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By michele

Listening Well

We’d heard about each other and finally had a few quick minutes to actually meet. She introduced herself and told me about her husband and children. She was so excited and continued to share a bit about her background, where she was from, how long they’d lived in the area, some friends she’d recently met and a quick synopsis of what God was doing in her life.

In a matter of minutes, I felt like I knew her.

About that time her husband joined us and as quickly as she came, she had to leave.

 

As we parted ways, she exclaimed, “Wow! I just talked about myself the whole time and I didn’t learn anything about you! Next time I want to hear all about you.”

 

She reminded me of my prayer life on some days.

 

I have so much to tell God about internal struggles, new challenges I’m facing, concerns with the kids and other family members, friends who are facing health crises, self-discovery, praises for the things that are going well and asking for my trust to increase through it all. I finish my laundry list and am interrupted by yet another distraction. “Amen,” I whisper, as I complete my time in prayer.

 

“Wow, God, I just talked about myself the whole time and I didn’t learn anything about you! Next time I want to hear all about you.”

Nowadays I’m learning that prayer really is a two-way street. And I need to spend more time listening than talking.

As I think of friendships and relationships, I’ve come to realize the way to get to know someone is to spend time with them. Listening. If you want someone to know you, the natural way is to spend time sharing about yourself and your stories. But Jesus already knows me.

So, in order to get to know Jesus more intimately, I must spend time listening to Him share about Himself and His stories. It’s been said that God speaks in several ways. The most common would be through prayer, His Word, His people and through circumstances. Along with sitting quietly before Him, I listen for His heart as He speaks through these ways.

 

I long to abide with Jesus. Sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening intently with a heart to obey.*

 

“O, Lord, may my prayer to you be that of sharing my heart, and may my longing be that of listening to Yours. And may I always listen more than I speak. Amen.”

 

*The definition of abide by my friend, Cynthia Heald

 

 

They “Just Happened to Speak Chinese”

Walking home from the beach, we spotted a homeless woman on the other side of the street. We approached her and sat and talked to her several minutes.

As my son-in-law, Drew, continued to engage her in conversation, I noticed traffic slowing and a car stalled in the intersection.

I alerted Drew to the car, and he walked over to see how he could help. After 10+ minutes, he and a few other men were able to push the car onto a side road. As my daughter, Mallory, and I walked over, we met the driver, Mr. Lee, an older gentleman who spoke little English. We headed home and left Drew with him as they considered options for his car. About an hour later, Drew came home and told us they eventually got the car started and Mr. Lee was able to get home. They exchanged phone numbers and, not surprisingly, Drew invited Mr. Lee and his wife to dinner that night. (Thankfully, Drew has never met a stranger and invites everyone home with him.) But they didn’t show up. After all, he spoke little English and his wife spoke even less. And really, who goes to dinner at someone’s home they don’t know?

Drew continued to text Mr. Lee and encourage him in the days ahead. He shared Jesus with him as best he could due to the language barrier.

Two weeks later we were back in Chicago after the arrival of our grandson, and three friends of Mallory and Drew’s came to visit their new baby. These friends “just happened” to all speak Chinese. A little while later, a knock at the door and in comes an older gentleman, his name was Mr. Lee. Initially, I made no connection with the name. I assumed he was a neighbor in their multi-cultural neighborhood.

I had just changed the baby and was holding him when I introduced myself. He softly stroked Baby Courtland, and he moved to a chair and motioned he wanted to hold the baby. As I handed Courtland to him, he had tears in his eyes. He was so moved by this little one.

I stepped into the kitchen for a moment and my husband excitedly told me this was the same Mr. Lee whose car was stalled in the intersection weeks earlier!

He had come to see their new baby.

He walked up 3 flights of stairs, stopping to rest several times along the way, and brought a gift bag filled with Chinese tea and cakes.

What a great sight it was, seeing him talking with the three young Chinese friends who not only spoke his native language,

 

but also shared the gospel message with him.

As he readied himself to go, he slipped a red envelope underneath Courtland’s blanket and whispered to him, “I’m going to be your grandpa.”

