Tuesday, March 25, 2014

16. Retirement

“As long as you are still breathing, you are here for a reason. You have a purpose to influence others for Christ. That does not come to an end until the day we die.”

At first I thought this one didn’t apply to me and because I am not 65 it will be a long while before I understand “retiring” from life.  But so many times, very recently I have thought, “I want to be a greeter at Wal-Mart.” I have also thought, “I just want to be Presbyterian.” Now it may take more back peddling than I have time to explain myself here, but my dear, sweet Presbyterian friends, please don’t take offense. Come to me and I will explain myself. But please consider it a compliment. To me it means you are wise and intellectual, you accept all peoples and you love well. It means I just want to study the Word, experience concise and organized messages under orderly, liturgical services. Wear a dress and not get dirty. The Wal-Mart greeter has no stress, no beggars, no needs, no floods or malaria or tuberculosis or death or snakes and witchdoctors or demons or corrupt governments to fight against. Just carts and smiley face stickers. So lately I have wanted to retire. I have wanted to clothe myself in anonymity and hide for a nice long while and not have to face the people in my night dreams, or any obligations or any responsibility. And while becoming Presbyterian sounds like a great idea, a Wal-Mart greeter is just absurd. It is just my fear of the unknown and my inability to realize I do nothing without Him anyway. I know that there are wild adventures before me and I remain clueless as to what they look like and that is frightening. Sometimes I become way too self-absorbed and I think that this is all about me and it’s not. He will provide every ounce of bravery, the entire strategy, more than enough energy and every dollar I need when I need it.

When I read the author of “20 Things” brief commentary on Retirement and about not giving up until we die, I couldn’t help but think about Granny Davis. She was on her deathbed, literally. We had been called over to my aunt’s house to say goodbye to her. We sat quietly while she lie in bed, eyes closed.  We listened to her slow, weak breaths.  My aunt had put on soft Gospel music to serenade her. Her breath filled the silence between the songs. Then “Company” came. My grandmother LOVED company. She would make what she called, “pop calls” on the weekends where she and my grandfather would “pop in" to see people in the area. She LOVED it when people “popped in” to see her. If you pop in to see me you may not get so warm a welcome. But she loved to visit. To sit and talk for hours and pull out cakes and pies and have you stay for supper. She kept pen pals from college days and cherished relationships. So when complete strangers to me walked in the door, she opened her eyes and completely perked up. They were somehow connected to her church and she had not seen them in a coon’s age but you woulda thought the Queen herself had walked into the room. She welcomed them in and all but said, “Everyone is here to watch me die, come on in, pull up a chair and join the party." My sister and I sat there with our mouths wide open. I think the couple knew that Madge Lee was very sick and this was the reason for their pop call,  but they could not know that hours later she would take her last breath. So she lived it out as Christ commanded, always serving, always welcoming, always loving as Christ loves the Church. Way to go, Granny. 
Taken at Cousin Miriam's wedding, Granny is on the far right in the pink polyester A-line and gloves. While I didn't get her gift of hospitality, I did get her elbow dimples.

15. Self-Pity

“Humble people are without pretense, free from any sense of spiritual superiority, and liberated from the need to be associated with persons of importance.  Neither overly sensitive to criticism nor inflated by praise, they recognize their brokenness, acknowledge their gifts, and refuse to take themselves seriously.  A truly humble man does not fear being exposed.”- Brennan Manning

It’s not all about me. I have found that when I pour out myself the most and make it less about me and more about loving others around me, this is when I am the most transformed. I heard God clearly speak to me during my time in Mozambique, “This has nothing to do with you and this is all about you.” When we step outside of ourselves and do what we are called in being His hands and feet, we get transformed. Just this morning I went to a morning meditation with a group of women who among them some had been SOLD into sex trade and forced to live in such horrific circumstances. Their problems make mine pale. And what do I even have to bring to their conversation? It could be easy to shy away and feel that I have nothing to offer. But everyone’s story has value and meaning and purpose. Everyone’s story needs to be told and we can all offer hope to those around us by simply being ourselves. 

Carl Benedict just sent this to me.  It's quite fitting. 


