Whatever. Just Do….WHATEVER.

Grabbing my phone on the way out the door for choir, I noticed the “missed call/voicemail” alerts.  I recognized the number of a friend, but it was uncommon for her to call. Hmmmm.    Retrieving the message, I heard a strange uneasiness in her voice as she wrestled to come up with the right words.

“Lorretta…” Pregnant pause.
“Um… I was wondering…. I mean, do you still…”
Her question dangled over the phone line for an uncomfortable moment.
Then suddenly, “Please call me back when you get a minute?” Click.

Curious? Yeah, me too.
I quickly dialed her number to discover whatever in the world was wrong. Finally answering, I could tell she was still so nervous!     I had no clue.

Whatever

Rambling through the background in her mind, she finally summoned  the courage to ask if I still did “THAT”. “THAT” being the reason she needed my help. And well, since I did still do “THAT”,  I replied I’d be happy to help but inside I was thoroughly bemused by her embarrassment— for herself (maybe?) needing my help with “THAT” or was it for me—the one willing to do“THAT”?     I still don’t know.

Fact is, I did “THAT” then and I still do now.
On occasion.
In fact, I’ll do “THAT” twice this week because I didn’t have time last week.

Yes, I’m here to confess that I engage in what is likely the world’s oldest “occupation”:
I clean houses.  Whew!    I’m so glad I got “THAT” off my chest!

Another confession:  It was not a proud moment when I decided to take my first housecleaning job. But the fact is, as business owners, media missionaries and “self-unemployed” artists,  we needed a little extra at our house to make ends meet. Plus I needed the added flexibility of naming my own hours so I could keep home schooling, volunteering and GreenPeas-business-ing. Let’s face it: there are very few situations nearly as accommodating as this (without having to constantly salespitch your entire friend base). Besides, I get to catch up on all my ministry podcasts while I vacuum and mop!

So, gradually I’ve gotten used to the idea of mentioning that I do “a little cleaning on the side” and I have no problem stating as fact that it’s the way God helps me provide for my family in this season of life. Still, this look-back at my friend’s discomfort and realizing my own, I recognize that there is a certain level of stigma against the idea that someone might choose to earn money this way. I felt it at first, until God gave me peace and helped me to swallow a HUGE chunk of my “I’m-Too-Educated/Good-For-THAT” attitude (also spelled P-R-I-D-E).

A Proud Man

I remember when it happened too. Working  in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya a couple of summers ago, we were filming a ministry series for a water and AIDS hospice project. Our days were packed with one location after another interviewing and filming various people associated with these projects. It was wonderful. Sometimes, we were graciously invited into homes for a bit of hospitality. On those occasions, there was always time to share and pray (whether there was time in the schedule– or not!) and we were always left blessed.

At one home, our guides introduced us to a kind-faced woman and two younger girls. She was the local “church mother” who also trained up Christian house girls. As young Christian women they struggled with the stigma because it was not considered a very honorable profession. Not what they wanted to be when they grew up. However, it was the best they could hope for without a skill set or education. Then, remembering our conversation from the night before, our guide asked if I’d share about my experience with “THAT” line of work.

Speechless.
What I could say? 

True, we had shared our testimonies and desires to use our business/ministry to work full time on the mission field—how we did whatever we could to keep things afloat and in passing, I mentioned I did THAT.  Obviously, the Holy Spirit had orchestrated this divine encouragement opportunity and I was ON.

I wasn’t prepared to say all wish I’d said that day. I remember explaining I was glad to have work allowing me time to do church ministry and to work with my husband. I told them how it freed me up with time to teach my children and provide for my family. Truthfully, how it had been a way to serve God through some difficult times in my life and through it I tried my best to bring Him glory.

As I spoke, I knew in my heart our situations were radically different. I was working for extra money and they were likely working for all they’d have and not much more.  Lack of education and opportunity was not my issue as it was for them.

Still more humbling was the look of confusion and really— surprise on their faces because in their wildest imaginations, no white woman from America would ever have to do THAT. Surely not.
We are rich.
All of us.
Well, that’s always a kick in the pants, isn’t it?

I’m pretty sure I mumbled some other well-meaning encouragements hoping they’d understand it was possible to serve God proudly in their places of employment. Of course God was reminding me at the same time how clever it is that He doesn’t waste ANYTHING from the willing.

Revelation

I needed to remember this NOW. I’ve been feeling discouraged– not despairing but wondering about the whole missions thing and how God wants us to answer the call we said yes to 15 years ago. Just being honest. It’s a big, fat question mark.

These remembrances alongside something I heard this past weekend are helping to resharpen my focus (again).  A young woman was sharing a recent experience and she said:

“Sometimes we are praying so hard for God to move us out of a situation that we almost miss what he wants to do with us where we are.”

