Plane Coffee Mom

Chatting about Mission Aviation over coffee

Tag: thoughts (Page 1 of 2)

Simple Extravagance

I had plans to choose a word for the year. Much like my plans to have just one pot for cooking and one notebook at a time, it didn’t work. Life is too exciting and too complex. One idea is in conflict with another, and different parts of life call for unique strategies. That’s why my “word for the year” turned into two words. Simple Extravagance.

Simple extravagance. Living simply, but not sparingly. Being extravagant, but never complicated. Loving people and using things. Those are the things that I want to focus on this year.

Simple. Creating goals and plans that are not complex. Cooking simple, healthy meals. Doing exercise that works in a predictable routine. Keeping my schedule uncomplicated so I can be spontaneous without guilt. Finding a way to better manage some of my housekeeping chores. Trimming down my filing system so it is more helpful. Reducing the number of ways I communicate with people.

Simple. Just the word makes me take a deep breath and relax. It’s far too easy to make things complex, to spend energy chasing things instead of enjoying them. Complicated is a trap that lurks nearly everywhere: programs you can join, learning you can do, communities where you can engage, and a whole world of people you can track on social media. Then there are other countries, governments, conflicts, and economics that can make everyday decisions complex. “Keep it simple” is simply good advice and this year I hope to take it.

Extravagant. Extravagance makes me think of gourmet coffee, sunsets, and fancy hotels. It’s how I feel about a beautiful table set for dinner or a free afternoon. It speaks of spending resources on non-essentials because they bring joy. Sunsets always seem extravagant to me– we don’t need them, yet God paints them across the sky. Extravagance, done properly, is art and beauty. It is creating spaces that are healing and being people who are deeply rooted in God’s abundance.

Extravagance brings to mind the woman in the Bible with the alabaster box, pouring expensive oil on Jesus’s feet. It calls me to do things that are beyond my utilitarian tendencies, pouring life out on those around me. I am reminded to be present with the person in front of me instead of trying to multi-task. I am challenged to share love as though it is endless and spread joy as though it is unlimited. And I am humbled to think that I can also receive God’s extravagant grace and mercy in an endless stream.

These are my thoughts as 2018 begins. To live in simple extravagance this year. I’d love to hear what you are thinking as the year begins.

The Ladies

Today I remember how coffee and tea sat in front of us while conversation swirled between our lives and our thoughts. We fired questions and shared events and stories.  Conversation slowed as it moved toward the changes God was making in our hearts and asking us to make in our lives. Both the volume and the speed of the conversation fell as it got more personal. The book study had grown out of a desire for mentorship, and times together had grown a trust and openness between us that was simply good.

These are amazing young women, the kind of people every one of us wants to have as friends. I can’t believe that I’ve been privileged to walk life with them to the degree that I have. I can hardly believe that God has allowed me these times of fellowship and this insight into growth. I am humbled by the fact that they trust me with parts of their hearts and space in their journeys. I’ve enjoyed the fervor of youth. I’ve been reminded of the joys and challenges of the first year of married life as we’ve met. I’ve gained insights into life and faith. I’ve heard God stories and shared some. God has rebuked my lack of faith through them and reminded me who He is through our times together. These times are a good gift, given by the Father of Light.

It all began with a tentative, “Maybe just you and I could do coffee one day?” from Madison. We’d met her husband and his friend when he did some work in a house we were renting. We were new to town, missing our oldest son we’d left behind, and determined to step into life and relationships.  He and Madison were dating, and after a few conversations he asked if he could bring her with him so we could meet her. One introduction led to another, and we found ourselves with a few college-age friends that were willing to join us for an occasional supper. Over the next couple of years the guys married their girlfriends, some of the girls moved away, and we gained two young couple friends whose visits brightened our days.

We met for coffee soon after Madison’s question, and she asked if we could invite Jess and maybe do a study or something. Jess was barely back from her honeymoon the first time she joined us, and the group was three. Madison chose a book which we all enjoyed, then we chose another. I watched newly weds complete a year of marriage, then another. I grew and saw them grow. Life happened, and we met to discuss it. I knew they’d eventually move on to the next place, but it took me by surprise when I realized the date of their departure was within a few months.

As these ladies prepared to move on to the next place God called them to, I was reminded of my own journey and the many hard goodbyes I’ve said. I was excited for the next step in each of their journeys, but I knew I’d miss them. We said our goodbyes one sunny day, and still I miss them.

I’m thankful that God orchestrated our paths crossing, and that each of us chose to engage with one another. I’m reminded that opportunities don’t last forever, and God gives each of us specific opportunities for specific seasons. I know there will be other ladies in my life, but there won’t be another group like this one… I’m so thankful I enjoyed this season!

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.

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