All posts by Lorretta Stembridge

The Delicate Art of Flying Blind

This crazy phrase. It’s been creeping around in the back of my mind and simmering just below the surface of most every thought these past few months. I just can’t shake it. I decided to look it up.

Classically it means: “To fly an airplane solely by relying on instruments”.  So, I imagine it’s dark, maybe stormy, or otherwise disorienting, and there’s very little, if any, outside guidance or support.  To make it through, you’re gonna have to rely on experience and the tools you have right where you are.   Uh huh. I get that.

The phrase came into use during WWII and was soon after jettisoned into the broader understandings we refer to today.

This “urban” definition summarizes it nicely:   “Doing something tricky (flying) without the basic faculties for doing it”
Oh, and this one: to “Feel one’s way, proceed by guesswork”

Lawd yes… that’s the one.

Y’all… these days are full of emotion and tricky business.    I mean for me.    Personally.    In addition to the headlines and general craziness of the world at large, right here — for me and the man— it’s “ramping up” a bit.

I’ll try to explain: imagine hand-crafting a boat. You’ve spent years planning, researching, acquiring materials, and working on it in your spare time because you’ve had to hold down a job to keep the project going. It takes a little longer this way but it’s worth it. You learn a lot. You’ve got a great deal of “sweat equity” invested and it’s a very personal experience. As you get to the point of near finish, you start planning The Maiden Voyage. All this time you’ve been building in the safety of the harbor, taking a few shorter test runs close to the shore, but that’s not what this boat was made for: it’s time to consider the longer journey into deeper waters.

So here we are: deepening waters.

Not long ago, our youngest home schooled student submitted the final work to complete his high school journey thereby ending a journey of my own.  Second only to raising 3 children (a lot more “flying blind”!), home schooling them was the most challenging thing I’ve ever done— but I’ll go down on the record here and now: it was worth it.    Sure, I didn’t get the family “math gene” to pass along, but they are strong-willed and wonderful, beautifully artistic and creative communicators who know Jesus, and I am oh so proud they are ours.

A page is turned.

Like many churches, ours has a Graduate Recognition Sunday. A few folks searched my heart for sadness and sure, I sniffled through a mixed bag of tears.  However, the blessedness of the moment was not lost on me. Earlier in the week that young, strong-willed, and adventurous one had surgery for a major mishap which nearly robbed us all of this moment of celebration. The Mama in me could clearly picture every other scenario alongside the one before me and I was just SO thankful we were all there. So the few times someone remarked about our “empty nest”… all I could think about was our “full next”.

It’s “pleroma”, the God-kind of full.

I know this….even on the days when the fog of fear and doubt threatens to cloud my vision. Navigation seems trickier (is it really?), and the unknowns start to pile up like mountains all around us. How will we ever ________ ??  On these days, in these moments, it really does feel like I’m flying blind….just ”Feeling my way… proceeding with guesswork”.

I have a plaque with Isaiah 42:16 written on it once belonging to my sweet mother in law. It was a gift we gave to her on the occasion of her retirement and I honestly can’t say that then I gave the verse the kind of consideration I give to it now. I see this plaque every day, several times a day and I’ve pondered this verse deeply. It’s become personal…a place of abiding with the Lord.

However, I didn’t notice this until recently: the verse on the plaque is wrong. See it there… at the end?  For some reason the makers of the plaque decided to use the word “you” when really, in every translation I can find including in the original Hebrew (thank you Biblios.com), it says “them”.     God “will not forsake them”      Them what?

Well, depending on which translation you’re looking at, the verse may read that God is not forsaking those He’s leading… which is true. I mean, if you belong to God then you belong to God always. He will not forsake you. However, other translations— including the Hebrew seem to point to how God is not going to forsake “these things”… things that He will do: lead, guide, enlighten, straighten, make smooth. This is what God will do because this is Who God IS.     To whom?

To the blind.
The dependent.
The needy.
To those Who trust and obey and submit to being led step by step through those places they do not know, through the dark, rough and unfamiliar territory.

It’s a trust thing.

For me it always boils down to a trust thing. Can the control freak in me handle “flying” blind? Can I handle that there are things I do not know, being weak and dependent on God to lead the way?          Do I trust Him?

