Showing Up

We just had our first wedding and it was so much fun! Our youngest son, Wes, and Taylor Bobb met at Asbury University and were friends for a long time before they began to date. It has been a sweet story to follow (see their website if you want to read more - taylorandwes.com), and we are thrilled that they have joined their lives in marriage. While I could go on and on about the wedding weekend in detail, and I may do that later, today’s post is to acknowledge and thank those who showed up.

I can’t remember exactly when the power of “showing up” first became real and personal and powerful to me. However, twenty years ago my Daddy died and five of my closest friends from Orlando came to Newnan, GA for his funeral. I cannot tell you how much that meant to me; those friends will always be extra dear to my heart. I have never forgotten that  expression of love and have often told other people how much it meant that these friends took time out of their lives to show up for me. It was a huge lesson learned and made me aware that showing up for people in times of joy or need or sorrow is extremely powerful and meaningful.

Showing up for people is powerful.

JB has always been good at showing up for people; I was the slow learner in this department but at least I finally “got it!”  When our children were very young his sister and family came to spend a few days with us in Orlando. On about day two of their visit JB went to work and the rest of us headed to Disney World; JB was to meet us at 1:00 at the park after working half day. He never showed up. When we got home we found a note; some dear friends in Texas had suffered a terrible tragedy and he had flown to be with them. I was furious that he would leave while some of his family was visiting us. Later, much later, I realized he had done the right thing in showing up for friends who needed him. This is just one example of many – before I realized the importance of presence, he dragged me to many weddings, funerals, graduations, and other significant occasions in other people’s  lives. Thank you, JB.

Sometimes it is just not possible.

Over the past twenty years I have intentionally tried to show up for others. Sometimes it just is not possible and that is understandable. But many times we can make adjustments to our schedules and do the thing that will mean so much to someone we know. Because this has been a big deal to me I have encouraged our children to show up for their people and I’m so grateful they have learned this expression of cementing relationships. While in college Rob called one day to tell me one of his friend’s Dad had just been fired from a coaching position at the university. He was upset and asked me what to do. I quickly told him, “just go over there; be with them.” When he replied, “I don’t know what to say,” I assured him that we do not have to say anything. We can’t fix situations but we can just show up and be there and that is enough and will never be forgotten. He went and wound up helping to pack up this man’s office; it was a gift of time and support and presence. All three of our children make the effort to show up for family and friends; I’m glad they developed this habit much younger than I did.

Sometimes we can even help those older than us to develop this good habit. Mama and I were in Florida for fun and we got a call that someone close to our family had died in Georgia. I told Mama we needed to go home the next day. She surprised me when she said, “Really?” I convinced her that we had to leave our favorite place and she then asked, “Well, what are we going to do when we get there?” I replied, “Mama, we are just going to show up.”  We did and we were welcomed warmly by those who greeted us and appreciated our presence in a time of loss and grieving.

So, back to our wedding weekend. My heart overflows with gratitude for those who came. The wedding was in Lexington, KY and for all of our people it was a destination wedding – travel plans and hotels required, as none of us live in the area. My brother and sister-in-law were able to come from Georgia due to the early arrival of their grand daughter – thank you, Ruby Leavell Leech! And our friends came – from Texas, Canada, North Carolina,and Florida! JB’s extended family came in mass! They take seriously getting together for every family occasion and we are so grateful.

Being together with our people provides sweet new memories to be savored and time to tell old stories over and over again. No social media relationships can even come close to the significance of being together in person.

No social media relationships even come close.

In summary – first, thank you to family and friends who blessed us with your presence and participation in our family’s celebration of Wes and Taylor’s marriage. We will never forget.

Secondly, be aware that we can give the wonderful gift of our time and presence to our family and friends. It is a win, win opportunity, so let’s take advantage every chance we can!


Shugie

Old Family Tradition Shedding New Light

We all have family traditions – some we love and carry on; others we’d probably prefer to forget. One of my earliest childhood memories is The Trip Psalm. Every time our family got in the car to go anywhere, if just to Atlanta for dinner, we said the 100th Psalm aloud. Even when traveling with some of my cousins we always said our family Psalm, as this was a tradition in much of our extended family. This was such a “must do” for us that I assumed every family did the same. Evidently I was a little bit blonde and a lot naive.

This tradition became my own and was one I brought into my marriage and family, so our kids know the routine as well. While I love Scripture and the choice to make it a priority of everyday life, unfortunately, some things that we do over and over tend to become just that – a routine but lacking in meaning. But God has a way of bringing our attention back to the main thing. Recently while driving somewhere by myself I began to recite The Trip Psalm.  For some reason (maybe God!) the words took on fresh meaning. The rich message in this Psalm has continued to reverberate in my heart and mind. While I currently enjoy using the ESV translation, I am sharing Psalm 100 with you in the King James, the way I memorized it years ago. It would be a good idea to read it in several translations to get more understanding for yourself.

1 “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.”

What a great imperative! God wants us all to have joy and to express it. From my experience with people and observation of many lives, joy trumps happiness. So many people say they want to “just be happy.” Happiness tends to come and go, but joy is an inside job that sustains and always contains hope even in dire circumstances. So, yes, let’s choose to make a joyful noise to God — all of us!

2 “Serve the Lord with gladness; come before his presence with singing.”

