Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Splish Splash

Don't even think about tweaking my cheeks
It happened five days ago. It was shocking, mind-boggling, and completely unexpected. It shook my little world.

I woke up in the morning as always and rolled out of bed. Yawning, I noticed my face felt oddly stiff ... like I was wearing a mask.

I reached up and touched my cheek. What in the world? I was wearing a mask. Or at least it felt like one. My skin felt completely foreign to my touch - grainy and dry and thick as all get-out. I could feel my fingertips probing my face but it didn't feel right at all, like on the inside it was still me but on the outside I was petting a python who'd just had lunch.

Rushing to the bathroom mirror, I stood there staring but not comprehending. Is that really me staring back? GASP!

My entire face was grotesquely swollen; huge fluid-filled bags beneath my skin pulled my eyelids downward and pushed my cheeks upward so that my eyes were reduced to slits. My cheeks had puffed up right into my line of vision so that I had to tilt my chin down to see over them. I looked like the human version of a Shar-pei.

Spouse nearly dropped his teeth when saw me. "Have you been robbing beehives again?" he asked, trying to make sense of the mess that was my face. The only possible explanation I could come up with was a new moisturizer I'd tried the day before. It must be some sort of contact dermatitis, an allergic reaction, I reasoned. So how long until it goes away?

Unfortunately, the answer was elusive. In the following days, I remained fully inflated, enduring the gawks and stares of neighbors, loved ones, and co-workers with as much grace and humor as I could muster. But then it was Sunday, and I feared that the 2 and 3-year-old's at church for whom I'm the Bible Story Lady would get one look at my face and run screaming out the door.

So that morning I introduced myself as Miss Piggy instead of Miss Debbie and assured them it was still me under all that extra face. That today there was just more of me to love. And sure enough, love me they did. The little darlings accepted me completely, rolls, furrows and all.

It got me to thinking. How do people with permanent physical disabilities continually cope on an infinite day-after-day-after-day basis?

Buell Smith came immediately to mind. When I was a little girl, Buell was a friend of my grandparents and was inflicted with some sort of purple-ish golf-ball sized tumor that hung in a skin sack over the right corner of his top lip. I vividly recall staring mesmerized at poor Buell as he pushed the thing out of the way to fork Granny's lemon cake into his mouth. I stared, that is, until I felt The Look from Mama. You know - that death ray that told you in no uncertain terms that you were being inexcusably RUDE and if you don't stop it right now, you likely won't be able to sit down for a week.

But the thing I remember most about Buell was his deep, melodic laugh. And he laughed all the time. Even as a kid, I wondered how someone with a giant meatball hanging on his face could be so jolly. Buell was entirely likable, fun, and seemed perfectly happy within his own skin. Even the extra parts. I once offered to help him out and cut that woggly thing off with my blunt-nosed craft scissors, but he just laughed his hearty laugh and said he wished it was that easy. Along came The Look from Mama again so I dropped that line of conversation pretty fast.

And then there's my friend Rob. Rob is the nicest, funniest, most out-going man you could ever meet. He has highly visible leadership positions in his city government and church, tons of friends, and the most beautiful model-esque wife you can imagine. And Rob has Turret's Syndrome.

I recall being distracted by Rob's constant facial tic and head twitch when I first met him thirty years ago, but soon it disappeared. To me, anyway. When I began to know and love him, I truly didn't notice it anymore. In fact, someone recently asked me if he still had the facial tic and I had to answer that I honestly didn't know.

The answer, it turns out, is yes, the tic is still there, but because Rob doesn't pay it heed or allow it to hinder him in any way, no one else does either.

So in the glacial-paced days since my facial fiasco, I've pondered a lot about everyday heroes like Buell and Rob and how they live full, rich, wonderful lives despite physical obstacles. How they choose to be filled to the brim with Papa God's unconditional love and intentionally let it overflow to those around them.


They inspire me - and you too, I hope, if you ever wake up with a cauliflowers face - to live out loud 1 Thessalonians 3:12, MSG: "May the Master pour on the love so it fills your lives and splashes over on everyone around you."

Won't you share with me - What everyday hero in your little world splashes Papa's love onto you?


Monday, January 19, 2015

Everyday Hope

A lovely wedding we witnessed in Italy
One of my favorite perks of being an author is hearing from new friends and getting to know them on a personal level.

I received a note from a reader this week via my website sharing some of her current problems and asking for guidance in finding everyday hope through her faith. I prayed for her, and for leading from Papa God in how to best meet her need. I thought I'd share my answer with you in case you, too, may benefit from a bit of everyday hope:

My dear Erica,

Thank you for taking the time to write; it means a lot to me that you've turned to me for spiritual guidance. A role I fear I don't deserve, but will do my best to earn.
You asked about everyday spiritual encouragement through scriptures - a crucial thing for believers, to be sure. I don't know how any of us could go on without daily encouragement. I'd like to share with you my system for daily nourishment from Papa God's Word - I call it Life Savers, as I talk about in Chapter 4 of my book, Too Loved to be Lost. It's a simple system for making sure you chew and digest your own spiritual food, and not depend on someone else to chew it for you.
Since it's January, it's the perfect time to begin. Here's how it works: grab your calendar and record one Life Saver from the list below on the first day of each month. They're short, pithy, powerful, and oh, so sweet. Memo that Life Saver you've chosen for that month on your i-device and jot it on sticky notes to post in all the places you'll be sure to notice - your bathroom mirror, your car console, your chocolate stash, you know, your hot spots.
Then every time you run across your monthly Life Saver, repeat it aloud three times and let it melt into your heart. Consider the meaning of each word. Savor the Saver. Suck the joy out of that spiritual treat until it's completely digested and permanently implanted in your innards.
Talk about an infusion of strength! It's like topping off your gas tank. You'll be revved up and raring to go anywhere. Plus you'll be amazed by how many times Papa God uses that very verse to speak to you and through you during that month. By the year's end, you'll have twelve new decision-impacting verses memorized. And best of all, they'll be imprinted on your gray matter hard drive for the rest of your life.
Here are a year's worth of my favorite Life Savers - all twenty words or less - that pack the biggest punch for me. The last four are brand new; I've just added them within the past few weeks.
1. "God is greater than our worried hearts." 1 John 3:20, MSG
2. "Let your living spill over into thanksgiving." Col 2:7, MSG
3. "I sought the Lord, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears." Psalm 34:4, NASB
4. "It's the praising life that honors me." Psalm 50:23, MSG
5. "Encourage one another and build each other up." 1 Thes. 5:11, NIV
6. "Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray." Phil 4:6, MSG
7. "A gentle tongue can break a bone." Prov 25:15, MSG
My devo of everyday encouragement
8. "Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God!" Psalm 43:5, NLT
9. "Live generously." Matt 5:42, MSG
10. "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" Gen 18:14, NIV
11. "God will fight the battle for you. And you? Keep your mouth shut!" Ex 14:14, MSG
12. "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." Prov 4:23, NIV
I hope you find these Life Savers helpful. I know they've certainly saved my life numerous times. There are additional ones listed in Too Loved to be Lost, and of course you should feel free to add you own from your personal reading of the scriptures.

I'd also like to send you a copy of Everyday Hope, a little devotional I wrote a few years ago that I hope will help and encourage you. It's out of print now, but I still have a little stash that I make available at my speaking events. 

Please keep in touch and let me know how I can pray for you. And I'd LOVE to hear some of your own Life Savers if you'd be kind enough to share them with me.

Hey, that goes double for you, my BBFF (Blessed Blog Friend Forever)!