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Until the Sun Sets

Until the Sun Sets

 

I love pictures! Especially vacation pictures. It’s so fun to look back on fun memories of special times. About a month ago I travelled to Cabo with three friends I met at Baylor. All four of us turn 50 this year and we felt like we should commentate the fact that we’ve lived for HALF A CENTURY. That’s a big deal!

I wanted a book for the trip and when I saw one called “beach trip” I bought it.  It had a cute cover and well, I was going on a beach trip so it seemed to fit the bill.  I also wanted to bring a “party favor” for our trip.  While I was out shopping one day I found some cute beach hats.  They weren’t all different colors like the ones on the cover of my book but I still thought we could recreate the book cover picture as a momento of our trip.

I gave my friends the hats at the airport in Dallas and we took pictures in them there. Then we took pictures in them by the side of the pool and in the pool.  We took pictures in them on the beach and in a boat. I’m pretty sure we became known as “the blue hat society”.

 

Early one morning we decided to try and recreate the “arms in the air” picture from my book cover.  It really shouldn’t have been hard but there were several things to consider … one being that it hurt sitting on those beach rocks. We finally thought we had enough shots and we headed off to the pool. Later in the pool we did an “arms in the air” pic and another afternoon we tried the shot from a different angle on the beach.

The most hysterical thing is that one friend (you can look at the picture and decide for yourself which one you think it is) wasn’t exactly comfortable with putting her arms in the air. I mean she held them up … but it was definitely not her favorite part of the trip. She probably felt we were taking too many pictures and ESPECIALLY ones with our arms on the air.

It wasn’t until I got home and looked back  at the pictures more closely that it hit me just how symbolic it was to have pictures with close friends with our arms held in the air.  You see, we have been “arm holders” for each other for a long time.

There is a story in Exodus 17 where the Israelites were in a battle with the Amalekites. Moses said he was going to go stand on the top of a hill with the staff of God held high during the battle. The next day Joshua went to fight the battle and Moses and two friends went and stood on the top of the hill. As long as Moses held his hands up the Israelites continued to win but when he would put his arms down the Amalekites would begin to win.

Moses’ arms grew tired.  They began to ache. He was weary of holding the staff alone. But he didn’t want the Israelites to lose the battle. So his friends, Aaron and Hur, held his arms up – one on one side and one on the other “so that his hands remained steady until sunset” (Exodlus 17:12).

The Israelites won the battle that day because some friends stood alongside another and held up his hands.

As I looked through the picture from Cabo of us holding up our arms I knew … that is what we had been doing for each other for over twenty years. One of those friends (it’s the one who didn’t love holding up her arms, haha) introduced me to my husband. Another of those friends came over and cooked him dinner and when he arrived to eat she went down the back staircase and let me act like I had made it for him. Another I hugged on the night she got engaged never dreaming that two years later we’d live in the same apartment complex as newlyweds trying to figure marriage out.

We’ve been through boyfriends, weddings, babies, children growing, parents aging … big things and small.  Each year for as long as I can remember we’ve gone away to a place called Hilltop (we call ourselves the  “hilltop honeys”) and we talk.  We really only break to sleep a few hours before we start talking again.  We try and cover all that life has brought us in the past year. We have celebrated and we’ve cried.  We’ve cheered and we’ve comforted.  It’s been a sacred space for each of us.

So, quite literally, we have held up each others arms at various times along the way.  Sometimes texts among us only say “please pray, I’ll tell you why later” … but that’s all they need to say. Because arm holding is what we do. We might not always be able to fix the problem, but we can hold up each other’s  arms for awhile … until sunset if need be.  We truly want each other to win the battles .. or at least survive them. Life can be hard and unfair but knowing there are friends who will come alongside and hold up our arms and say “we’re here as long as you need us” makes us more courageous as we face the day in front of us.

I will forever be grateful for the gift of friendship. The Lord has given me a double portion, I know. I have some hometown arm holders who I know beyond a shadow of a doubt would all pile in a car and head to Houston if I told them I was having trouble holding up my arms. They might even drive all night to get here. One friend sent our group text this picture yesterday … and I love it.

Certainly there are some Houston arm holders too. Some have moved away but if I called them today, they’d hold my arms up for awhile … and I’d do the same for them.  Arm holders don’t have to be people we’ve known forever either.  They might be new friends or friends you only thought were acquaintances … but in the battle they came along side you in an unforgettable way.

Here’s the thing … we can all be arm holders and we all need arm holders. Being an arm holder might be sending a text saying you are thinking of someone or calling someone you haven’t heard from in awhile. It might be driving someone to chemo or taking a meal to a friend going through a difficult time. Arm holders come out of the woodwork when big things happen but we should also be mindful to be arm holders in the day to day of life. That daily load can get heavy too.

Maybe thank someone today for being an arm holder for you or if you need an arm holder let someone know.  And for sure go offer to hold up someone’s arms that you think might need some encouragement. Do it today.

Looking back I’m glad we took so many “blue hat, arms up” pictures.  It doesn’t matter to me that people probably thought we were crazy. What matters to me is that I’ve got some arm holders… And we will be there for each other until the sun sets.

 

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What’s in a name?

