Plane Coffee Mom

Chatting about Mission Aviation over coffee

Tag: thoughts (Page 1 of 2)

Safe Places

Safe places: places like your mother’s lap when you were young, the attic that kept you warm while out of sight, the friend who listened to your dashed dreams with tears in her eyes, the closet where you hid when a stranger knocked on the door, and the family that embraces you. For some of us, inside four walls is safe while for others a wide open field or a trail in the woods feels more secure. The one thing that is constant is that we all need safe places, and when we are in danger we look for them.

Our physical location is important and so are the people who surround us. Safe people create safe places. As I read the Gospels I see Jesus as a Safe Person for those who were broken or seeking. Even Judas was given access to walk with Jesus for several years. I think part of the Church’s calling is to be a safe place, a place of refuge for those in need and pain. Yet sometimes it is not so.

Years ago a young woman told me about a time when she was searching for God.* She was raised in a good family, but she felt abandoned and life was painful. Her questions were deep and hard. She knew God had the answers and she went on a quest to find Him. Not being part of a local Body at that point, she simply visited churches. Not during services, but when she thought she could find a quiet place to seek God on her own. A large, ornate church in the middle of town caught her attention. However, it was locked. A small, friendly-looking church on a side street called to her. Unfortunately the door was chained shut. At one church she found an open door and a place to pray. Soon someone came to question what she was doing, and she quickly left, no closer to answers than when she entered. She tried Sundays, but they were little better. The loneliness she experienced in the throng of worshipper was deeper than the pain of being alone. At another church she arrived early and sat in a pew only to be asked to move by an older gentleman because, “this is where I always sit.” At another church she was followed around as she made her way to the restroom before entering the auditorium: she had simply stopped by and wasn’t dressed for Sunday service. The man who trailed her wore a gun only partially hidden, obviously protecting the normal crowd from people like her. As she traveled, she stopped by church after church, and she couldn’t find what she was looking for.

Eventually she found solace and a connection with God in public parks, standing among the trees and wandering the lonely paths. It wasn’t church, but God seemed to be there. One day in a distant city she drove by a beautiful park. The beauty of God’s summer was on display in well-tended flower gardens and properly pruned trees and shrubs. It was beautiful. When she had some free time, she drove across town to enjoy the park and find rest and answers for her weary soul. A large gate welcomed her, and she had barely begun to walk the well-trimmed path when she was approached by a monk, “Welcome. How can I bless you today?” he said. It was a Buddhist temple, not a park after all. This was not God’s place. She left disheartened by the fact that she had been offered more blessing and welcome in this place than in the places where the God of the Bible was preached.

This story brought tears to my eyes and hot anger to my heart. Why can we not do better? What have I  locked up that should have been open, what have I carefully saved that God wanted to spend? What am I bearing arms against, either mentally or physically, that is meant to be welcomed? What do I need to lay down in order to bless the hurting with open arms?

We are the Church, and how we choose to manage our buildings and spaces communicates profoundly to a hurting world. May we be a safe people who create safe places.

*details changed to protect privacy

Old while Young

I felt old as a teenager and ancient in my early twenties. My memories of pain-free days as a young mom are few and far between. Now in my forties, I feel younger than I did two decades ago. While it strikes me as strange sometimes, it shouldn’t surprise me. Until my early thirties I struggled with chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. Every day began with the same mantra, “I can do this. I can make it through another day.”

All that changed with a simple, faith-filled prayer late one night. There had been many simple, faith-filled prayers before that one, but that night God answered in a miraculous way. Things changed. I woke the next morning with energy and a new hope for the day. I’ve been sick, I’ve been discouraged, I’ve been weary since then, but neither the chronic fatigue nor the fibromyalgia has returned. It’s an undeserved blessing, one for which I am grateful every day.

I would hate to return to the fatigue of those years, and yet I would hate to live these years without those experiences. There are so many things I learned in that time that I need every day. God used sickness in a powerful way to dispel my independence and to teach me about prayer. I began to learn about empathy as I lay exhausted on the couch, trying to pay attention to my two-year-old. I had to say “no” more times than I can count, and yet it’s a skill that still comes hard to me. Sickness taught me to value the temple that our bodies are and to take care of myself and others in ways that have proved valuable.

