This is for…

This is for those moms.  Moms like I used to be.  The ones who not so much in the day to day, but in the looking back, struggle the most, pick apart the most, question the most, play the “What if” game the most.  This is for you if you ever looked back and felt like a failure, the worst mom ever.  This is for you who wrestle daily with doubt that you got any of this mom thing right.

I used to want to be anywhere but in church on Mother’s Day when they would pray over the moms, and somewhere in that sweet prayer they would thank God for moms and talk about how wonderful they were.  I did not think I fit that description at all, and I felt like a fraud.  I was so hard on myself, taking ownership of so much that was not mine. It was a heavy burden I placed upon myself.   

If I could talk to my younger mom self today, this is what I would say.  I wish someone had said this to me, so I will say this to you. Consider it a Mother’s Day gift from my heart to yours:

Gentle and easy does it.  No need to look back and see so much that you can’t believe you missed, yet only use what you see to be down on yourself.  No need to focus on yourself at all.  Self blame and sadness over fairy tale dreams ending only adds more fuel to the out of control fire of the nightmare that still rages in your heart though the embers are cold.  Don’t look back, don’t look down.  Look out.  Look around.  Look up.

Oh, girl.  How I long to make you understand.  Know just how much you are loved?  So much.  By a great big God who sees every one of your shortcomings yet loves you all the more in the midst of them.  Your mom mess-ups?  Forgiven. All of them. You need to forgive yourself.  I know, easier said than done. But you can.  Because I did.  It took a very long time, and I would love to save you from that delay.  Look up, and see the grace freely given. It’s yours to receive and strive to live in light of.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Rom 8:1

Be Thou My Vision

I have learned over the past few years that I enjoy going deep into favorite songs.  Digging into the words and allowing them to shine forth with meaning that I can take in and seek to apply as I walk through life with Jesus, and that I can write about to share with others.

I have known for some time what my next song would be.  It just kept coming to mind randomly, begging me to look inside. I’m turning the knob to open the door. Come on in.

Be Thou my vision, oh Lord of my heart.  Naught be all else to me save that Thou art.

This is a wonderful song, an ages old classic hymn. But there is so much packed into this one line that I want to just stop and focus here.

What a beautiful prayer.  A prayer that you would expect a very special saint to pray.  A missionary in a dangerous third world country, or a person well known for making sacrifices and changing lives for the better. You know, people like Mother Theresa. Elizabeth Elliott. Paul the Apostle.  Or that person who walks the dark scary streets sharing the gospel and rescuing and helping others at the risk of their own safety.

Be… As in, You, Lord, be all to me. Please be all to me. But this is not something I need to beg Him for. It’s not like He bestows this level of intimacy upon some who are good and ask nicely. No, I don’t to ask Him to be Who He already is. He is all, everything, everywhere, all powerful, almighty, all holy, ever present, ever caring, ever orchestrating and working.  Instead of asking, I need to demand this, but of me. And then I need to keep demanding it of me, continually.

Be Thou my vision… God, May You be everything I see. May You fill my vision completely. I long for You to fill up and overshadow everything else. I long to have this perspective from which flows everything else, to lead my thoughts and emotions and actions. How? By my choice to focus on You in the midst of the cacophony of noise and distraction and promising possibilities vying for my attention.  In a world where there are so many tantalizing desirous paths to promises of good and fulfilling benefit, I must continually take sharp turns to dry and dusty roads where I find that hard work brings soft rain and growth of the seeds of Your unfailing promises. A beautiful metamorphosis in progress, a gradual, wonderful, unfolding of freedom in You. Freedom to be about becoming who You created me to be.

O Lord of my heart… For any of this to be possible, for You to be what I see, for me to begin to experience the reality that You truly are all that I need, I must submit to your Lordship. I must acknowledge You as Lord of my heart, of my soul, of my life. I must allow You to rule, to move, to guide, to discipline, to teach me. I must have a repentant and contrite heart so that I am teachable.

Naught be all else to me save that Thou art. I have a map with a big “X” on it.  I want to get here:  To the place where I can say this and it be completely true:  Naught be all else to me save that Thou art. 

Yes.  Sounds wonderful.  And selfless, born of true humility. 

