Tag Archives: perfectionism

“My Song”, a movie about identity

This film is 24 minutes long, and worth attention in every frame.  It is done by folks in the UK, so they use British Sign Language (BSL), with audio and captions.  You may want to have tissues handy.

2013 March: Marching On

I couldn’t resist, really – if you know me, you know it’s true. A play on words cannot go unplayed.

For me, March came in with a bit of a roar, and went out quietly just before a cheer. Of course, we’re now more than a week into April, and the big news just hit three days ago, but we’ll get to that. In March, I had a incident pop up, complete with accompanying paperwork and doctor visits and interruptions. All is well, and I have just a couple of things to do (paperwork, doctor) to tie it off with a bow. Also in March, I picked up full time benefits at work such as health coverage and the earning of paid leave. The six month mark included a performance review which was good and will be followed by a raise (also good). The important point is that the clients I serve have grown measurably in the last six months, due to the stability of the team that serves them and my ability to contribute to everyone’s improved sign language communication. Let that be a lesson to those discouraged by the surrender of their interpreting goals – there is much more to be done with the ability to communicate in ASL than interpreting between two languages at the speed of another’s thoughts.

I finally (FINALLY!) finished the two baby blankets I had worked on for about a year…between moves and graduation and health and logistics and a few rounds of “how am I supposed to do that?!”. They were gifts of love, well received, and offer a few devotional insights such as reverse sometimes being the way forward. The seam ripper was the most used tool on one blanket. I borrowed a friend’s iron to complete the other. It’s good to have friends. Next in the hopper is a purse I promised a few years ago, a wrap I promised a few months ago, and a purse I’ve been promising myself for weeks. There were also about 4 “fix-it fairy” projects, the last of which I outsourced to someone with more experience & stronger equipment. I was reminded that I need to be more forthright with my expectations when delegating. The owner of the piece is happy, so I am also reminded that I need to let go of the perfection standard.

Delegating & standards were topics in the book I just finished reading, “Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours” by Roland Allen. I read it just after finishing C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity”. Both point out the importance of letting God be God. Our task is to represent Him well and introduce people to Him as the source of life and only hope for salvation. Once they begin their relationship with Him, He will take care of instructing them in necessary changes according to how He designed them and the plans and opportunities He laid out for them before they were born. It is not ours to insist on any more or less than what is clearly in scripture. How a church is organized or what quantity and style of jewelry one wears is a cultural issue, and God is big enough to work in the hearts of people from every culture. The key, said both authors, is exercising the faith that God will indeed lead new converts in paths of righteousness, for His name’s sake.

And now for the big news – really BIG: I am officially a missionary, working with Silent Blessings Deaf Ministries out of Anderson, Indiana. I will go to Anderson on April 23 to take a tour and do paperwork, get first assignment details, etc. It’s a 3 hour drive, but I have family living just 45 minutes away. My Provider has me well taken care of. I will continue working in my current job, serving people with intellectual & developmental disabilities, while I transition into full time reliance on missionary support. Funds submitted to Silent Blessings on my behalf will go into an account earmarked for my direct ministry work, such as a week of camp in Michigan this summer to facilitate Bible teaching through the new bilingual VBS curriculum. There’s more, so much more, and so many connections that show how God has prepared me for this place, and this place for me… I remain blessed & boggled.

Pray that I can reign in my spinning thoughts and focus on whatever task is at hand.  I’m like a kid in a candy store with a twenty dollar bill!

How Superstitions Start

I have to throw away my shoes. They’re fine shoes, my go-to shoes for a quick dash out the door, but there’s something about those brown shoes that make Doug’s friends see red. They haven’t said anything outright, they don’t really seem to take note, but there’s a strange coincidence between their worst occasions and my choice of footwear. Yup, it’s official, the shoes have got to go.

There have been other times that I’ve worn those shoes around Doug’s friends with no turmoil, and other rough times when I was wearing different shoes, so I know there’s no direct correlation. The observation has been made enough times, however, that it has become a running joke. Bad night? Wrong shoes. Should’ve known. And thus begins the newest superstition.

I’m not a superstitious sort, but many are. They put some merit to the fear of black cats and walking under ladders (although, caution around a ladder seems prudent). Finger crossing, rabbit’s feet, and lucky t-shirts (and unlucky shoes) are on an ever-growing list of things to keep handy or avoid. Where do these odd ideas come from? I’m beginning to learn…

Something unusually good or bad may occur, and we look for the rhyme or reason behind it, the cause to the effect. Sometimes an identifiable cause exists, and sometimes it doesn’t. When it doesn’t, we keep searching. If there’s a similar event later, we study the previous event to find matching facts. We’re willing to go so far as to recall wardrobe choices or pocket contents to come up with an answer. It’s somewhere in our human nature, we want there to be a predictable cause, so that we can have some control over what may affect us. Some people become absolutely crippled by the need to do everything just right, lest they miss something and get blindsided by the randomness of life. Superstition to the extreme.

There’s an easier, less stressful way to live. Get to know the One who knows all things and is in charge of keeping the world spinning at a consistent rate and direction. Granted, He allows pleasant and unpleasant circumstances to touch people who may be declared good or bad – rain on the just and unjust. He also makes two massive promises that He alone is able to keep. One, nothing happens without His foreknowledge and approval – it can’t touch you before it has gone through His hands. (Job) Two, He will cause all things, good or ill, to work together for the good of those who trust Him. (Romans 8:28) It could take a while, it could get ugly before the dust settles, but He’s got a plan to make the best of even the worst circumstance.

