Sandal Saga- Don’t take yourself too seriously.

You should go to the bathroom before you leave. I told myselfYep! Use the bathroom before exiting! It’s one of my mottos. So as I walked across Starbuck’s tile floor to the bathroom, I heard an odd clunking sound with every step.  It was pronounced. It’s almost as if I have high heals on, but I don’t. I’m wearing these orange wedged sandals. Bizarre! I don’t remember these shoes making any noise. What’s going on? I wondered. It seemed a bit odd, but I didn’t investigate.

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I called a friend while still in the Starbucks parking lot and made plans to meet at her house. “Well, I’m not home yet.” She said. “I’ll be home in about 15 minutes, I need to make a stop at COSTCO first.” She told me.

“No problem,” I replied. “I want to stop there too!”

We agreed. “Okay, let’s meet at COSTCO.”

It was then I looked down. Little did I know, the toe of my sandal had begun to pull apart from the wedged heel part.  Oh brother! So that’s what’s making the goofy clunking sound!

I drove to the COSTCO.  I sighed a chuckle. How am I going to explain this one? Maybe I should text her “change of plans I’ll have to meet you at your house and explain later.” BUT..  I thought, No, I can make it.  I had quite an impaired gait. I limped and I laughed and dragged my foot so the sandal wouldn’t break completely apart. I greeted my friend Shanthini and explained briefly my awkward dilemma. We grabbed a cart, pulled out our cards and showed them to the greeter.

Once inside, Shanthini asked me, “What goes 99 tuck? 99 tuck? 99 tuck?” I thought, What is she even asking me?  I was distracted because of my pathetic sandal and was not fully present, when she burst out the punch line. “A centipede with a wooden leg!” And she laughed her delighted-with-herself laugh.

I turned her direction, threw back my head and exclaimed.Oh, I get it! 99 tuck. 99 tuck. “That’s a good one your silly!” I said as embarrassment gave way to the giggles.

I hobbled along a bit slower than either of us would have liked. We decided it would be best for me to use the cart for stabilization. I walked normally with each right footstep but slid my left foot along. I perfected this method near the meat section. We made our selections, I only needed one thing and so did she.  Phew! I made it through the store!   Just get in the check out line and blast out of here… or 99 tuck out!

I was personally amused as I handed the young, inspection guy my receipt. He drew a green highlighter mark through it, handed it back and said, “Have a good day ladies!”

My friend asked, “Rachel, do you want me to go get my car and pull up for you here so you won’t have to walk through the whole parking lot?”

“No, I should be fine” I said. I thought, how bad could it be? I looked down after I got seated in my car, and saw my sandal. Yikes! It’s no wonder? 

We visited out on her patio garden, then I packed my delicate, dangling sandal in a bag she provided and headed toward home.

Once seated in my car again, I saw a reminder note I had placed there earlier… That’s right! I almost forgot… I need to stop at Walgreens to pick up photos! So, I pulled into the Walgreen’s parking lot. I then removed the fragile sandal from its bag and strapped it on.

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Okay, Rachel you can do this, go inside, pick up your prints and get right back. I spied two people sitting in their car parked near the door. Man! I should have pulled in beside them- it’s closer! The first step on the left foot was fine.. NO PROBLEM! Again with the right foot… No big deal! But my left ankle turned with the very next step. It fell off the wedge part of the sandal.

“Ouch!” I exclaimed as I stumbled.

Oh, brother! don’t want to twist my ankle or badly hurt myself! So I simply yanked the lower sole section from its nearly separated top. Forced now to hobble back to the car, I opened the door and tossed the wedged sole on the passenger seat. I was giggling so hard as I walked in. The people in the car facing the store probably thought, didn’t she just walk by us a few seconds ago?

With one FLAT shoe, now more like a flip-flop, and one 3 inch wedged sandal, I proceeded to accomplish the mission. My stride was VERY uneven due to the discrepancy of the heel heights. I can’t keep doing this high, low, high, low, thing! This feels ridiculous!

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Finally, I stood on my tippy toes as if there were a left sandal heel beneath me but there wasn’t.  I felt like the emperor from the Emperor’s New Clothes. Except mine was an imaginary left heel. Pleasantly pleased with my “phantom wedged heel,” I sauntered up to the photo counter. “Hi, I’m here to pick up some prints for INOUYE,” I said.  The attendant located the photos and rang them up. (I was tempted to tell her the story of the sandal saga but showed extreme self-control. Instead I decided to share it with you!)