But how can I even get close to this understanding that drives my complete and utter reliance on and trust in You?  Truth: I don’t see this as ever attainable. 

I want it, sure.  I long for it. Yes.  

But I must want it enough. Enough to give myself totally away…so that it truly becomes all about You.  Only then can I move toward this sacrificial line of the verse that declares that nothing else exists except You, so focused am I on who You are, so grateful am I for all You’ve done, for me.  Naught be all else to me save that Thou art.

Be Thou My Vision… Be my eyes, be all that I see, in everything, in every moment.  Every second of every day, through my day in day out mundane yet you-never-know unpredictable life. Be all that I see, through my stress and wondering and worry, through my pain and frustration and sadness and longing.  Through my long held useless efforts to control my world because I believe the lie that if I can control it then I am secure. Be all that I see, my focus, what I frame my whole world around.  Oh God, may that be You to me.  The frame that holds my world together.

Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.  So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. Ps 63:3-4

Hold On…

In our current culture with so much extra stuff and so many choices and so many ways to connect without connecting… with so much stress and anxiety, with rampant busyness like a completely unproductive hamster running on his wheel, comes a CRISIS in all caps, unprecedented, unseen until its actions made it SEEN and aggressively acted on – a CRISIS that forces complete and unyielding, hard, inertia driven, crashing, STOP.
It knocks a lot of us down from our fortress lookouts where we live – down to the hard unnurtured ground behind the walls we built for our safety that are really to our detriment. We can’t see anything now that our lookout spots have all been obliterated. We don’t know what’s coming! And that strikes fear in many hearts like a wildfire out of control.
Phil 4:6-7. This passage has been prevalent on my mind this week after it was part of last week’s sermon, which was the last time we will gather for church in person for a while. Then one day this week I looked up this passage in the Amplified Bible version. And…Wow.
A lot of us already know that this is a time to hold fast to the truths we believe and strive to live out, but at least I’m finding that this is hard to implement, overwhelming, even. For me the words of this version add more insight and intensity that draws me in. This is what I need and what I should be holding on to. Peace transcendent of all understanding, and a soul that knows tranquility despite the circumstances, all coming from sincere prayer and hard work to set aside time to allow God to speak into my life, deep.
I’m not at all talented at correctly prioritizing – focusing on and holding on to the right things. I tend to hold tightly to all manner of other things that don’t deserve my attention, many of which are actually bad for me and my well being.
I want to take this to heart. To hold on to these words of scripture and others that I know are true, hold so tightly that I have no effort left for anything else. I long to deeply long to do this, and I pray that too. That I’ll want to enough to actually consistently do it. I pray this for everyone out there in the midst of this uncertain and scary COVID-19 mess. You are not alone.
But not only that. I long to carry this back to my new normal after we are allowed to be closer to each other than 6 feet, after we can hug again, and visit face to face again, and cry together again, and enjoy each others’ joy together again. I want this to be a kick start to a more healthy, more positively connected with Jesus and with others future. I pray this for myself, my community, my state, my nation, and the world.

Phil 4:6-7, Amplified Bible: “6 Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God. 7 And God’s peace (shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace) which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

HERE

You. Are. Here.  

October 19, 2019.  Yep, here I am.  Rockin’ my routine and working within the cozy confines of my comfort zone. I am not an adventurous person.  I have a deep appreciation for structure and the beauty of things remaining the same. Uniformity. Straight Lines. Symmetry. I’ve got everything lined up in perfect rows just like I like it.  When everything is as it should be, I can breathe and function almost like a normal person. Almost.

I’ll admit, though, that what’s happening right now is different than I had planned.  But I know I just need to tough it out and work through it.  Although…yeah, there are these bothersome doubts that keep trying to crash through my answer to take care of what is going on. Go away. I got this.

Hello…  Bothersome Doubts here.  Please listen to us!  What if this isn’t a virus?  What if something is really wrong?  What if this pain is, in fact, as bad as it feels instead of not so bad for someone who is not so wimpy?  What if by waiting, you are compromising your health?   