14. Doubt Revisited: a proper look

Doubt will kill your dreams. I have learned in life that God is only as big as our faith allows Him to be and when we doubt our faith begins to flicker. So I try not to let those thoughts even enter my head. I know when I hear others talk about the impossible in their lives all I see is possibility. Just moments ago I had a conversation with a friend who does not have a job and she admitted fear and doubt try to rob her of her peace. If you only knew how much potential and talent this woman possesses. She’s a genius. She is so going to get a job and not just any job but a really amazing beautiful one and she will never go hungry or lack. It is obvious, to me. So when you start to doubt, go to your really good friends and have them speak truth over you. It works. I also used to keep a testimony jar, back when I had a place to keep a jar. I kept it in the windowsill in the kitchen. Whenever something good happened I scribbled it down and put in it the jar. I came across it not long ago and just seeing it reminded me of all the amazing things that happened during that year or so that I kept it. It seemed that no matter what I put my hand to, it would grow, even if just a tiny bit. Going back and recalling God’s faithfulness is also a good way to squash doubt. Sometimes I just need a little reminder of how deeply concerned with me He really is and how He never fails and how He won’t just provide my friend with a great job but He will for me too. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

14. Doubt

*Day 14 "Doubt – Believe God has a plan for you that is beyond anything you could imagine. The future is brighter than you could ever realize."

So I doubted that I could actually write every day for 20 straight days and I was right. I have been gone all day and didn't manage to write a single sentence before heading out this morning to meet friends. I went downtown for a walking tour with Dale and Barbara who live on Church Street. I met them while on Ibo Island. We agreed to one day meet again and we did. I am leaving Charleston in the morning and I will miss my little sanctuary here, where my goal is to write and read books and my exercise is an evening tennis clinic with a cute pro. I will miss Cal and Beth and Harris Teeter. I will write on doubt tomorrow when I get home, although I doubt I will have time but I will try. XO, G
from our walk today

Monday, March 17, 2014

13. Feelings of unworthiness

"I cannot afford to have a thought in my head that is not in His."- Bill Johnson

I think about this quote from Bill a lot. I know what the voices sound like that tell me that I am not enough, that I am unworthy and unless I am able to jump through certain hoops and hurdles I will remain unworthy. "You are only worthy if you are a success...and have a job." "You are not 'worthy' as a size 8, only a 6 and even then a 4 would be better." What Bill is saying is that it is completely a waste and totally absurd to fill our heads with these lies. God's plans and thoughts toward us are so insanely good. His adoration of us is never-ending and completely unconditional. 

Apologies for continuing to reference Brene' Brown, but she just says it so sweetly.

She says it in more detail HERE.

One of my greatest enjoyments in this, my current life, is fast internet and a Netflix Subscription. I am slowly working my way through all episodes of BBC's Call the Midwife and Foyle's War. When poverty and childbirth and war in England get too heavy I switch over to TLC's What Not To Wear. Every episode is the same. A woman feeling completely unworthy of love and belonging, lets herself go. And not in a good way. A bad way. Cat t-shirts and Mom Jeans way. A recent episode was about a woman who wore no make-up and often dressed in men's slacks and polo shirts. When I saw her, I thought, "She's been abused." It was so obvious that she didn't have to say anything. You can just tell that she is hiding and doesn't want to be seen and she fears her femininity because some creep abused her. My heart breaks with every episode, but every single time these women begin to get set free. They have been fed the lie for so long that they are unworthy that they give up or they have been so abused and taken advantage of that they put up very huge walls and protect themselves by becoming invisible. Two completely untrained counselors spend a week telling this woman that she is worthy and she begins to believe. 

You are worthy! You are worthy of love and belonging. I am too. When we get these in our hearts and in our heads everything changes. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Holy City

I got that brioche I had been craving. With Meyer Lemon. So good.