The LORD makes firm the steps of the one who delights him: though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand. Psalm 37:23,24

 

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What’s God not doing?

She was dressed for summer in an icy blue, vertically striped shirt and a pair of white pants. Her familiar smile lit up her face and mine. She greeted me with a sweet hug that enveloped me, “Hi friend!” then blurted out, “I have to run to the bathroom quickly. Be right back!”

When she returned, we ordered our drinks, grabbed a seat and caught up. “It’s been months since we last met? When was that?” we wondered. Many work transitions and family health trials have entered her life since we’d last met. I sat. I listened. She’s reading the book of Daniel now and we thought through each situation from Daniel’s lens and his prayer of praise in Scripture.*

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She asked me…”So, what’s going on with you?” I reported about some of the fun and beautiful things going on in my life and what God’s been teaching me, about me. I also shared a few updates related to my husband, ministry, plus a quick update on my empty nest and my grown children.

We marveled at all that had taken place in our lives while, it seemed, other things hadn’t changed at all. We both have difficult situations where, since we last spoke, it seems there has been no change. You know what I mean where it appears God is not doing anything related to an issue. I got to thinking about that wacky perspective of concentrating on what God’s not doing and how off that really is.

So, I told her. “You know, the other day, I thought of it this way… I can only imagine what my response would be, if I had throughly cleaned my house-vacuumed all the carpeted rooms, dusted the entire place, scrubbed every toilet, mopped all the floors, washed every dish and put them all away, only to hear my husband comment when he returned home, “You left the mail on the counter!” I’d be so disheartened thinking, WHAT? Don’t you see all the things I’ve done? 

“It is kind of like that.” I said. “God is doing SO many wonderful things all around me and I resolve not to be the brat kid who stomps her foot at the Father and accuses Him of inactivity. But, but, but you haven’t done…this yet, God!”

 She said, “Wow! I’ve never thought of it like that. Good point.”

Okay, yeah, it may be tempting to think he is not at work. I’ve been there. So whenever I’m tempted to focus on what God is seemingly NOT doing, I say, yeah, sure, God is not doing some things. Here are a few of the things God is NOT DOING:

  • He’s not scratching his head wondering, Oh, boy what do I do now?”  Or “How will  I help?”

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  • He’s not out of the office or unaware.
  • He’s not working against me. He is FOR me.
  • He’s not surprised or shocked.

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  • He’s not wringing his hands.
  • No, He is not biting his nails bewildered, wondering, “How do I respond in this difficult situation?”

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  • He’s not confused and doesn’t need to call in a committee to help with decisions.

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NO he is not because…HE’S GOD! And He is good!

I truly believe God is doing so much, in and around me, all the time! Jesus is quoted in the book of John saying, “My father is always working.” So, yes, for now… I will live in the mystery of all He is doing. I am thankful and I praise Him and I’m thankful for the things he is NOT doing as well.

When our time drew to a close, we discussed a next time to meet and said our good byes.

*Here is the praise passage from Daniel 2:19-23

“During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven and said: “Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness and light dwells with him. I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors: You have given me wisdom and power, you have made known to me what we asked of you, you have made known to us the dream of the king.”
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Do You See It?

Michelangelo saw within a marble slab the beautiful form he wanted to create. Similarly, a culture of honor calls out the beauty within people. This culture sees the amazing things in a person and draws them out the way Jesus commanded, “Lazarus! Come forth!” A culture of honor may even bring dead things within an individual back to life. The calling out the gold or culture of honor are things that I’ve been more aware of and privileged to experience lately.

Surrounded by some truly amazing men and women who practice calling out the gold in others has been a thrill and I stand amazed at the results I’ve witnessed. It’s not that these people can’t see or recognize a flaw, wart, dirty spot, mistakes, or weaknesses in another, but it’s just not a big deal.

The result of this culture of honor, I’m noticing, is allowing people to be authentic and vulnerable with one another. I’ve watched them open up the way a rose opens to the sun above. Some have offered to lead, shared personal poems aloud or sing original pieces of music still in draft form. Willingly, each has shared because honoring others in the group fosters safety. Plus, one of our group members quickly reminds us all, “Do it afraid!”

