couch / recliner….tomato / tomahto
have you ever experienced something differently than someone else?
it’s a stupid (excuse me, silly) question, i am sure.
let me give you an example or two (ok, maybe five)…
my sweet ryan and i loved the movie (and the soundtrack!) “oh, brother where art thou?”. we still will watch it, years later, whenever it comes on tv. some of you may say, “amen! me too, that movie was random and fun!” whereas, others of you may no longer want to be my friend.
same thing. we just see it differently.
i used to teach middle school. (some of you are groaanning. uuggghhh middle school.) yes, that’s right. 8th grade…math. (now you are just sweating a bit and getting nervous) ugh, math? yes, math. i loved it. algebra rocks!! 🙂 now i know some of you think i’ve lost it.
once again…same thing, we just see it differently.
maybe it isn’t how you experience something in particular. perhaps you just say things differently than others. for instance, i used to teach for birdville independent (i just spelled that word wrong, fyi! 🙂 nope, i clearly did not teach english!) school district. not a hard thing to say. bird+ville is pretty phonetic (darn, i got that one wrong too!) but when i actually started working there and was around other people who also worked there, i found out very quickly that i had been pronouncing it wrong this whole time. i hadn’t been teaching for birdville isd. instead, i taught for “burvul” isd. no lie. that is how people say it. there is no “d” in bird and there are really just a lot of “uh” sounds. what i thought was “bird+ville” was in reality, “bur+vul”. hilarious.
even just the other morning, my dear sweet friend was driving me to Bible study and we were being silly and well, random…and we started talking about our common (and complete) lack of directional skills. like, seriously…it’s a darn near miracle we even made it to church. anyway…she was talking about how fun it is to have her little gps (“ginger”) in her van and how “lovely” she is when she speaks, because my friend has it set on a british accent. so fun! french? now that would be confusing, but british, that’s just plain fun! and that led us to discussing (we are both fairly ADD, so stay with me here) her i-phone and how it has voice command. we were laughing about how it will say people’s names wrong. she will press the button and ask it to call someone, and the phone registers the call but then repeats the name back to her totally wrong. well, that sounded fun, so now it was a game. i said “let’s try me!” (yes, girls, i used to be a sanders. perfectly normal! never had to spell it. never had to sound it out for people. but, like i always say, that’s what i get for falling in love.:) so she pressed the button, and clearly said “call caroline holzberger” (pronounced “caroLINE holes-burger” just so you know) and we sat…and we waited a few seconds…anxiously and excitedly…and, i might add, more quietly than we’d ever been together….then we heard it repeat back “calling car-o-LYN halls-burge(like merge)-ur” he he he he. i’ve heard a lot of mistakes with my last name, but this was a first!
and although i’ve drawn this out far too long already, i must say that my favorite story is from a few years back when i was trying to find a new hair chick. (aka hairdresser) and i called my sweet friend rebecca on the phone and asked her for a reference. (she has great hair so i knew i’d be ok.) she happily told me about her hair chick named “La’-WREN” (or at least that’s how she pronounced it.) i was like, “oooh, sounds fancy…is she cheap?” once i happily found out about her low prices, i asked for the digits, cause i’ll be honest, i needed to make an appointment, quick! my roots were more like long, tall brown trees at this point. and she loves me (and probably didn’t want to be seen in public with me at that point)…so she gave me the phone number and then i asked “now, how do you spell her name?? what is it, “La’-WREN” is that right?” ya know, cause i was writing it down and all, and didn’t want to spell it wrong. so she said “yep, that’s right, her name is La’-WREN and it is spelled… (brace yourself) “L-A-U-R-E-N”. (insert long pause as i’m writing it down and then reading it and re-reading it…hmmm?” i could help it, i said “um, nope, friend, that’s lauren.” we giggled and she told me that no, although spelled like lauren, it was pronounced “La’-WREN”. i mean, stop. seriously? so, just for kicks, since that day, we have affectionately called each other (instead of rebecca and caroline, which is clearly too boring) we are now…REE-beh-KAH and CAR-o-leen. gotta love it.
now, what in the world (you are clearly wondering by now) does this have to do with you or maybe even at some point, God?? well, i’ve put it off long enough, friend. so, i will explain.