12. Spirit of Poverty

The revelation of true identity will destroy the spirit of poverty in our lives.- Kris Vallotton

Several years ago I was standing in line at the check out counter of a department store. A towhead blonde boy was standing next to his mother and a mound of new jeans and pastel colored polo shirts. He seemed bored of the task of getting a new wardrobe, unappreciative even. His mother seemingly oblivious to his attitude swiped her credit card and Junior got new clothes. I then stepped up to the counter with my 75% off and under $20 purchase.  I had stood at the rack debating over and over if the purchase was truly necessary. Was this a need or a want? Did it fit into my budget? Did it have to be dry-cleaned? If so, I could not afford that. I was jealous of the boy who got a whole mound of new things without any care as to who was paying for it or if it was on sale or how it was to be laundered. He never had to open the bill in the mail and stare aghast and feel the angst of not having enough.

Jesus said in Matthew 6:25-34
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?[a] 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its’ own trouble.
He told me then and there at the counter that the boy and I were no different and I needed to approach the counter with no worries, no concerns and no fear. He told me that I have the same provision as this boy, even more. He set Matthew 6 in my heart and told me He would provide all I ever need (Philippians 4:19).
Years later I stood at the counter in a shop in Austin, Texas and watched my friend Wanda swipe her card as she bought me a whole new wardrobe of linen for Mozambique. I wiped tears away in the dressing room as I heard Him confirm to me that His promises are true. I love the way He says, "I told you so." It is always so kind and gentle.
Proverbs 23:7 says, “For as a man thinks in his heart so is he.” As I began to figure out in life, just who I was, I began to change. I see it all the time, daily, people walking around defeated, making really poor choices, all because they simply have no idea who they really are. They settle, they choose out of fear. “If that girl knew how amazing she was, she would not be with that jerk.” Luke 12:32 tell us, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.” That revelation for me was life changing. Once I began to realize that the kingdom was my inheritance I began to carry myself completely differently. It wasn’t from a place of arrogance, but of honor. When I saw myself as valued and cherished, I began to value and cherish others. I saw that my showing up in life and being able to cheer others on was part of my destiny on planet Earth.

All of Creation is waiting for the sons of God to be revealed. And for me to step up and finally realize that I am a daughter, not a pauper but a princess.

Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.

“Creation itself is longing for us to have a revelation of who we are.     Creation is groaning under the weight of our slavery, hoping that one day soon we will have a revelation of the glory of our Son-ship.”- Kris Vallotton

Living among the very poor and working among the rich, I have seen how they behave. I know what their dejected spirit looks like and how it reacts. Those with a poverty spirit feel insignificant and that pain defines them. Whether it be money or lack of love and affirmation a pauper believes there is not enough for them. 

By breaking the spirit of poverty off in my own life I began to see my inheritance, full of heavenly and worldly and lasting treasures. When I began to see myself as immensely valuable, a daughter of the Most High, everything changed. He is more than enough. Fear and panic and jealousy are not from Him. I reign. 

Are you a pauper or a prince? 

Take the test!

Friday, March 14, 2014

11. Fear of Failure by Carla Fallin

I met her at our "halfway" point. When I pulled into the parking lot I immediately recognized her dirty red mini van. Written in the dirt on the back window in cursive that could only be Catherine's it read (so I thought), "Too Blessed to be Stressed." As I pulled up beside her and got out of my car, the van door swung open and kids piled out, and so did Chic-fil-a cups and an entire box of fruit snacks. As I looked closer at the van I noticed that someone who could only be my namesake (Emma Grace) had rubbed out the letters and managed to write in the same dirt on the window, "Too STRessed to be BLessed." We went inside and exchanged information quickly. She gave instructions on "the kid" and I filled her in with my social events and ailments; recent suspected food allergies and digestive issues and tentative plans to leave the country again. She interjected her lists of the girls' exams, papers, tests, proms, and social events. Then the boys' karate classes, boy scouts, history lessons and a pie that needed to be made by in the morning. The list got long and daunting and then she added emphatically, "AND I am driving around with a filthy van that says, 'Too Stressed to be Blessed' on the back!" We both knew who had done it and found it hysterical. She laughed so hard her eyes shut tight and her nostrils flared as they always do. In that moment I was 4 and she 11 and all was right with the whole entire world.

