A Lamp For My Feet

Amy Zacaroli

Archive for the month “April, 2012”

Your Inner Voice

          I have a friend named Connie who often talks about an inner voice, something telling her to do something she wasn’t planning. She has amazing stories of how she listened to that inner voice, obeyed the nudge to redirect herself in the small moments and they turned into big things.

            She is always encouraging others to listen to that inner voice. Last Friday, she and I both listened and we were brought together for just a short, but very special moment.

            Full disclosure: Connie leads the Bible study I’m in on Wednesday mornings. Most weeks she gives “homework” and most weeks I either never do it or I cram Tuesday night. Last week, I set aside the morning after Bible study to contemplate a question she had given us. (First example of listening to inner voice). I was thinking about a friend whom I wish I were closer to and remembered that this friend had “won” a beautiful basket at 25:40’s silent auction last November. Connie had made the basket filled with really wonderful crafts to help families explore scripture and prayer together. It was my sentimental favorite silent auction item.

            Then I remembered, with great shame, that I had never thanked Connie for making the basket. I felt so awful and small as a friend, and then just plain derelict as the co-founder of 25:40, the organization she helped by making this basket.

            I went to the computer to write. I wasn’t sure what I was going to write, but it turned out to be story of this friend of mine and how we need to heal our relationship and how she is tied to the basket.

The next morning, Friday, I woke up with a resolve that if I did nothing else that day, I would make it to Connie’s church and deliver her the letter and a small gift. I had in mind I would give Connie a scarf because she wears them frequently and does so with such dignity and beauty. I went downstairs to the box of art and craft items we have purchased inSouth Africa. These crafts are made by HIV positive women, most of them mothers, for a source of income to help feed their families and keep themselves healthy.

            I found the scarf I had in mind and studied it carefully, then laid it aside. Then I pulled out pillow coverings and some jewelry. I had a hard time deciding – knowing that what I had in mind originally, the scarf, but hearing an inner voice saying, “No not the scarf. The pillow cover.” I chose the pillow cover and a bracelet, wrapped it and quickly sent an e-mail to her to see if she would even be at the church.

            I didn’t hear back from her so I set out anyway and decided I could just leave it in the church office for her if she weren’t there. I called my husband at the start of my 15-20 minute drive to talk to him about something but he wasn’t there. As I was pulling into the church parking lot, he called. I contemplated not answering it and quickly delivering the gift and then calling him back. Inner voice #3 said answer the phone. I sat in the parking lot of the church for a good 15 minutes talking to him. Only when I finished my conversation with him, did I go inside. As I walked into the narthex from the outside, Connie was also walking into the narthex from an inner hallway.

            Connie is the pastor’s wife. She has many responsibilities there, but is usually not there on Fridays (so I later learned). With the church’s 50th anniversary celebration that weekend, she was anxious about the flowers and plants so had left home and gone up to the church to make sure they were watered. She was heading back home when an inner voice told her, “Go to the office. Go to the office.” She said she didn’t need to go to the office and didn’t know what she would do when she got there, but she listened and headed to the office. That’s when I walked in.

            Turns out that for awhile she had noticed an empty spot on her couch that needed a pillow. But she didn’t want just any pillow. She had perused charity catalogs to get a pillow that had meaning behind it, perhaps a pillow that, if she purchased, would help a mother and child. I didn’t know this at the time I was choosing between the scarf and the pillow cover. In fact, I don’t know a lot of things about Connie. We barely talk outside of Bible Study. I was actually nervous going to meet her because of this. Would she think I was weird all of the sudden giving her a gift?

            As we stood there in the narthex, baffled by our chance meeting, I explained to her how lame I was to have not thanked her in November for the basket. She graciously waved away any thought or concern she had about that. Then she said, “Oh, I’ve been meaning to tell you something.” And she explained some Pinterest ideas she had for me that would help spread the word about 25:40 and how to share 25:40’s story via Pinterest. I had just that week completely given up on Pinterest and allowed my 12-year-old daughter to fully overtake my account because I was at a loss on how to use it. Here she was pinning the 25:40 logo around and helping me start telling the 25:40 story through Pinterest.

            So we parted ways and I floated the rest of the day. I was blessed by her reaction and by her sharing. Only later did we both get to share how, as she put it in an e-mail to me the next day, “the Lord’s hand was written all over our meeting.”

            Listen to the inner voice. How often do we set aside our own agendas to listen to follow the nudge instead? It may come to you in different ways. I have found that the more I spend my day in prayer, just talking to God and seeking His wisdom as I go about my day, the clearer that inner voice speaks.

        My husband Alec has been listening to his inner voice and God is telling him to do big and radical things right now. But that’s another story.