The friends gathered with Mr. Lee and prayed for him before he left.

Continuing to be amazed at God’s orchestration of our lives intertwining with Mr. Lee’s, we are excited to see how this friendship develops as Mr. Lee embraces his new role as “Courtland’s Grandpa.”

And we are reminded to be alert and prepared to respond to opportunities God places in our paths, never fully comprehending the impact of His Divine appointments.

 

 

A Tribute to Tripp’s Dad

Dear Tripp’s Dad,

On behalf of mother’s everywhere I just want to thank you for helping my daughter today.

As she was standing behind her car trying to decide how to maneuver an awkwardly large box from her trunk into the store, along you came, hand in hand with your son, Tripp.

First of all, you noticed my daughter and her dilemma.

More importantly, you went out of your way to help her.

You cheerfully announced that you would trade her positions; if she would hold Tripp’s hand, you would carry her box.

She gladly accepted and Tripp willingly transferred his hand from yours to hers. (You’ve obviously taught Tripp that strangers aren’t usually dangerous and you don’t have to be afraid of them- oh, how I wish more parents were like you!)

They walked and talked together across the parking lot and into Crate & Barrel. You came in behind them and as you set the box on the counter, the cashier asked how she could help you all.

And you replied, “Well, it looks like my part is done now.”

You smiled at Tripp, clasped his hand in yours, and off the two of you went.

I’m sure you didn’t think of all the people you impacted by your small gesture of helping my daughter.

Obviously, you had great impact on my daughter, who, in turn, called me with the good news that there are still nice people in the world who are willing to take a few minutes to put others first.

I’d be willing to bet there were others in the parking lot who watched as you came to the rescue. They would have surmised you didn’t know my daughter and how easily you could have walked down another aisle and been on your way. After all, everyone is so busy. Everyone would have understood.

And the cashier. I’m sure she was confused when you came in, plopped the big box on the counter and announced that your job was done. She likely told a co-worker or friend about what this man did at work today.

And here I am sharing your story with my friends and some folks I’ve never met, simply because they’ve come across my blog. Many of them are literally scattered across the world. You probably thought you were only impacting one young lady living in Atlanta.

Not the least of those impacted by your kindness, though, is your son, Tripp.

As he grows up, he will undoubtedly be aware of those around him who need a little extra help. He will know what it means to be a real gentleman, and how rare real gentlemen are these days. After all, that’s the example his father gave him.

So, again, thank you, Tripp’s Dad. You’ve brought a lot of smiles and warm hearts with your willingness to take a few minutes out of your busy life and simply lend a helping hand.

If She Only Knew

My daughter was not very happy. Her boyfriend called that morning to let her know the conditions were not ideal for skiing, and they needed to change their plans. Throughout breakfast with some friends, she quietly sulked while trying to hide her disappointment.

If she only knew.

During breakfast, his mother called and needed them to go by the beach house to check a leak a neighbor had noticed.

While at the beach house, he thought he’d make the best of the situation and asked her to walk down to the beach and skip rocks together.

She continued to pout. It was cold and rainy outside. She had no desire to be outside, let alone down by the water. She wanted to be on the ski slopes. Not at the beach house on a sopping cold and dreary day.

Oh, if she only knew.

He tried a few times to convince her to go down to the water. When she finally conceded, he walked her to the water’s edge, knelt down on one knee, pulled out a tiny box and asked her to marry him.

Now, she knew.

They drove across the bay to his uncle’s house where all of her sisters and I, along with his family and their friends were waiting to celebrate. We joyously celebrated all weekend long.

Her big sister was genuinely happy for her and loved every minute of the festive weekend. However, secretly, she wanted to be engaged as well.

I tried to comfort her and remind her of the circumstances her boyfriend was in as he had just accepted a new job across the country and needed to be there within a few weeks. He had yet to tell his family and had no time to think about buying a ring or asking her dad for his blessing of marrying his daughter. “Give him time,” I encouraged her. I assured her that within a month or so, I was sure he would be able to slow down, sort out the details and ask her to be his wife.