An entry from my sister
     I will always remember the fear in that moment.  Kevin had gone back to work and my Mom was packing to go home.  She said she would stay long enough for me to take one more hot bath, and then I would be left alone with a 16 month old toddler and a newborn barely 4 days old. I ran the water, climbed into the tub, tucked my knees up to my chin and sobbed.  I will also always remember the Holy Spirit whispering in that moment, “I gave you this baby because I wanted to give you a gift.”  Those words gave me the courage to stand up, dry off, put on clean pajamas and watch my mother drive away without chasing her down the driveway  begging her not to go. Since that day 15 years ago, I have cried those tears many times.  They were tears filled with fear – the fear that I would not have the strength to face the task before me – the fear of failure.
     I gained my footing with two girls, and we added two boys to our family.  Always in the back of my mind in quiet moments or sleepless nights, the fears would nag me.  Am I doing enough? Am I good enough?  Am I giving my children what they need?  What will happen to them if I fail?  What will happen to me?  What will their futures hold if I don’t get this right?

     With years of motherhood, experience taught me babies will eventually sleep through the night, potty training will pass, and temper tantrums will subside.  Those same years of experience taught me that I can try with all my might and give my children everything I’ve got – and I can still fail.  I will still fail.  I won’t have the answers.  I will be impatient, angry, tired, hormonal – sometimes all of these at once. I may have moments of being a perfect mother, but then the children will impatient, angry, tired or hormonal – maybe all of these at once.  BUT I look back and see that nothing depends on me.  It is all about His grace and mercy that hovers over me and my little family every day.

     I look at those first two babies who are young women now. I am in awe of the people they are becoming.  They are strong and beautiful.  I have high hopes for their futures – and the futures of their little brothers who right now are in the stage where you are certain they can only grow into juvenile delinquents.  I see that God’s grace and mercy has miraculously covered my failure and ineptitude in ways I never imagined possible.   But what IF?  These children aren’t grown yet.  What if they choose paths that are not what I picture?  The answer lies in realizing that it is not failure that we are called to give up – it is the FEAR of failure.  My children not only can fail – they will fail.  But the same grace and mercy that covers the mother will cover her children.  

Thursday, March 13, 2014

around Charleston

Washington Square
A Carriage Tour
Paula Rubino in the window of  Ann Long Fine Art, Broad Street

Even the alleys have treasures

more thoughts on "guilt"

"Man is born broken. He lives by mending. The grace of God is the glue."- Eugene O'Neill

 I asked for your dialogue on these topics. Thank you for your response! And no, you don't sound like a "raving idiot". You sound like you've read your Bible and done your homework and are further proofing the case that guilt should have no place where total forgiveness has been sprinkled. Thank you, Joyce.

DeVerne Fromke in 1963 wrote a book titled "Ultimate Intention", which was revolutionary thinking at that time (Watchman Nee published same insights around same time).  The point being, all things, the Creation, the Fall, Redemption, et al, should be viewed from the God's eye view of the intention of the Father-Heart of God.  One small but incredibly significant impact of this way of relating is to view the work of the Blood from the Father's perspective, rather than our own. The picture we get of what the blood accomplishes becomes fantastic when we accept what God said about it in Exodus 12 and Leviticus 16.  He said when He saw the blood He would pass over... The blood satisfied Him (ergo, if it satisfies Him, then regardless, of what we feel, or think, we are to be satisfied!) Good. But, guilt attacks. We don't have to be confused, ask for further proof of our rightstanding whenever we screw up, He has said He is satisfied by the blood.  

In the picture of the Day of Atonement this God-fact was further reinforced.  The transaction took place between God and the High Priest, away from the people who were to benefit from it... Additionally, Romans 5:9 says we are justified by his blood, we have boldness to draw near (Hebrews 10). So we the believer say, "AMEN!" and draw near with confidence, in Him rather than in ourselves or what our godview tells us about ourselves.  Of course we still confess (1John 1-7), but it is a continuing cleansing accomplished by Jesus.  We either are going to choose to believe God, or our own version of Him.  I probably sound like a raving idiot.  Point being, Who are We going to choose to believe? Are we free or not, are we dead to sin, have we an exchanged life, are we part of the body, have we been translated from kingdom of darkness to kingdom of light, are we part of the family of God? Can you find the gist here?  We are to throw off that guilt.  When we do sin, all we need is sprinkled. He does it.  We accept  it. We rejoice in it.  It's that old saying "God said it, I believe it, That does it."- from Joyce Whittenberger

Book of Common Prayer- Lent

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us; but if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:8, 9

Rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God; for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil. Joel 2:13

I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and
am no more worthy to be called thy son.” Luke 15:18, 19

To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him; neither have we obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in his laws which he set before us. Daniel 9:9, 10

Jesus said, “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” Mark 8:34

Boy's Bow Ties

These are now available for purchase online.
100% of proceeds support Tina, Marcelina, Laura, & Alima. 
More products coming soon.
Click here to shop.

