Rosanne Bowman

The Gift of a Life Well-Lived

First Brush With Death

I was five years old the first time I lost someone I loved. I don’t remember a lot. What I do remember is my grandfather being so cold and shaking.

I ran to get him blankets, but he was shivering so hard, I could hear his false teeth clacking together. I remember running behind a chair in the living room to pray. The chair was striped and velvety; the carpet was thick and cream colored. That was 39 years ago, yet those small details stand out in sharp relief.

I don’t remember my mom telling me my grandfather had died. I just remember looking at my grandfather in the casket and thinking it wasn’t him. All that made my grandfather him was gone: the big, booming laugh; the infectious smile; the twinkle in his eye.

My cousin picked me up and put my face up close to my grandfather’s. He smelled strange and I was scared. I spent the rest of the viewing hours out in the lobby with my Grandma Craig, tapping my patent leather shoes on the flagstone floor.

For over a year, I waited for my grandfather to come back. I kept imagining that he would burst into our house, laughing and saying it was all a joke. I was well into first grade when I finally believe he was really gone.

The Bewilderment of Grief

The next time I lost someone I loved, I was 25 and expecting my first child. As an adult, my experience was far different than when my grandfather died. Grandma Craig – the one who had sat with me in the lobby – was gone.

I remember feeling bewildered. How was I suppose to walk through this? How do you grieve? What does that even look like? Could you be happy about a coming baby and also be sad about the death of someone you loved at the same time?

Since that time, I’ve lost my other grandmother, a few friends, my brother and just recently my father. Even though I am not new to the grieving process, every single time, I still feel that strange bewilderment. How do you do grief?

Every grief is like a trip with a familiar destination, but each time, you travel by a different route.

Grieving Death is Different Than Grieving Tragedy

My brother died only two years ago, so that grief is still fresh and that road is still familiar. I thought I had a handle on this grief process, but grieving my father has been completely different.

With my dad, it felt like the ending of a fully told story. He battled cancer for four years, and I honestly thought he was going to die last year. I truly believe God answered my prayer for more time with him. I don’t know why He chose to answer that prayer since I know others have prayed it and not gotten the same answer. I am just unendingly thankful that He did.

Although I miss my dad terribly, God made it very clear to me that my dad had reached the last page of his story. Even though I didn’t want it to be the end and I didn’t want to close the book on his life, my dad’s life was one that was well-lived and finished well.

At his funeral, as people shared what my dad meant to them, I could see the far reaching ripples that his love of Jesus and his faithful service to Him had created.

It is hard to know that my dad’s story is done, but at the same time, there is a peace and a comfort in knowing someone has run their course well and finished the race. I grieve, but there is a softer edge to this grief.

My brother, on the other hand, took his own life. Instead of coming to the last chapter in his life, I felt as if someone had ripped it out of my hands mid-read. His death left a lot of what ifs and if onlys that still bother me some days.

My brother was intelligent, handsome and outgoing. He never met a stranger, and he honestly talked himself into an untold number of jobs that he really wasn’t qualified for at all. He had so much potential.

His death laid waste to it all before it was time.

It is the difference between a life well-lived and one stolen by mental illness.

It was the difference between the natural cycle of life and tragedy.

The Importance of Finishing Well

I am 44 years old. According to statistics, I’m truly middle-aged. Half of my life is over, and hopefully, if I am not felled by cancer or heart disease or some other disease, half of my life stretches before me.

Maybe it is because of my recent losses.

Maybe it is because of my age.

Maybe it is because I am facing a new season very soon, as my youngest will be a high school senior next year, but I am impressed more and more that I want to finish well.

I want to live my life fully with the right priorities. It’s so easy to get off track and to get caught up in things that really don’t matter, especially in the light of eternity.

I get it – the house isn’t going to clean itself and the groceries aren’t going to travel from the shelves to your fridge on their own. But I don’t want to be so busy doing all my to dos that I forget to really live life.

Choosing To Let Go of the Good

As 2017 slowly ticks down and a new year looms with all its newness and possibilities, I’m trying to slow down, to really listen to what God wants from me this year.

He has very clearly told me to write. I’ve felt it pressed into my heart and whispered in my ear. The thing is, when we say yes to what God calls us to do, we have to say no to a lot of other things – even good things.