for the last two months i have been living a fairly normal life. at least, for me. i have been taking the kids to school…volunteering when i could in their classes…running errands if needed….even cooking a couple “real” meals each week. (for those of you who’ve known me a while, i will proudly admit to you that i am, as of lately, the proud owner of the following: apple cider vinegar, soy sauce, minced garlic, ricotta cheese and onion powder. and i know how to use them. not in the same recipe of course, that would be awful!) anyway…i would very enthusiastically say that life has been good. and…it still is good. it is just not the same. you see friend…i am back on the couch. again. because i am leaking…again.
well, technically i am not on the couch, persay. hence the title of this post. a few months ago, my sweet husband rearranged our living room one evening while i was across the street with friends (you can’t leave the man alone…he will move things, paint things or clean things. he can’t be still for too long. he’s crazy. but, i sure am crazy about him!) anyway…our couch doesn’t face the tv where i can lie down on it longways anymore. so, friends…i have officially moved to the recliner. flat back in the recliner. it isn’t the couch. but, really, it might as well be. couch / recliner….tomato / tomahto.
it started just a few days ago. those same, all-too-familiar symptoms that i had hoped, and believed, i would never feel again. i knew i had been overdoing it. and for me and my world, i really had. for me. but, i still rested well most nights and drank plenty of water so i just chalked it up to me trying to get this big ol’ body back in shape and back into the swing of things. but, then i started getting the gravity-pulling and swelling headaches. only when i was upright. and then, if ignored it too long, i would get the twitching eye and the swelling in my tongue and throat and all the other neurological symptoms i used to get. this is when i knew my brain was no longer being cushioned by spinal fluid like God designed it, but instead, was sagging into my spinal column. i tried to ignore it. for a couple days i told myself, and my loved ones, that i just needed to rest more and i would be fine. well, friend…i rested more and i wasn’t fine. i knew i wasn’t. but, for me, denial was a safe place to be…even if ever-so-briefly. but, finally i had to admit it to myself. then to ryan. nothing is really real until i tell it to ryan. then to my folks, and my best friends and prayer warriors. and now you. i have a spinal fluid leak…again. i am back to the couch…er, recliner. again.
i thought it would maybe happen again someday…maybe. but, i’ll be honest with you (cause that helps me be honest with me) that i had kinda made a deal in my head with God about it all. without really being aware of it, i had told Him that now that i was well, i would write and speak or whatever plans He had for me, because i knew He wouldn’t make me go through it all again. i just knew it. He knew i didn’t want to. He knew how much i’d grown through it and so surely He wouldn’t allow it again. He loved me too much.
i might as well have been jonah.
darn that ol’ jonah. he was a prophet of God. he probably got first place in the local speed old testament memory races tournament. he knew his stuff. and, he actually heard from God. like, heard Him. but, when God told him where HE wanted him to go…jonah…said…no.
i’ve heard it said a few times in a few different ways and i can’t remember where (this is loosely translated by me)….that the mountains will stand up and walk if the Lord says “Go!” they will go right into the sea. and that same sea, it only goes just far enough. the Lord commanded that ol’ sea to “Stop!” right there and it obeyed. the stars sit still exactly where He chose to place them. they do not waiver. they do not complain that they aren’t in a different part of the sky. the winds and the rain sit…anxiously awaiting….for the Creator to say “NOW!” and then they are off to do their designed job. the beast of the field does not say to the Lord “i want to fly.” nor the bird of the air dread the fact that it cannot swim to the depths of the ocean floor. everything in all creation obeys His command. that is, everything but one. and friend, that is you and me. that’s right, we are the only ones who dare to look right in the face of the One who created all of this and more and we…say…”NO!”
i don’t want this to be me. i don’t want to jonah this up.