Those doubtful thoughts about what was happening on this day kept trying, but I stood firm on my perch atop the empty air and would not give in.  The doubts kept interrupting my monologue with myself.  They whispered.  Then they talked.  And then they shouted extreme and frightful ideas, like this:      

What if…

“You. Are. Here.” is a lie, and reality is way over HERE?

On Sunday October 20th, I had emergency surgery at 3:30am.  Me, who has never had major surgery before. 

I learned much from this unplanned unwelcomed medical adventure. 

I learned who I really was when all my hard won schemes were stripped away and my walls fell down and landed in disheveled heaps of rubble.  I stood looking through the haze at the previously hidden horizon.  It was shocking and overwhelming.      

I learned about being HERE. HERE is new and different and foreign.  It’s full of wide open unidentifiable spaces when I love small and cozy and safe.  But during this journey, it’s where I needed to be to learn from the harsh reality that had invaded my mundane daily life.  HERE is where I fully experienced the futility of elaborate measures taken to control my minute corner of the world.

I learned that I have trust issues.  Big ones.  

Issues with trusting myself.  I see so clearly now that I did not trust my reaction to extreme pain enough to call for help.  There was a level of terror there, but I just kept talking it down in my head so that I was able to keep the lies monologue on replay that said I could do this on my own and everything would be fine. 

Issues with trusting God.  For so long, I have lived afraid of being afraid. Afraid of being all in for anything.  Afraid and trying my best to fix my life so that all I experience is level and smooth with no sharp turns or jagged edges or messiness.  But on this path I did not choose, I learned that my mess is where God will remind me who I am in Him and who He is.  And though we all have those times when life does not make any sense at all, I learned that if I will just stop all this nonsense trying to fix up what needs to be completely replaced, I can rest in the assurance that He has a plan and a purpose for everything, especially those tough times that don’t have easily formulated answers.  Tough times like HERE, this new place that began with emergency major invasive surgery.   

Looking back on those hours that I kept refusing to call 911, I learned that sometimes pain can be so severe that you lose the ability to think logically.  Your brain has stepped down.  Your entire human body system becomes hyper focused on the pain.  You don’t realize reality.  In an effort to handle the pain, I found myself crying and moaning and yelling and praying and curling up into the fetal position.  Huge red flags everywhere that this was much more than the average stomach pain from a virus. 

I’m so grateful to God that He chose to send me a lightning bolt. BAM!  It jolted everything everywhere in my world.  In the stillness came a moment of clarity that brought my speeding monologue of lies to a violent and full stop. A moment when I saw reality illuminated in a way that I could no longer deny.  It was then that I finally called for help.  I look back on this and it’s sobering to realize the full impact of what could have happened.  I was in a serious situation that could have become a critical situation and compromised my health.  I was alone if you don’t count my beloved cat, who did nothing but stare at me.  I don’t blame him.  I was acting like a crazy woman.       

I learned that in a situation like this there are many variables that determine the outcome.  There were complications after the surgery.  Very scary stuff for me with no medical knowledge and no health issues until this.  Complications that if not addressed quickly could have had my story ending very differently. But God. Period.

I also ponder the possibility that I could have died.  Along with that, I know I could have ended up living with the results of a variety of after surgery complications that would have made a tough situation tougher and perhaps negatively impacted my quality of life.   

My quality of life.  It’s very different now, in a good way.  It is new and beautiful and so sweet. 

HERE, I learned the vast difference between knowing and KNOWING.  Before this happened, if asked, I would have said, “Of course I know my Savior loves me!” A knee jerk, right-answer-for-a-Christian answer. But now, I see so clearly that no, I didn’t really know this.  I didn’t really know this at all.

Now I KNOW.  He loves me enough that He orchestrated different situations in my story so that I would finally be able to see, really see, all that I have access to in my relationship with Him.  I am so humbled, and so in awe of what He has shown me, and I never want to stop nurturing this whole new perspective.  I want to embrace it, and embody it, and let others know that this newfound amazement at all He is…is real.  REAL. 

HERE is where I belong.  A new home for me.  I want to start a new journey.  One where I begin to learn to appreciate the wide open spaces and embrace the unknowns with this newfound confidence that I am never alone, and I am so loved.  Always.  Whether I feel it or not.

