Posts Tagged ‘Gift’

It all started with a fortune cookie …

What followed were days of deep contemplation.

As I read it now, I hold back from placing the big ‘L’ for loser sign on my forehead. Of course desires that are not extravagant will be granted! The reality of every fortune cookie (or fortune itself) is that there is enough truth in what it says to make a person believe it as their own special, hand-picked message.

How do we define ‘extravagant’ desires?

For me an extravagant desire might be a pedicure, but for another person, living in another context, three meals a day might be an extravagant desire (and I would suppose that a fortune cookie would not be part of their life).

It is easy to sit in our cozy latte drinking, computer-owning, name brand life, and talk about our non-extravagant desires being granted. But, what is it that makes us think that we should receive what much of our fellow human beings do not?

While away on vacation the two of our three kids, who were with us, had great freedom. We allowed them the freedom to go to the beach, hang out with friends, and be out much later than if we were home. The curfew had been set at 10pm, for a couple of nights. Then, one evening our son requested that he be allowed to stay out later. So, after considering why he made his request, we allowed him another half hour. And, we were thrilled that he honored us, by being back by the time we requested.

The next evening when our son came to check in, telling us of the plans for the evening, he requested 10:30 as a time to return to our room. When we said no to his request he was irate!

“But you let me stay out that late last night!” Was his rebuttal.

With the blessing of one ‘extravagant’ desire granted, it became a ‘not extravagant desire’ for our son. To put it another way, once the gift was given once, it became ‘normal’ and expected.

That was NOT our intent, as parents! We simply intended to provide an evening of exception, whereas he interpreted it as a new expectation.

Our son is no different from ourselves as parents, as adults. Like our son, the blessing of one extravagant desire can become for us a new expectation.

Once we have the exception of a tropical vacation, it becomes an expectation. Once we eat at the high end restaurant, it becomes expectation. Once we get that pedicure as a gift, it becomes the expectation. Once we get a summer off from work, it becomes the expectation of summers to come. Once we experience the blessing of full health coverage, it becomes the expectation in our next job. Once we experience the gift of good health, it becomes the expectation.

These ‘non-extravagant’ desires can go on and on and on.

The problem comes when we stop seeing that which is extravagant, as expectation … when we stop seeing each blessing as the gift it is.

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It is said that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. The way to a mother’s heart is quite a different route.

There are so many things that one can do to win the favor of one who is a mother. You can make a meal for her family. You can tell her she looks great (even with bags under her eyes from a sleepless babe, or talkative teen keeping her up at night). You can compliment her home, her work, her husband.

There is only one way to win the heart of a mother … say or do something nice, kind, or generous, for her child.

Just the other day, I got a text from hubby, telling me that a man in our church was gone. He was ninety-one years old, had a beautiful wife (just days from their sixty-sixth anniversary), supportive children, and his body had simply given in to the effects of aging. This man was dearly loved, by all who knew him. He was an amazing support to my hubby, teaching, mentoring and supporting him in a gentle, fatherly way. I always received words of encouragement, and love from him.

The thing I appreciated most about this man was that he told us, many times, that he prayed for our kids. In this act of love, he won the heart of this mother.

In hearing of his death, I felt the loss of the dear man who really knew how to love.

I also feel the weight of the loss of his prayers for my kids.

To know that someone is praying for your kids, is to know of a magical-like experience. There is a sense of other-worldly connection with that person. There is a sense of receiving love that is out of this world amazing.

To hear someone say, “I pray for your children” is to have won the lottery. Not because there is anything ‘magical’ about praying (God is not a sugar daddy who delivers all that we want), but because it is the act of love that cannot be adequately thanked for. It is not an act of love that gets acclaim.

It is an act of love that comes from knowing that growing up is not always easy, being a pastor’s kid is not always easy. The time that goes in to spending it with the God of the universe to lift them up to Him in humble prayer is the best gift there is.

In telling us of his sacrificial act, we were encouraged, as parents. This man knew of the intimacy of prayer, the strength that comes from prayer, and the reliance on God for every thing in life. He knew it, because he lived it.

He knew the way to this mother heart, and our family feels the loss of his love.

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With a title like this one, I know of at least one person who will read this blog post!

I have been married to my hubby for almost twenty-three years, and yes, he has taught me a thing or two. Probably not as much as he would have liked me to have learned from him in that time ๐Ÿ˜‰ .

The best thing that he taught me has made me a better person, a better mom, a better neighbor, a better colleague and better at my job (probably a better wife too, but hubby would be better at discerning that). It is something that he told me he recently learned from an elderly retired pastor, but really he has been living it as long as I have known him.

This thing that I have learned from hubby is to take people at face value. To not impart guessing into their motives, but to accept them as they are.

It sounds good … it is not easy.

I am one who has a tendency towards discernment. I have an inner ability to grasp and comprehend what is obscure (definition thanks to the Merriam-Webster dictionary). Another way to put it is that I often get a ‘feeling’ or have a sense about individuals when I first meet them, that is often, but not always true. This gift tends to make me very open to some, and very guarded to others.

If I get a bad ‘feeling’ about someone, I tend to treat them with suspicion, distrust, and doubt. It is so easy for me to hang a cloud over that persons head, and for me to treat them in a manner in which they are convicted before they are even accused. I give no opportunity for them to plead their case. I act a judge and jury, and they are imprisoned by arrogant way I yield my ‘gift’.

