I thought I was going to struggle with this quarterly What I Learned reflection (led by Emily P. Freeman), but as I sat down to write, I’m amazed at what God has shown me in the everyday graces and the big “aha!” moments. I hope you take the time to reflect on a regular basis – it’s been such a life-giving practice. You can read others’ lists at the link up here.
Legacy Living Happens in the Small Moments
We said our earthly good-byes to my 93-year-old grandmother this summer. As the grandkids put together our tribute of her life well-lived, there were zero doubts about her faith, her priorities and her faithfulness to loving God and others.
She and my grandfather were married almost 70 years, and served in the same small-town church for more than 50 years! Growing up, we had big family gatherings several times a year, Grandma always waiting with her batches of chocolate chip cookies, board games, plenty of hugs and laughter.
The small moments made her such a loving presence in our lives. She prayed for us daily by name. She showed gratitude to my Grandpa on a regular basis – to us and in front of him. In addition to countless roles in the church, for many years she and my Grandpa faithfully delivered cassette tapes of the church services to shut-ins before they even had lunch themselves. My aunt, who attends the same church, was unaware of this act of service for years! And that’s just how they were – faithfully, quietly serving.
Never Lose Your Awe – and Be Thankful When it’s Shared
One summer morning, I got to experience a pretty neat God-moment in a friend’s life – it’s not my story to share, but hopefully she’ll write about it fully someday. It’s quite the story.
My tiny cameo began when we were sitting on my friend’s lovely back porch, sipping coffee, talking about writing, and eating bagels and lox from a NY deli and bakery. We live in North Carolina, but this deli is always packed with native New Yorkers, so I figure it’s legit. I only know of bagels and lox from Stacey in the Baby-Sitters Club books of my youth. Stacey was so cool and I learned a lot from her, including this exotic and interesting bagel combination.
But, I digress. My friend and I switched seamlessly from writing to faith to talking about family. She shared some of her heart’s desires with me. God sent a little #godwink during our talk. Within weeks, things happened quickly in her life. I’m so honored that God – and my friend through her vulnerability – let me be a part of that moment.
I learned that it’s good to listen – really listen – when others share their hearts. And to be open to their God-moments, so you can bear witness to them now – and later. What a privilege!
Prayer – What I Learned from What the Disciples Didn’t Know
I was reading in Acts this summer and something struck me about prayer that I’ve never seen before. “But Peter put them all outside, and knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body he said, ‘Tabitha, arise.’ And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up.” (Acts 9:40 ESV)
I realized two things: 1) We don’t know exactly what Peter prayed. 2) Peter had no idea what the outcome would be when he did pray.
Peter knew God could raise people from the dead; he’d seen Jesus do it. Peter was called to Joppa after Tabitha died because the local believers were so distraught. He knew God would be glorified by her life, but He also understood God didn’t always resurrect the dead or heal the sick. So Peter prayed in faith – we assume he prayed for God to raise Tabitha back to life (based on his words after he prayed), but also we also could conclude he wasn’t 100 percent sure of the answer and submitted to whatever outcome God had.
I felt convicted as I read this. I often assign outcomes to God when I pray. “This person is too hard to reach.” “God, this is what I want, but it probably won’t happen.” “God, this person/circumstance will never change.”
I’ve personally witnessed countless miracles in my own life, but at times my faith is so weak. This passage helped me realize I have no business assigning or assuming outcomes in my prayers to God. Oh, let me pray in faith, trust His goodness for the best answer and wait expectantly! Lord, help my unbelief!
Thank God for Unanswered Prayers
Speaking of prayer … Most 90s small-town gals probably remember Garth Brooks’ song “Unanswered Prayers.” While the lyrics talk about a high-school love story not working out, the words ring true in a variety of situations. Sing along with Garth’s iconic twang, fellow country-lovin’ gals!: “Just because He doesn’t answer, doesn’t mean He don’t care. Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”
Now, I don’t actually believe God doesn’t answer His followers’ prayers – sometimes His answer is “no” or “not yet” or “trust me.” I also don’t believe if the answer is “no” that we’ve been praying for the wrong thing. Like Jesus, I believe we can ask God for a certain path or outcome, but in submission to His good, perfect will, no matter the answer.
I’ve shared previously about a missed opportunity last spring that brought disappointment. I was sure I was a great fit, I got *this*close* but then didn’t get a certain part-time position that I was sure I wanted. In the middle of the summer, however, I was able to secure another short-term position that used my skills, paid well and was less stress in the long run.
I’m thankful that God knows my frame. He knows what I can handle and goes before me to see what my coming months will look like. I’m thankful He protects my time even when I don’t know I need it.
Putting On – After the Putting Off – is Harder than I Thought
I chuckled when I heard a friend’s mom say recently, “I’m like air – I fill the space I’m in.” I’m not sure if this is an original quote; my quick Google research yielded nothing.
Whomever said it first, I identified with the quote. As an extrovert, I often fill the silence of a room with words, questions, laughter. Sometimes too loudly. This is something I’m learning to temper now that I’m in my 40s. My “listening cap” is finally getting good use.
However, I realized this summer that with my time, it’s the same way. If I remove something from my calendar, it will just fill with … anything … if I don’t intentionally put something in its place. In July, I took time off from my blog and social media. I thought it’d be filled with huge blocks of time for more long-form writing, building perfect memories with my 7-year-old and all things summer bliss.
But, it wasn’t. While I enjoyed the freedom from social media – and we did have some family fun – I realized I wasn’t intentional enough with my time. I felt scattered, frustrated and just plain bad at everything.
I learned that just getting rid of something isn’t enough. I need to add something good in its place. Maybe that’s why the Bible talks about it?
Ephesians 4:22-24 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Renewal looks like it’s tied to putting on the new self – not that I need a calendar to keep me straight, but that I need the Holy Spirit to keep my heart and priorities in check. I’m still learning, and I’m thankful I have a patient and understanding Father.