Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Hug Me Not

Her bright smile and exuberant personality rushed toward me with arms outstretched.  I braced myself for the inevitable hug. I am hugged every time she sees me coming and going.  I am hugged before and after a prayer.  I am hugged at the beginning and the end of meetings.  Her hugs surround me.

The problem you ask?

I am NOT a hugger.  I do not have a strong desire for physical touch.  My first thought is not to squeeze someone in love.  Nor is it my second thought.  It's not that my parents didn't lovingly embrace me as a child or that my husband is not attentive.  It's not that all my physical love is doled out to the kids during the day and I haven't any hugs left in reserve.  Outside of my immediate family, I am just not a touchy-feely kind of person.

Is my discomfort with friendly hugs a result of keeping people at a distance?  Of controlling who and what I let get close to my heart?  Is it an attempt at protecting my ultra-sensitive feelings?

Yes to all the above. 

All these "Deep thoughts with Niki Carbajal" made me wonder if I keep Jesus at a distance too.  Do I pray just enough to stay in regular communion with Him but keep all the "real"conversation for my earthly friends?  Do I spend just enough time in His Word to learn some Biblical facts, head knowledge, while not allowing Him to teach me the personal application?  Do I have one foot on the water and the other securely chained to the boat?

Sometimes.  Yes.  Oftentimes.

He never fails me though.  His arms are always outstretched, welcoming me into their loving cover.  His smile and warmth outshines even that of my friend.  He has never and will never stop offering me an everlasting hug.

His tenderness softens my heart.  His willingness to continuously welcome me home inspires me to share His comfort with others.  I realize now that is what my friend was doing all along.  Passing on the comfort of the one who has comforted all of us.

Now, I look forward to that 1000-watt smile coming toward me with open arms.  Now I get it.  So, watch out world!  Let hugs abound!

How  precious is Your loving kindness, O God ! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings. PS 36:7

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Thankfully Thankful

November brings on a refreshing attitude of thankfulness.  People recognize the Lord in the smallest of places, among the spectacular and the everyday.  It's exciting to see exclamations of thankfulness over parents, spouses, children, veterans, and even the Internet.  Some are super sweet and others bring a tear to the eye.  Regardless of the actual object of thankfulness, our Provider, the Lord, is the origin of all things given.  He alone desires our praise and thanksgiving.

Skip Thanksgiving?  My kids think it would be OK!

I'm not sure of the atmosphere of your home but in mine, my children anxiously await the arrival of Halloween with its costumes and treats.  They want to skate through November and dive right into the revelry and celebration of Christ's birth.  They begin to circle their fifteen or twenty most favorite items in the toy catalog on November 1.  These kids have already begun to countdown the number of Sundays remaining on the calender until the day of all days, Christmas.

My husband and I have had to make a deliberate effort to redirect their attention to the Thanksgiving holiday.  Our home school curriculum has led us up to the point in history of the First Thanksgiving.  We've read pilgrim stories and made construction paper tee pees.  In the back yard, we have even planted fresh fish with corn kernels!  Thanksgiving crafts with fall-colored construction paper are so plentiful they are mailed to El Paso to share with Grandma and Grandpa.  Our walls and refrigerator doors no longer offer any display space.

All this concentrated effort of reminding them (and ourselves) to be thankful, to honor God through thanksgiving, and to highlight the true meaning of worship as praise, pointed me toward a beautiful Psalm.

Psalm 100
A psalm of thanksgiving. Shout with joy to the LORD, all the earth!
Worship the LORD with gladness. Come before him, singing with joy.
Acknowledge that the LORD is God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the LORD is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation.

Beautiful!  It's a Psalm we are memorizing and using as "words to love by".  It is filled with instruction, emotion, and promises.

Over the last 6 months I have been journaling my prayers.  At the end of each prayer, I list 5 things I am thankful for that day.  Like many, my list included an amazing husband, sweet children, friends, and material blessings.  As I reviewed them tonight, several stood out to me.  Did they catch my eye because what I learned that specific day?  Or, because of His provision?  Or, because of Him being Him? 

I am Thankful for . . .
  • Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead
  • Kids that respond to hugs
  • Opened eyes and clear understanding
  • Showers after the sandbox
  • Reconciliation of relationships
  • Neighbor kids that never want to leave
  • Creative expression
  • Long distance phone calls and long-time friendships
  • Freedom, second and third chances, and having a voice
I am encouraging (read here: "enforcing") my kiddos to record their thankfulness throughout the year.  To use everyday as an opportunity to recognize and acknowledge all that He IS and all that He DOES.  What a blessing to see a personal, written record of God's generosity and provision.  All glory and honor are His!

Can't wait to see what I am thankful for tomorrow!  Thankfully, He will give me ample opportunities to express my thankfulness (How many "thank" words can fit in one sentence and still make sense?  I think 3 thanks are enough.  Thankfully!).

Then I will praise God's name with singing, and I will honor him with thanksgiving. Psalm 69:30