i have been a part of a study by the wonderful Priscilla Shirer on this short little four chapter book for the last couple months. it has been amazing. i mean…i knew the story. every kid who has ever sat in front of a flannel graph board knows the story. jonah didn’t do what God asked him to do. so then jonah got swallowed by the whale (“big fish”, actually). and then God protected him. and then he got spit out. so, you need to obey God! now, let’s pray and go have graham crackers and apple juice. the end. ooohh friend, that is sooo not the end. it is a great place to start when you are four years old. but, it is not the end. and i’m no longer four years old. over these last months, i have learned so much about where jonah was going…why he didn’t want to go…what exactly he tried to do to avoid it…how God had darn near wiped the man out but then offered grace instead…how he got spit out on the very dry land he ran from, just to begin the long journey he had tried to avoid…what amazing transformation God did in the lives of the many, many people he went to see, inspite of himself…and how he still, even at the end of this little book…we still aren’t sure if he really got the heart issue that God so desperately wanted him to. oh friend, it is so much more than a man and a big fish. it is really about a man and a big God.
so, i am especially thankful for this study, because it has helped me during these last few days that have been filled with flashes of…
“why would God allow this to happen again? i mean, seriously, it has been FOUR times now, God. really!?!”
“you just thought the last time was bad, this time will be worse. it can only get worse, right?”
“four months. that’s all the “well” i get. oh man, did i even enjoy it like i could have? the answer is and emphatic, no.”
“God, i thought we were done with this. i thought that you healed me so i could tell everyone all about how you healed me. now, what am i supposed to do? i can’t start. all. over. i just can’t.”
“i can’t even look my family and close friends in the eye, because i know they must be thinking “oh great, here we go again!” i just can’t do it.” and to be honest, i can’t hardly blame them.
“i do not want to learn this lesson again, Lord. what in the world did i do wrong the first time? or the second? or goodness gracious, the third?”
“awesome…more medical bills. what in the world? we are trying to honor you God by not having debt, by sacrificing financially so that i can be home with our kids and not working during these young, crucial, and precious years…and yet we still can’t seem to catch a break!”
friend, can you relate to this at all?? well, can you? i mean it. i want you to think. can you relate to being overwhelmed with emotions that you had safely tucked away for a while and hoped/assumed/prayed you’d never feel again. ever.
have you faced something again, that looks just the same as you remember it before?
maybe the man you fell in love with all those years ago has come home once again and said “i just need to get a different job.”
maybe you get another phone call from your grown kid who needs to bailed out, again. but, promises this is the last time. they promise!
maybe you go on a blind date again. and again, it is with a “great guy that loves the Lord” but, once again, you climb into your bed alone that night in your flannel pj’s fearing you will be alone forever.
maybe you finally start being able to save a few dollars here and there and then WHAMMO! you get hit with something expensive again, just to fall back down where you started. again.
same thing. again. it just looks differently.
well, friend. i get it. trust me, i get it. and although i do not AT ALL want to assume i know your feelings or the extent of your pain. i can assure you, i know mine. and it ain’t pretty. but, what i love about God is that He takes me and all my “ain’t pretty” junk. He happily takes it. all of it.
He takes my anger. He takes my joy. He takes my grown up hissy fits. (and there have been many! even today!) He takes my fears and my worries. He takes my insecurities that no one else can even believe that i have. well, He knows it and He takes it all. every. single. time.
and i write to you now because it helps me just deal. ya know? telling you that He is good reminds me that He is good. telling you that He’s in control reminds me that He’s in control. telling you that He has a plan for you reminds me that he has a plan for me, too.
as i began this next week (the final week) of the jonah Bible study homework…the first page for day one was titled “making deals with God”. i read that (already flat on my recliner for two days) and thought, gee…this won’t relate to me at all. ugh.
i read all about jonah and how he was angry with God for allowing the very thing he didn’t want to happen (grace extended to those evil ol’ Ninevites) to actually happen. i can relate to that. God doesn’t go with my plan very much, much to my dismay sometimes. in fact, in the video session, Priscilla even said…”i think sometimes we say “your will be done God, not mine” but what we really mean is, “God, i really just want your stamp or approval on my will. in fact, i would really just like it if you could sprinkle your blessings all over what i’ve got all worked out here. thank you very much” ouch. that would be me. so…for the record, i then jumped ahead to look at the sub-titles for that day’s homework. they were “dealing with displeasure” and “adult temper tantrums”. ok, now i just laughed out loud.
at the end of the homework, there were three questions to ask yourself…they were:
1. are you becoming aware of a “deal” you’ve made with God?
um, yes…i am quite sure i was clear, God, that once i was better this time, i’d really use the gift you’ve given me and tell them all about it. just don’t let this happen again, ok? thanks. love, me.