Too many people, including Christians, moan and say, “I just don’t know what to do.” Here is a start – serve God and serve with a glad heart. Down deep we all know that when we take time to help others, give time and talent and resources to good causes, it makes us feel much better. So let’s do it. If you still wonder what it is you could do, keep reading the Bible and put God’s commands into practice personally. Help a friend, encourage a brother, feed the poor, visit the sick, care for the widows and orphans, love one another … these are just a few to get you started. And then thank God that you can serve, praising him with singing. Years ago when I sang in a choir I dragged into choir practice most Wednesday nights, feeling exhausted and preferring to have just gone on home. But, without fail, when I left each week I was soaring and filled with energy. Ironic… or amazing…? To quote an old song that bears truth, “nothing improves my day better than praising Him.” Try it for yourself.

3 “Know ye, that the Lord, he is God; it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.”

Pause on this one, because it is big and oh so important. God, the creator of the universe, the sovereign Lord of this world, loves you and wants you to know him. We can try to outsmart God, but all that we have came from him, whether we acknowledge it or not. Oh, can I urge you to know him? Have you ever studied how a shepherd loves and cares for his sheep? It is a beautiful analogy and a wonderful promise to us. Things may be blowing up all around me, but I am secure knowing that I am his sheep and he is my shepherd.

4 “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise; be thankful unto him, and bless his name.”

Giving thanks is a choice. I visited with a friend this week who is 87 and has some pretty painful physical challenges. But let me tell you, she spent our entire visit telling me how thankful she is for so many things and people in her life! I was encouraged and blessed by our visit. Any of us can find reasons to complain, but just as easily, we can find things for which to be grateful. It is our choice. So let’s choose to thank God, to praise him and to bless his name. Every person I have ever met has the capacity to be wrong, even with the best intentions. Let’s don’t put all our confidence in other people who may one day disappoint or fail us. Rather, let’s relate to God and accept him as Lord and sovereign; then we have no need to worry; he will never fail us; he will never leave us; he will be with us through all the good times and every single hard time. Give thanks and bless his holy name.

5 “For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.”

I love verse 5! Trust me, I have found and know for sure that God is good. Also, my own failures have been reason enough for his mercy to run out on me, but it never has. Truly, his mercy is everlasting, and don’t we all need that mercy… in different ways, but we all need it, right? A popular song has a line filled with truth and hope for each of us, “your love never fails, it never gives up, never runs out on me.”

Finally, his truth does endure to all generations or, in other words, forever and ever. Our culture tries to tell us that God’s truth is old, outdated, narrow, and not relevant.  But that is such a mis-representation of God’s truth. God’s truth is reliable and does not bind us but sets us free. Read his word; let him speak to you. You will find out that he is good and that he knows you and loves you and has a plan for your life. You may not like it, you may reject it, but “his truth endureth to all generations.”

Thank you, family, for teaching me the importance of God’s word that continues to impact me and speak to me for years and years and years to come.


Shugie

Speaking With Your Mouth Closed

I used to think that communicating effectively required lots and lots of talking. Being very comfortable with words, I assumed my relationships would not suffer in the arena of communication. Boy, was I wrong! This is only one area of life in which my early expectations proved to be somewhat disastrous.

Communication is much more than talking. It is what you say, how you say it, when you say it, and most importantly, what the other person hears. That’s why a counselor will often suggest to individuals that they express their thoughts and then ask the other to repeat back what they heard. It is amazing how often you say one thing and the other person hears something entirely different. With desire and practice you can learn better patterns of communication.

 Silence

Getting older, or at least more seasoned at relationships, I find myself wanting to say less, listen more, and oftentimes let silence do its work. Here’s an example. When someone makes a mistake and something falls apart, a typical response might be for you to jump in and tell him/her what they did wrong, what should have been done differently, and how painful the consequences will now be. (These are skills I have down pat!) In many cases, that forces the culprit to become very defensive, throwing the blame to others, and bringing up accusations and reminders of things in the past that you messed up on. The problem at hand that needs to be addressed now takes a back seat to the comparisons of “what about the time when . .”

Zip Your Lips

God’s word is powerful and so relevant to life, even related to the subject addressed here! Ecclesiastes 3 specifically says there is “a time to be silent and a time to speak.” (Eccl. 3:7) Another passage, Psalm 39:1, mentions “I will guard my mouth as with a muzzle”. These are truths I have had to learn and discipline myself to practice.

Consider this – when a mistake first becomes apparent, what if you said nothing? What if you just waited and pressed your lips together, not allowing all those accusing words to come out? What if you only said, “Wow, I’m sorry.” This allows the one who made the mistake to still own it and now have opportunity and responsibility to suggest what he or she will do to rectify the situation. If and when he or she asks you for suggestions, you are able to give some input, but not in a condemning way. Also, responding with silence can be a way of conveying  forgiveness and unconditional love…. Having messed up a lot myself, I often pause and think, “How would I want someone to respond to me if the shoe was on the other foot?”

 Benefits

 One of the great benefits of intentionally being silent is that there is sometimes more to the situation that what is first apparent. Too often I have jumped in, made assumptions and accusations, only to be ashamed of myself after finding out the whole story. By quietly waiting and holding your tongue, you can protect yourself and the other person from inaccurate assumptions and over-reactions before you know all the facts.

 You are better together

Preserving and nurturing relationships with important people in your life need to be the priorities. Let me remind you that we need each other. Your friends, family, co-workers are not perfect and neither are you, but you are better together. While you may each have habits or quirks that drive each other crazy, you also often benefit from the good attributes of each other.

In conclusion, think before you speak, and let Psalm 19:14 be your guide – “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”


Shugie

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