Road Rage and Unfair Grace

Copyright Emily Sirkel

You’ve been there before. You’re driving down the street and see a construction sign warning that your lane is about to end. You dutifully merge to the left, giving yourself plenty of time before the orange cones force you over. You notice the car that had been behind you in the right lane doesn’t merge. Instead it suddenly accelerates, speeding past you and several cars ahead of you in a blatant attempt to “skip the line.”

 

As it nears the cones, the offending car slows slightly and tries to find an opening to its left. You smirk a little bit as you witness the cars ahead of you refusing to let the cheater in. As you draw closer, you too have no intention of letting this driver get away with his little ploy.

 

Just as you get even with the car, its engine revs and it shoots forward and swerves in front of you. You slam on your brakes to avoid hitting it.

 

$%*#!

 

Copyright Emily Sirkel

 

Believe it or not, I’ve never really struggled with road rage.

 

Oh, I’ll definitely get annoyed and frustrated with other drivers, but I’m not one to yell obscenities, flip the bird, or react with “vehicular aggression.”

 

At the most I’ll mutter a snide remark, shake my head, and scowl at the offending driver.

 

That said, yesterday I probably came closer to exhibiting road rage than I ever have before. Ohhh I was mad.

 

The incident wasn’t particularly extraordinary or unique, and no damage was done. But for whatever reason, it rubbed me the wrong way, and I have never come so close to full-blown road rage!

 

Even after I reached my destination a few minutes later, I was still fuming.

 

No, I did not curse or scream or gesture angrily with my middle finger. But boy did I want to. And with shame I admit that about two seconds after slamming on my brakes, I thought to myself, “I shouldn’t have braked, I should have just hit him and enjoyed the insurance payout.”

 

I was that peeved.

 

And then the Holy Spirit started to work on my heart.

 

Sure, I didn’t actually react outwardly other than an angry scowl and shake of my head. And I didn’t scream bloody-murder. But I was thinking it.

 

I quickly and easily justified the angry thoughts in my head, trying to ignore the nagging thought that I could have been gracious and just let the car merge with ease. “But that jerk of a driver didn’t deserve grace!” I protested silently, pushing back against the uncomfortable twinge of my conscience.

 

“Tell me, little one, who does deserve grace? Is there anyone deserving of MY grace?”

 

Though no sound was heard, the question rang loudly in my ears. I didn’t like it.

 

It’s not fair though!” I insisted.

 

“My grace isn’t fair.”

 

Dang it. He had a point. His grace is not fair. No one deserves it, and yet he offers it freely. My-silent-road-rage-self certainly wasn’t deserving of God’s grace – not at that moment of weakness and not ever – yet I am covered by his boundless grace.

 

Reluctantly, I acknowledged the Spirit’s whispering in my heart and repented of my arrogance and self-serving anger.

 

And then I took a moment to thank God for his grace that is so beautifully unfair.

Finding My Strength in the Lord

Copyright Emily Sirkel Photography

Copyright Emily Sirkel Photography

 

Well, in case you were wondering, I’m still alive!

 

I took an unexpected two-week break from writing due to the sudden increase of chaos in my life.

 

In one of my last posts I mentioned having a stomach bug immediately followed by a cold. Well, that minor cold became major bronchitis and a sinus infection. I guess life just decided to kick my immune system while it was down.

 

To top it off, my husband’s grandmother became suddenly ill and passed away. So in the midst of antibiotics, Nyquil, and all-night coughing fits, there were also hospital waiting rooms, grieving family members, and funeral arrangements that spanned an entire week.

 

Frankly, I just didn’t have it in me to handle anything else.

 

But in the midst of all the chaos, sickness, and burden of sorrow we were helping carry, I was amazed again and again at the blessings and providence of our God.

 

From the sweet woman who struck up a conversation in the hospital waiting room, to the man who found my husband’s lost iPhone and returned it, to the stranger in Panera checking to see if I was okay, to our incredible church family who brought us food and offered their sympathy – God was showering his mercies upon us in the smallest gestures and most precious moments.

 

We were able to open our home to Geoff’s family throughout the week, and though the circumstances were difficult, it was a blessing to have them near. I have such great respect and deep love for my mother-in-law, who bore the sorrow of losing her beloved mother with such grace and strength. I felt like I was struggling to make it through the week, and can’t even imagine the kind of distress she was – and is – enduring.