2. are you seeking to control/manipulate God in any way?
hmm, gee, that’s a tough one. not. i am competely wanting to do that in every area, thank you very much.
3. are you disappointed with God because of an outcome He has allowed?
oh man, don’t get me started.
so, once i sort of digested all of that…i realized that we were doing this again. we were back on the couch or recliner, whatever you want to call it. i realized that denial is not a safe place to be, after all. in fact, i bet if you asked jonah, he would say it smells kinda fishy there. kinda “big fishy”, actually. so, here we go. again. (again, again, again, again…actually)
just like you…i have a choice. i can choose to stay mad and resentful toward God. or, i can choose to trust Him and obey Him. it really is that simple, friend…for you and for me. and i am going to try and do the latter. i sure pray that you do too, friend.
so, for those of you who have been faithfully wearing holes in the knees of your pants praying for me for so many months and months and years and years…i’m asking you once again to get out those holey..er, holy (he,he, he…sorry, i couldn’t resist. i am still me, after all) pants and start back up again. i spoke with my doctor today and we will begin the process of contacting specialists and running new tests. and once again, we shall see. but, for your prayers…i wholeheartedly and humbly thank you.
and for those of you who are dealing with any of the situations i mentioned before, or maybe something different and even worse than i can imagine. i want to leave you with a set of chapters to read from the book of job. ( i know, i know…everyone always wants you to read job in times if trials. trust me, i get it!) and this is long…but, really…read this. all of you. good times or bad, happy or sad. when we are tempted to come at God with our anger and entitlement…i think it’s something that we ALL need to be reminded of, myself especially. we all need to be humbly reminded of. and be thankful for. as hard as it is, we need to try and be thankful. He is in control and we are not. He can handle it and we cannot. we need to look at each of these beautifully descriptive verses and remember that He did it all. we did nothing. we need to remember and we need to trust in that. i will try. i hope you will too!
for the record, this version is from The Message Bible, which i usually don’t use, but this time i am. this time, it was read to me on the jonah video session, by Priscilla Shirer. so, i recommend that you read it out loud to yourself. sounds silly, i know, but it is powerful. it is a powerful reminder that no matter where you are…couch…recliner…or neither. God is God. we are not. He invented the tomato and the tomahto. He is the One. period. there is no other way to say it. say Jehovah or Yahweh or Adonai. He is the One. period.
1 And now, finally, God answered Job from the eye of a violent storm. He said: 2-11 “Why do you confuse the issue?
Why do you talk without knowing what you’re talking about?
Pull yourself together, Job!
Up on your feet! Stand tall!
I have some questions for you,
and I want some straight answers.
Where were you when I created the earth?
Tell me, since you know so much!
Who decided on its size? Certainly you’ll know that!
Who came up with the blueprints and measurements?
How was its foundation poured,
and who set the cornerstone,
While the morning stars sang in chorus
and all the angels shouted praise?
And who took charge of the ocean
when it gushed forth like a baby from the womb?
That was me! I wrapped it in soft clouds,
and tucked it in safely at night.
Then I made a playpen for it,
a strong playpen so it couldn’t run loose,
And said, ‘Stay here, this is your place.
Your wild tantrums are confined to this place.’
12-15 “And have you ever ordered Morning, ‘Get up!’
told Dawn, ‘Get to work!’
So you could seize Earth like a blanket
and shake out the wicked like cockroaches?
As the sun brings everything to light,
brings out all the colors and shapes,
The cover of darkness is snatched from the wicked—
they’re caught in the very act!
16-18 “Have you ever gotten to the true bottom of things,
explored the labyrinthine caves of deep ocean?
Do you know the first thing about death?
Do you have one clue regarding death’s dark mysteries?
And do you have any idea how large this earth is?
Speak up if you have even the beginning of an answer.
19-21 “Do you know where Light comes from
and where Darkness lives
So you can take them by the hand
and lead them home when they get lost?
Why, of course you know that.
You’ve known them all your life,
grown up in the same neighborhood with them!