He’s constantly working on connecting unique lives for two objectives: first, to draw people to Himself, and second, to transform them into His character, fit to live with Him forever. This may mean that the sweetest lady you know is suddenly thrown into the hospital for three weeks by an accident involving a drunk driver and the death of her husband of 60 years. What looks horribly unfair to us may be a specific assignment to reach some nurses, a doctor, your niece the candy-striper, or that person you’ve been praying for for years who is in the next bed, scheduled for critical surgery.

The next time you need to find a cause, go to the original cause of all things, Jesus, and trust Him to affect your life in excellent ways. Let go of the need to be in control, and with it, the oppressive false responsibility for bad things happening.

I’m still going to get rid of those shoes. Spring is here, and I much prefer going barefoot!

Dishwasher Inspections

I’ve been inspecting dishes as I unload the dishwasher for many years now, perhaps you do too.  The thing is, the jets in that machine are fabulous at what they do, washing many dishes at the same time, but there are a few food bits that can hang on until they get some special attention from someone with a good eye and a soapy dish cloth, perhaps even one of those plastic scrapers. (I love my scraper!)

It occurred to me, we Christians are the same… It’s not that we need to be ‘saved’ twice, Jesus did all that was required in one shot.  He promised that whoever trusted in Him would belong to Him, done deal.  We who believe all “have our place in the cupboard”, as it were, but some have more stuck-on stains than others.  Some need special attention, just like the dishes.

The bad news is, we ‘dishes’ look at one another & start comparing….the plate sees a spot of milk in the mug, and the spoon sees a bit of egg between the tines of the fork, and we start refusing to share our cupboard space with one another.  It’s especially easy for those of us who were either well rinsed before the washing, or were barely used to hold a piece of toast.   How clean we are! Balderdash – the measure is spotless, and no one qualifies.

The good news is, Jesus inspects and gives that extra cleaning that’s required.  It may take a little time and some elbow grease, but He will get us cleaned up and useful.

There’s more good news – Jesus isn’t Doug.  Doug, you see, has a rather disposable view of dishes.  If he can’t get something clean enough to suit him, he’ll throw it away, smashing it to bits if possible.  (Doug doesn’t have many glass dishes now)  Jesus, on the other hand, will continue to pick and scrape and wipe and rinse, using as much time, soap, and as hot of water as He sees fit.  We may not enjoy all that attention, but we can rest assured that if we belong to Him, He will never give up & throw us away.

As you look at one another, or as you unload your dishwasher, remember:  Some of us have more set-in stains, so show some grace, even if it’s to yourself.

Grace is a Gift

He stood in his doorway, an old man sobbing like a small child, a millionaire baffled over a $5 can of mixed nuts.  A gift, for no reason other than an expression of care, was beyond comprehension for this successful businessman and world traveller. 

He understood trade well. Much of his money was gained by stock investments started years prior with $50 at his kitchen table.  Now, he and his wife were in an upscale apartment literally wallpapered with photos of their adventures: dining with the captain aboard the Queen Elizabeth II (twice), kissing the Blarneystone, safaris, tours, and places I’d only imagined I’d like to go.  Like his ancient grandfather Jacob, he had mastered the economy of tit-for-tat. Gifts were for the sake of good marketing or because it was culturally expected. His year-end mailing list was sorted into nicer cards for those who had sent nicer, lesser cards for those who had sent lesser, and a stack of small checks for charities with careful accounting for the tax deductions. He was every inch a business man, though much friendlier than old Ebeneezer Scrooge. His reputation among the “who’s who” of society was very important to him, as though even his friendships were a business venture. Another story suggests this to be true.

He could have purchased a whole case of the finest brand of nuts, perhaps exclusively almonds or cashews, without flinching. Yet, in all his wheeling and dealing, trading and investing, he simply couldn’t comprehend a gift without expectation. It overwhelmed him, and so he wept. The image is imprinted in my mind – I can still see his red smoking jacket and his facial expression. The caption in my personal gallery is “What profit is there to gain the whole world and lose your soul?” I don’t know, of course, the condition of his soul – but I know that in that moment, he was dumbstruck by a simple gift.

Between the time of considering this article and actually getting it typed up, I encountered another woman in another town. She just had to share with me that she had been praying for our mutual friend, in hopes that the One to whom we pray actually intervenes on behalf of ‘normal’ people. He did intervene, by the way, in our friend’s case and in mine, and I shared my story. Her response was that, being raised by a Jewish father, she couldn’t see herself accepting such a gift without somehow paying or trading for it. I understand that, and yet I remember my old friend and a can of nuts.

Pray for the Jewish people, that they learn of Grace before they have a face-to-face encounter with the Lord of the Law. What a pity to be so blessed and beloved, and miss out. This was Jesus’ thought as He wept over the city of Jerusalem, bustling with business, strict in their sanctity, and ignorant that Jehovah Himself was in a humble carpenter’s body, about to be mounted like a trophy to wood beams, to give us all the one gift we cannot trade or pay for – Grace. “How I’ve longed to gather you as a hen gathers chicks under her wings” He said, “but you would not, and so the outsiders are entering ahead of you.”

Pray for the Jewish people… and for all others who put their full confidence in their own resources. It is when we realize that we have nothing to trade that we begin to recognize Grace.