Thankfully, God knows I’m a nervous “flyer”. He’s very patient with my weakness.  He knows I trust Him even while He’s teaching me to ever trust Him more….that’s one of His “these things” He’s not going to forsake.   It’s helpful you know, to recognize that this verse, these promises are not about us. Sure, we benefit but ultimately all the things….are about God.  

I don’t know what the makers of this plaque were thinking when they decided to use the word “you” but I’ve corrected it.  Does it really matter?  Yes, I believe it does. 

Because although I know that as a child of God He will not forsake me, I’m not dependable enough to base a promise upon. Maybe right now I’m somewhat “blinded” by circumstances and realities and can not fully see how to get to the other side.  That’s ok.  God sees and I can trust His unchanging nature and promise to lead, guide, enlighten, smooth and fly us safely to that “full next”.

Pleroma…God’s fullness. In His way and in His time.
   This blind little bird can bank on that.

How to Turn Around

So….this is my official RE-blogging post.

I never UN-blogged er… un-plugged but for those of you reading this — 72 potential followers plus the “Random Fandom” out there— you know it’s been awhile since I’ve written out here.

It’s been so long that even the crickets have died.  Ha.

In fact, I’ve been so embarrassed to go to my front page and get smacked by the fact that the very last time you heard from me legit was about six months ago…. at Christmas.   I mean, what the what Lorretta?!?

So please bear with me as I just write and spill this…. off the top of my heart and (mostly) unedited. 

Q:  Did I stop writing?
A:  Goodness, no.

Q:  Do I have nothing more to write?
A:  I am SELDOM silent within and God’s voice is never (thankfully) silent within me.

Q:  What’s going on?
A:  More than I can say at this very moment but more will be shared soon.

Truthfully, I have written GOBS of stuff for various reasons other than this. There was a women’s retreat back in February that consumed a good bit of my writing and prayer preparation. Then there’s this MAJOR application that required pages and pages from me and to be honest… the micro-inspection and reflection of it all sucked me dry for awhile.

Add that to the daily do of the Daily Do, many home repair projects,  some sudden and unplanned for interruptions (not all bad),  and this palatable and weighty shame of neglecting my writing space… and well, I just didn’t know where or how to begin again.   

And I MUST confess here and now that what little creative energy I’ve had over these many months got swallowed up in mindless moments spent on social media. Not all was completely mindless but I know there’s only so much the “Insta-Snap-Face” life can offer in the way of depth and breadth. I realize I’ve been standing in the shallows throwing stones out across the deep –too weary or maybe afraid of getting caught up in the current.

I’m sorry.

This morning, while tidying up some stuff I heard from a sweet little person in my life who was letting me know that after a great deal of messing around, etc.,  during her quiet time this morning the Lord revealed to her that she *really* hadn’t submitted her life to Jesus. So… just like that, she did.  She turned. And she wanted me to know it.

So like her… just like that—I’m turning as well and I want you to know it.  Turning back towards going deeper, stretching higher and reaching out with real meaningfulness to you, for my own soul and the glory of God.

One thing God revealed during this time was the HUGE difference between being a Kingdom Consumer and a Kingdom Producer. There is a lot of noisy muck and mud being slung around out here and  I don’t want to add to those conversations.  I don’t want to be another noisy gong.

Instead, stepping out of the shallows again,  I hope to share this space with you in a way that seeks to produce Kingdom moments all around us as we make this journey together even while distances apart. I want to encourage you in your life to do the same….to every day, wake up expecting God to move and show us where He’s at work, and then have the courage to pick up our cross to join Him there.

Thanks for being here, and for waiting on me.

Hang on though… it promises to be quite a ride!

Christmas Everlasting

Her name was Charlotte.

I’ve wanted to write about her for such a long time but I couldn’t find the words until now. I’ve desperately wanted them all to be so honorable and right, full of grace and love— just like she was.  I confess I didn’t know or appreciate her half as well as I wish I had, but I know she loved me and I’m certain she knew I loved her too.

And… I won’t lie; we didn’t hit it off right away— I really wasn’t her type of girl. I might have scared her. Heck, I scared myself.   Thank heavens, she tried and kept on trying.