He has given me beautiful new shapes instead of my perfectly aligned rows. I am His tapestry, brilliant, beautifully designed, a masterpiece.  The glory I see HERE is His.  

Come Thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace; Streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise.  Teach me some melodious sonnet, sung by flaming tongues above. Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it, mount of thy redeeming love.

You. Are. Here.  

October 19, 2019.  Yep, here I am.  Rockin’ my routine and working within the cozy confines of my comfort zone. I am not an adventurous person.  I have a deep appreciation for structure and the beauty of things remaining the same. Uniformity. Straight Lines. Symmetry. I’ve got everything lined up in perfect rows just like I like it.  When everything is as it should be, I can breathe and function almost like a normal person. Almost.

I’ll admit, though, that what’s happening right now is different than I had planned.  But I know I just need to tough it out and work through it.  Although…yeah, there are these bothersome doubts that keep trying to crash through my answer to take care of what is going on. Go away. I got this.

Hello…  Bothersome Doubts here.  Please listen to us!  What if this isn’t a virus?  What if something is really wrong?  What if this pain is, in fact, as bad as it feels instead of not so bad for someone who is not so wimpy?  What if by waiting, you are compromising your health?   

Those doubtful thoughts about what was happening on this day kept trying, but I stood firm on my perch atop the empty air and would not give in.  The doubts kept interrupting my monologue with myself.  They whispered.  Then they talked.  And then they shouted extreme and frightful ideas, like this:      

What if…

“You. Are. Here.” is a lie, and reality is way over HERE?

On Sunday October 20th, I had emergency surgery at 3:30am.  Me, who has never had major surgery before. 

I learned much from this unplanned unwelcomed medical adventure. 

I learned who I really was when all my hard won schemes were stripped away and my walls fell down and landed in disheveled heaps of rubble.  I stood looking through the haze at the previously hidden horizon.  It was shocking and overwhelming.      

I learned about being HERE. HERE is new and different and foreign.  It’s full of wide open unidentifiable spaces when I love small and cozy and safe.  But during this journey, it’s where I needed to be to learn from the harsh reality that had invaded my mundane daily life.  HERE is where I fully experienced the futility of elaborate measures taken to control my minute corner of the world.

I learned that I have trust issues.  Big ones.  

Issues with trusting myself.  I see so clearly now that I did not trust my reaction to extreme pain enough to call for help.  There was a level of terror there, but I just kept talking it down in my head so that I was able to keep the lies monologue on replay that said I could do this on my own and everything would be fine. 

Issues with trusting God.  For so long, I have lived afraid of being afraid. Afraid of being all in for anything.  Afraid and trying my best to fix my life so that all I experience is level and smooth with no sharp turns or jagged edges or messiness.  But on this path I did not choose, I learned that my mess is where God will remind me who I am in Him and who He is.  And though we all have those times when life does not make any sense at all, I learned that if I will just stop all this nonsense trying to fix up what needs to be completely replaced, I can rest in the assurance that He has a plan and a purpose for everything, especially those tough times that don’t have easily formulated answers.  Tough times like HERE, this new place that began with emergency major invasive surgery.   

Looking back on those hours that I kept refusing to call 911, I learned that sometimes pain can be so severe that you lose the ability to think logically.  Your brain has stepped down.  Your entire human body system becomes hyper focused on the pain.  You don’t realize reality.  In an effort to handle the pain, I found myself crying and moaning and yelling and praying and curling up into the fetal position.  Huge red flags everywhere that this was much more than the average stomach pain from a virus. 

I’m so grateful to God that He chose to send me a lightning bolt. BAM!  It jolted everything everywhere in my world.  In the stillness came a moment of clarity that brought my speeding monologue of lies to a violent and full stop. A moment when I saw reality illuminated in a way that I could no longer deny.  It was then that I finally called for help.  I look back on this and it’s sobering to realize the full impact of what could have happened.  I was in a serious situation that could have become a critical situation and compromised my health.  I was alone if you don’t count my beloved cat, who did nothing but stare at me.  I don’t blame him.  I was acting like a crazy woman.       

I learned that in a situation like this there are many variables that determine the outcome.  There were complications after the surgery.  Very scary stuff for me with no medical knowledge and no health issues until this.  Complications that if not addressed quickly could have had my story ending very differently. But God. Period.

