Welcome to the Human Race

It was Wednesday afternoon that I realized I had made a big mistake.  HUGE!  A professional mistake.  I had put the wrong date on my calendar to lead a retreat and I was not available for the right date.  Luckily I had just pulled into the driveway when I realized what I had done.  I think my heart stopped and my stomach flipped.  The worst was yet to come.  I had to make a phone call and admit my mistake.  Ugh!

As I dialed the number, I braced myself for what I was about to hear.  Silence? Curse words? Click? I had no idea.  There was silence.  And then these words, “Welcome to the human race.”  Then I was silent.  I had been expecting anger and received a joke.  I had been ready for harsh words and I received grace.  I was ready to cry and found myself laughing.  Welcome to the human race!!  I am imperfect and make mistakes AND its okay.

Why do I forget that I am not God and I am human?  Why do I feel that I am able to achieve perfection in this life?  Where does that kind of life leave room for God?  What does the other person do that makes him available to offer grace and forgiveness?

On Wednesday I was humbly reminded that only Christ was perfect.  Only God is in control.  If I submit to the plans God has for my days and my life, I am free to experience peace.  One of my favorite scriptures is, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light,”  Matthew 11:28-30.  It always brings me back to reality and reveals how hard I have been trying to do things on my own.  

The rest of the day I felt as though I was truly floating through air.  While I visited with some friends over dinner I found myself really listening.  When reading a book to my daughter at bedtime, I found that I still had energy to be playful.  I discovered that when I stop trying to control everything, pretending to be perfect, there is more time to be just me.  Truly present and peaceful.

I am thankful to be part of the human race and I’m thankful you are there with me.  Let’s remind others to claim their true identity this week and welcome them back into the human race.  I promise they will relax and be thankful they know you!

Peace,

Meredith Bell

Not Enough Time

This time of year I do not have enough time to get everything done.  It happens every year.  Not enough time to cook, shop, do laundry, call friends back, sleep, finish projects, start projects or anything else the holidays demand of me.  There is a bit of true chaos swirling around me lately.  Instead of visions of sugar plums dancing in my mind as I sleep, I have visions of mistakes and forgotten tasks.  Exhausting!!  And then yesterday, I experienced a moment of total disbelief.  I wish I could tell you that I could not believe something someone else did.  But I can’t because, I did it.

Yesterday, while driving home after a wonderful lunch with friends and family, my car was making a funny sound.  I listened to the sound all the way home.  (Most people would have pulled over to find the source of the sound, but not me…not enough time.)  The look on my sweet husband’s face when he pulled up beside me at home was impressive.  His eyes were huge and his mouth was open.  I hesitated before I rolled down the passenger window.  When I did, he simply said, “What are you doing?”  I was not sure how to answer because I thought I was simply getting out of my car.  Then he said, “You are practically driving on your rim.  You have a very flat tire.”  To my surprise, I did have a flat.  The source of the noise.  My tire is completely flat.
At this point I wish I could tell you that I was truly surprised, but honestly I wasn’t.  You see, seeing my flat tire made sense.  Four whole days before this moment (96 hours exactly), my “low tire pressure indicator light” came on while I was driving down a highway.  (Cars are so smart.)  Every time I turned on my car, I had to turn off the warning telling me a tire was low.  Did I check my tires? No.  Instead I remembered a time before when the indicator light came on and it was a false alarm.  Coming up with that thought took less time than walking around my car to check my tires.3572240_43d098440c

After I saw the tire, I simply carried my 40-pound purse into the house.  I put down my life-in-a-bag and sat down.  I was shocked.  I was amazed.  I was impressed.  I had ignored the warning lights, continued on with my ridiculous schedule and almost ruined a tire rim all in a matter of four days.  Why?  Because I was pretending that I did not have enough time.