While she’s been gone for 6 years, so many things around our home continue to keep her memory alive. Especially at Christmastime; her most favorite season of all. Gosh, how she loved Christmas! Partially because she flat out thrilled at any chance to celebrate, decorate or arrange something. Seriously, she was the kind of woman who had a tablecloth and matching paper products on hand for every season. I used to tease her about belonging to the “Potholder of the Month” club for that reason alone! Yes, she loved a holiday but Christmas was her time to shine.  Charlotte understood as deeply as possible the real joy we have for celebrating the birth of Christ: Jesus was her Savior.

In her earthly lifetime, Charlotte was the classic “Southern Lady”- private, proper, loving and loyal. Hospitable and generous too— you’d have to work hard to out-give her and after she was gone it amazed us to discover how charitable she had been with her meager retirement income.  Whether caring for her aging mother, children and grandchildren, or serving her church, retirement center neighbors and community through delivering Meals on Wheels— Charlotte spent herself wholly in the name of Christ.   What a legacy.

Charlotte was forgiving— at least as forgiving as humanly possible and willing to pray for the strength to forgive better when necessary. Despite the pain and betrayal that singed her heart terribly, somehow she managed to never let it interfere with the way she lived on a daily basis. Pain just didn’t define Charlotte or her relationships with others—Christ did.  She taught me by these examples and her life is teaching me still today. Especially at Christmastime.

I vividly recall her last Christmas with us. We didn’t know it was the last one we’d have together and certainly she didn’t either.  There we were— crowded together in her tiny apartment visiting, sharing a modest but plentiful meal, and opening up thoughtful and silly gifts, much like we’d done the year before.

However, this year she had also decided to gift some of her precious Christmas dècor. She’d already done some considerable downsizing in order to move into the center, but now she was ready to decide what she wanted to keep and, to capture the spirit of her words, she “wanted to give it as her own choice”.  Because she knew that this life and these lovely things were only temporary, she happily gave the very things she treasured. That was Charlotte.

So, again this year, as I’ve carefully unboxed and unwrapped our family Christmas items, many which once graced her own humble home, I can’t help but remember my sweet mother in law with a special fondness for her steadfast example of what it means to truly love, truly serve and truly live to give of oneself.  And not just at Christmastime; her legacy is the every day sort of stuff meant to be applied each and every moment.

I have to ask myself why this year remembering Charlotte seems to matter more to me than ever before.  To be honest, it’s likely for a variety of reasons but mostly,  I need the anchoring in these solid memories to help me know how to move forward through this ever-changing season of my life and most importantly— why.

Also because, among these other things, this year also finds her four sons in the throes of trying to respectfully care for their aging father. 

The differences between the two of them are like night and day but Charlotte would not want me to dwell on that. However, the life-lessons are clear:  how Charlotte gave, he withheld; what Charlotte cherished, he dismissed; where Charlotte released, he spent his life gripping all the more tightly. Sadly, in choosing a much meaner course of life, this poor man put them all on a trajectory that might have ensured no one would be around to stand in the gap for him at this late and most difficult stage of life.   But God.

Because this is where all of Charlotte’s love and Christ-like example is bearing the best fruit and an everlasting example. Simply put: the way she raised her sons and lived out her life before them was so thoroughly saturated with God’s protective and sheltering grace, that they are emboldened and equipped  to do the very best they can for their father despite the fractured relationship that has existed most of their lives. Because Charlotte loved Jesus the most, she loved her sons well and out of this love they are now able to show love to one another and for this man, their father. In courageously caring for their father, they are honoring the memory of their mother and surely, God is pleased.

So alive and unshakeable for me this Christmas— so real and profoundly true, these things of God matter the most. As I look around our home today, I see a handful of things she passed along but my heart clings to the real treasure that doesn’t fade  and one we are attempting to pass along to our own children—  it is the Holy Spirit’s everlasting gift of witness showing us the path to follow in the weeks and years to come. 

This is Charlotte’s gift to us– the  truly, everlasting message of Christmas and I’m so grateful that it’s mine to share…now… with you.    Merry Christmas!