Making Room

shoes2

My daughter threw her backpack into the car and sighed as she collapsed into the front seat. As she emphatically clicked her seatbelt into place, she explained that they had to run SOOOO much in soccer and that her big toe was killing her.

I casually dismissed her toe pain, suggesting that maybe she had miskicked a ball and that it would probably feel better the next day.

The next day after school she limped towards me and said, “Mom. My big toe still really hurts. It’s throbbing and really hurts to walk.”

I resisted the temptation to roll my eyes and throw her a bandaid and asked her some questions about the pain. She reminded me that she and her friend had gotten pedicures that weekend and she thought the woman had cut her toe a little bit.

My casual demeanor quickly fled and I immediately began to picture a horrendous infection oozing from my daughter’s toe. With a new urgency, I asked her to remove her shoe and sock. As I searched for the dreaded red lines up her toes and feet, I glanced across the room for my car keys in case I needed to rush her to the hospital.

To my relief, her toe didn’t even look that red, but I still suggested that we slather lots of medicine on it, just in case. Somehow that made us both feel better. As I stood to return to the busyness of the day, I glanced at her other foot, still wearing her shoe.

I knelt to touch her foot.  “Wait a minute. Where exactly is your toe in this shoe?” I pressed the top of her shoe, only to find that her big toe was shoved so tightly against the edge of her shoe I could almost hear it screaming to get out.

I looked up and asked, “Are your shoes too small?”
She shrugged and said, “No, not really. I think they’re fine.”

I suggested that we go to the shoe store after school in case she had outgrown her shoes. We rushed to the wonderful Charm City Run after practice where a woman happily led us to the shoes.
I asked if she could check McKenzie’s shoe size as I wondered if her shoes might be a little small.

She measured McKenzie’s feet and announced that she was a size 6.5, but would probably need a 7.5 in running shoes.

Wide eyed, McKenzie looked at me and we both nervously giggled. I grabbed McKenzie’s old shoes to check the size and sheepishly asked the sales person, “Can you repeat that?”

I looked at McKenzie’s shoe which taunted me with, “4.5”

Three sizes smaller than what this woman was recommending.

No wonder her big toe was hurting.

We finally found a pair of Nikes McKenzie liked and I watched as she walked back and forth in the store, joyfully bouncing as she walked. How in the world had McKenzie been running around in shoes that were three sizes too small?

The next day, after a long day at school, I asked her if her foot felt better in her new shoes. “Oh my gosh, yes. It is so comfortable to walk.”

The toe still has some healing to do. As the days passed, we noticed where the irritation began, but now that her toe has more room, the healing process has begun.

Of course all of this made me think about the difference a little space can make in our pain.

Not only is it a really busy time of year, but I sense that a lot of people I care about feel like life is wrapped so tightly around their hearts that they can’t breathe.

When there is no room to breathe, there is no room to heal.

We might be aware of how much pain we are in, but we have no idea what to do about it.

It isn’t until we make space for our hearts and our pain that we can really find healing.

The temptation is to just grab the metaphorical box of bandaids and just deal with the pain, hoping it will eventually go away.

Until it doesn’t.

More than our own pain though, I am struck by the fact that what McKenzie needed the most from me was to reach down and help her to figure out that her shoes were too small. She had gotten so used to running around in those tiny shoes and had no idea what a difference the right size can make.

It is easy to look at someone and say, “How are you?” or “I am praying for you” and run along to the next thing on our schedule, but for me, the difference comes when someone not only asks how I am doing, but stays with that question long enough to really find out.

What a difference it makes to ask the second and third question – the ones that dig a little deeper. The questions that make us pause and say, “Hmmmm. That’s a good question. I hadn’t really thought about that.”

We can’t really become good question askers unless we become good listeners. Not necessarily offering a solution or a bandaid or telling all the ways we have experienced something similar, but simply to listen. To ask the questions that allow someone to find some space in his or her pain. (a great book on listening is The Listening Life: Embracing Attentiveness in a World of Distraction by Adam McHugh. Chapters six and seven are especially helpful!)

We live totally connected 24-7, reading article after article, hearing this opinion and that, carrying the weight of life all day long. It can be like wearing shoes that are too small. The tight space only complicates the pain and doesn’t help us to heal.

What if we all made more room?

What does space look like for you?

Advent is here.