Today, that flat tire continues to speak to me.  I reminds me stop.  Slow down.  Breathe.  Take care of the important things.  Because if I keep pretending I do not have enough time, I will probably do more damage than I intended to do.  This is true for relationships, jobs, friendships, children, self-care and of course tires.  And if I keep pretending that time is the problem, I will always keep moving too fast. Time is not the problem, I am.  Somethings need to be taken off my daily list and somethings need to be put back on that have fallen off lately.

I remember today that God made us human beings instead of human doings. 

Merry Christmas!

Meredith Bell

Dig In

Here we go!  The holidays are here.  As I enter this weekend, I am fully aware of the future.  Our “tent” agenda includes a birthday, Thanksgiving travel, a birthday, Advent, Christmas parties, candlelight services, presents, a birthday and more travel.  Here we go!

11128361395_0b42c1b9c8_bFor some of us this time of the year is the reason we are alive!  We can’t wait to get started (or maybe we have already started).  The celebrations, times with family and friends and twinkling lights fill us full of all the good things in life.  We are ready to “dig in” to the season.  For some of us, this time of year makes us feel tired even before it begins.  The Christmas trees in stores cause us to roll our eyes.  The magazines in our mailboxes full of Christmas cheer quickly make their way to the recycling bin.  We too want to “dig in” and hide until the season passes.

I find myself wanting to “dig in” too.  I want to “dig in” to God.  I may try to walk or drive more slowly between meetings or events.  I may try to be more intentional about meeting with people important to me and enjoying a rich conversation.  Maybe I will “dig in” to blessing others with my gifts and my time.  In our “tent”, I plan to “dig in” to our evenings together by making them cozy and filling them with extra love.  I know that my efforts will be blessed.  That is just how amazing God is.  My frustrations will slip away and be replaced with anticipations.  My hurried pace will be replaced with divine appointments.  And I pray for joy and peace to flow from God and through me.

As we all “dig in” to our Thanksgiving meals this week, I hope we will remember to also “dig in” to all that is available to us through God this holiday season.

Come to me all who are struggling hard
or carrying a heavy load,
and I will give you rest.

Matthew11:28

Happy Thanksgiving from our tent to yours!

Meredith Bell

Tiny Miracles

God created a big world and set it into motion.  It is truly an amazing place and we have the privilege of living here each day of our lives.  And just when I think God is far away somewhere working wonders in someone else’s life, my thoughts are corrected by a tiny miracle.  Tiny miracles are like tiny houses, they don’t take up much room.  If I am not careful, I miss them.  Just this week I was shopping in a large store that sells everything from Christmas trees to cheerios.  God and I visit a lot in these stores!  I am either praying for patience while standing in a long line (with a dozen other registers vacant) or praying for guidance to turn down the right aisle to find the peanut butter.  It’s simple prayer.

My one prayer this week was for God to bring 12 people to my new Bible study.  Last week there were five, so I prayed that God would bring a few more. Plus 12 is a biblical number.  Guess what?  Mid-way through the Bible study, I counted…12!  12 people.  A tiny miracle.  Another moment this week turned into a tiny miracle.  Since school has started, we have been running four different ways in our home.  Busyness has taken up residence in our home and no one has taken the time to push back.  But one night this week, our tiny miracle happened.  We ate together.  The four of us around the table enjoying red beans and rice.  It was wonderful and it put busyness in its place.  Outside.9629612052_20346fe642_b-2

I wonder what tiny miracles you witnessed this week?  For me, tiny miracles remind me that I am living life in partnership with God. Tiny miracles give me courage and hope.  They fill me up with just a little bit more faith so that I can be available to pour God’s love into someone else.  What do tiny miracles mean to you?

Maybe tiny miracles are not really tiny…they are simply miracles.  Either way, I’ll take them and be thankful for them.

Fellow Israelites, listen to these words! Jesus the Nazarene was a man whose credentials God proved to you through miracles, wonders, and signs, which God performed through him among you. You yourselves know this. Acts 2:22

Meredith Bell

When You Can’t Fix It

Finding peace when life feels too busy.