I also ponder the possibility that I could have died.  Along with that, I know I could have ended up living with the results of a variety of after surgery complications that would have made a tough situation tougher and perhaps negatively impacted my quality of life.   

My quality of life.  It’s very different now, in a good way.  It is new and beautiful and so sweet. 

HERE, I learned the vast difference between knowing and KNOWING.  Before this happened, if asked, I would have said, “Of course I know my Savior loves me!” A knee jerk, right-answer-for-a-Christian answer. But now, I see so clearly that no, I didn’t really know this.  I didn’t really know this at all.

Now I KNOW.  He loves me enough that He orchestrated different situations in my story so that I would finally be able to see, really see, all that I have access to in my relationship with Him.  I am so humbled, and so in awe of what He has shown me, and I never want to stop nurturing this whole new perspective.  I want to embrace it, and embody it, and let others know that this newfound amazement at all He is…is real.  REAL. 

HERE is where I belong.  A new home for me.  I want to start a new journey.  One where I begin to learn to appreciate the wide open spaces and embrace the unknowns with this newfound confidence that I am never alone, and I am so loved.  Always.  Whether I feel it or not.

He has given me beautiful new shapes instead of my perfectly aligned rows. I am His tapestry, brilliant, beautifully designed, a masterpiece.  The glory I see HERE is His.  

Come Thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace; Streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise.  Teach me some melodious sonnet, sung by flaming tongues above. Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it, mount of thy redeeming love.

(Excerpt from Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, Robert Robinson, 1757).

The Glorious Experiencing

A temper tantrum.
Typically used to describe what tends to happen when a toddler aged child doesn’t get what he / she wants. It’s a part of being a parent to watch your toddler try out his or her independence as you continually work to guide the child in the testing of his or her boundaries. It’s tough on a level I know for sure I was not understanding of and completely unprepared for. Anyone who is a parent has seen their cherubic toddler in the throes of frustration and desperation because they are not allowed to have what they think they want.  It includes kicking and screaming and crying and wailing and back arching and loud pronouncements of exactly why this shiny new or yummy looking item HAS to be theirs so they can be blissfully happy for about five minutes. I’ve been there. So yes, the picture that is triggered in the mind upon hearing the term “temper tantrum” is usually that of a toddler at WalMart or the grocery store who is being denied something.
So why all of a sudden am I thinking about toddler temper tantrums?

Well, I had one of those. When I say I’ve been there, it has a double meaning. I’ve been there many years ago as a mom, and I’ve been there personally, just recently.
And I hear you…you’re thinking “Ummmm…OK. Whatever you say.” But please just bear with me here and let me show you how awesome My God is.
Let’s start by an admission that will take a bit of explanation. I will share a secret that may surprise many as it is only those who know me well that understand it and see the overwhelming evidence. I am a living not alive person. A living dead person. Seriously. I have been this way in varying levels for many years. This way of “living” began long ago and has escalated to the point that I am quite good at not allowing myself to feel too much of anything. As in: Any. Thing. And while of course anger and crying are strictly guarded and not allowed most all of the time, I sacrifice when I successfully control those emotions because it’s all or nothing, and I have chosen nothing. So that means I also severely ration joy and happiness and love and feeling loved.
It’s a mess. I’m a mess.
So recently, I had a situation that did not go like I just knew it would go. I was not happy about it, and I was confused and sad and a bit hurt. That sounds quite normal for our daily adult lives, right? Sure. But this hit me hard. When it started its off course snowballing journey, I knew I had to work to accept it, and I also knew that it would most likely get worse before it got better. If it got better.
So yes, I was sad about it, and I began to do what I do when I find myself in this state of mind and heart. I begin my writing (typing) therapy. This is my go to and has been almost since the day I learned to make letters into words.
So this is a normal, comfortable, and therapeutic thing for me. I’m going along typing out the words that form in my heart, transfer to my mind, and end up in my fingers that fly across the keyboard. It’s all good.
There I was, bee bopping along in my comfort zone space typing out my feelings so that I can better understand them, when… BAM!!! Sudden and loud and red hot and shocking. A lightning bolt hit right in the middle of my keyboard, just barely missing my hands. And without thought or plan or understanding, I set my laptop aside and rushed to get into shower. In the late afternoon time. I don’t do showers in the late afternoon.
And then, God showed up BIG. I found myself in a state of feeling so many emotions at once that I could not process anything. I was…so scared and ANGRY and hurt and confused and humbled all together at the same time.
And if you had seen me in this no holds barred chaotic hour long meeting with Jesus, you probably would have thought:

