Pardon The Interruption

The squeak of the expo markers on my polished, clean white board echoes in my mind. Tiny fingers reaching for the “p” key or the “t” key on keyboards still catches me off guard. Teens walking up to my desk asking for advice about a rigorous math problem or asking for a difficult concept from their Bible class to be explained causes me to push aside my papers, cap my pen, and give them my attention. Teachers, not so savvy with technology, burst through the doors with their laptops pleading for help, for some semblance of order in the mass chaos that is the web.

Driving home, I often find myself pondering over what was said during the day or what could have been accomplished. Given the longevity of my drive home, I tend to muse on such things.

However, the interruptions continue to pile as I turn the knob of my door to enter my bird’s nest or as some people label, my home. My husband is sprawled out on the couch with a sharpened, no. 2 pencil and a gridded, research notebook diligently completing his various homework tasks.

After several hours in the lab and working an 8 hour shift, the guy is hungry. Typical man? Maybe. But it is true of the women too.

My hand seeks the handle of the fridge to assess the current situation. Pork chops? Steak? Chicken, again? So many options, yet I am on a time crunch. The bellowing of my hubby’s stomach doesn’t allow for second guessing the meal-plan, but quickly maneuvering to get it done. As I pull out bowls, parmesan cheese, and chicken to prepare the meal, texts erupt from my rose gold iPhone on the counter with family members asking for prayer requests.

Interruption, hitches, glitches, disturbances, or delays are all a part of life. Life is so busy that just taking in a breath seems like an arduous or calculated task. I’ve noticed lately that my response to interruptions reveals my heart and my real motivation.

My attitude is really dependent on how well my plans are executed and to what measure my expectations are met. You can imagine the emotional teeter totter I have set up for myself.

There will always be interruptions. At times they are welcomed and other times they seem insurmountable, like everything scribbled on your list will never get to be crossed off.

In the last few weeks, I have been monitoring my “annoyed, impatient, irritated” odometer when disturbances halt my progress. The proverbial “gas pedal” is revved when I either have had:

  • Little to no sleep
  • A situation has blown up in my face about finances, marriage, family or friendships
  • School work, programs, kids
  • No time with God (whether through prayer or reading His word)

Do you know how hard it is to pretend or hide those things? Some of those things aren’t in my control. People get upset. I recognize that. You recognize that. It’s easier to counter the offender with a verbal slash of your own when you have felt wronged or betrayed.

But what if we were to choose to pardon the interruption with kindness, with peace, with compassion? What if we were to counter with love and grace?

In order to do that, I want us to truly focus on the last bullet point. This is my personal caveat, no time with God isn’t an option. It is the hinge on which you and I learn how to turn away from the natural, reactive emotions. It is the foundation on which we stand when everything else has fallen apart.

One of my favorite quotes is from A.W. Pink. He says, “No verse of Scripture yields its meaning to lazy people.” His statement reiterates the truth found in Scripture.

Proverbs 29:11a “A fool always loses his temper,”

Proverbs 10:23 “Doing wickedness is like sport to a fool,”

The moment we neglect to read and study God’s word is the moment we open ourselves to the desires of our flesh, the fears surrounding our decisions and the reactions that instinctively come to us. We act like fools and that isn’t a compliment.

God loves a wise man that seeks his face, that desires or longs to know and obey the commands God has laid out for his life. If it wasn’t true, why on earth would men, inspired by God, waste their time writing in tandem about how good and right it is to follow God’s leading, his guidance. It isn’t easy. It’s hard, but it is ALWAYS worth it.

David, a man after God’s own heart, cherished the presence of the Lord so much that even if all he was able to do was be a doorkeeper in the house of God at least he was there and able to bask in glory, in holiness not in the tents of wickedness.

 

Psalm 84:10

“For a day in your courts is better than A THOUSAND elsewhere.

I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the

tents of wickedness.”

In the presence of the Lord there is fullness of joy. The priority of your relationship with God is the key to the attitude you will cultivate and allow to grow. Ignoring time with God is simply setting up your attitude to fail.

Let me ask you a question. Better yet, Scripture has a question.

Psalm 34:12-16

“What man is there who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Turn away from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it. The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry. The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth.”

If you desire life and love, to see good, do the things commanded of you. You will fail to perfectly execute such instruction. I have failed. Do you notice that in the verse the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous? NOT the perfect. Release the weight of perfectionism. It isn’t worth carrying.

