Syllabi

I can still see my seventeen-year-old self standing in a college bookstore, a stack of syllabi in hand. I expect the prep-for-class process has changed, but back then it worked like this:

  1. Register for classes. (In a gym full of card tables!)
  2. Pick up a syllabus for each class.
  3. Read through each one to see what will be required throughout the semester.
  4. Buy all the books needed for every class. (In person. At an actual bookstore.)

Hauling all those textbooks back to the dorm was no easy task. Talk about a beast of burden! The real burden, though, and the real beast, was in my own brain. I would inevitably look at a whole semester’s worth of assignments and wonder—with a good bit of worry—how I would ever be able to do all that work. Some part of me disregarded the long timeline, the months stretching out before me to offer the gift of ample time, as if it was all due TODAY.

Of course, I did have enough time, and did finish the assignments, and graduate and find employment and…But it took me a long time to learn this lesson:

When life looms large and its demands seem overwhelming, JUST DO TODAY!

Those early weeks of college were tainted by my insistence on mentally tackling way too much before the real time to do so. Life presents plenty of challenge, and when we try to take it all on at once, or even wonder how we will handle tomorrow while we are embroiled in today, we wreck any possibility of peace. Why do we do that? I think it has something to do with that old enemy of ours who seeks to steal, kill and destroy. It may also have something to do with our demented idea that we can control and handle all things on our own. Taking things one day at a time is much easier to do when we remember Who holds our future.

Jesus taught this lesson long ago. The sooner we learn it, the better!

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34).

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14: 27).

Darth Vader

Renee is two. She and I were enjoying a few quiet moments, rocking and reading Curious George in my guest room, when her eyes fell on an old photo of Steve dressed as Darth Vader. Her reaction surprised me.

  • “Nana, why is he so loud?”
  • Covering her eyes, “I have to do like this.”
  • “I’m going to pretend to fast forward him.”

So loud? Renee uses the word “loud” in place of “scary.” She was fascinated by the photo, yet knew it was troubling her and that she needed to turn away. While she was comforted by my explanation that it was simply Pop dressed up in a costume, I still moved the photo out of sight before going back to Curious George. Later, as I replayed Renee’s reaction in my mind, I began to think more about her very healthy response to fear.

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Just the Facts

I’m a big fan of moleskin notebooks. I’ve used them as journals for years. Last week, I came to the last page of my current edition and decided to flip through it for a few moments before shelving it and unwrapping a fresh volume. Those scribbled pages reminded me of old challenges, answered prayers, new discoveries, and fun times of weeks gone by. I also found five Bible passages copied into the front cover. ‘Can’t remember when I did that, but I’ll be copying them into my new journal. I hope you’ll find them encouraging as well. While I’m sharing them without commentary—just the facts as God has given them to us—I’d love to hear how they strike you.

“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength” (Isaiah 30:15a).

“Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!” (Isaiah 30:18).

“Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 2:12).

“But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side. Arise, Lord! Deliver me, my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked.From the Lord comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people” (Psalm 3:3-8).

“But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield” (Psalm 5:11-12).

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Slow to Learn

January 2021.

  • Weather: Changing by the hour.
  • Quarantine: Still in place for my parents.
  • Schedule: Grandchildren here from 8-4.
  • My agenda: Have my grandchildren in the car to go visit their great-grandparents by 3 pm. (By visit, I mean stand in the parking lot and dance and wave while Meemee and Deedah lower treats down from their balcony by a rope and bag contraption.)

Before I go on with this story, here’s a quote from the Brenda of 2005, found in an old journal. “There is only panic when I set my own agenda.” That’s right, folks, I’ve been working on letting God be in control for a long, long time. And, as I’m about to show you, I am not there yet.