I am an… ahem…middle aged adult having a very intense toddler temper tantrum. Complete with sobbing and whining and pounding my fists against the wall and stomping my feet.
I’ve completely lost every last one of my marbles and I am certifiably crazy and maybe now it’s time for you to have “a talk” with me about my future institution home.

If you will allow more explanation though, you will see the truth.
Yes, I had a childish temper tantrum. But I can’t begin to put into completely accurate words what else was going on. But I’ll give it a shot.
There was this monstrously huge boulder of a milestone that blocked everything in my purposely small world. The boulder was the edge of my safe world that I dared not climb. Until I did.
God moved it out of the way after I mastered it with no climbing gear and no hiking boots and no gloves. No preparation at all for this girl who does her very best to always be prepared.
I landed here, in the shower, old wounds bleeding, new ones announcing themselves. And I had an encounter with Jesus that didn’t just rock my world, it upended my world and more than a little bit of the pent up fear and anger and pain and sadness and sorrow came gushing forth and I didn’t know what to do with it. Let’s just say I freaked out.
But yet, through sobs, I also got real with my Creator. Which finally allowed Him to get real with me.
He calmly, lovingly, and softly put His arms around me and spoke gentle and tender love and grace and mercy in whispers that resonated so deep. Oh my God…so deep. He listened to my crying and unintelligibly sob soaked words. He knew. He had always known. He had longed to hold me like this for so long and He had grieved so many times when I would not allow Him in. Jesus is such a gentleman. He would not come into the crazy unless I gave Him permission. And I did. And I thanked Him over and over while I raised my hands in praise…and I didn’t even think it was weird to raise your hands in praise in the shower. Because it wasn’t weird. It was awesome and incredible and so much more.
For the first time in so many years I don’t remember when it was different, I felt. FELT. Deep. DEEP. I praised my God as tears mixed with the water flowing on and  around washed me clean, on every level. At some point I turned off the shower and just sat and let the panic calm. And inexplicably, He came down to the shower floor and stayed with me, and He continued to give, and give, and give. Freely give. Knowingly give. Whisper the words I had never really understood. What I needed so much and had needed for so long.
It was so ugly and yet so beautiful, so horrible and yet so wonderful. I just held it close for a while before I shared it with anyone. I treasured it. Cherished it. Stayed in awe of it, of Him.
But now is the time for sharing and being vulnerable and transparent for so many people out there who are so much more broken than they will acknowledge. For as I fully relaxed in the arms of my Savior, I knew that this is just the beginning. And there is so much more that He will help me see in His timing.
And I hope that after this indescribable experience, I will take to the second time more readily. And the third, and the fourth, and however many times it takes. I know it’s necessary. I know its hard. But I’m done at being done and shielding myself with coping mechanisms that are all hurtful lies. I want to be ready to be undone so I can learn more to be more like the One who gives me everything and somehow more than everything.

Inside a Christmas Song

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

A human, broken, and messy perspective is met with a battle for faith in the mighty works of God that are unseen yet supremely powerful and ultimately victorious.
An unlikely scenario for a Christmas song.
Based on a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, this song was written at some point after the end of the Civil War. We can feel the dark times of suffering penned by a master wordsmith, flowing from his heart. We can relate to his expression of pain and futility. Suffering in some way is a part of life for every human being.
We can feel the excitement when the writer tastes victory; when what he knows becomes what he feels. The song frames this climactic moment with hope, and then encourages us to share that hope that now shines forth unobstructed.

Join me as we step into the words of this song.