I encourage you to listen for that inner voice… God’s purpose await you.

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Easter Lessons

The 40 days of Lent and Easter Day have come and gone and I am left wondering what actions, words or deeds of mine may have exemplified to my four kids that the season is more than about chocolate and eggs and The Hunger Games.

My 10-year-old decided this year for Lent she would try fasting. I don’t know where she came up with the idea but of course I jumped all over it. We picked a day when she wouldn’t be going to the gym and when we had the flexibility to eat earlier than our usual 8 p.m. So each Wednesday of Lent, she fasted and I joined her. When she got off the bus every Wednesday afternoon and dramatically announced how hungry she was, I would suggest for her to lean on God’s strength and remember Jesus’ 40 days in the desert. But she just rolled her eyes.

Nobody else in the family talked much about Lent and nobody else (husband included) was inspired to join us in fasting. We said grace at dinner and went to church on Sundays and Wednesdays during Lent. I had every intention of involving the kid sin  a crafty Ann Voskamp-like Lenten tree, or making a Grace garden during Holy Week with them.

Holy Week came and went with the kids off of school. We had a great break sleeping late, riding bikes, going to my son’s baseball games, taking care of neighbors’ dogs. But to prepare for Easter, we did none of those things. We dyed eggs.

Yes, on Good Friday we watched the Passion for the first time as a whole family – except for the really awful part I took our youngest one upstairs. I don’t know what lasting impression the movie made on the kids. We still need to have that conversation.

And speaking of conversations that need to happen. At 3 o’clock on Good Friday my 12-year-old (who is sometimes the doubting Thomas of the family) came into the office where I was working and said, “It’s 3 o’clock. Jesus is dying right now, right?” And I turned around to face her, pleasantly astonished. “Yes, that’s right,” I answered her. And she slowly walked out of the room and that was all. I turned back to the computer screen.

I think back to that moment and cringe. What a huge opportunity I missed – a cavernous opening (like the empty tomb) to talk to her about the most important moment in all of Christianity.

If I had to relive that moment – or if I were Michelle Anthony or Victoria Osteen – I would perhaps follow my daughter and sit her down and hug her and pray with her. “Jesus is dying right now for your sins and my sins. Let us together confess all our sins and then live in the joy that in three days, we are washed clean!”

But I’m just me.

Broken. Quiet. Weak. Ordinary. A lukewarm Christian.

I missed the chance to let loose what’s inside of me every morning –

joy that we’ve been given another day together as a happy, healthy family;

thankful that we have many blessings;

ashamed we have too many blessings because we take them for granted,

humbled that He gives us a new chance everyday to do His will;

hopeful that I will be His vessel and through me His light will shine.

When I was growing up – the youngest of four children – I would pipe up at the dinner table with whatever was inside me, trying to add to the conversation of my parents and older siblings. Sometimes after I said something, they would all just look at me, a sarcastic or sad look on their faces, and someone would say, “Well, you missed a good chance.”

And that meant I had missed a good chance to say something intelligent. So I grew up holding most of my chances inside me rather than facing criticism. My family also criticized people who talked too much or took too long to tell their stories. I turned into a listener.

Now, in my 46th year, I’m still a listener and not even a good one. I’m married to a great story-teller. I live vicariously through him. One of my best friends – who is so full of life and passion and energy – takes FOREVER to tell a story. But it’s always a good story, a really good story, revealing layers of emotions. She opens up so wide and allows us all in. I feel like I know her well and I adore her.

I wonder if my closest friends and family can say they know me well. I wonder how they describe me. Am I full of life and passion and energy. Does God’s light shine through me? Do they think of me and say, “She’s such a great example of God’s will?” I wish.

My fear is that nobody really knows me. I hide inside my house or myself most of the day, working on 25:40, driving the kids, grocery shopping, cleaning. I go to Bible Study Wednesday mornings and sometimes I sit there and don’t say anything. I dread the times when we have to break into groups of three or four and share what we did for Easter. I am always reluctant and last – and people either gloss over that I haven’t shared or they stare at me with eyes that say, “Umm, it’s your turn. Step up to the plate.”

My fear is that I don’t really know myself. I know what I want to be but I don’t know how to break out of my shell. Maybe I live what I want to be on the inside, but never show it – to my own children, to my family, to my neighbors, to my friends in Christ, to the world.

Jesus says in Luke 8:16 “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.”

Jesus has lit my lamp, but I’ve kept it hidden. Isnt’t that the ultimate sin? The ultimate slap in the face to God, to be given a treasure and then bury it?

God lights me. No longer can I hide.

After Easter I am made new.

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