What that means in my life is really looking at everything I am involved in and deciding what may be good but isn’t best.

I love Arabah Joy’s blog. Tacked up on the wall next to my desk is a quote from her.

You can’t do all the good things people ask you to do if you want to do the one thing God is calling you to do.

I made that quote into a cute printable and tacked it up by my desk, and yet, I’ve spent a lot of 2017 doing things that are good, but not best. That is going to change in 2018.

Why? Because I want to finish well. I want to reach the end of my life and see “The End,” not chapters I never got around to experiencing because I was too busy doing all the things rather than THE THING God has called me to.

What about you? Are there things you feel called to, but you’ve let busyness or other people’s expectations keep you from?

I’d love to hear about it!

True Love – It’s Not What You Think!

The Anniversary That Wasn’t

This past week, it would have been my parents 54th anniversary. But instead of doing something fun with my dad this past Thursday, my mom spent her anniversary with me at Panera Bread.

With my dad’s death, my mom lost part of herself. How can you not when you’ve lived with someone for 54 years? When you’ve shared life in its ups and down, its joys and griefs, its beauty and ugliness?

 

An Example of a Good Marriage

When you are a kid, you don’t really think about your parents’ marriage, unless it is profoundly unhappy in some way. As a kid, I was oblivious. Sure, my parents fought at times, but I never wondered if they’d stay together.

There was never a doubt they were a couple – not just parents or partners – but two halves of a whole.

Heck, they went on dates before date nights were trendy.

They each had a role, but one was not more important than the other.

My dad led our home with a sweetness of spirit that never took advantage of his leadership role. He was never “the boss” of my mom. They worked together, and my dad listened to what my mom had to say. He recognized her uncanny accuracy and insight about people.

My mom always supported my dad as the family leader, but that didn’t mean that she silently sat in the background or just nodded yes to whatever my dad said. Instead, she pushed and challenged him in all the best ways. I think my dad would honestly say that he would not have been the man he was without my mom.

They served God together. I don’t remember a time when my parents weren’t serving together in some capacity at our church. My dad was a gifted teacher, and my mother is the most organized person you’ll ever meet. She can put an event together with one hand tied behind her back, blindfolded. (I did not inherit this gift, by the way).

They made friends and fellowshipped together. Throughout the years, our home was full of people coming for dinner or holidays or get togethers. My parents were never content to be spectators in life. They were full participants, and they participated not as individuals, but as a couple.

A New Season

So, when my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary rolled around, we celebrated with a big party. People came who hadn’t seen my parents in years. Friends came and shared what my parents meant to them. There was laughter and fun and even a few tears. It was one of those perfect days.

A week later, my dad got a call from the doctor, and just like that, their lives changed. 

Suddenly, their lives consisted of doctors’ appointments two hours away and drugs with long, unpronounceable names and lab results.

And while my parents had shown me what a good marriage looks like over their first 50 years, the last four years showed me what true love REALLY is – not the fizzy, false picture that Hollywood puts out there, but the deep, steady kind of love that says, “I’m always going to be here.” 

My mom never missed one of my dad’s doctor’s appointments – no matter how she felt or how tired she was – even when that meant 12 hour days multiple times a week.

My mom put her legendary organizational skills to work keeping track of the paperwork that goes along with cancer treatments, especially when the VA is involved.

My mom counted out pills and made sure my dad took them on schedule. When taking a pill meant my dad couldn’t eat for a certain amount of time, my mom didn’t eat either.

Three different times, my dad got sick enough that he needed to be in a wheelchair. My mom, who is petite and almost 80 years old, didn’t complain. She just found a lighter wheelchair so she could get it in and out of the trunk herself.

Love Through the Valley

During the last few months of my dad’s life, my mom’s role as caregiver became more challenging and certainly more exhausting.

Instead of just using a wheelchair when they were out and about, it became necessary for my dad to use the wheelchair in the house. My mom wheeled him wherever he wanted to go, whenever he wanted to go.

Everytime my dad got up, my mom had to help him. She would grip his hands. Usually it took about three tries, and on the third, my dad would get to his feet. Then my parents would kiss and smile at each other.