10. Comparison by Robin Fields

I got to talk to Robin this week, on the phone, after not hearing her voice in a year or more. I found myself closing my eyes just to take in her voice so that I could "feel" her a little better. Robin is the person you want in your corner. She is strong and mighty and powerful and wise and so compassionate. Even her voice brings peace. She even came to visit me in Africa. When she left I put my head in her lap and sobbed my guts out. I had not done that with someone in a very long time and haven't cried quite like that since. She let me get out all my fear and all my sadness from all I left behind and she told me, "You can do this." And I did. 

Thank you for sharing with us, Robin. 

"Comparison is the death of joy."  Mark Twain

How true this is in our everyday life! 

From our point of view, comparison is looking to see how things (or people) are similar or different. 

Whether we are listening to people during  ministry time  or to friends and family, it's always amazing to hear how we view ourselves.  And how we often feel that others might have something better than we do or might be something more than what we are. 

When I look at others through the eyes of faith, through the spiritual and natural sight that God gave me, it's easy to see His Beauty in them.  And why Jesus was so willing to give His Life for ours.

I love the way The Message talks about us in Psalm 139:

"Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother's womb.  I thank you, High God-you're breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration-what a creation! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,how I was sculpted from nothing into something."

So then it is no accident that we are made to be exactly as we are. When we compare ourselves to others, are we questioning God's Wisdom in creating us?

One of the most heartbreaking things I have seen is when a person does not know that only they can fill their place in the universe.  No one else can bring what they bring into our atmosphere and into the Formation of the Body of Christ.

I believe that when we agree with God's decision to create us and bless His creation as  good, then we can begin to embrace ourselves fully.  Watching someone realize that they are not a mistake and that they are as valuable as anyone else has been the most joyous thing I have ever witnessed.  There is no freedom that compares with realizing that even with all of our mistakes, we are daily blessed with unconditional love and favor.

I recently heard someone say that we have focused too much on what we do rather than who we are.  This is  my simple paraphrase, but I agree that we are just as precious to God and to other people, whether we are saving the world, raising children, creating wealth or just reveling in the knowledge that He loves us for who we are, just where we are.

When I have pondered the challenges of those I have been tempted to compare myself to, I have concluded that God has given me everything that I need to meet the specific challenges in my life.  I am not equipped to deal with the challenges of others.  It makes me very happy to know that I am more than adequately equipped to meet the unique set of challenges that come my way.

I have had seasons of repenting because I thought I wasn't as good as someone else or that my life didn't bear as much "fruit" as another.  But I am still joyfully learning that there is no one else exactly like me and continuing to learn to embrace everything about myself.  As I learn how to embrace the parts of myself that I don't consider to be that great, He is showing me more about His Amazing Love; He's not surprised by anything that I lack or put off by anything that I don't do well.

Jesus prayed that His joy would be in us and that our joy would be complete.  

He calls us Friends.

What can compare with that?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

9. Gossip & Negativity

I knew this one would be coming. Gossip. It is such a slippery slope and easy trap in which to fall. Christians in the name of Prayer Requests can often slide down this treacherous path (see video).  The Bible is clear about it. 

Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 
Proverbs 12:28 A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends. 
Luke 6:31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. 
Matthew 7:12 So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. 

