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When my son was in grade school, a teacher wrote two words on the board: “Boisterous” and “Timid.” She told the class that these are the two personality types, and went around the class, saying “Boisterous” or “Timid,” as she pointed at the students. This really frosted my cupcake, and I was about to call that teacher and give her a piece of my ever-loving mind.

But I had to cool my jets as I realized that my son and the other students weren’t bothered by this teacher. “That’s just how she is, Ma.” And I realized that maybe he had learned something. Adults don’t always have their facts straight, and you can’t let someone else’s opinion diminish you.

It was clear that he also knew that the teacher was a “personality type” as well. She was a bit flaky, went off on tangents and was sometimes in her own world. Wow. People like that! Ha ha! Oh wait. I’m like that, too.

It was also a teachable moment for me. I was about to step in, as I’ve always done, to protect my son’s precious psyche. Well, he didn’t need me to charge in like the cavalry then, and he surely doesn’t need it today, at sixteen years old. He’s a young man now.

I’ve been so used to being my son’s advocate that I forgot something. He’s already out there in the world. He sees how it is. By trying to “protect” him, I’m impeding his ability to navigate the world in his own way.

The best thing I can do is keep him covered in plentiful prayer, and trust that I raised him well enough to make the right choices in life. Stepping back is never easy for a parent, but it’s the only way our kids will be able to step up and walk the path on their own terms. My son’s not a boy anymore. It’s about time for me to get out the way and let the man through.

Mayor DeBlasio of New York City was interviewed about residents still re-building two years after Superstorm Sandy. He said they’d sent out 100 checks to families in the Build-it-Back Program, as compared to none earlier this year.

It made me wonder. Sure, if you compare your tiny accomplishment to nothing, heck, it seems to be something. I think we need to set the bar a skooch higher.

On a bottle of juice, there were the words “20% less sugar!” and I thought, as compared to what? A big bag of sugar?

Paula Deen was embroiled (pun alert!) in controversy last year when she revealed that she’d developed diabetes. This celebrity chef made meals with tons of fat and sugar, but she seemed to feel it was unrelated to her health condition. Once, she put a whole stick of butter in a recipe, saying to the camera, “This time we’re cutting back on the butter; normally I use two sticks!”

I guess it’s all about your frame of reference.

And isn’t it true sometimes that we pray, not really expecting God to move on our behalf? It’s possible we’re unconsciously comparing Him to people, some of whom promise things and never deliver.

I’ve got a theory. I think we actually receive answers to our prayers every time we pray.

The answer is either:

□It’s on its way


□Something better is coming

After all, winning the lottery might not actually provide you with what you truly seek:  happiness. God knows you’re not asking for this specific thing, but what you believe it will bring.

The beauty of praying to the One the Bible calls “the Most High God” is that you’re not praying with your hands, you’re praying with your heart.

So I say, you might as well aim high with your prayers. You might be surprised at the blessings that come your way.

In New Jersey, experts tell us that the economy is improving – based partially on the fact that there are fewer people receiving unemployment benefits than in previous years.

The assumption is that those formerly unemployed are now working. But actually, there is a sizable percentage no longer receiving unemployment checks, as they’ve exhausted their benefits. They haven’t found jobs but are no longer counted because they no longer receive unemployment benefits. In the meantime, the poverty level in the state is rising.

In Newark today, the police are advising those filing simple assault complaints to take these matters to municipal court instead. There aren’t enough police officers in the city to address violent crime, so they’ve taken this approach to deal with “lesser” criminal matters.

Because of this, it might seem as if the crime rate in Newark is going down. Crimes that aren’t reported to the police don’t get counted in the police department’s figures.

And in some ways, we judge ourselves and others by flawed figures as well. We seem to measure success by “false positives.” Things such as what’s in your bank account, what sort of car you drive, and the amount of jewelry you have. These things in and of themselves are not negative, but using them as a barometer of accomplishment can have a detrimental effect on the psyche. It can leave you feeling empty.

The question is: are you happy? Do you have projects that make you feel as if you’re tapping into your creative impulses and allow you to contribute something in the world? Have you found the people who “get” you so that you don’t have to explain yourself, and yet you know that they’ll always have your back? Are you walking the path that you’ve chosen, or have you fallen into a life of what’s expected of you?

Don’t let the world’s definition of success skew your sense of who you are. Peace that travels with you, a Co-Pilot you can count on and faith that moves mountains. These are the things that keep your soul whole.

kids' book cover image

Living in the past isn’t just a weight on the soul, it actually puts your present on pause so that, in a spiritual sense, you’re neither here nor there.

This is my fervent prayer today: O Lord, allow us to release ourselves from the prison of past pain.

There really is no warden, no actual iron bars. Just the notion that we can only go as far as this confined space because of things that have happened to us.

Just the imaginary lines that hem us in and hang us up.  We think:

  • If we’ve been hurt before, by anyone, perhaps no one can be trusted.
  • If we’ve tried to pursue a long-cherished dream, and it didn’t work out, maybe that was our only shot. No point in trying again.
  • If we’ve been told we’re too – fill in the blank – □ old □ young □ sick □ poor □ fat □ thin □ ethnic □ timid □ hyperactive □ quirky…we have nothing to contribute in life.

We limit ourselves with labels to the point that we no longer even try. But there’s no need to set down roots in a patch of poison ivy.

So let’s dig into this thing that happened to you. You must know in your heart that you didn’t deserve that. Whatever it was, it wasn’t your fault, so it’s okay to let it go.  It doesn’t belong to you. It belongs in the past, where it can’t hurt you anymore. It belongs to God, who is “close to the broken-hearted and … those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18. It belongs in the sea of forgetfulness, so drop it in and let it go.