My dad didn’t sleep well, and got up multiple times every night, moving from recliner to bed and back again. My mom went with him. Every. Single. Time. 

By the end, she slept with one hand on his shoulder, afraid he’d wake disorientated and try to get up by himself and fall.

True Love in Real Time

True love is about loving someone more than yourself. Watching my mom care for my dad, I saw what true love was up close and personal.

As giddy, young couples, we say our wedding vows, “In sickness and in health, until death do us part,” but in the excitement and joy of starting a new life together, the idea of sickness and death seems far away. We don’t really think about what it means to walk that out.

What that means is walking through cancer with your husband, caring for him even when you are exhausted yourself.

It means dragging out the wheelchair and getting your very sick husband in the car to go get ice cream because that’s what makes him happy when you really would rather collapse on the couch.

It means walking through the valley of the shadow of death holding his hand, so he doesn’t have to make the journey alone.

It means staying by his side even when you’d rather not watch death coming closer and closer.

True love can be warm and fizzy and sweet, but it can also be hard and tiring and challenging. My parents taught me that whatever form it takes, it’s always beautiful.

Blessings, Rosanne

5 Minute Friday: SUPPORT

It’s Friday which means it’s time for 5 Minute Friday! If you’ve never heard of 5 Minute Friday, that’s when women (and I suppose men, too, if they wanted to) from all over the globe write about one word for 5 minutes – no editing, no stopping, no hesitating – and hit publish. Want to join us? Visit HERE.

 

SUPPORT

 

It’s always so interesting to me how the word for 5 Minute Fridays always seems to dovetail with my life in some way. When I saw the word SUPPORT, I knew I was definitely going to find the 5 minutes to write about it today.

Just 10 days ago, my dad died. It wasn’t sudden, but it was. He had cancer and hadn’t been doing very well. But he had bounced back so many times, we kind of thought he would again. We certainly did not expect him to go into the hospital and on hospice on Saturday and be gone by Wednesday.

Through those days at the hospital, I got to watch the Church support one of its members. After the first day, my Dad went to sleep. He never woke up. So, my mom limited visitors.

That didn’t stop people from texting and calling, wanting to help in some way, asking if they could be the exception to the no visitors rule.

My mom’s pastor and his wife were up every single day. They were a constant presence of comfort and support. Friends came up, offering their presence and more tangible support like food or help running errands.

I got numerous texts and Facebook messages, offering help and support, too. One of my friends brought enough Lee’s chicken for the Duggars!

While it doesn’t erase our family’s loss, support makes that loss more bearable. It gives you the sense that even though you feel adrift on a sea of grief, you aren’t drifting all alone.

Watching the body of Christ as they came to the aid of a sister was a beautiful thing. Watching that just reaffirmed for me that God created us for fellowship. We aren’t meant to do this life alone. It’s just too hard.

 

What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. ~ I John 1:3

Blessings, Rosanne

A Terrible Beauty

Yesterday, September 6, my dad passed from this life into the next and I wasn’t there to see him take that final step. His breathing changed and my mom texted me to tell me to come right away, but he slipped away very quickly.

I’ll be honest – that really bothers me. Since my dad went into the hospital early Saturday morning, I’ve sat in his hospital room a lot. Although he slipped into a deep sleep on Sunday and hasn’t been responsive since Sunday evening, I feel like I have been part of his journey as he was crossing from life to death. It makes me sad to have missed when he took that final step from life into eternity.

My mom said it was a peaceful step. He gave a small smile, breathed out and was gone.

I just wish I had been there to see it. 

As I sat by my dad’s bed these past four days, I’ve been struck by what a struggle it is, both to enter this world and to leave it. Even if the person is ready to go, there is a fight they have to wage for the soul to let go of this physical body.

My dad, for the most part, seemed peaceful and pain free. His breathing was heavy and labored at times, but for the most part, he just slept. At times, it was hard to watch, and I prayed that God would take him home sooner than later.

The nurses said he could probably hear us, so I would talk to him. We played music for him. We held his hands and rubbed his feet. We wanted him to know that even though he had to make this last journey himself, we would be there to keep him company.