Matthew provides a pretty clear guideline, unless you would want it revealed about you, don't say it. Practically when I am conversing about someone else to another, I try to imagine them sitting in the room with us. This helps keep me curb my comments and remain honoring of the other person. I know people who have never said an unkind thing about anyone ever. I think about them and wonder what they would say in the situation. "What would Ann Oliver have to say about this?" Ann was a saint and she serves as a beautiful guide whenever I need a plumb line. I also have a very close friend who after listen to me skirt around an issue said, "Whatever we say between each other is sacred. I know your heart and you know mine." This relationship is precious to me as I know she is a safe place and that my comments will not be viewed as slander nor will they leave the room. She knows my heart and that the conversation is only to seek council and advice and never in malice. Only a few small number of people have that inner sanctum where all dialogue is covered and safe. Even then I think the guideline of pretending your target is in the room is still a good guideline to follow. I look at this topic as one where I have lots of room to grow! Feel free to call me out when you hear my conversation turn negative or slanderous and I will do the same. Make pacts with your closest friends to avoid gossip and define what it means to you. It takes two to tango and this one is an area where we can hold each other accountable. 

“But other people also 'invite' us to behave like victims, when they complain about the unfairness of life, for example, and ask us to agree, to offer advice, to participate.Be careful. When you join in that game you always end up losing.” 


While working in Mozambique, I poured my heart and soul and every ounce of energy into my job. One day out of the blue one of my favorite missionaries and our ministry leaders stopped by to visit me. She beamed as she watched my students come and go from my office. Then she said two words that sustained me and constantly remain with me, "Well done." Someone I admired recognized me and my hard work. It made and continues to make all the difference, that one. positive. statement. Positivity goes a really, really, really long way. Negativity, not so much. 

8. Blame

I am the Queen of Blame. I live predominately alone, but I am always trying to find just whose fault it is that those dirty dishes are still in the sink, the bed didn't get made or I am running late. It is your fault I had to eat that candy bar for lunch because I didn't have time to cook. Brene' Brown discusses blame, sympathy, shame, guilt and more quite beautifully.  Once again, pardon her French. 


Sullivan's Island

Monday, March 10, 2014

7. Bitterness & Resentment

By guest columnist 
Beth Andrews 

In 4 days, I will have been living in the Charleston area for one year. My husband arrived in January and I remained in Georgia until the house was packed and prepped enough for selling. I left behind a full time job to become self employed, moved from our home in Georgia to rent in Summerville, SC and purchased a house in Mt. Pleasant in September after selling the Lavonia home in June. 

I have lived in bigger towns before but that was a long time ago when I looked and acted more like a girl. Rural Northeast Georgia had become home for 20 years. As excited as I was to return to a big city, I was equally nervous. I would trade in one set of conveniences for another and wondered how I would adapt. The doubt played out the future to be a scary mess while the excitement was expecting one glorious day after the other. 

Everything was going to be different and I hoped I was not too old to keep up with the pace. And things were different, from trash pick up day to the commute to work. I felt a little like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. We don’t like to talk much about hurricanes around here so definitely the seemingly natural event that brought me here was a tornado in the form of a car trip. At 11:00 in the morning I was a resident of Lavonia, GA and by 4:00 that afternoon I was a South Carolinian again.

Ironically, I did become like a girl again but this time more nervous and less carefree. I missed the 5 minute commute to work where I had to negotiate one stop light and make 3 turns. A common morning was a 45 minute commute to travel 10 miles and passing 3 car accidents. After 3 months, I began to drive to work without allowing extra minutes to pull my fingers from the steering wheel and allow my heart rate to return to normal. 

I was never more happy when I realized the morning drive was becoming familiar. Finding short cuts and making some successful predictions about the traffic flow cured my uneasiness. Trial and error taught me when I left at 7:16 instead of 7:13, the drive would be much harder. By mid Summer, I was able to leave for work and actually enjoy the drive. 

After figuring out the traffic to a manageable level, I found a talk radio station that taught me about my new hometown. I was educated in city politics, current events, and even about the people who were in those car accidents I passed. While stopped in line 20 cars back from the red light, I snatched the opportunity to pause and enjoy the new scenery. After moving from Summerville to Mt. Pleasant, I was exposed to a friendlier flow of the morning commute and a different view of the area. 

As I crossed two rivers, looking to the left was The Ravenel Bridge over the Cooper. The cargo ships were loading at the docks to my right and above were the cargo planes flying low on maneuvers. The commute had officially evolved into a true education. This was round two of the new hometown experience within 6 months. So much life was happening around me in the much quicker 20 minute drive to work. 