 

In the midst of it all, I was preparing for my turn teaching my adult Sunday school class, and I stumbled across something I’d underlined some time ago in 1 Samuel chapter 30. It’s part of a story about David before he became king. He and his 600 men had gone out for battle (a battle which they ended up not fighting, but that’s another story). When they returned home, wearied from travel, they discovered with horror that their home city had been raided and burned in their absence, and all of their wives and children had been taken captive.

 

David and his men wept for their loss until they had no strength left to weep. The men were “bitter in soul,” and spoke of blaming and stoning David, their leader.

 

In verse six I came across these two underlined statements:

 

“And David was greatly distressed…

But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.”

 

Wow. I found that to be such a powerful verse these past two weeks.

 

I was wearied and stressed. I was worn out and worn down from being sick and not getting enough sleep. I was falling further and further behind in work, having to back out of church commitments, and getting nothing done on my to-do list. And while I personally was not deeply grieving the loss of “Omie,” I was sharing a little bit of the burden of sorrow that my second mom and her sisters were carrying.

 

All in all, I was definitely ‘distressed.’ But you know what? I took a cue from David, and I didn’t try to do it all on my own. I found my strength in the Lord my God.

 

So if you too are at that place where you are greatly distressed, be reminded and encouraged that you don’t have to find the strength to handle it all – in fact, you won’t be able to find the strength to handle it all – instead, strengthen yourself in the Lord your God.

 

Let Him be your strength.

 

Oh, and by the way, the story about David and his men? It has a happy ending. Check it out in 1 Samuel chapter 30!

When Funny Isn’t Funny

Copyright Emily Sirkel

Copyright Emily Sirkel

 

I like decorative signs. You know, those vintage looking painted wooden signs with sweet or funny sayings on them?

 

Sometimes they’re cute:

 

“All guests must be approved by the dog.”

 

“We may not have it all together but together we have it all.”

 

 

Or sweet:

 

“Together is a wonderful place to be.”

 

“Family: a journey to forever.”

 

 

Funny:

 

“I love you more than bacon.”

 

“Grandchildren are God’s reward for not killing your kids.”

 

Sassy:

 

“I’m not bossy, I just know what you should be doing.”

 

“I can only please one person per day. Today is not your day. Tomorrow doesn’t look good either.”

 

A little ridiculous:

 

“Friends are like snowflakes, if you pee on them they disappear.”

 

“Live, love, bark… roll in a dead squirrel.”

 

And often these signs poke fun at the relationship between husband and wife:

 

“An old nag and her stud live here.”

 

 “The smartest thing a man ever said: ‘Yes dear!’”

 

But sometimes, “funny” isn’t funny. Sometimes, the line is crossed. Last Friday I was in a store and saw a sign that said this:

 

All men are idiots and I married their king.”

 

Wow.

 

Wives, did you chuckle when you read that sign? I didn’t. I winced. Visibly. As I stood there and looked at that sign, it made me very sad. I thought about taking a picture of it, but chose not to because I didn’t even want that photo to be on my phone. I later Googled this phrase, and found not only signs, but t-shirts, coffee mugs, key chains, buttons, and even light switch covers all bearing this awful sentiment.

 

Husbands, wouldn’t you just love it if your wife bought that sign and brought it home to hang on the wall? Wouldn’t you laugh, hahaha, at the funny little joke? No. You wouldn’t. And you shouldn’t. Nobody should laugh when a wife feels like it’s okay to say that about her husband.

 

For some reason in our American culture it has become okay to poke fun at men. It’s okay to knock their ego down a notch. Little girls are growing up to be women who still believe that “Girls rule, boys drool!” But it’s not true and it’s not okay.

 

Just as women desperately need to feel loved and wanted, men need to know they are trusted and respected. They need to be built up and encouraged, not “knocked down a notch.”

 

Just as us girls need to hear “I love you” and need to feel “I want you,” our guys need to hear in our words “I’m proud of you” and recognize in our actions “I trust you.”

 

Girls, don’t talk bad about your men. Show them respect – privately and especially publically. Be mindful of what you say; what you think is just playful teasing in front of his friends might be a lot more painful than you realize. And don’t ever badmouth your man when he’s not around. You may think it’s “venting,” but really it’s just reinforcing a negative perspective that’s a lot more dangerous than you know.

 

His wife should be the one person a man can be most vulnerable with. Don’t take that for granted. Don’t abuse that privilege. Always be careful what you say, because sometimes “funny” really is anything but funny.

