Sunday, January 29, 2017

It's a stretch...

Several years ago, I wanted to hang some very heavy wind chimes on a tree branch that was way out of my reach. I was sitting outside with Bonnie and Bos, my sister-in-laws, and my niece Audrey, when I got the sudden urge to hang these wind chimes. I had been waiting on a handyman to do this task for me, but I suddenly became impatient and was determined that the time had come and dadgum it, I was going to do this myself.

As we were all sitting in the backyard visiting, I grabbed a tall ladder and my wind chimes and before anyone knew the difference, I had shimmied up that ladder and was going to hang those suckers up. I had a long, rather heavy chain that I was going to pitch over the large tree branch and then mount the biggest of the chimes from that chain. I placed the base of the ladder in a rock-filled flower bed, as this was the only place I could find to swing the chain onto the branch. I know it was disaster waiting to happen, but, I was determined. My audience of relatives below me were urging me to stop, telling me I needed to wait on my handyman, but I was on a mission and onward and upward I went.

I realized that my ladder was not quite tall enough and I knew I was going to have to really stretch and stand on tiptoe to get this job done. I could do this, I would do this. Sisterly urgings turned into warning shouts of “Don’t!” and “Stop!” and suddenly, my stretching and tiptoeing shifted my weight, as well as the balance of my ladder and down I came, crashing to greet the jagged rocks below me. 

Ouch, ooouch! This was not going to be pretty. I met the ground with a thud and lot of pain. I fell right on the top of the heavy metal chimes that sat on top of the rocks and I ended up entangled in the toppled ladder, chains, chimes and rocks. Did I say, “Ooouch!” 

Fortunately, nothing was broken, but I was a bloody mess. The skin on my arms and legs was, well no longer on my arms and legs, the sisters and Audrey ran to my rescue, ushered me inside and doctored my wounds. I was grateful that no-one said, “I told you so,” but I knew they wanted to. Nothing was permanently wounded but my pride and I think my lesson was learned. The lesson: Take care when stretching, when standing on tiptoe. Make sure you are planted on solid ground and always heed the wise counsel from those you trust.

In life, there are good, bad and ugly stretches. Good stretches, before exercising is wise. Stretching your imagination can lead to creativity. Stretching out and lying down or stretching out your hand to help someone, all good.  Stretching the truth, stretching the fabric of your favorite sweater out of shape, stretching out your budget to buy something you can’t afford, all bad forms of the stretch. And the ugly, well, that would be my fall from the ladder!

There is one more stretch that I have had the opportunity to experience over the last five or so months…stretching my faith.

It began last spring when Brooke and I attended the wedding of my dear friend’s daughter. The wedding was to take place in Carmel and I needed a date and Brooke was all in. Rarely, do we have the opportunity for this mother/daughter alone time and we loved every minute of that fun week-end.

One night, over dinner Brooke shared with me that she had been feeling a call that we needed to do something, of purpose, together. Goosebumps rose on my arms, as I told her I  too had been feeling those same nudges. Neither of us had a clue what this assignment would look like, but we both agreed to be patient, prayerful and wait and see what God might be calling us to do. 

It was late summer when Brooke, Harper, Lucy and I were driving to Colorado to spend the last weeks of summer. Jared and Harris were flying to meet us and we were on an all girl Thelma and Louise + 2 adventure. 

About a week before, I had received an out-of-the-blue email from a long-time friend that I hadn’t seen in ages. Margaret, was serving on a planning committee for a women’s retreat and they were looking for a speaker for this event. Margaret said Brooke’s and my name had come to her mind immediately and asked if we would be interested in visiting with the committee about being the speakers? “What? No! There was absolutely, positively no way was I going to speak before a large group! This was out of my comfort zone, not in my wheelhouse and not my God given gift. Public speaking made my palms sweaty, my heart beat outside of my body and no, no, no.

As we were making this long drive to Colorado, I told Brooke of Margaret’s e-mail. Her first response was, “Do you think this is what God is calling us to do? Haven’t we been praying that God would reveal what He wants of us? Maybe Mom, maybe we need to talk to the committee.” How did I raise this wise child?

Well, we met with the committee and we said yes. Brooke and I had never led any type of spiritual retreat and we were feeling…you got it…stretched. I was back on that ladder and this was a stretch beyond my grasp. I was standing on tiptoe, trying to see what God’s plan for us was and I was clueless. 

By October, we were meeting with the committee and ideas were forming. My capable, gifted daughter was full of ideas and confidence and things started to gel. We both knew this was what God was calling us to do, but I continued to feel uncomfortable, incapable and really wanting to tell God, “You made a big mistake, you must have gotten my name mixed up with someone else.”

Brooke and I began formulating our plan in late December, this is the way my daughter works, if it had been up to me, I would have begun stewing back in September. We would meet, research, throw ideas around and come up with something, that several days later felt stiff, foreign and just wrong. Weeks passed and the retreat date grew closer, we continued to meet, to pray and continued to research and we were coming up with, nothing. “Come on God, you called us to do this, we are being obedient, now drop this in our laps and let’s do this thing that, by the way, You know is not in my wheelhouse!”

Finally, last week we found our footing. No longer were we teetering on that high ladder that was balanced on uneven rocks below us. Finally, we had waded through all the “what ifs” and “how about thats” and we began to find our way. 

Yesterday was retreat day and God didn’t fail us. I believe 165+ women were in attendance and I have no doubt God was in charge. This day was full of blessings beyond our wildest imagination and it was all perfectly orchestrated, by Him! 

University United Methodist Church was the church our family joined in 1995. The minister had married Steve and me. Both Harper and Harris were baptized in this church and this was where Steve’s memorial service was held. This was our body of Christ for 20 years and though we have moved from this church, it will always feel like home to me. What a blessing to see so many dear friends that I hadn’t seen in several years, what a gift to receive their hugs, their encouragement and their love. It was good to be back.

Today, I’m marinating in the entire process. I’m in awe of God’s intricate orchestration and His crazy attention to detail. I admit that I was standing on a ladder and I was being stretched way beyond my capabilities, but guess what, I didn’t fall! Here’s what made the difference, I was being stretched by a God that I knew would catch me if I started to tumble. He knew exactly what He wanted and needed Brooke and me to say and He knew that we needed to take the time and go through the process, to work together and to trust Him in order for this to become one of those “good stretches.” God knew that we needed to stand on tiptoe in order to keep our eyes on Him and not lose sight that He had called us to this high place. 

My lesson learned was again: Take care when stretching, when standing on tiptoe, make sure you are on solid ground and always heed the wise counsel from those you trust. The greater lessons I learned: God will never place us on unstable ground or on ladders too tall. He encourages us to fall, but on our knees, and He will never put us in danger of scraping the skin off our body. He is always there for wise counsel and He never says, “I told you so.”

I believe God is intentional, purposeful, loving and full of grace. I believe God stretches us beyond our own capacity, but never beyond His. I need always remember to stand on tiptoe, so that I can keep my eyes on a God that never takes His eye’s off me.

What a good stretch yesterday was…I can’t wait to see what’s next!

For what it’s worth,

Isaiah 54:2 "Enlarge the site of your tent, and let your tent curtains be stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen your ropes, and drive your pegs deep.

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