She wanted to understand. But I knew she was still a little sad.

If she only knew.

We took her to the airport. I kissed and hugged her and told her to keep her chin up.

She landed a few hours later and drove home. It was late and she was exhausted and needed a good night’s sleep.

As she opened the door to her apartment, she became startled at what she thought was someone in her home. It was him. With soft music serenading them and rose petals strewn among the dimly lit candles, he took her hand, walked her inside, knelt on one knee, pulled out a tiny box and asked her to marry him.

Now, she knew.

Throughout the weekend, I wondered if I was coming to understand a glimpse of how God feels when He knows “the rest of the story” and just wants His children to trust Him and believe something great is in store. At each turn of events, I wanted to whisper in their ears, “It’s going to be fabulous! Trust me. I know what this weekend holds. You will be much happier with these plans than the ones you originally had.”

I knew by weekend’s end, these two daughters of mine would be engaged. As I watched their reactions to unrealized plans, while privy to knowing the bigger picture, I wanted so badly to cup their sweet faces in my hands and tell them to wait until they knew the rest of the story.

Jeremiah 29.11 reminds us that God has great plans for us, plans to prosper us and give us a future and a hope.

We need to trust His plans are better than ours.

He longs to cup our sweet faces in His masterful hands and assure us He knows and has orchestrated the rest of the story. It’s going to be fabulous!

If we only knew.

“But Lord, We Have Nothing in Common!”

If you know me at all, you know I’m a huge advocate for community. IMG_5383The word commune is defined as “to share one’s intimate thoughts or feelings with (someone or something), especially when the exchange is on a spiritual level.” The English translation is the word common.IMG_7765

In a message from Henri Nouwen, he shares these thoughts, “Parker Palmer, a spiritual writer of the Quaker tradition, says community is the place where the person you least want to live with always lives. So community is not like a place where you love each other sort of freely and warmly and affectionately. Community is, in fact, the place where you are purified, where your love is tested, where your childhood of God is constantly put through the mill of human relationships. That is what community is.”

Moving around so often, my husband and I have been in many places of community. We’ve invested in base chapel communities, Bible studies, small groups, home groups, youth groups, and military groups. We’ve also seen our many neighborhoods as actual communities. These are all places where we have been divinely placed for a time, to “do life together” with others. A few of these have been chosen by us, however the vast majority we did not choose.

IMG_5608           I remember moving to a new neighborhood and beginning to intentionally reach out to our neighbors. I thought to myself, and was brave enough to admit to my husband, that I was hoping we’d live next door and across the street from people who we had at least something in common with other than an address. How did Jesus expect us to love these neighbors when we had absolutely nothing in common with them? Surely He must have meant people in your general vicinity when He said to love your neighbors, not specifically the ones next door. IMG_7352

And my shallow, but substantiated thoughts spilled into other communities we found ourselves a part of, like a home group from church. Now here, I thought, is where we’ll find people we have a lot in common with and community will be easy and fun. But that’s not what we found. We would often talk on the way home from a meeting about how interesting it is that other than a spiritual foundation, we really didn’t have much in common with the people in this particular group. These are not people we would necessarily have chosen for our friends. In fact, we surmised, if we weren’t in this small group, we probably would never have gotten to know most of these people at church.

Looking back at these experiences, I am eternally grateful for the people God divinely placed next door and in small community groups with us.IMG_2254

People we had nothing in common with, but we began to do life together and enter into their families’ lives. We walked through the valley of the shadow of death together, cried together and begged The Father for healing on each other’s behalf. We celebrated great miracles and milestones with these who had seemingly unnoticeably moved from strangers to deeply intimate friends, ones we broke bread with and communed with and will forever be part of their lives and they ours. We discovered the truth that yes, for sure, community is hard work and it’s messy and there are many days you want to quit because honestly, sharing life is hard. But this is where life becomes so much more meaning-full and hope-full and my goodness, the lessons these “nothing in common” people have taught us are invaluable. IMG_5114Our hearts are changed. And our hearts are full. Community is definitely where growth and healing take place.