As I watched him, I kept wondering what he was thinking and feeling. I kept wondering what was going on for him. Really. Was he scared? Was he uncomfortable? Did he really hear us? Did he wish he could tell us anything? Could he sense Jesus in a special way?

Death is something that has alternately fascinated and terrified people since Adam and Eve bit into that apple. There are many mythologies that have sprung up around that journey from life to death. A lot of those stories picture the person going on that journey over water.

As my dad worked to leave this life, in my mind, I pictured it as a journey over rough waters. That’s probably because I was reading in Luke 8 on Monday, and it was the story of the great storm. The disciples were terrified – which is saying a lot since they were seasoned fishermen – and Jesus was a sleep in the boat.

The disciples always get a lot of flack for their lack of faith, but I have to think my response would have been the same. If you’re honest, yours probably would have been, too. They were fishermen. They knew those waters, and they knew when a storm was deadly.

And Jesus seemed to be unaware of the peril everyone was in.

It felt a lot like we were journeying over stormy seas this week. It felt a lot like Jesus was a bit unaware, as we wondered why God didn’t just take my dad instead of having him work so hard to leave this life.

But just like Jesus knew and was in complete control of every wave and gust of wind on that boat, He was right there in that hospital room, this whole week.

Death has a terrible beauty about it for a believer. It’s hard to lose someone you love, and I know it was hard for my dad to leave us. He worried about my mom, and he was disappointed not to see Brody graduate from high school. At the same time, he was going to be in the presence of God – no more pain or sorrow or treatments or sickness.

My dad is now whole, and more alive than he ever was on this earth. 

I know I wished I could help my dad in some way this week, but I could only be present – a spectator in his final fight.

Jesus was more than a spectator. He was there, right in the boat, with my dad as he crossed that last stormy stretch. He was there, not to wait on the shores to welcome him, but to be right there with him until the boat bumped into the shoreline, to hold his hand as my dad stepped off the boat and onto that heavenly shore. My dad was never alone and neither were we. 

I have no idea what it is like when we take our final breath, but in my mind’s eye, I see waves calming. I see a boat bumping into a shore line.

And there’s a crowd.

As Jesus helps my dad off the boat and onto shore, my brother is waving his arms, whole and healed. My parents’ dear friend Ruthie who passed away a few weeks ago, has a huge smile on her face, eyes shining. Friends and family are there to welcome him into his real home.

I have no idea why I wasn’t able to be with my dad in those final moments, but I trust that Jesus is always in control. I was able to sit with him and talk with him the night before. I got to paint that picture of the crowd waiting for him on that shoreline. I got to assure him he didn’t have to worry about my mom, that we’d take good care of her. I got to tell him I loved him and he was the best dad ever. I have to trust that was enough.

Death is terrible, but it’s beautiful, too, because no matter what our crossing is like, Jesus leads us all the way to the shore. And we know, my dad’s life is just beginning with joy and celebration.

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.

Psalms 116:15

Blessings, Rosanne

On Waiting for Death

When my brother died, death roared in like a freight train, knocking us all over in its wake. It came so fast and furious, we hardly knew what had hit us, until a couple weeks into the experience.

Now death has come on soft feet, gliding into the room, standing off in the shadows – quiet and patient. 

It’s not that we didn’t expect this to happen to my dad. Eventually. He’s been battling cancer – multiple myeloma to be exact – for almost four years now.

It’s just that you are never really ready. You hope and you pray for the next treatment to work, to give him more good days and weeks and months. You hold your breath as you check lab numbers you didn’t even know existed before cancer got its sharp claws into your loved one.

The thing is, I thought I was going to lose my dad last summer. His numbers spiked, and he was hospitalized for a month.

I remember praying and asking, begging really, God for another year with my dad. I remember telling God how I was not ready to lose my dad yet. I reminded God of Hezekiah and how God gave him more years.

And God answered my prayers.

I can’t tell you how thankful I am for that. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to have that extra year, to have the opportunity to be intentional about spending time with my parents. I know sometimes you aren’t that fortunate.

I’ve lived out when you aren’t that fortunate.

Of course, I hoped I’d have more than a year. I know my dad really, really wants to see my youngest son graduate from high school.

