Tuesday, March 04, 2014

We've Moved!

I'm very excited to announce that Introspective Insights has moved to www.introspectiveinsights.com.  I'm still working on the site, but wanted you to be the first to see the new look and feel.  Thank you for reading and look for more fun changes to come!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Love Gifts

Valentine’s Day was few days ago and as I perused Facebook, I saw many posts by people whom I love and respect that fly in the face of traditional and superficial Valentine’s gifts. These posts focused on the sacrificial giving of one person to another as husband and wife and how giving the gift of each other and caring for children was truly what love meant to them. I agree with this assessment, but as someone who enjoys receiving gifts (yes, it is one of my love languages), I challenge that maybe giving and/or receiving gifts can be important. The key is in the motivation and receiving of the gift.
I’m doing an in-depth Bible study on the book of Matthew and in my arm-chair review of this gospel, I found no recorded instance of Jesus giving a gift. (Just to be clear, I’m not counting the gifts of time, provision, or care / healing.) What I do see recorded is Jesus RECEIVING gifts. The first gifts that come to mind are those that Jesus received as a child from the wise men - gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matthew 2:11). These gifts were priceless and in their given form, could not be used for day-to-day purposes. The other gift was from the woman who poured expensive perfume on Jesus head as he reclined at the table days before his death (Matthew 26:7-13). Again, perfume was not something that could be used in a practical sense for daily needs, it was a luxury. These two examples show that the giver of the gifts understands who Jesus is and presented the gifts to him as a way to honor him. They chose those gifts based on what he means to them.
I believe that people who give Valentine’s Day gifts, if they give with pure motives, do the very same thing. They are looking for a small token to show their love for the other person based on who that person is. Do they get it right every time? No. Is their gift supposed to make up for months or years of neglect or indifference? No, better not. But for those of us who enjoy gifts, they are great reminders and celebrations of love and honor. Are they the be-all, end-all? No. Do I respect and love my husband for the daily sacrifices he makes in caring for our children, taking out the trash, and other menial, irritating tasks? Of course. I’m grateful for the man he is and the daily servant-leadership he shows our family.
For those of you who treat these small celebrations such as Valentine’s Day like “just another day”, more power to you; but that’s not for me. I enjoy these little reminders of love we built and stand on everyday. 
What do you think? Are Valentine's Day gifts a waste of money or meaningful to you?

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Six Years

To my Zachary on the occasion of his 6th birthday.
Six years ago, he was born - our second child, a son, Zachary John, which means “remembered by a gracious God”. We were in awe of this precious boy - crying softly, hand tightly clenching Jerry’s finger. He cooed and sighed in his sleep foreshadowing the loud, joyous, boyish sounds we now hear every day.
He preferred one of us snuggling him to sleep instead of a lovey, thumb, or pacifier. A whole year of nights he only wanted Jerry. He smiled at everyone, everywhere, always looking for a smile back. Every picture in his baby book is a grin. To my astonishment, he laughed at 10 days old, on Valentine’s Day. A precious love gift for this exhausted mama. I’m still in love with him today.
His first steps were terrifying to him, but that dimpled smirk and sigh of relief boosted his confidence. Now, he never stops running.
When I’m angry and tired, he gently comes to me and says, “I love you, mama.” My heart melts. He likes to listen to us read to him, but yesterday he read his first sentence.
This mama aches for that little baby boy, but loves this delightful, six year old boy in front of me. Time marches forward, ignoring my pain, but gifting me with the joy and discovery of my Zachary.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Subtle Deception

I finally started reading my first C.S. Lewis book – The Screwtape Letters. I’ve often wanted to read his classic works about Christianity and haven’t had the chance. I’m only a few chapters into this tale of a senior demon mentoring a junior demon and am struck with the simple deceptions used against humans.
This (just a few short pages into the book) made a huge impression on me: “It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.” Wow, yes, it is the things we forget that often are our downfall. It is God’s truths kept from our minds or replaced with deliberate lies that take us down the wrong path.
How many lies have we believed in this life?
  1. I’m ugly, stupid, no one could love me.
  2. I’m afraid of _____.
  3. This will never work.
  4. I could never do ______.
  5. I will just get sick like everyone else.
Several years back, I started keeping a notebook with two columns in it. The first column listed the lies and the second column listed God’s truths and what he desires for my life. The second column to the above lies looks something like this:
  1. I am a beautiful, intelligent child of God loved by God and by my husband and family.
  2. There is no fear in love for perfect love casts out fear. (rough paraphrase of 1 John 4:18)
  3. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
  4. I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me. (rough paraphrase of Philippians 4:13)
  5. I am healthy and strong and my body works the way God intends.
Reading The Screwtape Letters reminds me that when the enemy is keeping the good, right, honest, and true thoughts from our heads, we must bring God’s truths back into the equation.
What truths do you believe are kept from your mind?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