The interruptions will continue. It is inevitable. But my challenge to you and I is this. Seek God and what His word has laid out for you. With Christ you succeed. Life has a lot of twists and turns that either fall into the good or not-so-good categories. We don’t control that. We control how we respond by choosing to put on grace, love, kindness, peace. We decide to turn our eyes from the wicked things. We choose what dominates our thoughts and steals our joys. Determine whom you will serve. Search God’s word and pursue his commands. And the next step is obvious, follow them.

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Why Losing Friends Changed My Life: For The Better

You win some and you certainly lose some. This statement applies to many things, but particularly to friendship.

In preparation for writing this post, I scrolled through quotes about friendship on my Google search bar, laughing at their incredible accuracy. After reading, I took a few moments to thank God for the friends he has provided for me, the ones who have come, gone and stayed.

I remember being fresh out of college and my heart was brimming with hope for adventure. An internship in Ohio was the new venue and I couldn’t be more excited. Friendships in school remained that I believed, based on the nature of the close-knit relationships, would last for forever. But moving away changed many of those friendships.

I wasn’t prepared to lose friends from college or high school. They were “my people.” We would go through the process of creating a handshake just to confirm that no matter what distance came between us, we would never grow apart. They were my shoulders to cry on, they were the people that made my sides split with pain from all the laughter. How could a measly couple hundred miles take the fortified ties of the friendship bond and break it?

Believe it or not, the loss of those friends changed my life, for the better. The ache revealed the value that I placed on my relationships. Through the process of loss, I saw God’s goodness in giving me certain people to be used for different periods of my life. One thing always stood out to me as people came into my life, left my side or stayed. The status of God never changed. He remained.

Within the past year, my life has gone through a significant amount of change. At this time last year, I was single, living in Ohio and working for a church that I absolutely adored. The staff at the church I served at became mentors, fellow-leaders and friends.

After my one-year commitment ended with the church, I felt the Lord calling me back home to the place I swore I would never return. Leaving my new friends and family in Ohio was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made. Going home had its perks, like marrying my best friend and watching my niece and nephews grow up, but the pang of sadness for what I was giving up caused my heart to grieve. But God made it clear that I was going home. So I followed.

Flipping back to the present, you will see that now I am married, working a new job and juggling all of the shifts that come with these adjustments.

It also reminds me that sometimes God gives us certain people to be used for different periods of trials, joys and celebrations in our life.

I realized that my life, my seasons, my work and my passions continually change. And that is okay. Losing friends hurt, but they taught me the significance of friendship, what it was meant for. Friendship influences you. God provided me with friendships that challenged my faith, comforted me with hugs and gifts and confronted sin in my life. All of those friends changed my life for the better. Some friends revealed attitudes and patterns that I was never meant to follow, imitate or continue to grow in. Some remain and faithfully challenge, comfort and confront me.

We all lose friends. I have both lost friends and gained friends from moving and entering into different life stages. All had a purpose. I trust God with those friends that are no longer a part of my life. I thank God for the friends who are presently investing in my life, my marriage and my ministry. I look forward to when God introduces me to future friends who will help shape me.

The view of losing friends is often skewed by bitterness, sorrow or guilt that we didn’t do enough to keep them in our lives or they didn’t care enough to invest in us. But it isn’t the only view that we have to live by. Certain circumstances determine the end of a friendship because of our sin and brokenness, by change and sometimes by time.

But my encouragement is to look past the bitterness, sorrow, guilt or pain to examine if maybe, just maybe, losing those friends changed your life for the better.

Questioning Reality

The elevator chimed with its arrival on the first floor. Various smells of freshly baked bread, egg sandwiches, and coffee grounds tickled Tom’s and Lylah’s nose as soon as the double doors split.

They walked slowly, almost at a deadened pace. Neither knew what to say or how to process what the next steps were. In a trance-like manner, both grasped their coffee cups and poured the steaming, black liquid into it’s white confines. Spotting a table in the middle of the cafeteria, Tom pulled out Lylah’s chair before dropping into his own chair. Silence hung like a dark cloud and it showed no signs of lifting. The tragedy stomped out the used to be “normal life.”

Tom coughed into his hand. It evaded the opportunity for conversation, to opening the door of discussing the “options.” He sneaked a peek at Lylah. Her eyes were frozen. Her gaze was fixated on the back wall while her pointer finger swirled the round edge of her cup.

