Friday Morning Coffee #30

Happy Friday friends!

Thank you for bearing with my blogging silence last week. We were away for the week on a family vacation. What a refreshing break - and what a joy to spend time with some family!

For as long as I can remember, my mom's side of the family has been represented in some form each summer at Myrtle Beach, SC. My cousins and I were there in diapers. One aunt and uncle met there. It's a place filled with memories for us - the places we once stayed, the adventures, the restaurants we once (or continue to) frequent. Those memories are a treasure, even in spite of the ridiculous humidity levels (no joke, it was at 90% one day we were there).

This was the night my grandmother trounced us all at mini golf.

This was the night my grandmother trounced us all at mini golf.

Living far away makes our family visits short, so it was particularly nice to have a week of leisurely uninterrupted time to just be with them. It was a week of good food, my grandmother's laughter, the baby prattle of the newest additions, conversation, and regular infusions of ice cream. It was a week I'm thankful for.

The older I get, the more I realize how blessed I am to have the family I do. I know so many who have family members scattered across the country, who have divisive inter-family conflicts, or whose aunts, uncles, and cousins are practically strangers. 

But I have a family who will spend a week together 18 members strong in one beach house, still like each other at the end of it, and still volunteer to do it again year after year. These people are a treasure, and I love them.

My True Self?

“I love that I can be my true self at home” was the remark. Upon further prodding an example: “You know, I don’t have to be so concerned about being polite and patient all the time. I can just be myself.” I’ve been stewing over this one for several weeks now.

My family knows intimate parts of who I am—things no one else knows or has walked through with me. They’ve seen me at my best and my worst. They’ve seen me in progress. And none of it has scared them away. In this sense, I can be myself, I can show them myself, because there’s a sense of safety there. They want what’s best for me, and they aren’t put off by the bumps, bruises, and tears that come with that journey. There is a beautiful freedom that comes with this sort of love.

In spite of it, there are times when I am less patient or polite with my family than I would be with a complete stranger. The people I love the most, who have given me the most, who are permanent fixtures in my life are the most likely to be the brunt of my temper, my sharp tongue, my sarcasm, my frustration. This is a reality I will admit. But it is not one I’m proud of. If I love these people so deeply, shouldn’t this phenomenon grieve me?

These were my initial thoughts about her comment, the initial tilting of the head, raising of the eyebrows. But then it went a bit deeper. 

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“My true self” she said. “My true self” is that which is impatient and rude. “My true self” is that which is sinful. Or is it?

When we accept Christ, we become a new creation. The old is gone, the new has come (2 Cor. 5:17). We are, in one sense, fully made new, dead to sin, alive in a new realm of Christ-like living. In another sense, we are at the beginning of a life-long journey of becoming like Christ, of finding His presence leave an ever deeper mark on who we are. We are new. We are seeing ourselves be made new. All at the same time.

In this sense, our “true” self is what we’re becoming. Our true self forgives freely because we know how much we’ve been forgiven. It is long-suffering and kind because we know how deeply God’s grace flows. It loves freely, unconditionally, without expecting repayment because we know we can never repay the love of God in Jesus Christ. Our true self is the one that looks like Jesus.

Jesus showed us humanity in its truest form. Communion with God. Unencumbered by sin. Intent on the Father’s pleasure and will. Full of compassion. The perfect fullness of truth and grace, justice and mercy, love and holiness.

Although it is all we know now, our slavishness to sin is abnormal. It gives birth to a false self, one distorted by the deceit of pride and selfishness. It gives us a faulty picture of reality.

Our sinful selves are not our true selves, not the way we are meant to be, and (thank God) not where He is content to let us remain. So we can say, when we see our impatience, our rudeness, our ingratitude, our less-than-love, this is not who I am, and this is not who I am becoming. We can focus our eyes on who God our Father has declared us to be and who He is redeeming us to be, and we can take another tiny step forward toward who we really are. Another step toward holiness. Another step toward mirroring who Christ is. This is our true self.

Friday Morning Coffee #29

Good morning!

I've been sitting here staring at my cursor for approximately eleven minutes, trying to decide to what to share with you this morning. The problem is an overload of flitting thoughts. This is always the case for me when approaching a sort of deadline or nearing vacation (which is itself a sort of deadline). There's a sprint to the finish. It's one of those days where the things I must do, should do, and want to do bounce around in my mind like ping pong balls.

The challenge is stilling my mind to focus on one task at a time - to be present. Perhaps you can relate.