What hubby has modeled, in my lifetime with him, is that he gives people the benefit of the doubt. He believes well of people, until he has evidence, from them directly of something different. He believes in people with no judgment on them. He gives them the benefit of the doubt. He always believes, always hopes, always perseveres.

Hum, that sounds familiar.

It sounds like 1 Corinthians 13:4-8:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered,it keeps no record of wrongs.Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

To love someone is to do all of the above. To pre-judge is to never allow others the opportunity to show their best side, and likewise it never allows us to show ours either.

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The Piano Man

As I write this I am being serenaded by the piano man … and I am not talking Billy Joel. Our Chinese son, who is sixteen, humorous, gentle and kind (and who makes a mean soup) also plays piano.

Every day, shortly after returning from school, he sits at our piano and tickles the ivories (and ebonies too … who doesn’t remember that song from the eighties? Good ol’ Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder were tickled green(bucks) by that number one hit … but, I digress), and all of the stress of my day fades away.

He is currently playing Yiruma’s “River Flows in You” right now. It is a song with lullaby qualities that make me feel as though I haven’t a care in the world (it is also known as the ‘people’s choice’ for the song to be “Bella’s Lullaby” for the Twilight movie). He also frequently plays Mozart’s Sonata K545, and I feel as though I am on the set of the filming of Pride and Prejudice with the hilarity of poor Jane’s dysfunctional family flitting all around.

I remember the first day, after he moved in, that I realized that China’s got talent. I was making tea in the kitchen when the most beautiful music was playing in my living room. After a few minutes, I realized that I heard a mistake (it must have been a big mistake for me to hear it) in the music that I had thought must be coming from a stereo. I wandered into the living room to see our new son by another mother sitting at our dusty piano, playing in a manner that said he knew what he was doing.

I dropped to the sofa, and tried to pick my chin up from where it had dropped on the floor. All I could think was, ‘we are getting paid to be serenaded by this talented young man? How did we get so lucky?’ So I sat there, surrounded by musical beauty that fed my soul. And when he was done, I thanked him with a standing ovation. He was aghast that I could have heard anything good from his unpracticed fingers.

Music … that was what we were sharing.

Perspective … that was what we were not sharing.

His perspective came from his expectations that he could only be good if he was of the quality of a concert pianist. My perspective came from my lack of expectations upon my afternoon. He surprised me pleasantly. He only surprised himself if he was flawless. He expected perfection. I expected nothing, and was delighted with the music he made.

I still think he makes great music. And I still think that my perspective is the right one … because I (the hearer) heard and more than that, received his gift … imperfect, unpolished, but gift wrapped nonetheless. And I received gladly.

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Sometimes God speaks in whispers, and sometimes His voice yells into my being. I like it better when He yells (it is easy for me to become distracted when trying to hear whispers), but He seems to prefer whispering.

There was a time, a few years back, when He yelled … loudly. I am not sure, looking back, why He was so intent on my hearing His voice. Maybe what He wanted most was simply that it was undeniable that He was pursuing me.

It all started on a bright and sunny fall Sunday afternoon. I was walking with our oldest daughter (about eight years old, at the time). As we walked we talked about various things. The only thing I remember talking about was when I asked her if she would be interested in learning a how to play a musical instrument. I had asked if she might like to learn to play the violin, the guitar, or maybe take voice lessons (notice the smaller size of these suggested instruments … money was tight, and as much as we wanted to provide this opportunity, it also had to fit with our budget).

My daughter’s response was that she would like to learn to play piano (not in our budget). I did not want to discourage her, but I did want her to recognize the enormity of her desire. So, I told her it was an expensive instrument, and that if that was what she desired most, then she should pray and ask God to either make a way for us to get a piano, or that He would take her desire to learn to play piano away. I also quoted (something I do not do ofter or well, because memorizing is a struggle for me), Matthew 19:26, ” Jesus looked at them and said, โ€œWith man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.โ€”

When we returned home that afternoon, I shared with hubby our conversation. The next morning, hubby got a phone call from his mother. She called him (not a regular occurrence) to ask if she could purchase a piano for her granddaughter to learn to play on. He immediately called me, to share in his sense of shock. We decided that we would not share this with our daughter.

Over the next number of weeks we looked high and low for a good, used piano (we did have a conservative budget). It was not an easy task. I cannot remember what the budget was, exactly, I just remember that there was nothing available in any store I visited. Through the hunt we would check in on our daughter, and ask if she was still praying. Every time her response was the same, “everyday, Mom.”

Finally, just weeks before Christmas, a store that I had left our budget with called to say that a piano that met our needs and budget had just arrived. Arrangements were made for it’s delivery. We still chose to not tell our daughter … but I think we told every other living soul around us. I am not sure if it was possible for our daughter to ever realize the excitement and anticipation that this event created for all around her.

Then, on the Friday before Christmas break, it was delivered. She walked into the house, and we put her on the phone with her gift-providing Gramma (so that she could live through the excitement with us). She was led to the piano, blindfolded, and then it was revealed. She was ecstatic! She played, she sang, she played. And we all smiled brightly.

The whole story was shared with her, and we reminded her of the verse from Matthew that was the central point of this adventure. That verse has become her life’s verse (as each of our children have one), but, really it has more meaning to us than even to her.

That season is one I look back on as our ‘with God all things are possible’ season. It is a time that God spoke, loudly, and reminded me of how He is in control of our lives, and how with Him, the impossible for us, happens.

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