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Enough is Enough

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It is a strange upbringing to hear each week that you fall short and are not enough. But it is the upbringing that many experience.

The difficult part is that it’s what we hear as we sit in pews and sing songs about love and hear sermons about love and proclaim that Jesus loves me.

How can He when I am not enough? I am a sinner. I will always be a sinner. I will never be good enough.

Without necessarily meaning to, how many people have fallen victim to this truth? We humans are fragile beings. We desire to be better and do better. We work hard to be the best at what we decide to put our hand to. We add immeasurable pressure to ourselves to be enough. . .

Be enough for our spouses.

Be enough for our jobs.

Be enough for our kids.

Be enough for our extended family, our neighbors, ourselves.

And grapple with the idea that we’re not enough, ever, no matter how hard we try for salvation.

Understandably, this can be crippling in so many areas. Not just faith, but in our every day lives. Doubt and questions arise. What is it all for if I’m never going to be enough? I’m aware that this realization impacts individuals differently. There are those who will try harder. There are those who will quit trying at all. And there are those who will be brave enough to start peeling layers and truly struggling with what being enough means in all aspects of their lives.

And those brave souls deserve more than trite cliches and platitudes that are offered–read your Bible more, attend church, pray harder, do devotions. The complexities of faith cannot fit into these tiny plastic phrases, and it’s a disservice to offer them to people who have the tremendous courage to battle fears and questions.

I have battled the formidable foe of enough. I have faced the why bother mentality and the try harder mentality. Neither of them brought me peace and both of them meant poor decisions that could impact my health negatively and wreck my emotional stability.

But an amazing thing happened on this journey. I somehow managed to surround myself with people who think I am enough. Just as I am. With all my insecurities and flaws and fears and questions. They love me. They encourage me. They tell me I am enough with whatever I have to bring that day.

It is liberating. And it is an eye opening blessing.

I am coming to terms with God’s plan for me isn’t because I’m enough.

It’s because I’m loved.

And that is enough.

Starbucks, London, and the Morrises

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Have you ever had so much in your head that you want to get out and then you just don’t know how? That’s where I am right now. I have a lot I think I want to say, and I sat down to start saying some if it. Then I looked at my coffee cup.

Happy accident: my London minion in the background.

And now, that’s all I can think about.

I bought this cup at my first Starbucks behind St. Paul’s Cathedral in 2005 on my first trip to London (or Europe for that matter) with my friends Jack and Lina Morris.

I was a sixth year teacher helping lead a group of students on a trip to London and Paris, appropriately titled “Tale of Two Cities.” It was one of the years when our school year ended in May so we were able to get an outstanding price. We did Paris first, then traveled the Chunnel over to London. The day I went into my first Starbucks we had toured St. Paul’s Cathedral. It was an inspiring and thoughtful time. The church is still used as a house of worship (as are most churches in Europe that tourists wish to see) so at one point during the tour we were asked to stop for a moment and recite the Lord’s Prayer or honor the worshipers with a moment of silence. I was walking through the church with Jack and Lina. We all stopped and recited the prayer and, honestly, I got chills. I felt God move during that time of recitation; strangers pausing together for this sacred breath.

At any rate, we finished our tour before it was time to meet our tour manager, and it was cold. So, we found the Starbucks. I didn’t even get coffee because I didn’t think I liked coffee then. I got a hot chocolate and bought the mug as a memento of not only my first trip over the big pond but also my first Starbucks.

Jack delights Peter.
Lina holds her answered prayer.

Lina was my mentor when I began teaching. Not only for my profession but just for the kind of person I want to grow up and become. She has been an unwavering example of Romans 12:12–joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. You see, in 2017 she circled me in prayer and asked God to bless us with a child in our arms by the end of 2020. And, you see, Jack–sweet, sweet Jack–has Alzheimer’s.

Taking Peter to meet them in January was one of the greatest blessings of my life. And my child, my sweet and precious Peter, was delighted by them. He smiled so big at them both with no hesitation.

He knows good people.

Word Play

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I did it.

I did one of those things that goes around on social media (or used to be just in email. . .) where you make note of the first so many words you see and then those words have some specific meaning for some thing in your life.