Lylah ripped her stare away from the cafeteria walls to look at Tom. She paused before cautiously asking him the dreaded question. Tom, I know this may not be the time nor the place, but how can I help you?”

Tom watched as Lylah shifted nervously in her seat. Was he that intimidating? Thoughts swirled around in his head. Trying to claim a thought as logical or sharing his deepest concern was one of the biggest challenges his mind seemed to be working to express. His voice trembled. “I just want her to wake up. What am I going to do without her? Without her I don’t have anyone to turn to, to be with, to love.”

Lylah saw Tom’s face contort as his feelings grew increasingly somber. Tears seemed to be lodged in his throat making it evident to her that voicing his fears was difficult. Lylah cleared her throat. Tom had no one. At least in her own life she was able to depend on God for comfort, for strength, for care. She had a way to share her grief, to hand over the burden of pain. Tom, at least to her knowledge, did not.

Sympathetically, Lylah answered Tom’s question. “She doesn’t have to be the only thing you have, Tom. Do you know what Rose was doing on Sundays? She was at church with me. She was involved in the children’s ministry and women’s ministry. Rose knows Jesus Christ as her personal Savior. She has hope.”

Of course he knew. He just didn’t have the time to engage in “spiritual matters”. It never got him anywhere. He prayed for his mom when he was younger, but that didn’t stop his dad from continuing to verbally abuse her. What kind of God didn’t listen to his pleas but let the hits keep coming? For someone who swears to be all-knowing and loving certainly had a deaf ear when it came to his prayers.

In his opinion, Lylah had no idea what she was believing in. All of it was a lie. Tom replied bitterly. “What you and Rose believe in has no hope. How can you have faith in a God that allows this to happen. Rose is lying on a bed fighting or not fighting for her life. We don’t even know! Yet you sit here ready to talk about God, the very one who allowed this to happen to her. This isn’t a game Lylah. It is real life. Rose is dead and God did nothing to save her.”

His response caused her to straighten. Her posture was rigid. His words were laden with bitterness. Each phrase infused with unbelievable anger.

Lylah’s first thought to respond to Tom’s answer was frustration and irritation, but after looking into his sad eyes compassion flooded her heart. This man was broken, shattered by the trials of life. What he didn’t know is she too had her own heartaches.

“Tom, I understand what it is like to sit in a hospital room and watch as a loved one fights for their life. Four years ago, my brother, Derek, was hit on the side of the road by a drunk driver. I prayed for a miracle. I never knew how horrific the pain could be when I was sitting at the edge of his bed watching his chest rise shakily as he struggled for a breath. I doubted God. I doubted my faith. The choice to hold on to fear, to worry, to anger was way easier than fighting to remind myself of God’s promises and His love. Without Him I was alone; without Him my life would be nothing.”

Tom braced his hands against the metal table and lifted his body off of the chair. He couldn’t handle it. Shaking his head, he managed to utter an apology to Lylah before rushing off to the men’s room.

Lylah slumped in her chair and lifted her eyes to the ceiling. She felt the Lord leading her to share her story, but she wondered if now was the right time to air her “sad tales.”

The mirror reflected hollow eyes painted with dark circles hovering around the lids. Tom noticed the lines drawn on his face from hosting an ever-present scowl. He had been so brash and insensitive to Lylah. He had no clue that she lost her brother in a car accident. Even when she lost someone so dear to her she chose to stay committed to her faith in God. Lylah, unlike him in this moment, was reliving her worst nightmare. How did she trust Him after all that has happened?

Lylah left the cafeteria to head back to Rose’s room. The elevator binged letting Lylah know she reached the third floor. Room 348 held one of the most precious friends Lylah had ever had. She and Rose did everything together. Coffee, shopping, crying, and laughing were all incorporated to building their relationship. Memories flooded in her mind as her hand gripped the chilled, steel handle.

Lylah looked at the bruises covering Rose’s face. They didn’t stifle her beauty in the least.

Lylah gripped Rose’s hand. It was cold and seemingly lifeless. It didn’t stop Lylah from lifting up a prayer asking for a miracle. She feared her heart was destined to be broken once again. Her forehead fell to rest on Rose’s hand.

