.

In our early years as international workers, we experienced many challenges. Both of our sons contracted malaria ( common, but scary). Our son’s bike, (one of a kind where we were) was stolen. Our new car was in three accidents (none our fault). The same car was stolen, during a prayer meeting, and never recovered. My mother faced a serious health scare, and later died. All of that in just over a year.

When my mother died, my sister could only notify me through the Red Cross, who contacted the American Embassy in Lagos. The embassy contacted me by letter, delivered by another American who lived in the same city as us. The embassy officer included his number, in case I wanted to contact him.

I called him. At the end of our conversation he said, “Mike, can I give you a few words that might help you?” “Sure,” I replied. “Remember why you are here,” he said.

Remember why you are here. Those words have lived in our hearts since that day, in all kinds of circumstances. They remind us to never forget that we are here to glorify God, serve his people, and advance his Kingdom.

Have you forgotten why you are here? Draw a circle ( or a box if you want). Label it: ministry or family or work. Anything that describes one context of your life. Now put you in the box. (A stick man will do, but some of you do real art, so go for it!) Under the box write a few statements that describe why you are there. The exercise serves two purposes. It helps you clarify, and it reminds you to persevere through challenges.

Every successful servant of God keeps focus by remembering why God has them in a place. Focus keeps us from wasting our opportunities, so don’t forget to remember.

Who Knows Best?

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We were preparing to teach a group of Christian young people at a local university on boy/girl relationships. One of the questions, actually the most frequently asked question in these meetings, was, “Is it or why is it wrong for a Christian to marry a non-Christian.”

We say, the root issue is who or what do you worship? What you worship will be the core of your life. If your core is Jesus and your spouse’s core is another god or materialism or self, you cannot build your lives together as one.

Though many use the II Cor 6:14, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. . .” to support not marrying an unbeliever, it can be argued that marriage was not Paul’s original intent in that passage. But throughout the Old Testament it was God’s intention that His people would not intermarry with their neighbors of different religions and practices. Every time they did, they drifted away from their faith in God and got caught up with the evil practices of their neighbors. This was one of the main reasons for most of the prophecies that warned of judgements to come. Repenting of these relationships often preceded their restoration after captivity.

Who knows best?

Now the question in my mind is who knows best? Is it God, the One who made us and knows best how we function? Or is it us, because we know what our current situation really is! (“He’s such a good man!” “There are not enough Christian men to go around.” “He says I can continue to worship as I want.” “I’ll never find a prettier wife.”) Solomon, said to be the wisest man in the world, thought he knew better than God. (See I Kings 11:1-6) As a result of his drift from God to worshiping the gods of his foreign wives, the kingdom was torn apart.

I realized afresh this week that this was the original question put to Eve in the Perfect Garden. “Did God say…?” and then followed by, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” The Serpent was tempting Eve with knowing better than God about good and evil.

Wasn’t the sexual revolution another example of people thinking they knew better than God. God tells us not to have sex outside of marriage. That means no sex before marriage and no sex with other partners once we’re married. The sexual revolution said, “Use the pill or other contraceptives, then you won’t get pregnant. See, you can have the fun of sex without the consequences!”

More than 60 million babies have been aborted in America alone since 1973. The vast majority of babies aborted are because of unintended pregnancy. Besides the death of babies, the long term damage done to the mothers is an unreported consequence of abortion.

Who knows best? God does. Let’s live our lives within the boundaries He has set for us. “Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.” –Psa. 16:7-8

Take a moment to consider:

Is there any area of your life where you are having trouble trusting God? Is it because you secretly think, ‘God doesn’t know how hard this is! Why is He keeping this from me?’ Do think you know better than God or can you commit even this area of your life to God, the One who knows best?