In my laundry room I have a cute knick-knak that is a reminder to me.  It says, “When life feels like a roller coaster, throw your hands up and enjoy the ride!”  It is a good reminder for me because my natural reaction to difficult news or a difficult day is to fix it so we can move one.  My natural response to stress is to cover it up, put a bandaid on it…keeping moving.   I am not sure where I learned this response or if I was born with it, but it is my gut reaction to stress, difficult news, suffering, etc.

What I have learned in my faith journey is that I am really not in control.  Period.  I am not important enough or powerful enough to or smart enough to “fix” things.  The fact that I believed for a long time that I could “fix” life is a little narcissistic.  (Confession #10,784)  More than a character flaw, it was exhausting!  Very exhausting!  Through faith I have learned that the first step I need to take is to let all of the pieces of the puzzle fall to the floor.  Just let them fall.  Just doing that one thing allows more space for breathing.  Just breath.  When I get to this point, I am able to pick up the pieces that truly matter and let the others ones stay on the floor…maybe forever.

This week I found that I could not stop the feeling of urgency all around me.  I get tired of going to multiple stores for multiple reasons.  The back of my car was full of different bags that needed to go to different places.  My solution…a pound cake.  I felt the need to throw some flour in a mixer with eggs and tons of sugar and butter.  It felt good to turn on the mixer and make some noise.  Some different noise.  I didn’t share the bowl or the spoon with my daughters.  I licked it by myself.  It was good.  The cake tasted delicious when we sat around our table at 7pm to enjoy a warm slice.  A slice of peace.

I may not be able to stop the pace of life around me…but I can stop and make a pound cake.  I did.  It was good.  Just like life is good when I accept there are some things I can’t fix!  Today I am reminded that Jesus is my savior because He saves me from a life of control…daily.

Now…pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees and find your mixer!  Create some yummy peace.  The shopping list can wait.

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
    Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you.
    I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

The Day the Hermit Crab Died

All life matters

I don’t know the day the hermit crab, Crabby Cakes, actually died.  He (or she) has lived in our home for two and a half years.  Before that Crabby Cakes lived four years with Mrs. Barbara, the science teacher at our daughter’s pre-school.  When Crabby Cakes came to live with us I thought four years is a long time to live in captivity…surely this arrangement will only last a little while longer.  How long can a hermit crab really live???  It lasted much longer than I expected.  And over that time, I have to say, that little guy (or girl) grew on me and in its own way made a happy difference in our home.

But sometime over the past week of crazy in our home and schedule, Crabby Cakes moved from this life into the next.  Sometime in the middle of homework, dinner, gymnastics, work, church, trips to and from school, Crabby Cakes stopped moving.  It could possibly have happened while we were out on Wednesday to celebrate the arrival of Christmas with an-over-the-top Christmas Festival and up-close-and-personal firework display. Crabby Cakes might have fallen asleep then.  Or it could have been one of my sleepless nights this week…maybe that is why I couldn’t sleep.  Or maybe it was while I was sitting in Bible study and a prayer that I had been praying for over a year began to be answered with each passing minute.  When did it happen…no idea!

Today, in his (her) little way, Crabby Cakes sent a message to me…stop for a minute.  Check on my friend, Critter.  (Time for pastoral care…crab style.)  Remember that God is both small and big.  God is present in the small, baby steps that we take towards a dream or vision and God is present on the big flashy firework days.  When we remember this, we know that each moment of our lives is created and desires to be experienced fully.  We also know that each little part of our life matters.

At the funeral for Crabby Cakes, I stood before the toilet (because we know from Nemo that all drains lead to the ocean) and said a quick thanks and farewell.  Thankful for the tinniest part of my life sending a big message…all life matters.  Itsn’t that the message of the cross too?

And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.” (Genesis 1:20)

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