20 Random Things You Didn’t Know That You Didn’t Know About Me

Copyright Emily Sirkel

Copyright Emily Sirkel

 

Full disclosure: this is a “cheat” blog post.

 

Translation: I’ve had a stomach bug already this week and now have a cold (first time I’ve been sick in over a year, guess it was time for a double-whammy) so this is my no-effort post because I don’t really have any effort in me right now.

 

  1. My all-time favorite food is Kraft blue-box macaroni and cheese. Forever and always baby. Not ashamed.
  2. I once had a pet baby prairie chicken named Little Rascal. He was leash trained and very cute.
  3. The longest I’ve lived in once place is 10 years. Check it out – GPS coordinates: 46.384311,-107.641597 = middle-of-nowhere-Montana
  4. My most embarrassing moment: having the story of my most embarrassing moment told by my parents to a room full of friends during our going-away-party before we moved to Texas. Maybe there’s a reason I’ve only been back to Montana twice in the last twelve years…
  5. My first job was pulling wild rye out of the neighboring farm’s wheat fields. I was about 8 years old and got paid $6/hour to yank the stuff out by its roots, stuff it in a gunnysack and haul it to the edge of the field.
  6. I have college credits from three different universities and a medical school. Does it matter? Nope.
  7. I once lived in Canada for 2 and ½ months. My landlady was Taiwanese and an excellent cook! She once brought my roommates and me a 5-gallon bucket full of freshly picked blueberries. Yes, I still like blueberries.
  8. I made a snow-angel on top of the Great Wall of China bordering North Korea. I have a picture to prove it… somewhere.
  9. When I was a little girl I wanted to be a missionary doctor when I grew up.

10. Yes, I have been skinny-dipping. Yes, that’s all I’m going to say.

11. After we got married Geoff wanted to get a dog and I wanted to get a cat. We compromised and got a baby miniature potbelly pig. We named her Steve. A grown-up Steve is pictured above. Sadly, she is no longer with us, but she was great fun during the 3 years that we had her!

12. I made a 100 average in one college class. Greek. No kidding. Can I read or speak Greek now, 6 years later? Not even a little.

13. I think garbanzo beans are of the devil. As are lima beans. Devil food I tell you.

14. One of my most prized possessions is a lamp. That’s right, a lamp. My dad gave it to me when I was a little girl, and my husband fixed it for me years later. It’s special because my two favorite men made it special.

15. One thing I can’t stand is people with little work ethic and a big sense of entitlement.

16. I’ve never seen Gone With The Wind. Or Moulin Rouge. I’m okay with that.

17. I’m not afraid to admit that I like cats. My first pet was a kitten named Jax. I got him when I was about 3, and he lived until my first semester in college. He was awesome.

18. My favorite beverage is water. Not kidding. Love that stuff.

19. I like the smell of copy machines. And normal things too, like coffee, rain, freshly cut grass, and clean sheets. My favorite smell is Geoff. Yes that’s cheesy, but it’s okay, it’s Valentine’s Day.

20. Last but not least, one of my favorite childhood memories: sledding with dad and big brother, then going inside to warm up with hot cocoa and toasted PB&J sandwiches made by mom. Good times.

 

 

Tell me one random thing about yourself in the comments below. Ready, go:

Keep On Keeping On

Copyright Emily Sirkel Photography

Copyright Emily Sirkel Photography

 

This past week I went to the gym six days in a row. Each of those six days I spent at least 45 minutes pedaling to nowhere in front of a big mirror, with lungs burning, sweat dripping, and legs gradually turning to Jell-O.

 

It sucked.

 

Okay, it didn’t completely suck. But it was tough.

 

Unlike some people, I don’t like getting up at 5 AM. I rather not spend my first waking hours bullying my body into shape in a crowded room full of sweaty people. I am not fond of showering in a locker room alongside other women who without fail manage to make exercise look sexy while I look like a half-drowned rat who just survived a shipwreck.

 

I was tempted to ignore my alarm each morning when it went off, but for some reason, I didn’t. Once I was at the gym, on the bike, and starting to feel the burn, I wanted to quit the entire time. Or at the very least “cheat” by cranking the gear way down to little or no resistance. But I didn’t. Somehow, for some reason, I persevered.

 

Perseverance isn’t really my strong suit. But when I do “keep on keeping on,” the finish line feels so sweet. Can you relate?