What can we do to make more room as we prepare for Christmas?

Is there anyone who you can help to find that space? Ask God to show you who really might need you to ask them those extra questions.

You would be surprised the difference it can make for someone to just sit and listen.

 

 

 

Enough

thank you1My youngest daughter and I drove in painful silence on our way to pick up some dinner. The last few hours had been filled with inconvenience and frustration, and I may have yelled at her a little, ok a lot, when she didn’t respond to something the way I wanted her to.

In reality, her response had been perfectly reasonable, but because I was grumpy from my day, I wasn’t thinking about reasonable. In fact, I had quietly been waiting for a moment like this when I could take out my frustrations on someone else, and she presented the perfect opportunity.

We pulled into the parking lot, and I probably sighed as I turned off the car and walked to the restaurant. As we rounded the corner, I noticed the same homeless man who often greets us upon our arrival. I hadn’t seen him in a while and wondered how he was doing. (This is the same man I wrote about here.)

As we walked, we could see him, but he couldn’t see us. I watched as he clasped his hands tightly, raised them up in the air, and with the most sincerity I had heard all day, he prayed. With closed eyes and head towards the sky, he humbly proclaimed, “God, you are so good to me. Thank you. Thank you for good people.” There was a humble disbelief in his tone as if he couldn’t believe that God would give him such a bounty.

And then he opened his eyes, surprised to see me standing there and smiled, “Well, Hi!! How have you been?”

We talked for a while and I asked if he needed anything. He smiled and told me he had dinner and then held up a Chipotle gift card. He closed his eyes again and said, “And someone just gave me this which will be great for tomorrow. I am so blessed.” And with an earnestness that is difficult to describe, he smiled at me and said, “God is SO good to me.”

McKenzie and I quietly walked into the store, and I stood pretending to stare at the menu while I fought the urge to cry.

I wrapped my arms around McKenzie, and she hugged me back, and I found myself wondering about gratitude.

Gratitude.

I ate three meals today.  I am embarrassed to say that I didn’t thank God for one of them. Not even a quick, “Thanks for this food.”

I am not saying this to beat myself up, but it’s important for me to think about it.

When was the last time I clasped my hands together with all of my strength and through tears just thanked God for being so good to me?

This man has no family, no home and isn’t always sure where his next meal is coming from, but he offered God more gratitude than I have in weeks.

Anne Voskamp recently told of a conversation she had with a little girl at a birthday party. The girl confessed to Ann that being at her sibling’s birthday party was hard because she knew she was “going to feel her tummy tighten into knots when everyone handed her sister all the presents, when her sister got the stage and the candles and the cake.”

I so appreciate that little girl’s honesty.

And I so appreciate what the little girl’s mom gave her to hold onto at that party.

A piece of paper that said, “I get enough.”

That she would get enough gifts and cake and celebrating.

Wide eyed, that little girl held up that paper to Ann and said, ““I am not ever losing this. Because I can’t forget it — or that’ll ruin everything: I get enough.”

I love that.

What would we say aloud if we were really honest?

I know the truth is that instead of telling myself that I get enough, I often hear myself saying, “It’s never enough.”

I always want more if I am honest.

Steve cleaned out the garage the other day and I found myself saying, “We need to work on the basement next.”

I am not even sure I said thank you for the garage.

I enjoy a fun evening with friends of deep conversation and connection, and I immediately want another night just like that.

I have a day to myself to read and pray and rest, and the next day I think, “Why can’t I have two days like that.”

I could go on….but that could get really embarrassing.

What if instead of always quietly thinking, “What’s next,” I was able to just say “Thank you.”

I get enough.

The man at Chipotle reminded me that it is often about gratitude.

A small shift in perspective that makes a huge difference.

I could easily look at him and think, “Gosh. A year later, he is still sitting in the same spot, asking for help.”

But couldn’t I say the same thing about myself? A year later, I am still struggling to remember that I get enough.

And today I am grateful for that angel of a man who reminded me that regardless of our circumstances, we can still be thankful.

And not just a “go through the motions, shoulder shrugging oh thanks,” but deep, sincere, humble gratitude.

I get enough.

Truth is I get more than enough.

Let’s not forget that there is always hope to start again.

St. Benedict once prayed, “Always we begin again.”

So today, I do just that. And with clasped hands lifted up, I humbly come before my Lord and say, “Thank you.”