Calling out the gold is exactly what God did when he called Gideon, who was scared to death and chicken as all get out. BUT God came to him and said, “The LORD is with you, O mighty man of valor.” AND then later Gideon says, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.And the Lord said to him, “But I will be with you and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.” (Judges 6:12b 15, 16) Now that is calling out the gold! God says to a scardy cat, “I am with you mighty man of valor.

Or how ’bout when others would have noticed and been critical about Moses being “slow of speech,”  one who stutters, while God saw a deliverer of a nation.

Or when David was teased by his brothers because he was a young shepherd boy, but God saw in him the giant killer and future king.

It’s like when:

  • A home buyer sees the potential in a house and says, “Ah, it has such good bones!” and then renovates the place with breathtaking results.
  • A decorator gathers all furnishings and accessories into one room, without purchasing anything new, redistributes items with a trained eye and transforms the rooms and creates beautiful ambience.
  • A hairstylist takes into account the shape of the clients face, then cuts and styles the hair in a fresh and sassy way.
  • A seamstress removes inches of unneeded fabric and alters the length of a future bride’s wedding dress making the beaded bodice draw one’s eye to the bride rather than an overly ornate dress.

There is a unique purpose and a reason for each life and I know God wants us to step into all He has for each of us. I love this quote by Kris Vallotton, “Surround yourself with people who throw gas on the fire of your passions and water on the fire of your fears.”

Lately, it seems, everyone and their dog is so negative! I think we have to watch out. So many are nasty and critical of others. Looking to find the junk instead of the gold. Is this the way a follower of Jesus is to be? No, in fact quite the opposite.

We are to follow Jesus in the triumphal procession He leads us in and spread the fragrance of Him everywhere. But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now He uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. (2 Corinthians 2:14)

I resolve to see the best in those around me, rather than point out every single one of their faults.

I don’t know who said this or I’d give them credit, but I’ve heard it from a friend, “Many men live lives of quiet desperation and die with a song in their heart.” This quote gives me a lump in my throat and a fire in my belly. I find it sad. I want to be a catalyst of encouragement. I desire to live in a culture of honor and call out the gold in others. I’m thrilled to watch people soar!

If you are discouraged right now about your purpose or your value remember you are God’s masterpiece and those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31) If you are a believer you have the same power that raised Jesus from the dead in you and you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. You are amazing!

So go find someone you can encourage. See the gold in them and draw it out. Since the creator of the universe sings over us at night, never sleeps or slumbers, is watching over us and calls us the apple of his eye, then we must continue to develop a culture of honor and call out the gold in the people around us.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1Thessalonians 5:11

 

A storm, pregnant with worry, was looming.

Have you heard the phrase, “trust your gut?” Have you experienced a time when, even though you couldn’t quite put your finger on it, you just knew –Something’s not right? A few days ago I had an uneasiness in my gut/ my spirit/ my heart. A situation felt off, so my thoughts began to swirl in a negative direction. A storm, pregnant with worry and anxiety, was looming. This kind of storm requires prayer while standing in the gap for another. “Something’s just not right!” Yes, discernment was needed and prayer was required.

I had an alarm buzzing and a doozy of a discernment storm brewing that day. I knew I was going to have to engage in an intense time of prayer. I sensed I might need to call in reinforcements.  So I texted a friend:

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She responded to my text right away, this was of God. She heard concern in my voice so she asked, “What are you doing right now?– Where are you?”

“I’m home,” I answered, “I’m just sitting here in my chair.”

“I’m on my way over! Bye!” She said and hung up.

She arrived with a Bible, her purse and a thin, white box. She emptied the items and mentioned, “Here’s what I’ve got: chocolate and these teabags,” she lifted a plastic zip lock to show me. “Smell these!” she gleefully instructed. “What do they smell like?” She asked.

“Cinnamon?” I replied.

“Right! They smell like Christmas! Who doesn’t like Christmas? So I’ve got chocolates– teabags– God’s word and prayer with me. Nothin’ better than that!  I know it’s kinda hot outside, but we are going to have a cup of tea anyway!” she laughed.

I filled my tea kettle with water and lit the fire. When I brought her tea, she set it beside her and promptly said, “Thank you!”

Next, she presented the white, cardboard box before me. Her eyes sparkled and she explained, “These chocolates have this folded paper code.” She handed it to me. It had a photo along with a description about the chocolates. “So select the ones that sound the best to you.”