 

Best-selling author and speaker John Maxwell published this brief “Minute with Maxwell” video last week about stamina. His words really rang true for me, and I thought it would be a good thing to share on a Monday morning as we all start off another week. Take a minute to watch it – I think you’ll enjoy!

 

 

To close, let me share one of my favorite Bible verses, Galatians 6:9

 

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

 

Whatever you’re working toward, do not grow weary… for in due season you will reap, if you do not give up!

Say It In Words

Copyright Emily Sirkel Photography

Copyright Emily Sirkel Photography

 

Why is it important to say, “I love you” to your kids every day?

 

Why do we need to hear those words from our spouse on a daily basis?

 

Do we forget if they don’t tell us often? Do we stop believing it if we don’t hear it enough?

 

I don’t know.

 

I don’t know why that constant affirmation is so necessary or important, but it is.

 

I grew up in a family where “I love you’s” were frequently heard and freely bestowed, along with hugs and kisses and bedtime prayers. I never doubted my parents’ love and concern for me – they proved it daily through their words and actions. I know that I was blessed in a powerful way that sadly, many children are not.

 

Now in my marriage, “I love you’s” are also plentiful and frequent. Anytime we part ways, end a phone conversation, send a text message, or just hang out, “I love you” is always part of the dialogue. I have no doubt the trend will continue when we welcome children into our family someday.

 

There’s no doubt that saying and hearing “I love you” regularly is incredibly important. But I think sometimes we need to take it a step further.

 

I was reminded of this last Friday when I came home from work. I knew that Geoff wouldn’t be home when I got there – he was at the studio late editing tracks from his latest recording session. All day I had been plotting to get off early, go home, bake cookies, and then drive to the studio to surprise him (yes, I get wife points for that).

 

Well, the getting off early didn’t happen, and Friday evening traffic sucks, even with my measly four-mile commute. By the time I got home, I wasn’t sure about the plan anymore. I walked in our bedroom, plopped my bags down in defeat, and then noticed a note on my pillow. A folded up piece of notebook paper with the words “Beautiful Babe” scrawled on the front.

 

A grin spread across my face as I picked it up and unfolded it. By the time I finished reading the six simple sentences, there were tears in my eyes. It was more than “I love you.” That note communicated, “I cherish you,” “I adore you,” “I’m proud of you,” “I thank God for you,” and so much more. Geoff communicates these things to me every day through his actions, but for him to take a moment to write it down and leave it for me to find meant the world to me.

 

Needless to say, I baked those cookies and made that drive to the studio.

 

Don’t take it for granted that your loved ones know how much you love them. Say, “I love you” often. Say more than, “I love you” too. Say it with your actions, but also say it with your words. It might just mean the world to someone.

Conquered or Conqueror?

Copyright Emily Sirkel Photography

Copyright Emily Sirkel Photography

 

Short but sweet today:

 

“All of us will either be conquered by life or we will be conquerors in life through the power of God.”

Pastor John Durham

 

Life, in all its glory, sorrow, and chaos, will not conquer me.

 

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Romans 8:37

 

I will conquer, through the power of God!

If You Can’t Say Anything Nice…

…Don’t say anything at all.

 

Copyright Emily Sirkel

 

Or in other words, follow the example of Abraham Lincoln, who once said,

 

“I am very little inclined on any occasion to say anything unless I hope to produce some good by it.”

 

I think that’s really good advice.

 

Last night at my church’s Wednesday night fellowship meal and prayer gathering I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation taking place across the table.

 

Let’s just say that these gentlemen were not following Lincoln’s example.

 

It saddens and angers infuriates me when Christians speak and act like they are better than everyone else. You know what I’m talking about. Puffed up self-righteous holier-than-thous. Some are worst than others, but they’re all equally frustrating.

 

I’m a Christian, I know we’re not any better than anybody else! Nothing we have done or can do will ever make us “better.” It’s all about what God has done for us.

 

Right about the same time I was fuming over some strangers’ conversation, my husband handed me his iPad and showed me a story and picture where someone had written a note on their restaurant credit card receipt. Instead of penciling in a tip amount, they scribbled a zero, and for good measure added, “I give God 10% why do you get 18?” They signed the receipt with “Pastor” before their name.

 

I can’t even begin to express how angry that makes me.