Thank you. Thank you. THANK YOU.

Broken

mug handle 2

All Steve wanted for Father’s Day was the Laser Bond UV Light Fix It Kit. He liked his other gifts, but was like a kid in a candy store when he opened his new gadget. His eyes lit up as he wondered aloud what in our house might need a repair.

My favorite coffee mug broke a month ago. The handle popped off in the dishwasher, and I have been sad about it ever since. I put the handle inside the mug and moved it to a quiet corner in the kitchen. As I watched Steve’s enthusiasm fill the room, I suggested that my mug could be his first project.

Before I tell you what happened, let me tell you about the mug.

First things first, there is nothing quite like a perfect mug. It makes the whole coffee experience even better. Very few mugs achieve this feat in my life, but this mug did. The beautiful pottery has a great rim and is comfortable to hold. And it is a Young Life mug from my dear friend, Eve in Nashville.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Young Life, it is a Christian ministry for middle and high school students. Leaders build authentic relationships with kids and share the hope of the Gospel, not only with their words, but their lives as well. My own life and faith were deeply impacted by a Young Life leader who cared about me enough to spend time with me on a regular basis and encouraged me to ask any questions I might have related to God and life. Eve pours her life into young women and loves them right where they are. They want to know more about Christ because of the way Eve loves them unconditionally.

So obviously, this mug matters to me. Every morning, it not only offers a fabulous coffee moment, but also reminds me of hope and grace and faithful friends.

So Sunday night, after Steve did his “I love this gift” dance, he went to the kitchen to find my mug. With great diligence and determination, he used that new tool to put my mug back together again. And it worked! We all sat wide eyed and excited as McKenzie held the mug in her hand by the handle and it stayed together. I carefully carried the mug back to the kitchen and set it by the coffee maker, so it would be ready for me the next morning.

Mck Mug

 

Sure enough, I enjoyed one awesome cup of coffee. Until the second cup of coffee.

Steve stood next to the table, and we talked about the morning. As we talked, I picked up my mug, and next thing I knew, I was just holding the handle. Time stopped as Steve and I stared first at the mug and then at each other. Incredulous, Steve said something rude about the laser bond, but then resolved to try again after work because maybe he did something wrong. I confessed my fear about attempting another hot cup of coffee tomorrow morning.

And then, for the first time, I thought, “Maybe I will just drink out of a broken mug.”

And here’s why.

I hate brokenness. I can’t even articulate how hard it is for me to process not only all of the brokenness in the world, but also my own. I just want things to be fixed. I want to stop struggling with the same issues, I want to see redemption in the lives of those I love, and I want to stop seeing evil in the world and how it crushes us on so many levels. Read the headlines and you can literally feel the hope seeping out of your soul.

This Young Life mug always reminds me of redemption. It reminds of hope and healing and grace. It reminds of good people who love kids well and want them to know their worth. It reminds me of people who thought I was worth their time and worth hearing that God loves me. It reminds me that Jesus is with me and loves me, not because I am perfect, but because He is.

I confess that sometimes I forget this in the brokenness. I tend to get so overwhelmed by the pain I see around me, that I walk around heavy hearted and full of grief. If I am not careful, if I don’t take the time to sit in His truth, I can become a real hot mess. Just ask my friends and family.

So this morning, I thought, there will always be brokenness this side of heaven. I hate that and I just want to fix it. But sometimes even in our attempts to fix things, there is still brokenness. I might grow in one area of my life, but the next week, find myself in the same pit again…the one I thought I fixed.

So if I keep this broken mug, I see the brokenness, but the mug reminds of the Hope too. The redemption. The healing. The beauty. It is all there, just like in this life.

In Richard Rohr’s book, Falling Upward, he writes:

“If there is such a thing as human perfection, it seems to emerge precisely from how we handle the imperfection that is everywhere, especially our own. What a clever place for God to hide holiness, so that only the humble and earnest will find it! A “perfect” person ends up being one who can consciously forgive and include imperfection rather than one who thinks he or she is totally above and beyond imperfection.”

I don’t know if I will ever be able to fully embrace the brokenness, but I never want to forget the grace and mercy that walks in the midst of it. Sometimes we really need to sit close to the brokenness to find the redemption in it.

And that might lead to an even better cup of coffee every morning.