Chronic illness was a school that taught me things I would have otherwise have had no interest in learning. It pushed me into places that I would not have chosen to go. It changed my perception of myself and of others. In some ways, I experienced age before my time and am now given the opportunity to live my real age.

What has caught my attention lately is how common this is. Maybe not the exact circumstances, but the reality that we experience things for a purpose. Today’s trials have every opportunity to be tomorrow’s joys. Today’s hardship is training for tomorrow’s joy, and for tomorrow’s challenges. What we do with today matters, not only for how well we’ll sleep tonight but also for how well equipped we will be for tomorrow and the days, weeks and months that follow.

February Reflections on Success

At this time of year there is a huge focus on celebrating love, relationships, dating, and “successful” marriages. Since I get to celebrate my birthday in February, I get a big dose of spoiled this month. I enjoy every moment of it! Sometimes, though, when I tell my friends the latest amazing thing Garry has done for me, the response is a look of sadness. I wonder if they’re missing the kinds of things I am privileged to enjoy, but that’s seldom an appropriate question. Still it makes me think.

The other day it crossed my mind that I love Garry because he buys me coffee. Ok, not really.
It’s the fact that though he doesn’t enjoy the stuff, he goes to great lengths to get me good coffee. He goes out of his way when we’re headed to stressful meetings to make sure I have my favorite brew on the way. He takes me out for coffee sometimes, and while he may have a cup of tea or a snack, basically he is there just because I love having coffee with him. So, maybe it isn’t the coffee. Maybe it’s the way he lays his life down for me in a million small ways, in so many seasons and so many ways.

Really, I think this sacrifice is what every successful relationship is built on. It goes both ways, hopefully. It happens often. And maybe as much as either of those, it doesn’t go unnoticed. Because unnoticed acts of kindness and sacrifice are not appreciated. And every relationship has plenty of reasons for more negative emotions, so if we don’t take the time to notice the good things, the hard things can swallow us up.

Appreciating the good is not just for marriage either. It’s every relationship, including our relationship with God. It’s not whether God does good things for us, it’s whether we notice it. It’s not a question of God’s goodness, but of our perception of it. It isn’t about whether God answers prayer, but whether we notice when He does.

Experience tells me it is easy to expect and hard to appreciate. So I am practicing appreciating. And so far, it’s been a good and profitable journey!

Not Enough

I’ve been thinking this week about “not enough”. The perception we have of ourselves that we cannot measure up, we are insufficient to accomplish the things we need to do in a satisfactory way. We aren’t good enough women, moms, or friends. We don’t cook well enough food or keep our house clean enough. We aren’t smart enough or talented enough. Our homes are not enough, our kids are not enough. All in all, we simply don’t feel we measure up to our own standards.

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And despite telling ourselves that we are better than some people, the thought nags us, the reality that we are not all we want to be, we cannot do all we want to do, and we cannot control the things we want to take charge of. Despite telling ourselves that we are better than other people, that we should settle for giving it our best shot, or trying to lower our standards,  we are simply not satisfied.

It’s a worry that nags at me sometimes, though less now than it used to. It began to change one day when I was doing my best to go about my business, cleaning up the house, scheduling flights, raising my boys who were young, and crying tears of anger and pain. “God, I can’t do this anymore!” I muttered under my breath while I screamed in my mind.

You aren’t supposed to.

“What?” I asked the voice in my head.

This, my daughter, is the meaning of grace, of salvation. You were never meant to do this, and you will never measure up. That’s why I sent Jesus to pay the price and my Spirit to work through you. You can rest in that. I AM enough. And you are not.

I stopped short. I wanted to get it right, I wanted to prove I could. Yet, I couldn’t deny that all my trying fell far short. And suddenly the thought was freeing instead of degrading. I wasn’t enough and I was never meant to be. God was enough, and He would accomplish His will through simple steps of obedience.

So, I began on a journey of not telling myself I was good enough, but of reminding myself that “enough” was God’s job not mine. I quit telling my friends they measure up to the impossible standard and began telling them that they don’t, and it doesn’t matter.

I don’t always remember that, and I haven’t arrived at the point of letting go of everything. But I am learning, most days. And in my better moments, I love that fact that none of us is enough, but God is still enough. It’s a freeing journey.

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