22-30 “Have you ever traveled to where snow is made,
seen the vault where hail is stockpiled,
The arsenals of hail and snow that I keep in readiness
for times of trouble and battle and war?
Can you find your way to where lightning is launched,
or to the place from which the wind blows?
Who do you suppose carves canyons
for the downpours of rain, and charts
the route of thunderstorms
That bring water to unvisited fields,
deserts no one ever lays eyes on,
Drenching the useless wastelands
so they’re carpeted with wildflowers and grass?
And who do you think is the father of rain and dew,
the mother of ice and frost?
You don’t for a minute imagine
these marvels of weather just happen, do you?
31-33 “Can you catch the eye of the beautiful Pleiades sisters,
or distract Orion from his hunt?
Can you get Venus to look your way,
or get the Great Bear and her cubs to come out and play?
Do you know the first thing about the sky’s constellations
and how they affect things on Earth?
34-35 “Can you get the attention of the clouds,
and commission a shower of rain?
Can you take charge of the lightning bolts
and have them report to you for orders?
What Do You Have to Say for Yourself?
36-38 “Who do you think gave weather-wisdom to the ibis,
and storm-savvy to the rooster?
Does anyone know enough to number all the clouds
or tip over the rain barrels of heaven
When the earth is cracked and dry,
the ground baked hard as a brick?
39-41 “Can you teach the lioness to stalk her prey
and satisfy the appetite of her cubs
As they crouch in their den,
waiting hungrily in their cave?
And who sets out food for the ravens
when their young cry to God,
fluttering about because they have no food?”
“Do you know the month when mountain goats give birth?
Have you ever watched a doe bear her fawn?
Do you know how many months she is pregnant?
Do you know the season of her delivery,
when she crouches down and drops her offspring?
Her young ones flourish and are soon on their own;
they leave and don’t come back.
5-8 “Who do you think set the wild donkey free,
opened the corral gates and let him go?
I gave him the whole wilderness to roam in,
the rolling plains and wide-open places.
He laughs at his city cousins, who are harnessed and harried.
He’s oblivious to the cries of teamsters.
He grazes freely through the hills,
nibbling anything that’s green.
9-12 “Will the wild buffalo condescend to serve you,
volunteer to spend the night in your barn?
Can you imagine hitching your plow to a buffalo
and getting him to till your fields?
He’s hugely strong, yes, but could you trust him,
would you dare turn the job over to him?
You wouldn’t for a minute depend on him, would you,
to do what you said when you said it?
13-18 “The ostrich flaps her wings futilely—
all those beautiful feathers, but useless!
She lays her eggs on the hard ground,
leaves them there in the dirt, exposed to the weather,
Not caring that they might get stepped on and cracked
or trampled by some wild animal.
She’s negligent with her young, as if they weren’t even hers.
She cares nothing about anything.
She wasn’t created very smart, that’s for sure,
wasn’t given her share of good sense.
But when she runs, oh, how she runs,
laughing, leaving horse and rider in the dust.
19-25 “Are you the one who gave the horse his prowess
and adorned him with a shimmering mane?
Did you create him to prance proudly
and strike terror with his royal snorts?
He paws the ground fiercely, eager and spirited,
then charges into the fray.
He laughs at danger, fearless,
doesn’t shy away from the sword.
The banging and clanging
of quiver and lance don’t faze him.
He quivers with excitement, and at the trumpet blast
races off at a gallop.
At the sound of the trumpet he neighs mightily,
smelling the excitement of battle from a long way off,
catching the rolling thunder of the war cries.
26-30 “Was it through your know-how that the hawk learned to fly,
soaring effortlessly on thermal updrafts?
Did you command the eagle’s flight,
and teach her to build her nest in the heights,
Perfectly at home on the high cliff face,
invulnerable on pinnacle and crag?
From her perch she searches for prey,
spies it at a great distance.
Her young gorge themselves on carrion;
wherever there’s a roadkill, you’ll see her circling.”
God then confronted Job directly: “Now what do you have to say for yourself?
Are you going to haul me, the Mighty One, into court and press charges?”
don’t know about you friend…but to answer the last question of those verses…i say no. i’m not pressing charges. no way. no how.