But I had this feeling, deep in my heart, that I’d get my year but probably not much more. I wish I could say how I knew that. I just did.

Even as I saw my dad starting to decline, and I started praying again, it was almost as if I felt God put His fingers gently on my lips to hush me.

My prayers became different.

I started to pray for God’s perfect timing in my dad’s life. I’ve been reading the Gospels this spring and summer, and it’s been interesting and eye opening. All those stories I heard separately in Sunday school have taken on a new, richer meaning when seen together.

And one thing I have been seeing as I read through the Gospels is Jesus both cared deeply for the people in front of Him, but He also never lost sight of eternity and that this world is but a shadow of the glory which is to come.

The sickness of people’s souls mattered much more to Him than their physical illnesses and infirmities. Yes, He healed them. Yes, He had compassion on them. He even wept for them.

But, Jesus never lost sight of what was truly important – eternity and where those souls were spending it.

So, as I’ve prayed (and let’s be honest, cried), I’ve found myself praying for God’s will, not my desire to keep my dad close to me. I’ve found myself opening both my hands and telling God that I trust Him with my dad’s every breath, and I believe that God is so good and so gracious as to orchestrate exactly when his last breath will be.

As I’ve prayed, I’ve been at peace with the fact that God has the bigger picture that I can never see from my human perspective.

As I prayed, God brought to mind a woman I interviewed several years ago who was a glass artist. She would take the sheets of glass and precisely cut them out. While the pieces themselves were beautiful, it was impossible to tell what their final shape would be just from the individual pieces. She’d carefully solder them to an iron frame.

From the back side, it didn’t look like much. You were very aware of each individual piece of glass, but the big picture was lost. However, when you turned it over. Wow! The beauty of that piece of art when all those little pieces were put together was breathtaking.

It was even more awe-inspiring when the light shone through it.

More and more, I’m realizing that my sight is limited to the individual pieces. And even though those individual pieces can be beautiful by themselves, it’s only when they are fitted into the big picture that they find their true meaning and shine to their fullest beauty. So, all I can do is trust God to places those pieces into His grand masterpiece.

It won’t be until God’s glory shines through that I will see and be amazed at the plan God had all along.

I’m not going to lie. Watching my dad diminish physically has been and is hard. Watching as death quietly waits in the wings, drawing ever closer on those soft feet is difficult. Watching the man who used to toss me in the air and walk across the pool on his hands and seemed like an invincible hero hardly able to lift his glass to his mouth is heartbreaking.

But I know that as I and my mom keep this vigil, we’re not alone. And neither is my dad. God is right there. My dad is safely tucked into His loving arms. He is carrying my dad these last difficult steps, and He is holding him oh so close to his heart.

I am reminded that as hard as things are today, we serve a good, loving God who is just waiting for our eternal homecoming to reveal the true, glorious masterpiece He’s made of of each of our lives.

 

This song by Chris Tomlin reminded me of this truth. I’ll leave it here for you to enjoy.

All the Way My Savior Leads Me by Chris Tomlin

 

Blessings, Rosanne

Five Minute Friday – COLLECT

I can’t believe it’s Friday again, can you? It’s amazing to me how the week just flies by lately. Since it is Friday, that means it is time for 5 Minute Friday. For those who don’t know, Five Minute Fridays are where women from all over the globe (literally!) write about one word for five minutes – no editing, no agonizing – just write and hit that publish button. If you want to read more, visit HERE.

 

The word this Friday is COLLECT

What do you collect? I collect stories. It doesn’t matter if they are stories in books or stories of real people. I guess that’s why I chose to major in journalism in college. It was that idea of collecting my own stories, that led me to start a blog in the first. place (back on blogspot). I went back and looked, and I published my very first post on Jan. 17, 2009. That was over 8 years ago!!! So, I’ve been collecting my stories for a really long time!

I started my blog as a way to share what God was teaching me, how He was moving in my life, and to remember the answers to prayer and His blessings. If I went back and read all of my blog posts, I’m sure I’d see this mosaic of God’s goodness and grace in the midst of the everyday mundane and the harder stuff, too.