No great mystery— just a whole lotta truth. Sheesh. More truth was piled on from 1 Corinthians 10:31 where Paul is teaching about idolatry but the word “WHATEVER” is what got me. It’s found again in Colossians 3— twice but particularly in verse 17:

Colossians 3-17

Whatever.
Just do whatever.
Right here, right now.
All of it for Him.

I don’t know about you, but it gives me a lot to think about as I work and wait— doing THAT or whatever it is He asks of me— for His glory.

Lorretta signature

You’re Not the Boss of Me

In the checkout line of a small local store, I had a few moments to observe the people around me— especially the man behind the counter. He was careful and attentive to the task before him and though it was only mid-morning, he wore an expression of exhaustion known well by anyone whose ever worked a retail job during the holiday season.

It’s not for the faint of heart I tell ya!

You're Not the Boss

Exchanging pleasantries, I complimented him on how neat and orderly everything was in spite of the obvious chaos this time of the year usually brings. “Thanks,” he sighed “It’s almost over.” I felt his pain but I wanted to leave him with something more. I tried to encourage him to fight the urge of pushing to get through or else possibly, like in many of my previous holiday seasons, he might get to the other side only to discover he’d missed it all… he might miss Jesus, again.  His face relaxed into an easy smile and agreeing, he thanked me for that reminder. “I really needed to hear that today.” He said. 

I did too.

I need to be reminded again and again that the whole point of the holiday experience… of daily living, is not simple basic survival. Of course, there are seasons, sorrows and situations… those moments when this survival mode of operation takes over for a time but it’s so necessary to refuse to stay there— refusing to push or be pushed through life lest we miss the moments and lose ourselves and our joy in the process.

My dearest friend and I shared this recently because it’s exactly what God has been showing her as well. She told me that this season, God was directing her to be intentional about “protecting her joy”. (She writes about it HERE)

Yes. So rational. So reasonable, loving and kind. She put words to what I’ve been feeling— this need to ferociously protect and guard my joy— every day— not so I can hoard and hold it close, but so I have more to really give away. All I can say is that it worked— but it didn’t happen easily.

You know, in some places right now, floodwaters are rising. Today I watched a video showing an entire house being lifted off it’s foundations and carried away downstream. It’s a terrible reality people are facing at this very moment. Spiritually, it’s one I fight every day. The holidays only make it worse.  And while those poor homeowners could do nothing to keep the volume and force of that water from destroying their house, I recognize I need to do whatever I can to keep the volume and forceful dictates of the world from moving me off my foundations.  Guarding my joy I must refuse to push through or be pushed along by an unnatural holiday ferver fueled  by this stuff-driven culture.

Altered life and heart

Because we all know it’s there. We feel it— that unseen force that wants to drive us along it’s track. I saw it today— in another store where, deeply-discounted Holiday items were lined up row after row and now, just one aisle over, the Valentine candy, cards and stuffed animals had taken up residence. Closer to the checkouts, exercise clothing, work out programs and equipment now replaced the space recently held by the exotic recipe ingredients and heavy foodstuffs. Are we this blind?!? Once upon a time, maybe I was. Just allowing myself to be pushed here and there, feeling completely driven inside and out by this horrible, crazy, guilt-laden “just get through it” mentality until there I was… on the other side and feeling like I had missed the point again.

Because mostly…I had.
Now I’m refusing.
I can’t undo what’s been done but I can refuse to be further undone by it all.

I can look at the calendar, the clock, the computer and potential commitments— look hard at this consumer and capital-driven culture and say, “You’re not the boss of me!” I can do this and really, for the sake of my sanity and Gospel witness,  I must.

God's Peace

What good can be done if during the holidays or the anydays I’m just as culture driven and frazzled as everyone else? How can I really see others if I’m just another cog in the same machine churning out day after day and intent on marketing the next thing to be possessed or celebrated from the ever-widening shallows?

I can’t. I won’t.
That machine is not the boss of me.
God is.
At least… that’s what I want.

Guarding my joy is the ultimate act of worship before a God who has commanded us to love Him above all and to love our neighbor as ourselves. It’s the ability to open wider into the space needed to love God and our neighbors well because we’ve learned how to love ourselves well.

It’s not about self-help and happiness— it’s self-care in full view of what God cares about most: holiness, which ultimately leads us to care about the things He does. Blocking out the noise and chaos so we can hear and see what He’s doing all around us and understand how He’s inviting us to join Him.

This isn’t a new idea of course. I don’t expect I’ll be changing the world with this radical act of revolution against the status quo. I am praying for revival  however, and maybe it can begin with me where it matters most: my heart, my marriage, family,  friends and neighbors. Maybe this way I can joy-FULLY be that small spark of God’s light in my community and eventually on the wider mission field if this is His will, simply because I know who is the boss of me: God.  And He is… so good….. to me.