I don’t even remember what the point of this one was, but the words stuck with me.

In the order I noticed them (we were instructed to note four): Lessons, Love, Strength, Purpose.

As a side note, I do often wonder how many words are in these little grids and what influences what words different people notice. . .like if you’re right handed does that mean you notice words on the left first? Or something like that.

Anyway. . .My words. I like them. I’ve actually decided to make them a focus of 2021. I’ve done words of the year before. . .hope, laugh. . .

These words spoke to me when I spotted them. I immediately thought about how Peter can be quite integral in the focus of these words. . .I’m sure he will teach me many lessons; he has already shown me things about love; strength is necessary when embarking on the journey of parenthood; and purpose, well, we do things with intention in mind.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Those were my first thoughts, but as the words have marinated over the last month, I find them being important to me in other ways. Not just what Peter will show me, but what I will show Peter. And the things that Steven and I encounter outside of Peter–in our marriage, in our other relationships.

I have plans for these words as the year continues. I would like to attach a verse to each of them. Something that God will show me in His time. Something He wants me to know about each word.

In the meantime, they play in my head every day. Rolling around in there and bumping into things I’m contemplating.

Love One Another

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Periodically, over my career, students would ask why I was a Christian. I must admit that early on the question surprised me and my answer was trite.  But over time, as I guess happens with most people as they mature, my answer acquired more depth, at least in my eyes.

LentFirst, Christianity asks me to be humble–not only to my Creator, but also to those around me. I am to recognize that on my own I am small and weak and in need of help.  I should see myself as in the most need of help. Perhaps paradoxically, in some ways, despite this need, I am accepted.  I do not need to make myself better to receive the help that is offered.  I am enough.  It is in this weakness that I am accepted.  But finally, Christianity asks that I not stay there once I see these things in myself.  I am to move forward, as much as I’m able, with God’s help to loving others with the acceptance He has shown me.  Christianity asks me to get outside of myself, to lay down my selfishness, to believe that He can help me do that. These are reasons why I choose to believe that Jesus died on the cross for me and is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

In the past week I have spent time reflecting on Christianity and my walk with Christ. I’m troubled by the state of the nation. I’m troubled by my own contributions to the current atmosphere.  While I may have never meant to place myself above others, it is without a doubt that I have.  I have not had to worry about walking down the street, or driving a nice car, or browsing in a store simply because of the color of my skin.  When the mask recommendation came from the CDC in response to the pandemic, I didn’t have to worry what people would think I was up to if I wore one.

How many times have I laughed at someone’s racist joke? How many times have I sat silently while someone spouted their own racist ideas? How many opportunities have I had to show love and failed?

I feel inadequate. I feel lost. I feel unprepared. I feel angry!

I feel angry that so often I hear people say things such as “well, we can’t help how we were raised.” I feel angry that they seem unconcerned about evaluating themselves and their own contributions to the current state of affairs. I feel angry that often I have jumped to conclusions and have pre-judged a person’s situation based on color.

I feel terrified that I will fail Grasshopper. I will fail to show Grasshopper that I was weak and wrong on many occasions, and that he/she can do better. I will fail to show Grasshopper that God’s call to humble ourselves and love one another is a call to do that in response to ALL people.

And so, I come back to why I’m a Christian.  Because God calls me to be outside of myself.  He accepts me where I am, but He urges me to be better, to move from where I am to somewhere that loves one another. God, help me.

The Price of Love

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Margaret Lucille Hatcher Coleman. These pictures were taken at one of her favorite places, doing one of her favorite things, surrounded by her favorite people about two weeks before she died in 2016.

I said in my last post I had really sat down to write about my grandma. And then I didn’t.

I want to now, but I’m not even sure how. All I know is that in the last month I’ve missed her horribly.  Like physical pain miss.  It seems that so many things are reminding me of her. Strawberries. Church. Music. Just looking in the mirror. Banana pudding.