Lylah’s voice echoed off of the walls in the hospital room as she started her prayer. “Dear God, please help my unbelief. I don’t know why this is happened, but what I do know is that you can save Rose. I pray that your will be done. Whatever your will is, Lord, give both Tom and I your comfort. Tom, doesn’t know you as his personal Savior. Rose would ask every Sunday for us to pray for Tom’s heart to turn to you. Even now, Lord, I ask you to claim Tom’s heart. He needs you not just in this time, but for life. Thank you for your love. Thank you for your promise to never leave us nor forsake us. You are a good, good Father.”

Tom had been standing outside the room when he heard Lylah’s voice through the crack of the doorway. He listened as she prayed. It startled him when she said that Rose prayed for him. His wife had been praying for him to turn back to the Lord. He pushed the door open and stared at Lylah.

He stood with his hands in his pockets. He released a sigh. “Lylah, I want you to tell me about God. Even if Rose doesn’t wake up, I want to know what changed her. Will you please help MY unbelief?

Pulling her head off of Rose’s hand, Lylah wiped away her tears as she emphatically shook her head up and down. “Yes, yes. I will tell you all you wish to know.”

Lylah shared the story of Jesus with Tom, both holding one of Rose’s hands hoping that Rose would wake up at any point.

A loud, piercing beep interrupted their conversation. With a quick pace, Dr. Trey broke through 348 with an EMT and nurses following him. Before Lylah and Tom could figure out what was going on, they were being ushered out by a nurse. Tom shoved the nurse’s hands as he watched the EMT try to revive his wife. Lylah was calling Tom’s name, pulling on his arm, but all he could here was CLEAR”. Then the shock.


A Writer’s Disclosure: I didn’t feel a distinct pull as to whether or not I should end this positively or negatively, but I decided to leave the ending to the interpretation of the reader. I hope you have enjoyed the Break Free Series. Looking forward to a new one soon! God bless!

The Broken Heart

The constant beep…beep…beep of the machine echoed in the air tickling Tom’s ear drums. The pace of his heart matched the rhythm of the monitor measuring each beat of Rose’s heart. Tom’s fingers interlocked with Rose’s good hand. His thumb stroked her palm back and forth. The motion caused, for the moment, a time for every painful thought to fade behind the noises of footsteps of nurses, doctors, other family members resounding off of the blank, white walls.

The hospital had a distinct clean smell. Tom was sick of seeing latex gloves, watching people on stretchers being rolled to their respective rooms, and seeing doctors and nurses shoot him sympathetic glances as they switched Rose’s drip bag.

Tom looked at Rose’s face. Peppered around her left eye and cheekbone, Rose’s face sported various shades of purple and blue. And that wasn’t even the worst of it. In order to stitch the deep gash on her head, the medical team shaved part of her auburn locks to clear the area. Her right arm was reset and was donned with a plain cast.

Standing up to stretch, Tom looked at her. He felt like all he could do was stare. His hand reached out to softly touch her face. He had forgotten how smooth her ivory skin was.

He was faced with the reality of death as soon as the police officer said that he needed to head to the accident. The words replayed over and over in his head like a broken record. His stomach lurched. Where had it gone all wrong? Tom knew exactly what went wrong, but to dig out the memories he buried so deeply into the recesses of his mind would be a task that could break him to pieces. But once the door was open, he couldn’t help but walk through.

A sandy-haired boy ran over the cracked sidewalk with each step pounding gravel into the grooves of his shoes. Because of the horrific potholes on the main road to his house, the bus driver always dropped him off on the corner just five blocks away from his home.

He heaved a sharp breath of cold air in as he reached out to open the screen door. Stepping into the dimly lit hall, he walked into the hallway hoping to make a made dash to his room. But something stopped him. Off to his left he heard yelling in the kitchen.

Slowly, carefully, he avoided the creaking floorboards to spy on his parents in the kitchen. Peering around the corner of the wall Tom watched as his dad stood towering over his mother. At a staggering height of 6’7, Jasper Carmet exploded with degrading words to his mother. “You always nag me, Darlene. I pay the bills for everything in this house so that you and Tom can stay home. You are never satisfied. I am tired of your whining”

Tom’s eyes swung over to look at his Mom’s expression. Her blue eyes fiercely harbored unshed tears. This wasn’t the first time that Tom heard his dad’s booming voice carrying slamming weight against his mother. Each time it happened Tom couldn’t help but note the sadness and distance in his mother’s eyes.