What a Bird Taught Me About Complaining

Winter in southeast Michigan brutally assaulted us this year. A constant barrage of snow storms, extremely cold temperatures combined with repeatedly negative windchills have left us housebound and generally at a loss for what to do next. Plans constantly changing, roads icy and impassable, cancellations and structure thrown about. Everywhere I look or listen, I hear whining, complaining, and general disgruntlement.
I’ve been doing my best to be quiet and accept each day for what it is, but this is not an easy task. This morning, I woke before dawn as I typically do. I peeked out the back window to the stone frozen quiet, stars glittering, silver, sliver moon above.
As I started getting ready, I looked outside again, dawning day in blue and yellow and I heard a rabble - quiet but steady. One bird - chirping, tweeting, singing. A single, solitary greeting to the day. I looked earnestly for that bird. Every few minutes listening intently as the tweeting continued - a full 45 minutes of uninterrupted singing, praising in this bitter cold - that still, small voice.
This unprecedented weather - it has stopped us, stilled us, slowed us down, turned us, slipped our focus, dulled our senses by the shear repetitive nonsense of it all. But this bird got up and sang anyway. This bird knows his purpose - to glorify his God - to sing his praises, to fulfill his calling - to sing. And isn’t that what we need to do? Why complain about something we can’t change?
If the sun rose this morning and you have breath, health and your family around you, aren’t you compelled by gratitude to your creator? Even if you don’t have those things, God isn’t finished with you yet and isn’t that enough to know that you - a work in progress - can humbly, quietly continue in the purpose you were given?

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Not Safe

Three years ago, I witnessed a horrible tragedy that caused the death of a friend.  The incident replayed over and over in my head in those dark days afterwards and I pleaded to God saying, “If this is how life is – ending in a twisted moment where one human attacks another and it is over in an instant, I don’t want to live safe anymore.  I don’t want to make decisions that are predictable or expected.  I want to live a different life – a life where I’m stepping out into what you want, God.  Into what I cannot see or understand – a dangerous, jumping off a cliff kind of life for you.”  I was terrified of what I had just seen, but this prayer was definitely the most dangerous prayer I had ever prayed. 

It was a prayer of despair and I didn’t fully realize it then, but it changed my mind – how I thought about everything; transformed how I wanted to live.  I remember later that day at home feeling frozen, unsure of how to move forward, what direction to take. 
I remember praying again, “God, I am terrified to pray this, but please take this life and this fear and I will do whatever you ask.  I don’t know how and why and when, but I will do it.”  I didn’t know if I could follow through, but I knew that God was with me.

Months later, I left my job under circumstances I never could have predicted without financial plans to make that reality work.  For the first time, I was living that “unsafe” life.  I wrote here about free falling.

As I look back three years later, I see that God has allowed me to “jump off my cliff”.  I have a new, calm rhythm to my life.  While from the outside, it looks ordinary, quiet, and predictable.  Back then, today’s reality was unthinkable, scary, undoable. 
I’m grateful for that “unsafe” prayer that I prayed.  I believe it opened a door for God to work in my life in ways I never imagined possible.  I am humbled and honored that God brought me to this place. 
What “dangerous” prayer have you prayed and how did God change your life because of it?

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Know More, Love More

Tonight I co-hosted a table at our church’s Advent by Candlelight event - a time to focus on Jesus, the true meaning of the season.  As I looked around the table at the women – some I had just met tonight – others I have had the honor of getting to know over the last several months – I was impressed with God’s love for them moving through me. 
As we went through the activities of the night, we shared family traditions.  One woman’s family started asking each other “what does God want for Christmas?”  Another shared about the delicious egg strata her mother made each Christmas morning.  One spoke of her family’s traditions – originating from Eastern Europe.  The women spent hours cooking – learning the customary dishes for Christmas.  Each girl initiated into the traditions – it was “woman talk” – a place where you heard the family stories, laughed, hands full of sticky dough.  It was hard work, but significant.

I looked at each woman thinking that as I learned more about them, I had the opportunity to love them more.  When we share ourselves, our story, our true self – where we’ve come from, the depth of who we are becomes rich and beautiful.  To know more is to love more.

I believe that at times God has given me a spiritual love for people as I need it – at times suddenly and almost overwhelmingly.  But more often in life, this sharing of who we are over time is what brings me to that complex, indescribable bond.  Conversely, if a person is guarded and not willing to reveal even a glimpse of herself, I often cannot find love.  I find fault and annoyance and struggle greatly to connect.

Tonight, I looked into each face and found that supernatural love, a gift to my worn soul.  I can’t help but praise God at the gifts of community and love he has given me – something I have prayed for a long time.