Those of you with small children know that an agenda like I described above can require hours of planning and preparation. (If you don’t get it, borrow a three-year-old for a couple of days.) Play time, lunchtime, and an early naptime must all align if one wants to be out of the door by 3. At about noon, things were looking pretty good. But then…

I asked Steve to play with Nick for a few minutes while I settled Kate in her bedroom. They wrestled and then built a fort for him to “take his nap in.” This is a gender thing folks, but for those of you who just don’t get it (meaning about half of the population), it’s a whole lot easier to get a kid to sleep if you do something calm and quiet right before the moment of naptime comes. See Steve having a great time doing nothing wrong, but see Brenda’s silent fuming.

I was frustrated and a bit too terse with Kate (who, of course, heard the wrestling and wouldn’t stay in bed.) Eventually she fell asleep, adorable with a big stuffed tiger as her pillow. Nick finally fell asleep about an hour later than I had planned, buried under that fort. Of course, most of the cuteness was lost on me, because my agenda had been ruined. It would be far too late to go anywhere by the time they reached full consciousness. I would have to settle for plan B, and I did not like plan B.

Halfway through rest time, I managed to let go of my agenda and my frustration, praying for a return to my usual delight in these “NanaPop Days.”  Guess what, plan B was great! They slept. I rested. Then we read books and ate snacks for a few short moments until their parents arrived to take them home. I visited my parents alone later in the day, only to discover that the weather was too cold for Mom and Dad to spend much time on their balcony anyway. The whole day would have been so much better if I’d stayed flexible instead of trying so hard to get my way.

We are still in a very uncertain time. But, really, every time is an uncertain time. We won’t always get what we expect or what we plan for. Relax. Trust. And smile. God has a way of improving on your plans. 

Don’t Feel Guilty About Your Peace!

I don’t really like to run, but my body still demands regular vigorous exercise if I want to feel my best. So, I headed out this morning equipped with a wireless headset and my phone playing a collection of old hymns. First up was “It Is Well with My Soul” by Horatio G. Spafford. That’s a favorite of mine, and I’ve mentioned it before, but hear me out. The lyrics say, “Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, ‘It is well, it is well with my soul.’”

That statement is backed by the Bible and reiterated by countless other great hymns.

  • We sing it.
  • We say we believe it.
  • We hope to live it.

But are we comfortable with it? When life is looking just plain bad all around us, when friends and neighbors have lost their peace, are we willing to keep walking in obvious faith? (Notice I said obvious, not oblivious.) Can we remain calm in the storm, even if it looks a little nutty to do so?

Peace in the storm isn’t denial of the situation. It’s recognition of the larger picture, the one in which our walk-on-water Lord is in control and loves us dearly.

Faith that plays out as relaxed trust in the midst of personal or global hardship isn’t a lack of caring. It’s obedience to an oft-recorded-in-the-Bible command to fret not.

And if we can’t walk in peace unless all is right with the world, or unless the world says it’s okay to be at peace, how are we different from anyone else? What do we have to offer?

Peace is not synonymous with inaction. In fact, peace can equip us with the inner strength we need in order to carry out any number of tasks.

So, I am challenging you today to walk in peace, to hold on to the rest that comes from consistent trust in the Creator, the Savior, the Helper. And let it show. Go to the hymns or search a good concordance (perhaps www.biblegateway.com) if you need to hear this lesson from someone else besides me.

Peace be with you this week! Brenda

photo credit: @sunyo via unsplash.com

Six Questions


Today, I want to pass along an email from my opthalmologist. She asked five questions. I’ve added one of my own at the end of the list.

  • What am I GRATEFUL for today?
  • Who am I CHECKING IN on or CONNECTING with today?
  • What expectations of “Normal” am I LETTING GO of today?
  • How am I GETTING OUTSIDE today?
  • What BEAUTY am I either creating, cultivating, or inviting in today?
  • How much am I REMEMBERING GOD’S PRESENCE today?

These are primarily food for thought. Nevertheless, I’d love to hear your answers!

photo credit: @jules_bss via Unsplash.com