She reminded me of who I am. She reminded me of whose I am and the truth from God’s word.  She said, “This is what we are going to do. The enemy wants to rattle, frighten, and charge you all up with anxiety.” (Yep, I thought, he’s trying to create quite a storm for me!) “But we are going to sit right here with Christmas tea and eat chocolates and say…” she took her mug of tea and raised it, like making a toast, then she took a bite of her chocolate and calmly inserted, “Here’s our response to him!” She took another bite, smiled, sat back in the chair, crossed her legs, as cool as a cucumber like nothing could ever rattle her.  After we enjoyed our tea and chocolates, she said, “Now we will pray!”

We prayed, pleaded for God’s’ mercy, we thanked Him, we declared and we commanded in Jesus name. We walked around the upper loft area as we prayed about the pressing issue which had so troubled my spirit. This has never happened to me before, but there was this wave of silence that washed over me. The way wind blows across trees and you see the branches sway. I couldn’t pray another single word! Even though I could think about more things to pray, I couldn’t speak. Utter silence had arrived. Peace landed in the loft like a helicopter hovers and alights. Tears flowed from my eyes. I was washed in His peace. Hushed in beautiful silence.

It was quite an encounter, this profound peace had arrived on the premises. A wall of silence, it calmed me in the raging storm. Perfect calmness. We just stood! I have no idea for how long. I opened my tear-filled eyes to see my friend standing, her arms out stretched in front of her, feet shoulder-width apart, just standing immoveable.

I swayed back and forth, a bit like a baby being rocked with an ever calming motion like the waves were being calmed and stilled then silenced. (when I close my eyes now I can still sense it)  The waters of my storm had completely calmed down to glassy waters, utter and profound silence, sweet peace!

This section of scripture now comes to my mind:

Matthew 8:23-27 Jesus Calms the Storm

Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord save us! We are going to drown!”

He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and waves obey him!” (emphasis mine )

I don’t know it you’ve got a sense that something isn’t right in your own life or someone elses. Trust your gut. Here’s my advice. Pray!  Is there a storm starting to swirl around you? Is one raging in your life right now? Perhaps it is satan trying to rattle you.  Or maybe it is the Holy Spirit prompting you to pray on behalf of another person and stand in the gap.

 

This is the text message I received the next day from my friend.

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Yes, waves of trouble, concern, worry come in different sizes as do the storms of life. Let me encourage you, be discerning, trust your gut and answer the “swirl or storm of worry” with prayer. Pray to the only one who brings peace and calms the storms: Jesus. He is the Prince of Peace. If you’d like, gather a friend to pray alongside you.  I’m sure glad mine came over to pray with me.

 

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Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

(And for when your mind swirls out of control.)

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable– If anything is excellent or praiseworthy– think about such things.  Philippians 4: 6-8

He says, “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. Psalm 46:10

 

After my encounter with silence and profound peace from the Prince of Peace, I just want to remain in that place of peace. So, let’s be discerning. When the storms happen, let’s make the enemy angry. Let’s light a fire of faith and a fire for some cinnamon tea, grab a piece of chocolate, and PRAY! Who knows we may move from a storm swirling to utter silence instead as we experience His profound peace.

Blisters, Wandering Women and Wild Phlox.

Drawn into any activity because of relationship, I agreed to walk the trails at a county park yesterday with two precious friends.  We had a wonderful time chatting, so the three miles seemed as if it were only three feet. Because of the desire to exercise more regularly, we set an early morning walking encore.  As I rushed out the door this morning, I felt the slight burn from a blister on my right heel. It’s probably just a bit irritated from yesterday’s walk but I’ll be fine!  I reassured myself. Because I was already five minutes late, I didn’t stop to grab a Band-Aid.

We met at Shanthini’s house then hopped into Jill’s car. The destination was one I had never been to and I was excited and grateful to try a new path, be with friends and begin our walking adventure. Wanting to get credit for the miles, I immediately pulled out my iPhone to activate my Nike app so I would track my trek. The automated voice stated, “Beginning work out!” 

The canopy of trees overhead shielded the sun a bit, the dark brown mulch of the trail beneath was welcomed padding as we descended the first big decline. My friend said,”Now just remember we’ll have to climb back up this at the end.” This was making reference to a hill at the end of yesterday’s trail we walked. The one Jill referred to as the ” buns of steel” hill.