The truth is, I’ve always been fascinated by people’s stories, and I guess that’s obvious because I can’t tell you how many times complete strangers have shared their stories with me. For instance, there was that time in a coffee shop where I was reading a book. Somebody I didn’t know came up and shared they had just started a band with several other people who suffered from serious mental illness like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

I find people and why they do what they do, to be infinitely fascinating. Looking back, this love of collecting stories isn’t all that unusual. Whenever I go out with my parents, they know the people who work in the restaurants they frequent. They ask about those people’s stories. I’m always a little surprised what people share with them (and me!)

In a culture that seems to isolate people more and more, I think people are desperate to share their stories, to be heard, even if the person listening is a complete stranger.

I collect stories and God has used that to help me really see people.

What do you collect?

Blessings, Rosanne

 

5 Minute Fridays – COMFORT

Today is Friday (how did that happen??), and it’s time for 5 Minute Fridays. What is 5 Minute Fridays? I’m so glad you asked! It is when women from all over the globe come together – on Fridays-  and write for 5 minutes on a topic. You can hop over HERE and check it out!

 

This Friday’s word is COMFORT

 

I have always had a big imagination. As a writer and a creative, this is a great thing. When you are little and it is the middle of the night, not so much!

As a child, I was so afraid of the dark. I would pray that I wouldn’t wake up until morning. Nothing my parents did or said really helped. We prayed. They told me all the comforting things you say to a child who is afraid of the dark: Jesus is here. He is watching over you. You are safe.

But when I woke up at 2 a.m. with my room swathed in shadows, everything just looked scary. Did that shadow suddenly move? What was that noise? Were those – gulp – footsteps?

I had one comfort during those long, dark nights when there really did seem to be things that went bump in the night: my Granny.

When I was 5 years old, my mom’s mom, my Granny, came to live with us. And suddenly, instead of feeling all alone in the dark, miraculously, I wasn’t.

Those nights when my eyes would pop open, I would lay in my bed for a few minutes, but I never lasted very long. I would slide out of my bed and tiptoe down the hall.

I’d call softly, “Gram?”

She always pull the cover back a bit and answer me with, “Come in here, you.” I would slide into her bed and snuggle up to her warmth. Comforted by her presence, I’d drift back to sleep.

Even though it was the same night and it was just as dark, I wasn’t scared anymore. Because I wasn’t alone.

Of course, I hadn’t been alone all along. My parents, my brother – they had all been just down the hall. But there is something about actually feeling and hearing another person that makes your fears recede.

My grandmother passed away in 2007. She was in her 90s at that point, and in a nursing home due to a fall which fractured her back. Then it was my turn to comfort her. I’d visit her each week to let her know she wasn’t alone.

Of course, she wasn’t. But there is just something about seeing someone in person to drive the loneliness away. Comfort will always bring to my mind, my grandmother who didn’t mind sharing her bed with a small, scared girl.

Blessings, Rosanne

A Review of Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist

On a scale of 1 to 10, this book was about a 6 for me. I was pretty excited to read this book as I had heard some great things. It was on sale through Bookbub, so I jumped on it.

Let’s Start With the Good Stuff

First of all,  I want to share the good stuff. I appreciate Shauna’s story, and I do think the book has some good seeds of truth in it.

One of the things I took away from the book was how important it is to know WHY you are doing something – even when you are serving others. It’s really easy to get tangled up in filling our own needs even when we outwardly appear to be serving others.

Another great takeaway from this book is the idea of being still and quiet – even if it makes you super uncomfortable. Personally, being an introvert, I find I need to have time by myself in order to recharge. My quiet time with Jesus every morning is not a luxury but a necessity for me. So, I love that the author really stresses how important it was for her to get still even though she personally found it very hard and uncomfortable.

I also liked how she very honestly shared her struggles of putting aside opportunities and the feeling that she would somehow miss out if she wasn’t connected 24/7. As someone who is a creative, I get how challenging it can be to feel like you might miss a big opportunity if you aren’t always plugged in and available all the time. It’s not easy to say that you were putting opportunity over your family. The truth is though, I think that probably happens in different ways for all of us way more than we’d like to admit.