We used to eat at her house on Sundays.  It was a day she made a dessert.  Sometimes she made coconut cake, but she knew I didn’t care for coconut cake.  So, she would get a pack of strawberries from the freezer to thaw so I would have something sweet.  I would smother one of her biscuits in the fruit and be perfectly happy.  I can’t eat strawberries now without that memory.

I’m supposed to sing a special in about a month at church. I thought I was going to sing a praise/worship song.  I’ve been working on it for over a month now.  It’s almost ready.  But during that whole month, one of her favorite hymns keeps going through my head. In the Garden. We sang it at her funeral. So, I’ve changed my mind. I think that’s what I’m supposed to sing. It brings tears to my eyes to even think about it. I hope she hears me.

My husband loves banana pudding.  It was another one of the things she would make for dessert sometimes.  It was so good.  My sister had the recipe. . .it was what she called her handy dandy easy peasy recipe.  When I contacted my sister for it, she told me about the day Grandma shared it with her. I could hear her voice in my head telling Jerri about it. The way she said Jerri’s name wasn’t like any other person. Makes me smile.

Since all these memories have arrived, I’ve had a hankering for fried shrimp and cocktail sauce.  I can remember sitting in the trailer at the Outer Banks, peeling shrimp she had cooked to dip in the cocktail sauce she’d whip up for us–ketchup and horseradish. I prefer fried shrimp, but it doesn’t dampen the memory of her boiled shrimp on those trips.

Her forgiving me for being a brat, even in my adulthood.

Grief is love. It’s what we have left when we have loved someone fiercely and known her fierce love in return. There are so many things I wish I could tell her about the last three and a half years. So many things I want to sit at her table or at the kitchen counter and share and have her soft hands reach out and pat mine.

I have a bottle of lotion my aunt gave me the day Grandma died. It was her favorite scent. I can’t wear it; it makes me sneeze. But I get it out sometimes to smell it and to remember.

I can’t say anymore, except I don’t mind this price.

God’s Gift: Restoration

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For the next 25 days, I intend to share with you my Advent devotional. I wrote it to remember God’s goodness and gifts while I grieved for our lost babies.  

I also wrote it with the intention of using it with a Jesse Tree, though this isn’t necessary.

Jesse Tree scriptures are relatively standard across denominations.  Sometimes the order is a bit different or the addition of another unlikely hero may be included.  I used the progression of scriptures included in Jesse Tree Journey by Ann Voskamp and Nancy Rodden from www.aholyexperience.com.  I wrote the scripture references at the top of individual pages in my journal, and then put their words away.

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Bible Reading: Isaiah 11:1-2

When I was growing up, we had a maple tree which my parents decided to cut down.  The stump marked the edge of a makeshift parking spot in our yard. After a season of “stumpiness”, it sprouted.  The maple tree came back more beautiful and full than it had ever been previously.

A stump seems dead, but when we wait patiently, it bears new life.  These verses remind us of the Trinity and the characteristics that are bestowed upon Jesus: wisdom, understanding, counsel, power, knowledge, loving reverence of God.  We wait expectantly for these traits to appear from the stump of Judah. It is Advent.

We progress through all of God’s gifts, towards the One.

Thoughts for today:

How can you recognize beauty in the waiting? 

Where can you nurture to bring forth beauty and fullness that previously was missing?

Where can you display more patience in your life?

Ask God today to reveal areas where restoration is waiting in your life. Ask God to help you relax in the waiting.

Expectant Waiting

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empty-manger1_origAdvent starts tomorrow for the Christian calendar. Since being properly introduced to the concept of advent {I’m not counting the chocolate calendars our uncle gifted us each year at Thanksgiving when we were children} I’ve associated it with waiting.

There’s a lot of waiting in Christianity.  Maybe that’s not quite the right word.  There’s a lot of walking towards something in Christianity.  We walk towards the manger in Advent. We walk towards understanding who He is during Epiphany.  We walk towards the cross during Lent.

And we do it each year. . .practicing our walk.

And we do it with expectation. Anticipation. The idea of anticipation is filled with hope.  It’s knowing that something is going to happen.

In the last two years, I’ve spent a lot of time contemplating the three qualities Paul describes to the Corinthians: faith, hope, and love.  Paul says the greatest of these is love.  I don’t disagree with him.  And James says faith is what motivates us to do. I don’t disagree with him either.