Free up space for God’s grace to enliven your life and settle into your soul. Free yourself from the prison you’ve never felt at home in anyway. Release the pain of the past, open your heart to what’s possible, and you’ll find yourself. Free.

You will keep in perfect peace
those whose minds are steadfast,
because they trust in you.
Trust in the Lord forever,
for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.

Isaiah 26:3-4 NIV


Theology vs. The ObviousOne of the members of my health care team is a medical assistant who works at my neurologist’s office. Her name is Luz, and she really lives up to her name – she’s a source of light and warmth. I feel better just talking to her on the phone.

So Luz called to tell me the results of my recent MRI, but my phone started to get hinky, cutting out some of what she was saying.

“Just wanted to let you know….”

I swear, I heard her say to me, “there’s no good news.”

Bracing myself for the worst, I went to another room and said, “Would you mind repeating that please?”

She said, “Of course. Just wanted to let you know, there’s no new lesions.”

Phew.  I nearly fell over with relief. One of the ways my neurologist tracks the course of my multiple sclerosis is by looking at the number of white lesions on my brain, as shown by the MRI. If there are no new lesions, it’s a good sign. Even though my symptoms may not be improving, they’re not getting worse.  I’ll take that.

My mind heard Luz say, there’s no good news. Luckily, even though I did tense up when I thought there was bad news, I was still able to stay in that centered place in my soul – some call it “entering into the rest of God” – and I didn’t over-react.  My heart skipped a beat or two, but I waited to hear what she was saying the second time before I went into a tail-spin.

Now, I don’t always maintain such equanimity, oh no.  Just ask my teen-age son. Yep, he’s got stories for you!  But it is possible to leave the burdens in God’s hands so you don’t feel so heavy-laden. I’m so grateful we can always let go and let God.

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.

You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.

 13 For you created my inmost being;

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

Psalm 139 1-4, 13-14 NIV

2MwGKhLETRSQoHP9UWE4_IMG_1348-3We needed to replace our kitchen sink, so I called a plumber. He was professional and seemed to know what he was doing, but there was one thing I noticed that put me off.  No matter how many times I spoke with him, he never addressed me by name.  He didn’t say, “Ms. Williams,” or even “Ruth” or any name at all.  His emails would start with, “Hi,” and in person, he would just nod and say “Hello.” I think the least any professional person can do is to address you by your name.

“Notes from the Universe,” is a daily affirmation written by motivational speaker, Mike Dooley, and it’s the first email I open each morning. Normally, the email addresses you by your first name to personalize the message, but this is the one I received today:

“Your chosen perspective,    ,  changes everything.”

Those two commas represent the space where my name would normally be. Guess there was a glitch in their email system.

So now, when I get this email that is meant to lift my spirits, I think, oh yeah, this really is just a mass-router, sent to thousands. It’s not personal. It wasn’t tailor-made for me.

That’s why I’m so grateful that God knows me by name. It’s the reason I count my blessings by name every day. It’s important to remember who we are and whose we are. It doesn’t matter what the world calls you, or if people seem to forget you. We were named and claimed before we even came to be. God knows every blade of grass, every drop of rain on every petal. Rest assured, He knows you by name as well.  We’re blessed and beloved, cherished and treasured. Now that’s a personalized message we can count on.

As I was making my son some Ramen, we sat in the kitchen and chatted. I told him the story of the first time I ever cooked anything for his father, some twenty-five years ago.

Oh yes. It was Ramen Noodles.

So I told my son that back in the days of yore, I made his Dad the Ramen, poured in the little seasoning packet, and put it into a bowl.  At that time, Ramen wasn’t as ubiquitous as it is now, and I had never had it before. I looked at the package. It showed a bowl filled with noodles, but I didn’t see any broth in the picture.

Is this noodles? I asked myself.  I thought it was soup, but based on the picture, maybe it’s just a noodle side dish.

I drained out the liquid.

Serving it to my then-husband, he looked puzzled.  “Something is missing here….” he said, explaining that it usually has broth in it.

My son laughed as I told the story.  Now, back in our time, I finished making his Ramen and poured it into the bowl. I handed him a spoon.

“Something is missing, Ma,” he said, smiling.

I had forgotten to pour in the seasoning packet!  Dagnabbit.

So I admit it.  I often order out or bring home meals from food places in our town. My son will actually get a better meal this way, with all of the ingredients included.

I used to feel guilty about this. But now I see that I’m doing the best that I can with the hand I’ve been dealt. My MS affects my memory and my cognitive abilities. For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled to get my side dishes to be done at the same time as my entrée.  I remember once during a dinner party years ago, forgetting the two-cups-of-water to one-cup-of-rice ratio and reversing it. I was embarrassed that I couldn’t seem to master this skill that is so important in the life of a family.

Cooking, gathering over the meal, savoring tasty dishes.  It just isn’t something I’ve ever been able to do well. Some people who don’t do well with plants have a black thumb.  I guess I’ve got a black oven mitt! I’m sure Martha Stewart would look at my caved-in casserole, shake her head and say, “I’d rather go back to jail than have to eat this! It’s a bad thing.”

I’ve come to the conclusion that everybody has something to deal with. Don’t give yourself a hard time for what you can’t do; focus more fully on your gifts, and give that your all. Do your best to work around shortcomings – black oven mitt and all – and trust that God will take care of the rest. And put the pizza place on speed dial.

And the Lord came and stood and called as at other times, Samuel! Samuel! Then Samuel answered, Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening.

Samuel grew; the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.

1 Samuel 3:10 and 3:19 AMP

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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