What’s in a name?

 

Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.  Isaiah 43:1

 

Several years ago I was flying to meet some friends for a girls trip in Chicago. When I booked my ticket, for some reason (and why do these things always happen to me?!), it placed my name in the record as Darla Do Baerg (instead of Darla D. Baerg). I called the airline right away and they said it shouldn’t be a problem if I had my ID.

I believed them right up until the time they took my ID at security and said it didn’t match my ticket.  (Insert eye roll here). After a trip back to the ticket counter and talking to multiple people I was cleared to fly.

My friend Missy still calls me Darla Do to this day.

Another time I ordered at a restaurant and they kept calling “Delmay Deloney” over the loudspeaker. Since my name at the time was Darla Dillahunty I didn’t think it was my order.  Over and over they said “Delmay”.  “Delmay”. I finally went and asked and, sure enough … it was my order.

This morning I was thinking about names as I read my Bible. The last few years I have been noticing that the words in my Bible were becoming blurrier and smaller. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that I’m getting older (ahem). I decided I needed a larger print Bible to use when I taught. I stopped by our church bookstore and looked at the “sample” large print Bible. Deciding it was perfect I asked if I could buy one. Unfortunately they no longer carried that particular one so I asked if I could buy the sample. I was told they couldn’t really sell it because the front cover was messed up. They had printed several names on the cover one on top of the another.

 

I told them I didn’t mind the mess ups because God knows my name so it didn’t really matter what it said on the front.

They laughed but y’all, I was totally serious. I love that it’s all messed up! It’s just like me, a big mess … but the message inside is perfect.

People ask me about it when they see it and I love telling them the same thing. God does know my name. He knows who I am. In fact He knows each of us by name. He knows the number of hairs on our head. He knows all the days of our lives before they ever happen. That’s so cool.

I love the “Cheers” TV show theme song that says … “sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name”. And God’s word is certainly one of those places. The best place, in fact. He always knows us and in His word communicates peace, joy, comfort, hope … whatever we need. And it’s not just our name He knows, it’s our circumstances … our hurts, trials, joys … He knows it all.

Our lives can be as jumbled and messy as the name on my Bible … but His word meets us in the mess and provides just what we need.

I once read that our favorite word in the human language is our own name. Aren’t you so glad God knows yours?

And the Lord said to Moses, “This very thing you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name”.  Exodus 33:17  

 

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Olympics Obsession

Olympics Obsession

 

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I am obsessed with the Olympics.

Literally obsessed.  Night after night we stack up on the couch and watch whatever NBC picks for us to cheer that evening. Watching Michael Phelps win gold after gold (after gold) was so cool. And the Simone’s?! Katie Ledecky? They are all incredible!!! It’s truly amazing to see these incredible athletes do their thing.

There have been a lot of neat stories to come from the Olympics … Michael Phelps coming back after overcoming some personal demons, the 41 year old gymnast (Really?! Just wow) and many, many others.  The story yesterday of the USA 5000 runner helping the Australian up after a brutal fall … that was the Olympic spirit at it’s finest.

But one of my favorite stories from this years Olympics hasn’t gotten much press but it is truly the story I love the most. It is the story of a swimmer from Spain, Miguel Navia who was set to swim the 400 meter freestyle. He was a longshot even to final but just getting the opportunity to swim in an Olympic race was a dream come true.

When Navia stood up on the blocks waiting for the signal to start he fell in. Literally fell off the blocks into the pool as the crowd gasped.  What normally would be called a “false start” in other swim meets, in the Olympics equals an immediate disqualification.

Miguel slapped the water in disappointment, knowing he was done, and got out of the pool.  The TV  announcer said: “well, that’s the worst thing that could happen” as Navia gathered his parka and headed out of the swim facility in tears.

The crowd, in a show of sympathy, begins to clap and gave him a standing ovation as he exited. It was enough to choke up even those of us watching from the couch.  I SO wanted him to have another chance.

The swimmers prepared to get back on the blocks when all of a sudden a huge cheer erupted from the crowd. The other swimmers looked around confused as to why they were cheering.

And then Navia re-entered the arena.

Unbelievably the judge determined that Navia did not fall in the pool as a result of his own error. The judges conferred and determined that “he had heard a noise in the crowd that caused him to false start”.

He was allowed to swim.

This never happens. No one thought it was going to happen … but it did!

Navia didn’t final … he was 8 seconds behind the swimmers who made the finals in the almost four minute race ,,,

But he got to swim.

And I think the reason I love his story so much is because it is our story. Each one of us falls off the block in our lives. We may feel like the announcer’s words  … “well, that’s the worst thing that could happen” or feel like we have failed and have no chance of getting back in the race.

But because of God’s redemptive death on the cross … no matter what we have done, it is not the worst thing … he forgives us. As the Psalmist says … “he throws our sins as far as the east is from the west”.

He tells us to get back on on the blocks.

When circumstances aren’t what we had hoped or dreamed?  It’s still not the worst thing.

Even then He tells us to get back up on the blocks.

He wants us in the race.

There are no gold medals or endorsements … but there is peace and joy.

We get to swim!

Enjoy your race.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.  2 Timothy 4:7-8

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