Faith is what changes us. Faith leads us to love. Love leads us to do.

But hope. I have grown quite fond of hope.  It is hope that girds my soul. Hope that keeps me filled with expectant waiting.  Anticipation. It is with hope that I walk towards the manger to see the savior of the world.  It is with hope that I pray that those around me will experience the epiphany of who He is.  It is with hope that I carry my cross towards Golgotha.

It is with hope that I wait expectantly each month with faith in my Father and love for what He has done in my life.

In the last year, I wrote an advent devotional, which I plan to share each day here.  It follows the coming of Christ from the Old Testament.  I wrote it to help me focus on how good God is during grief over the loss of our children.  It has helped me remember His many gifts.  May you find something of our great God in it as well.

Crotts in Nigeria

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As a teacher of twenty years, I have a unique position of witnessing former students doing amazing things.  I am humbled by the fact that I crossed paths with these outstanding individuals.

Today, I have permission to share one of their stories with you.

When Caleb was in high school his plan was to become a medical doctor.  He would have been an amazing physician.

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Caleb’s senior year. He’s second row, first guy from the left. Picture from personal files.

However, God tugged his heart in a new direction and shortly before his college freshman year would have begun, he started a different journey.  One that lead to meeting his wife, Mandolyn. And now, at the tender age of 25 (I think I have my math right), they are serving God together in Nigeria.

They are teachers at Grace Garden in Jos, Nigeria.  I want the video to tell most of their story to you because it does it so well, and it shows you their hearts in a way that I could never do justice. {link at the bottom of this post}

What I do want to say is that their story burdens my heart with an urgency I’m not sure I’ve encountered before. I have no way of adding explanation to that statement.  I just know I’m supposed to do more somehow.

Crotts in Nigeria

The messiness of life

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Philippians 4:7 “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

I have heard many prayers that ask for the peace that surpasses understanding.

Look at the verse.  It’s not just any peace.   It’s God’s peace that surpasses understanding.  And when you realize that, there is an aha! moment because, of course, it doesn’t make sense. God is bigger than our minds could ever comprehend, therefore, so is His peace.

On August 6, 2017 the pastor at the church I’m attending delivered a message based on this scripture, and I had my aha! moment.

On August 7, 2017, seven months after Nugget had been cut from my womb, I had our first ultrasound for our second child. We saw its heart beating.

On August 14, 2017 our second ultrasound revealed that our little one’s heart had stopped beating.

On August 21, 2017 my body shed all its preparations and the tiny little person that had started there.

And through it all, even though there was sadness, I was at peace.

This, in no way, has been an easy road to travel.  However, the good that Steven and I have found along the way can’t, in any way, be replaced. As individuals we have grown.  As a couple we have strengthened.

The messiness of life. . .we’re ok wading through it and cleaning it up together. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

January Spice Cabinet

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Ah, lucky January with your five Wednesdays.  How exciting it is for me to think of things I want to share in the spice cabinet.  Perhaps my favorite part of the spice cabinet is taking pictures for it.  You get a little glimpse into the things that make my life, well, my life.

1.  I live in a part of North Carolina that may or may not get snow.  When it’s predicted, I’m like a little kid and make sure all my shades are open so I can see it when it starts.  Yesterday was such a day.waitingforsnow

 

 

2.  These are two of my most favorite pieces of décor in my house.  My friend John makes them as a hobby.  camcraft

3.  My hot chocolate making kit.  That little wisk is just the perfect size for making sure my hot chocolate, peppermint sprinkles, and milk are well blended in my awesome Barbie cup. (hmm, seems that pink theme from the last Spice Cabinet is around)hotchocolate

4.  When you’re a teacher you occasionally get gifts.  One of my favorite gifts is this mug. It so happens that it was from one of my favorite students as well.  He “got” me.laughtermug

5.  And here is my sweet love on date night.  It’s tough sometimes to balance what needs to be done and what wants to be done.  But, the end result will be worth it, and frankly, it’s just nice to have him near on date night.stevenstudies