What Didn’t Work for Me

So, there were some good things in the book, but for me, it wasn’t earth shattering or life changing really. For one thing, I’m not sure how many people can just take off for a month to hang out at a lake house. That would be wonderful, but it isn’t something most people can do.  Shauna had the flexibility to change her work life to make more time for her family. There are a lot of women for whom that is impossible. So, I can see where this book might feel a bit frustrating for them.

I also felt that while Shauna shared her own story, she didn’t really expand that to principles we can all use. I mean, there is value in reading someone else’s story, and we can definitely learn from what others have gone through. But, I kind of expected to actually learn how to move from trying to be perfect to being present.

The book was also very thin on how Jesus figured into all of this change. Yes,  the author was obviously burnt out because she was striving to be all things and do all things for all the wrong reasons. But, the truth is, sometimes God calls us to hard stuff. I don’t know that the Apostle Paul got a month off or could change his work hours to be less stressful.

My friend Erin is a case in point. As a pastor’s wife and homeschooling mom of three, she is busy. Yet, she feels called not just to those things, but also to write. To do that, she has to squeeze writing into the margins of her life. The woman gets up regularly at like 4:30 a.m. (as a non-morning person, this leaves me in awe!). She has shared with me (and on her blog), about how she feels stretched very thin, but doesn’t feel God is telling her to give anything up.

There are just going to be seasons where we are busier than others. This book kind of leaves the impression that if you are busy, then you must be doing something wrong. That life should be peaceful and well, easy in many ways. I’m not sure how Biblically accurate that is.

My Final Thoughts

So, overall, I’m not sure I can recommend Present Over Perfect. While it definitely has some good ideas in it and I applaud Shauna for honestly sharing her own journey, I feel like others have done it better. Lysa Terkeurst’s book The Best Yes is a more useful book on this topic, in my opinion.

Have you read either book? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Christianity’s Not a Competition

You’ve Probably Never Heard of This Guy

If you know anything about church history, the name Charles Finney probably rings a bell. He was the most famous evangelist during the Second Great Awakening.

However, you’ve probably never heard of Daniel Nash because his name was never part of the headlines that included Charles Finney.

But Charles Finney would probably never have made any headlines without Daniel Nash. You see, Nash quit his pastorate at the age of 48 to intercede for Finney full time. Before Finney would go to a place to preach for revival, Nash had already been there. He would find two or three other intercessors and they would rent a room and start praying for revival.

When Finney started the public meetings, Nash was rarely in attendance. Instead, he could be found praying for the Holy Spirit to convict those in the crowd and bring them to salvation.

Christianity Isn’t a Competition But We Sometimes Treat It Like One

Although it’s not really talked about in Christian circles much, Nash’s response to Finney is unusual. Many times, instead of praying for and interceding for fellow laborers, there is a sense of competition.

Whose church had more attendees on Sunday morning?

Whose revival meetings had a greater number of responses?

Who was the better preacher or teacher?

Competition Between Believers Isn’t Something New

This morning I was reading in Mark 9. This is the passage where Jesus takes John, James and Peter up on the mountain and transfigures in front of them (terrifying them in the process). When they return from this amazing experience, they find the rest of the disciples arguing with some scribes and a crowd has gathered.

When Jesus asks what’s going on, a man tells him he brought his demon-possessed son, but Jesus’ disciples couldn’t cast it out. Of course, Jesus speaks and the demon leaves.

The disciples and Jesus leave the area. As they are walking, the disciples are in a huddle, talking intently with each other. When Jesus asks them what they are talking about, they clam up. Why? Because they are discussing who amongst them is the greatest.

The passage doesn’t explicitly say this, but knowing human nature and reading through to the end of the chapter, my guess is that there was some jealousy and competition going on among the disciples.

Jesus took three of them to see something amazing. The rest got left behind and then came up short in the whole casting out demons thing.

Everyone has a desire to feel special and chosen by someone.

Everyone wants to feel like they are in the inner circle.

Everyone wants to feel like they are, at the very least, not failing.

At least I do – please tell me I’m not alone in those feelings.

How Being Salty Figures Into It All

To be honest, in my first reading of chapter 9, I was a little confused about how it all worked together.  There is a lot going on and then the chapter ends with what appears to be these random teachings by Jesus. First, He talks about doing good in His name and then He talks about not being a stumbling block to children. Then He starts talking about cutting off your hands and feet or pulling out your eye if it causes you to stumble.