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We walked a short distance on the trail then crossed through some foliage and tall grasses to begin our walk on the “Bug Trail” which is a paved bike path.

We covered these topics and more:

  • My tardiness and road construction
  • Thoughtful children and birth order
  • Avid bikers with biking paraphernalia
  • Summer schedules for our group’s prayer time

After about two miles we spied a boardwalk and decided to see where it lead. We realized we had walked into a subdivision and we’re no longer on the trail. We thought maybe a little further on there might be an entrance back so we continued.

We got a little lost, wandered around awhile, but enjoyed walking through the tall grasses. The welcomed coolness on my feet came from the moisture of the morning’s dew. It began to soak into our shoes and I noticed the squishy sound we were making.  “Hey, If we get lost, I have enough water in my shoes we could all stay hydrated!” I commented.

 

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We saw one path and walked along it for awhile,  but soon realized we may have just been walking through one homeowner’s private field. We exited through another backyard and made our way to the street back to our original exit spot. Rather than chart a new way through the neighborhood, we backtracked to get on Bugs Trail.

I was thankful that I had my iphone because the blister on my foot was beginning to hurt. So instead of focusing on the pain I decided to focus on some wild phlox and used my camera to capture it.  Often it is a matter focus, isn’t it?

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We can focus on:

  • Pain
  • Duration
  • Desired destination

Or we can choose to focus on:

  • Relationship
  • Surprises
  • The adventure along the way

Walking along in shared relationship was sweet. Shanthini teased Jill, speaking about her in third person, “We only got lost because Jill wanted to take the board walk to see where it would lead us!” She joked. We were surprised on a few occasions by a deer that was frolicking through the brush. It was very close to us and shocked me a tad because it jumped past as we startled it. Another deer we spotted from a distance. The adventures along the way of our wanderings brought red winged blackbirds resting on cattails, beautifully intense yellow wild flowers, with a few friendly joggers and speedy bikers mixed in.

Topics of conversation along the route back included:

  • Gardening and sales around town on annuals
  • Doctors appointments and second opinions
  • Speaking engagements and retreat topics

 

Noticing a park bench up ahead, Shanthini asked to stop there to tie her shoelace. I considered taking my shoe and wet sock off to look at my heel, but decided against it. We pressed on and tried to remember which path would lead us back.

Jill mentioned, “Yeah, I remember passing these waters on both sides.” At last, we found the entrance point we had originally taken to get on the path.” As the hike concluded, a thought struck me…You haven’t written in awhile, Rachel, you need to write a blog post when you get home.  “Let’s stop for a selfie here on this bench, I pointed, I’m sure I can get one! I think I going to blog about our hike!” I exclaimed.

“No! Let’s stand up.” Shanthini quickly retorted. “We’ve walked all this way and I don’t want to be seated on a park bench looking like I’ve done nothing.”

I chuckled, “Okay, let me take a picture.” SNAP. SNAP!

Jill said, “Wait!  Wait! Take another one, my hair probably looked funny.” I assured her I would use the last photo I took.

“Will I need you guys to sign a waiver?” I asked jokingly. “May I use your photo in my blog post?”

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OUCH! My heel did hurt as we made our way back to the car with our soaking feet and smiling faces. I bet I have a blister on my heel and my feet are going to be shriveled up, so my toes will probably look like raisins! Yet even with an unwelcome blister the adventures with these wandering women and wild phlox were a welcomed part of my morning.

I reminded myself and I’ll remind you too its not about the pain, but the precious relationships. It’s not about the duration, but the surprises along the way. It’s not even about the desired destination being reached or miles logged, but the adventure of the unknowns that can be enjoyed.

 

Yes, when I reached my home I did have shriveled feet and yes, my toes did indeed looked like raisins.

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Yes, I did have a blister on my right heel.

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BUT  when my feet touched the cool tile of my home’s entry, it reminded me of the coolness of the wet fields we had traversed together earlier.

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Now,  I have a huge grin on my face, a sense of accomplishment in my day, a blog idea, 5 miles logged on the NIKE app…OOPS!  (12 miles because I forgot to turn it off so it counted the car ride traveling back.) Silly me! I also have warmth and joy in my heart because of these treasured relationships. And presently, my shoes and socks are on the front porch set in the sunshine to dry.

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You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forever more. Psalm 16:11 ESV