He vowed that day at the ripe age of 10 years old that he would never treat anyone like that. Especially the one he would vow to love.

Tom blinked as if to shut the door on the memories he desperately wished would vanish. Now here he was and the same look that his mother had when she took each verbal hit, was mirrored on Rose’s face yesterday. It wasn’t the first time he had ever yelled at her.

It angered every part of his being to know that the vow he made all of those years ago was crumbling around him. He didn’t understand how deeply the effect his father’s “leadership” and domineering had on him. But now looking at his wife fighting for her life on this bed, he couldn’t help but feel the crushing force of how the last five years of his anger, bitterness, and irritation destroyed his relationship with his sweet Rose.

Tom peered out of the hospital’s tiny window overlooking the major highway. All of the things he wished he could take back came flooding in. Shaking his head, he tried to ward off the tears that seemed to be ever-present these last couple days. The sound of squeaky tennis shoes caused Tom to suck the tears in. Turning, he saw that Doctor Trey had arrived with Rose’s chart balancing in his right arm and scribbling something on the sheets with his left hand.

His voice was low and serene. Tom.”

Tom waited. Holding his breath, he waited for the verdict the doctor was about to deliver.

The tone of the doctor’s voice turned gentle. “Tom, after reading the scans of your wife’s head injury…” Tom couldn’t bear to hear it. He felt the oxygen levels in the room drop.

“Tom, your wife is in a comatose state. Few people ever wake up after such a severe trauma. I’m going to need you to call your friends and family to say their final goodbyes. I’m sorry Tom.”

He couldn’t breathe. It’s as if that last sentence sucker-punched him in the gut and captured any air that he could have grabbed.  When Tom realized what the doctor was saying, he roughly grabbed both panels of his coat.

Tom’s voice was raspy. “What do you mean final goodbyes? You haven’t done everything that you can do! She has only been in this hospital for a day! How can you say that you have done everything in a day!?

Doctor Trey grabbed Tom’s hands and put them back down to his side. “Son, Rose lived a good life. But we have done everything we can. Call your family and friends.”

Tom ripped away from the doctor’s touch. He stormed out of the hospital room.

Lylah rushed to the double doors of the hospital. As soon as she heard about Rose’s accident she drove straight to the hospital. Her best friend. It couldn’t be. Heading toward the front desk, she pulled out her phone and sent a quick text to the church’s prayer chain. After sending the message, Lylah made it to the front desk and asked the nurse if she could see Rose Carmet. The nurse kindly pointed to room 348.

Steps that measured far too long for her short legs seemed to make the distance from the nurse’s station to Rose’s room seem like a mere jump away. Before she even got to the door she saw Tom open the door. She had to ask him what was going on.

“Tom! Tom, please wait!” She hurried over to him.

Tom turned to see one of Rose’s most beloved friends come towards him. Her name was Lylah Henry. “Yes?

Tom was in no mood to talk to anyone, but seeing a familiar face helped cause the anger to fade.

Lylah started breathing hard. “What happened? Is Rose going to be okay? The church is praying for her?”

Tom could barely look at her. All he wanted to do was rewind the last three days. He was about to not only share his grief, but cause another one to grieve.

With a heavy heart, Tom’s emotions caused his voice to break with utter sadness. “Lylah, Rose was hit dead on in a car collision. The doctor said Rose’s brain scans confirmed that she will be in a comatose state from the force of the trauma it endured. She isn’t waking up, Lylah. It is time to say goodbye.”

Lylah whimpered. She wasn’t ready to say goodbye. She looked at Tom. His face was strained. His normally clean shaven face had a slight shadow on it. His hair was disheveled from lack of sleep. His heart was broken and it showed on his face. Lylah put a hand on his arm. “Tom, let’s go get a cup of coffee. I need time to process and right now you and I both need someone to get through this. The coffee downstairs might not be the greatest, but let’s go and talk.”

Tom studied Lylah’s face. The woman was in utter shock and she hadn’t seen Rose yet. Maybe it was for the better if she didn’t right now. “Alright, let’s go.”

Both Lylah and Tom headed toward the elevator. Pressing the down arrow button, Tom and Lylah stood in silence. One praying to God and asking for a miracle and the other scrambling to figure out who he was praying to, but asking for the same miracle.

To be continued…