He winds it all up by talking about salt and being at peace. As I was reading this, I wondered what in the world salt had to do with being at peace with people. His last words in chapter 9 are, “Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another.”

As always, when I am confused I ask questions (my inner journalist coming out, I suppose – also, I’m nosey!). So, I asked God what in the world all this apparently random teaching meant, specifically in my own life.

I went back and looked the chapter over again, and then it hit me – Jesus was talking about serving Him how HE has called you to serve instead of comparing your role with others.

Believers are called to be salt to an unbelieving world. To us 21st century believers, that sounds a little weird right? I mean, salt is nice and all, but why not pepper or better yet, cinnamon? Well, salt in the ancient world was incredibly important.

It was used  in many cultures not just as a seasoning, but also as a preservative which was pretty important in an era without refrigeration! It was also used as a disinfectant, a component of ceremonial offerings, and often as a form of money.

Salt had great value.

Make Sure Your Own Saltshaker is Filled Up

Jesus was saying, in several different ways, make sure YOU are salty because when you are filled up with what God has for YOU, then it’s a whole lot easier to be at peace with other believers.

Being human, we can miss the whole point if we start getting all caught up in competing with other believers about our roles, or comparing our apparent importance in the Kingdom.

We can also seriously turn others off, with all that competition and rivalry, especially children who watch not just what we say but what we do.

And all that stuff about cutting off your foot or hand or plucking out your own eyeball (eww!!), in this area we are our own worst enemies, aren’t we. The thoughts we allow to take up inventory on the shelves of our minds directly relate to how we view the world and those around us (you can read more about our mind’s inventory HERE).

I closed my Bible and opened my Draw the Circle: 40 Day Prayer Challenge for the day’s reading. And low and behold, the author was talking about how he was convicted to pray for the churches right around his own, and to start viewing them as part of the same team – not his competition. That’s where I saw the story of Daniel Nash.

Isn’t it so cool how God ties everything together like that?

Our culture is so wrapped up in individual’s successes, and I believe that has bled into the Church. We aren’t in competition with each other. We are all working for the Kingdom, and another church’s or organization’s or teacher’s or pastor’s or even fellow church member’s spiritual success doesn’t take away from what God has for YOU to do.

God’s blessings and plans aren’t finite. They don’t run out – ever. 

Is there someone you have a hard time rejoicing for? Do ever find yourself comparing your own success or growth or spiritualness to others? I’d love to hear about it!

 

Five Minute Friday – STEADY

It’s been a little while since I’ve done 5 Minute Fridays, and I’ve missed them. If you are unaware, Five Minute Fridays are when women from all over the world write for 5 minutes on a single word. If you haven’t stop over and check it out HERE.

The word this week is STEADY.

The word steady has always been synonymous with the word reliable. Something that is steady is something I can trust.

My first instinct when I sat down to write about this word was to talk about the steadiness of God. After all, how many words that describe God represent the word steady: rock, strong tower, a large place.

And God has certainly been my steady place when times got rocky and things felt totally off balance – anything BUT steady. During those times, God has proven that He is more than reliable and faithful, and that He never leaves me or forsakes me.

But what He has been teaching me about lately is being a source of steadiness for others. When my brother died in 2015, God showed up in such a tender and personal way. He was the one thing I could cling to in those first dark days when I felt like nothing made sense and I felt like I was walking on jello.

One of the things I begged God to do was to bring good out of my brother’s death and to show that to me. God is so awesome because He answered my prayers, and one of the ways is that my own grieving process has completely changed how I view others losses and difficulties. It’s made me aware that as wonderful as God is in the midst of the storm, it’s also a good thing to offer a human hand to steady another.

It’s not that I didn’t care before, but I was busy. Aren’t we all? And I let that busyness push my good intentions out of sight and out of mind. After walking through my own loss, I can’t do that anymore.  I can’t NOT see.

God, in His great mercy, gave me His hand during my own storm, and now, He’s asking me to offer my hand to others who feel battered by their own storms – not to help in my own strength, but to be the one who guides that person’s hand into the Father’s, so they too can find shelter from their storms.

 

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