I Just Happened To...

Last week I was hosting the Welcome at church for our Sunday services. Before the 6 pm service I needed a bit of a boost. I don’t typically drink coffee in the evenings but this evening I just happened to want some. So I headed to the coffee station in our lobby. As I poured my cup, I heard “Do you remember me?’

“Do I remember you?” repeating was me stalling while my brain searched the large card catalog in my head.

“I’m the bridge girl,” she declared.

At that moment, I knew. I knew EXACTLY who she was. I turned around and hugged her tightly. “Of course I remember you!” As we embraced we shared the memory of a night that would change everything.

I was working late at the church. The doors were locked and the lights were off. I just happened to be walking through the lobby when I saw a woman at the door. She was looking through the glass door when she saw me. I walked over, opened the door and asked how I could help her.

That question began a conversation that would last quite a while. Sue (not her real name) was desperate. She poured her heart out recounting how her addiction had sent her life going off track. She had made a series of poor choices. She had alienated her family. She was certain that her husband had no more second chances in him. “He won’t take me back this time. I know he won’t.”

As we talked about her addiction, I asked her if she had the drugs on her.

“I have some in my car,” she confessed.

“If you’re serious this time, go get it.” We walked to the lobby together and she went out to her car. I wasn’t sure she would come back. I imagined her changing her mind and screeching toward the exit on two wheels. But in a few minutes she returned- baggie in hand. I met her on the bridge.

Standing on the bridge we talked about Jesus as the bridge and the only way she could conquer her addictions and change her life. She opened the baggie and dumped the drugs out over the side. The fine particles disappeared into the breeze as they drifted into the ravine.

We returned to my office and she called her husband telling him where she was and what she had done. Because he would rightfully have reason to question what she was saying, I took the phone and spoke with him. I don’t remember everything I said but I verified what she had said and made a plea, “If you have it in your heart to give her one more chance, I think she’s serious this time.” With that she went home.

Hugging in the lobby, that’s the memory we were sharing. As we unlocked our embrace she said, “That was eight years ago.”

“What?”

“I’ve been clean ever since!” We embraced again- a little tighter- and then she introduced me to her daughter, who she said knew the whole story.

Riding the high of the power of redemption I shared this story with a friend of mine the next day. As I recounted it, I became aware of the two times I used the phrase, “I just happened to…”

It reminded me how desperately I want the Holy Spirit to continue to guide my “just happen to-s” and how grateful I am when He shows up and does something incredible.

What “just happened to-s” are waiting for you?

Are You Graduating?

It’s graduation time here in Georgia. Last night Michael and I forgot that tidbit and ended up at Dominick’s, which was packed with parties of 10, 12 even 20 people- all celebrating a graduating senior. After the hostess informed us of the wait and I internally stomped my foot (I was starving!) we sat down in the foyer. I watched the families laughing, hugging and feasting. Moms, Dads, Aunts and Uncles, Grandmas and Grandpas paraded past with cards (that means MONEY), special cakes and “You did it!” balloons. As I sat there I started thinking about how life is a series of graduations and I wondered: Am I graduating? Am I celebrating?

God graduates us from seasons. It signifies growth, moving on-progress. The tough part is we have to do the work. God designs seasons for us because He wants to do a work through us. It’s a partnership. One that looks more like college than high school. See in high school you have the parental accountability of making sure you do your assignments that you graduate “on time” and with your class. In college- well, let’s just say it’s your first opportunity to truly self-manage in the real world. It’s why there are some young adults on the 4 year, 5 year, or 6 year plan.

Of course in God’s education those seasons can be a week, a month or a decade! (I’m a slow learner- any one else? Anyone?) As I sit here writing I am reminded of some of my graduations. I graduated divorce. I graduated corporate America. I graduated parenting. I graduated breast cancer- just to name a few. We are all too happy when God graduates us from the hard seasons, but God graduates us from the good as well.

A while back God graduated me from directing plays and weekly sketches at 12Stone. It was our way to leverage the arts and humor to introduce people to love and truth for 20 years. Yesterday I was cleaning some boxes out and I found scripts, DVDs, photographs and notes. I had a moment of looking back fondly on a season where God did incredible things. It’s why I had a period of kicking and screaming when it was time to move on. I couldn’t see what was next so I clung to it like Rose clinging to that oak door turned raft in the Titanic! But God was good and he graduated many of us to the next season of our lives and callings through it. Remember Rose had to blow that whistle and slide into the icy waters to live! Do the work. Do the time. The first is your responsibility the second is God’s.  Where do you need to graduate?

What do you need to Celebrate?  Acknowledge the people who were a part of it. Hopefully as those families at Dominick’s were passing the garlic bread, a graduate was passing around gratitude. No one graduates alone. There are teachers, supporters, and classmates who are all a part of the journey. Some will remain with you and others will not – and that’s okay. Just don’t forget to let them know they mattered. Fly the “We Did It!” balloon high!

Acknowledge the accomplishment. Graduating high school, college or a season in life is hard work. Sometimes in our haste to move forward we forget to look back. But that’s exactly what we need to do. Before we walk into our future we need to pack up supplies- memories of what we learned, how we fought and what God taught. Now this is not permission to be in a Bruce Springsteen kind of “glory days” rut. It’s easy to want to live in a place of success and comfort but God continually calls us up to the next league of play. Take your lessons with you; you’ll need them.

God loves celebrations. He established seven feasts all with elements of rest, remembering and honoring God. We need to get better at this.

So what is the hard work you need to do to graduate? Who or what do you need to celebrate? Your next is waiting for you. Finish this season well first.

A Heart Remembers

The heart remembers…  It happens. You wake up one day and you just don’t feel right.  You think maybe you didn’t sleep well or maybe you’re coming down with something. You get up and start pressing through the day. It is raining outside after all- that could be why you’re feeling so… You try to fill in the blank but you just can’t figure it out. Midway through the day, a passing thought captures your heart. It’s a memory. You look at the date and the pieces come together- this is the anniversary of…. a bad diagnosis, a family death, a harsh betrayal… some ache of the soul returns without invitation- without provocation. It settles in for a visit. It sits with the weight of cinder blocks, as the pain drags you back through the miry pit. Your heart offers itself to be pierced again longing to find hope in the healing.