 Lorretta signature

Confessions From a Magnified Soul

“ Do you think you could paint a life-sized, pregnant Mary?”

Came the text from my friend who helps operate our local care pregnancy center.  Our little town hosts an “open house” Christmas event every year and the Center was offered a space on the main strip. Mary, the world’s most honored “unwed and pregnant teenaged mother” needed to be there. My friend had some funds set aside for the project and I was the “first person who came to mind.”

“Can you do this?” she asked.
Well, gee.
Umm….

Confessions from a Magnified Soul

Honestly, I was “greatly troubled” trying to discern what sort of greeting— or project— this might be. I’d never attempted anything like this before; I’m not “that kind” of artist. Seriously, there are people I greatly admire who do this sort of thing with a level of realism and depth that I can only dream of. When they paint a person, it actually looks like a person. Me? I’m a folk artist. I work with the “essence” of things and basically take “sow’s ears” and turn them into a reasonable level of “silk purse”. I call it “redemptive art”— taking what others ignore or throw away and craft it into something beautiful, worthy and useful.  It’s what God did in me.

Could I do this?
I wasn’t sure.

However, I was certain of two things: this “starving” artist could certainly use the extra cash. Also, I’ve come to realize in my middle ages, that these types of opportunities and challenges have the potential to draw me into newer and deeper territories in my walk with God. I’ve learned that even, and maybe especially, in the things I do not know or understand, that to lean in past the fear and embrace the challenge before me often means the difference between growing or going stagnant in what I (think) I already know.

So, I said yes.

Plain BoardMary Beginning

Then God did two truly remarkable things. Just one short week before, He split open my heart and mind during one of our annual performance jobs with the liturgical dance company, Praise In Motion. They had reworked their Christmas offering and this year, one of the opening scenes depicted the moment of visitation through Mary’s point of view. The angel Gabriel appeared and the girl from Nazareth danced, working out her salvation with fear and trembling before God. It was a song I’d never heard before: “Be Born In Me”

The song,
the Spirit,
the sentiment…this Season.
I was overwhelmed.

Then I knew what God was showing me. I could see what He was asking me… asking you..again.    Anew.

If that wasn’t enough, God performed a virtual “miracle” at this busy time of the year; He cleared my calendar. I had two full, wide-open days to fully explore and experience this encounter with God through Mary’s eyes.

Line Drawn FaceIt was an invitation to dance with Him and my imagination through Luke chapter one. There I read and re-read every word. Mary; visited by the angel, embraced by the Spirit, overshadowed by God and enfleshed with the Child; our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. Then, with the allowed perspective of a 21st century Christian, I dove deeper beneath the surface to the Spirit-filled space in between and amongst each recorded word to soak in the emotion, the danger and fear, then the promise, the recognition and finally, the resolve.

The powerful, life-giving resolve of a submitted servant entrusted to the perfect will of God:  “Behold, I am the maidservant of the Lord. May it be to me according to your Word.” (Luke 1:38a)

I believe, at that very moment in Mary’s story she, overcome by the Spirit and overshadowed by the Word of the Lord— as terrified as she could be, submitted and obeyed and thus, conceived Jesus.  It was in the very moment of submission and obedience that the promise and salvation of God was conceived.

Sit with that for a moment.

I was stunned.
Because it’s no different today.

Line drawn hand Even now, as we go about our “business and busyness”, God presents His great gift of
salvation to us. Through the Spirit, by His Word, God offers that Jesus be born in us again, now… in all these daily moments.

Today. Watching and waiting, He’s making a way for us to also say, “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be to me according to your Word.

Man.
Woman.
Child.

Old.
Young.
Life-long Christian or brand-new Believer.
The Seeker. The Confused. The Hopeless and the Lost.

You.
Me.

Nearly Finished FaceIt was from this perspective and with the smallest hint of Mary-like courage that I picked up my brush and got to work. The song became my sound track, playing over and over while the Spirit of Christmas permeated and revived my soul.

I worked, inviting, at times begging. Jesus to once again this Christmas, be born in and through me . Deeply, the words recorded in Scripture mingled with the song

“I am not brave. I’ll never be.
The only thing my heart can offer is a vacancy.
I’m just a girl. Nothing more.
But I am willing. I am yours…… Be born in me.”

There it is:  resolve.

Finished MaryMy friend… I truly hope that in whatever circumstances may be bearing down hard on you or if maybe you feel carried along on the wave of this “modern day” celebration, barely able to keep your head above waters… somehow, you can slip away to that quiet place with Jesus this Christmas — expecting— and find that if you will simply submit,  He’ll be born.. anew.. in you too.

Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; may it be to me according to your Word.  Amen.

Linked today at Tell His Story