I wish you could sit here with me this morning, as I sip my now lukewarm coffee. I wish you could see the house sparrows congregating around the bird feeder or the maroon leaves of our neighbor's maple tree dancing in the breeze. I wish we could sit here in comfortable silence as my thoughts calm, my shoulders relax, my breathing deepens.

Then, perhaps I would tell you about this intense French film I saw this week, and it's wrestling match with faith I haven't been able to get from my mind. (What do you do with a haunting line like "Faith is twenty-four hours of doubt and one minute of hope"?)

Or I would tell you about all that I've been reading this week, all the words, the thoughts. The challenge of discerning what's worth keeping and repeating.

But here we are. My cup has been drained, and you are sitting at your own screen in some other part of this world. So I'll sit here and look at the birds and the trees. I'll let my thoughts still. And then I'll dive in to the first thing on the to-do list.

The Story Behind the Ancient Crockpot

I love a good yard sale. The bargain hunting, the people you meet, the range of junk and treasure you find—it’s an excellent Saturday morning amusement. (And it means I started my Christmas shopping by the end of May.)

We were out one Saturday on a wild goose chase of yard sale signs. The sight of dishes triggered my memory. There was a new, sudden refugee family arrival in only a few days. A flurry of texting later, and we had a list of items we still needed to set up their new apartment as a home.

                                                                                                            r. nial bradshaw on Flickr

 

                                                                                                          r. nial bradshaw on Flickr

We pulled up in front of a small rancher. In my mind’s eye there were awnings and carefully sculpted shrubs but that could be a bit of projection. Two elderly women stood talking in the shade of the lip overhanging the garage door. One was portly, wrapped in a cardigan. The other was petite and skinny. She had a canvas money apron tied to her waist like she was a carnival vendor. Their conversation floated over as we started looking. It was about nurses and medical problems and faith.

The portly woman left, and Scott asked the tiny lady about the fishing lures. She laughed at her ignorance and walked to the door that led into her home and yelled for her husband. The door was open, and the breeze wafted over the distinct smell of nursing homes and sickness. Her husband hobbled out. He had suspenders on over a white T-shirt and a large ball cap, the sort with the mesh—though this could be an image in my memory from a hazy photograph. Thick compression socks braced his calves. 

I paid the woman for the silverware I’d found to add to our preparatory stash, then walked across the road to see the neighbor’s wares. When I returned, the man in the hat had Scott laughing at fishing stories. And the woman came beelining toward me. 

“Your husband tells me you’re collecting things a refugee family. Tell me—what else do you need? What can I give you?”

I smiled appreciatively and tried to shrug off her offer. In spite of my polite protests, she began to make a circuit through the piles of her possessions, holding items up as she came to them. Her flitting movements were a plea: Please let me help you. Please let me give you these artifacts of my life so they can make someone else a home.

I couldn’t refuse her. A few careful yeses and firm nos later (she would have given me everything if I'd let her), I had four paper sacks filled with kitchen items and woven blankets at my feet.

With every addition, I thanked her profusely. With every thank-you, she would repeat, “Oh, honey, it’s not me. It’s from above.” Here, she gestured with both hands to heaven. “Thank you for helping these people. I’m just glad to know these things are going to someone who needs them.” 

When that family walks into their kitchen and sees that massive metal strainer or the 70s-era crockpot still in perfect working order, when they make bread or cake in those pans, when they curl up under the warmth of one of those blankets, they will never know that they came from the hands of a sweet woman in a tiny rancher in our small New Hampshire town. They will never know her generosity or the earnestness of her love in wanting to make them welcome here. But I do. And I thank God for her—even though I don’t know her name.

Friday Morning Coffee #28

At least once each week, I walk down our street and head downtown. Typically, I'm headed for the coffee shop. The sights and sounds of the communal space are refreshing to this extrovert who spends most of her work time alone. And they have good coffee - another excellent benefit.

As I walked downtown this week, I was noticing the smells. Oil and grease from the autobody shop as I walked past their open bay doors. Thick, musty wafts from an open dryer vent. Rotten trash, baking under the summer sun, put out too late for this week's garbage collection. The earthy damp of freshly cut grass. The intoxicating sweetness - like honeysuckle or lilacs - of the small white blossoms on shrubs encroaching on the sidewalk. 

I hurried past the repulsive ones, not wanting to linger, eager to get beyond them. But I didn't slow to savor the sweeter ones. I didn't stop to simply drink in their scents. They surprised my senses as I kept moving along, already past their reach. 

I can't help but feel there's a metaphor in this.

My prayer for us today is that we slow down to savor the sweet moments - the moments of joy and beauty and delight - that we don't only catch a whiff as we're hurrying on by. May these moments cause us to overflow in thanksgiving.