Now a pro at driving in my age category, I was able to take in more during the drive. My eye could connect and read the billboards without attaching myself to the car in front of me. Over the year, I noticed the billboards provided seasonal and year round opportunities. Festival advertisements were ongoing except during Christmas when the stores were competing for space to announce their gifts for sale. The billboard ads changed often and one weekend would plea for the drivers to attend the charity auction or next concert in North Charleston. Save the Angel Tree is up this week and I plan to go visit this very old, phenomenal tree in the next few weekends. 

I have been particularly interested to see what the Spring Billboards will tell me about Charleston, the Holy City. Cal and I were too busy this time last year trying to drive without an accident to notice the calendar of events along the highways. This past week, every few miles I am seeing a trend in advertising for cosmetic improvements. Summer beach season is approaching and the tuck and pull ads are quickly emerging. A billboard advertising vein removal has a pair of woman’s legs placed upside down and crossed over for lady like fashion to represent the “V”  in vein. That billboard is clever enough to make me want to give them a try. I have enough work for them to do.

Living 10 minutes from the beach, I began to wonder if I had a responsibility to look like I belonged here. I glanced around in the grocery store while standing in line and grabbing my treat of 3-pack Ferrero Rocher candy. Next, I pretended to be in deep concentration pulling the rewards card out of my wallet and looked with more scrutiny at the other women to make sure they had soft and fluffy spots on their body, too. I was pleased to find out I did not have to go see the upside down “V” clinicians right away. The areas were there from arm to thigh that could be smoothed and unwrinkled but I had enough women on my side of the camp that would allow me to wait and think about this next year.
The line was unusually long that day so I had time to consider some free things I could do to look younger and beach ready. I didn’t want to really think about a strict diet or copying an online crossfit regimen. I could not think of any other free way to look younger until having a conversation with Grace. She told me about today’s emotion to give up for Lent. After Grace read the sentence about bitterness and resentment, I was able to imagine what these 2 words do to your body when living inside.

Resentment causes the face to intensify and contract the eyes into a constant narrowed state. Narrow eyes do not see the world through the lens God intended. Unfortunately, really good feelings come out of resentment and bitterness like empowerment and entitlement. Bitterness walks the mind into places where everyone else is wrong and only the bitterness is right. Resentment propels the feelings into a constant thought about what you don’t have instead of what you do. 

I used to resent positive people. They were silly and naive. I believed there was no depth to a positive person and that they lived by a set of fake principles avoiding the truth about the reality and pain of life. My eyes opened and my soul learned about the power of positive living as I moved closer to God. He taught me the grip of bitterness and resentment needed to be released and I would be refreshed in every area of my body.

As I reflect over bitterness and resentment, I quickly check to make sure I have none of that hiding in me. My veins show my age and I am okay with that for now. I am reminded of where my life has travelled. When I learned to give thanks in all things, including pain and problems, I became happier and turned into one of those positive people that once made my bitterness and resentment, more bitter and resentful. Meeting God everyday assures me that I can be the person that is better than who I really am. God gives freely, teaches me wonderfully new and energizing concepts, and makes me feel younger with each new positive thought. For this beach season to look my best, I am going with His billboard. 

old village, mount pleasant

Thistle Farms

Sunday, March 9, 2014

6. Sense of entitlement

Do I do this?

Veruca may be a little over the top.  But do we believe that a culture, nation or person owes us something to which we have rights? We Americans are pretty bad about this. The high debt of our nation is only an example. I was traveling through the airport in Johannesburg several years ago with a group of friends, Europeans and another American. As we approached a very, very long line and were all sleep-deprived, dirty, sick and hungry, Nate the American began to impersonate George Bush and say, "Uh excuse me, excuse me. I'm an American",  pretending to push his way further in line. We all roared laughing. The Afrikaners in line ahead of us, did not. But for me it was a splendid example of our American entitlement. I hate to break it to you but the rest of the world sees us as pretty obnoxious and this is one of the reasons why. Americans don't wait in line, are used to having whatever they want when they want it and they want it super-sized. I don't want to be seen as an obnoxious American. 

Help us Lord, to see your constant provision and grace that only comes from you. Help us to live life resourcefully and humbly.- Amen