Juggling and Grace

Step 11

“Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out”

Amid the hubbub of Mallory Dock, with its eclectic mix of tourists, part-time locals, and street entertainers, I wedge myself between a fence and a row of camera-wielding sunset-watchers to celebrate the daily ritual of watching Earth’s nearest star disappear on the western horizon. As yellow-orange light spreads across the water and a silhouetted sailboat poses against the fiery ball that keeps our planet alive, I hear “Amazing Grace” behind me._DSC3976

Turning my camera from the beauty before me, I focus on the source of the song: barefoot and ponytailed, he hunches over a guitar, singing of the One who holds each star in place. With simple chords and timeless lyrics, a reveling crowd is stilled by one unassuming street musician, reminding us of the Beauty Maker, who paints the skies each evening with an invitation to join Him for eternity. I sing along, losing myself in the beauty of the moment. After the sun and the song disappear, I close my eyes, savoring the scene.

That was a month ago. Now I’m juggling.

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I’m an all-eggs-in-one-basket girl. I’m challenged by juggling… eggs, apples, bowling pins… you name it – I can’t keep it in the air! When Honey and I were recently in Key West for vacation I was amazed by those guys who entertain tourists by juggling flaming torches, swallowing swords, and commanding cats through fiery hoops. We “ooohed” and “aahhhed,” clapped and tipped our way down Mallory Dock until the sun began kissing the water with orange, pink and yellow light. I didn’t think any more about the jugglers until last week, when I started my new teaching job.

Two and a half years have passed since I’ve been queen of my own classroom. It was quite a learning curve to come home from vacation on a Sunday and walk into a classroom on Monday, knowing that I was the teacher, and nobody had mapped out my day or week in a neat little stack with a Post-it that said, “Substitute.”

I was on my own. Sink…or swim! (I’ve been “swimming.” That’s why you haven’t seen me here, writing about Step 11.) Swimming, like juggling, is exhausting.

My personal juggling act consists of trying to keep a classroom full of multi-age students functioning and on-task, learning a new school’s system of doing things, effectively teaching an unfamiliar grade level, grading papers, making lesson plans, meeting a deadline for my book, keeping up with my blogging (I’m three or four weeks late!), posting regularly on my Facebook page (another fail!) and being a good spouse, daughter, sister, auntie, godmom, friend, pastor’s wife, and neighbor. Oh, and keeping groceries in the house and gas in the car that takes me back and forth to work and church. Sound familiar? I’m sure you each have your own flaming torches to juggle every single day! How do we stay sane on our Western World hamster wheels?

Did you notice that something, or rather Someone is omitted from the above list? Yes, I failed to mention spending quality time with the ONE who keeps me sane and on the right track; the ONE who holds me together when I want to cry on the way home from school because my nerves are shot and my to-do list is still too long; He who gives me the words to write, the thoughts to think, the heart to love and the patience to work with His little ones. It is only He who sustains me, you…the whole wide world in His big, holy hands. And THAT’s what Step 11 is all about – Getting to know Him by spending time with Him.

Step 11 reminds me to do three things:

  • Seek to improve my conscious contact with God through prayer and meditation,
  • Pray for the knowledge of His will,
  • And pray for the power to carry out His will in my life.

By incorporating these three things into my daily juggling act, everything else becomes easier to manage. When I consciously invite God into my little world, taking the time to talk with Him and to listen to the counsel in His Word, I am a more organized, disciplined, compassionate teacher, a wiser, more dedicated writer, and a better friend, neighbor and lover.

When I pray for His will to be done and His Spirit to dwell in me, I can say, “yes” to the things that are most important on God’s to-do list and let go of the things He’s not asking me to do right now. I don’t have to juggle the world. Jesus died for the world. I don’t have to be miss perfect-teacher-pastor’s wife-friend. Jesus in me can perfectly love those He places in my path. I can rest in Him, believing that I can do all these things through Christ, who gives me strength (Philippians 4:19). If I just juggle Jesus – keeping my eye on Him, making Him the focus of my life, the rest will fall into place and I will not fall flat on my face.

I don’t need to be amazing. I just need His amazing grace._DSC4057

Father in heaven – remind me to be still and focus on You amid the chaos of daily life. Let me be more like that barefoot guitarist, just sitting still among the throng and worshiping the One who made it all. Help me to seek more and speak less, to pray more and strive less. Amen & Amen

Dear Reader – How to YOU do it? How do YOU juggle life? When and where to you find time to pray and meditate? Please share in the comment section so we can learn from one another. I’d love to hear from you!

She Was Kind. She Was Smart. She Was Important.

John 13,35We are gathered here today to remember our dear friend, Eula…” My husband stands before a crowded congregation in his best black suit. A Kleenex box makes its way down the aisle behind me as reality strikes a somber chord with another family member.

An hour later, I am not the only one smiling through tears as Eula’s positive impact on our loosely knit community is realized. One after another, folks stand up to share fond memories of the thin woman with the longest, strongest hugs. Bear hugs. Sneak-up-behind-and-scare-you hugs. Neck hugs. Squeeze-the-daylights-out-of-you hugs. Messy hugs that mussed our hair and rearranged our breakfasts.

“I thought I was the only one she hugged like that.”

“I thought it was only me she quizzed when I missed a week of church.”

“She was my friend.”

Over and over, we hear similar words from people of all ages and walks of life. She was no respecter of persons. Her hugs were freely given to all, with no expectation of anything in return.

“She will be missed.”

“I’m going to miss her.”

“Church won’t be the same without her.”

“I’m gonna miss those hugs.”

Eula was a simple woman. A childhood fall from a tree house affected her for life. That didn’t stop her love or lesson her impact. What she could do, she did with all her might. She could smile. She could hug. She could remember who was absent from church for a week or two and make it a point to ask them about it and let them know they were missed.

“I’m guilty,” I said, standing before the gathering at her memorial service. “I’m often guilty of being task-oriented rather than people-oriented. I’m usually on some kind of mission, too busy to take the time to hug everyone I see. Eula didn’t have that problem. We were her mission.”

My Honey and I limped home after that service, our toes smarting from being stepped on by a woman who took her last step (and her last breath) last Monday.

“Now I know who the real pastor of this church was. It hasn’t been me. It’s been Eula.” He smiled as he spoke those words. “She has been busy loving the people, while I’ve been tending to all the tasks that hit me as soon as I walk onto our campus.”

What if we were all a little more like Eula, taking time to notice one another? Taking time to hug a person, to miss someone when they aren’t around, and to let them know that we missed them?

Each of us leaves a footprint on this planet. We leave footprints on the lives around us. Are we stomping through life with cleats on, leaving scars on the turf of someone’s purple Heelsspirit? Are we zipping around so fast in our running shoes that we don’t have time to pause for the people around us? Are we high-heeling our way through our days, walking too tall to stoop into someone else’s valley?

Eula was a penny loafer Christian – sturdy, practical, dependable. She made each one feel as if we were the only one. She was never too busy, too preoccupied, too self-absorbed or too needy to notice someone else. You could find her anywhere. Or she would find you. And hug you. And miss you. And let you know you were important.

That reminds me of my favorite lines from Tate Taylor’s 2011 film The Help, “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” Yes, that’s how Eula made us all feel. I have a hunch that’s what she will hear her heavenly Father say, right along with “Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Well done.”

I’m going to miss Eula. But I know that I will see her again. I will hug her in heaven. If I’m not there, she will wonder why. She will miss me. Jesus, let it not be because I was too busy to love.

By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. John 13:35 (KJV)