 

It reminds me of when I worked as a waitress and when I was a barista at Barnes and Noble Café. Though I did not work Sundays, my coworkers frequently talked about how much they hated working Sunday afternoons. Why? Because the “Christian crowd” always showed up after church – demanding, rude, and stingy.

 

Now that’s shining God’s light right there.

 

Not.

 

Dear beloved non-Christians:

I am so sorry. I am sorry for the “Christians” who have looked down their nose and treated you like you’re below them. I am sorry for the “Christians” who use up their good behavior on Sunday mornings and don’t have enough to go around the rest of the week. I am sorry for every “Christian” who has failed to reflect the genuine love and grace of Jesus Christ. And I’m sorry that at times, I’ve been one of those “Christians.”

 

Dear fellow Christians:

People are watching us. People are listening to us. They see what we do or don’t do and they hear what we say or don’t say. We are Christ’s representatives. Let’s act like it.

Abundance

Copyright Emily Sirkel Photography

This past Saturday I enjoyed a fun afternoon with my girlfriends checking out some shops in Highland Park. Everything was cute and classy and ridiculously out of our price range. From Sur La Table to Weir’s Furniture to Crate & Barrel, we saw a hundred things we wanted and didn’t need.

 

Copyright Emily Sirkel Photography

 

While it was fun spending a few hours out with the girls, overall I couldn’t help but feel a little depressed and disillusioned by the end of the outing. My hand-me-down furniture and mix-matched kitchenware will never measure up to the delightful displays we ooed and awed over with stars in our eyes.

 

However, even if I someday could afford it, I simply cannot imagine spending $3000 for a couch. No matter how gorgeous and cushy it may be, that’s just not happening. We spent $300 on our sectional off of Craigslist, and it suites us just fine, thank you!

 

And yes that bamboo cutting board was nice, but $150, really? Or those scarves – simply lovely. Not 89 bucks worth of lovely though.

 

Even with those practical sentiments in my head, it was hard not to yearn for the pretty hats, cute knickknacks and fancy furniture.

 

But I was reminded of a parable found in Luke chapter 12, the Parable of the Rich Fool. A few months ago Jason Hatch, the college and men’s pastor at our church, spoke on this passage, and it really hit me hard. The parable is found in Luke 12:13-21, but let me just share one verse – Jesus’s words right before he tells the parable:

 

“And he said to them, ‘Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.’”

Luke 12:15

Well if that’s not convicting, I’m not sure what is.

 

If you’re not really familiar with the meaning of “covetousness,” think envy, jealousy, greed, eager desire, etc.

 

I was definitely feeling all of the above on Saturday. Not only did I covet all those fancy things, I also envied the serious shoppers in those stores – you know, the people who were there intending to actually buy something, not just drool on it. The people who actually had money in their pockets.

 

Jesus isn’t necessarily saying having nice things is bad, or that we’re not supposed to enjoy expensive possessions or live in comfort – that’s a theological can of worms I’m not trying to open right now. But he is warning against the very dangerous trap of desiring more.

 

As Hatch said, “There is no end to more.” Over time, immersed in our toxic more-now American culture, our eyes become trained not to see what we do have, but what we don’t have.

 

Hatch also said, “Stuff isn’t big enough to fill up the human heart.”

 

We find that no matter how much more we get of what we think we need, we are never satisfied. We’re never fulfilled. That cushy couch, perfect cutting board and lovely scarf just don’t cut it.

 

The problem is not the amount. It’s not about more, it’s about what. “For one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” We’re seeking the wrong thing.

 

Hatch left us with four points to be taken from Jesus’s words and the Parable of the Rich Fool:

 

  1. You desperately need to be on guard. Our hearts are far too susceptible to the allure of stuff. I’m thinking my next fun outing with the girls won’t include subjecting myself to the temptation of covetousness.
  2. Stop believing the lie that more stuff will make you happy. It won’t. More money, more clothes – even more time or more friends – brings only fleeting and shallow happiness quickly overwhelmed by the feeling that you need more.
  3. Be content. Look at what you have, not what you lack. Take the cliché to heart: count your blessings.
  4. Be rich toward God. Invest in your relationship with God, and with people. That’s where you’ll find fulfillment.

 

The Parable of the Rich Fool is immediately followed by the passage where Jesus tells his disciples not to be anxious about anything – reminding them (and us) about how God feeds the ravens and clothes the lilies of the field – oh how much more will he provide for us!

 

Instead of worrying over possessions or food or clothing, we should “seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you… For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Luke 12:31, 34