I heard the bells on Christmas Day, their old familiar carols play, and mild and sweet their songs repeat of peace on earth, good will to men.
It’s Christmas Day in our little village. Cold outside and within. Everyone throughout our close community hears the same old bells ringing out the same old songs every Christmas. All the songs have a central theme of peace on earth and good will to men. The songs are “old familiar carols” and we all know the words of each song. We hear these same songs every single year, in the same exact order, at the same exact time. Over and over and over. We hear, but we stopped listening long ago.

And in despair, I bowed my head. “There is no peace on earth,” I said. “For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.”
For some reason, this year we stop to really listen to the age old words that are running through our minds as the bells play the music. And we suddenly realize that these words depict a time of peace. We are so saddened to grasp for the first time that what these songs express is no longer true. Strong emotions surround us and fill us full of pain and frustration and hopelessness at the realization that peace is gone. Yes, peace is gone forever, and our lives are full of the impact of that. In broken and bleeding and hurting hearts, there is no love, no worth, no hope, and definitely no peace. Hate has overcome. Hate has won. “…for hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then rang the bells more loud and deep. “God is not dead nor doth He sleep.” Peace on Earth, Peace on Earth. “The wrong shall fail, the right prevail with peace on earth, good will to men.”
Do you hear it? It’s a battle cry. Strong and unbelievably loud, yet silent. Gently crashing through our insightful reflection on everything that’s wrong in our world. But also confidently proclaiming with expression stronger than words that there is so much more that’s right. Finally, we look up, and we see. With truly seeing comes understanding. We get it. Hate is strong, but His love is so much stronger. Hate does not have the upper hand or the victory.
Ps 121 1-4: “I lift my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.”
“God is not dead nor doth He sleep”. God is very much alive, and He is working all the time. Even when we see absolutely no evidence that He is doing anything at all.
Case in point: Just think of all that had to perfectly fall into place for Joseph and Mary to arrive in Bethlehem right before Jesus is born so that he would be born there and fulfill prophecy. (Micah 5:2, 4-5; Matt 2:6)
We know with absolute certainty that “the wrong shall fail, the right prevail”. We know because God is always working to bring about His perfect plan that has no room for wrong.

Then ringing, singing on its way, the world revolved from night to day. A voice, a chime, a chant sublime of peace on earth, good will to men.
“The world revolved from night to day”. Now we can see the light of day when before we had gotten so familiar with the darkness of night that we thought this was all that existed. The light of day has pushed out the darkness that marked our lives until we chose to look up and see. The light is incredibly beautiful, and illuminates everything good in our lives. We see love and joy, and yes, we see peace. And now those songs of old are comforting and we cling to their truth.

Do you hear the bells? They’re ringing: “Peace on Earth.” Like the angels singing: “Peace on Earth.” Open up your heart and hear them: “Peace on Earth, good will to men.”
We are so moved by how heaven came down in the form of our Savior Jesus Christ to rescue us. To bring us peace and so much more. He brought us back from our pain and desperation to see beyond the physical to the spiritual truth we stand on. We hold His hand and take in the glorious view of doing life together. We now know we must share this with others and invite them to open their hearts to the truth. A truth that is deeper than words and truer than what we are bombarded with using our five senses. A truth that loves fiercely and unconditionally, forever.

Broken toward whole

Curled up inside myself. No, that’s not right. The truth is that I’m not inside myself, but I wish I could be. Instead, it’s more like I’m bent down and around and around in a very unusual depiction of a ball. Sure, it’s cramped and very dark, but at the same time it’s the source of a strange and unhealthy comfort. Why?

Because it’s safe. I feel protected and well, pretty much buried beneath the human shield of my compressed physical body – a sort of desperate attempt to keep the bad scary stuff out and away from me. But this is really a useless mission, because the bad and scary is inside and needs to come out. This strange method of trying to be saved from harm is actually keeping harm right at home and comfortable within.
I’m tightly wound like a Jack in the Box toy. But Jack doesn’t work. He no longer jumps out when the handle is turned. I’m all wound up with no release. I can keep turning the handle but there’s no change. Only tension and pain because the choice to stay in this position that is not natural has a high price.
I don’t have a comfort zone. I have a comfort home. It’s where I live. It’s comfortable and familiar and predictable. And if being a contortionist to curl up tightly makes me feel better, I’ll do it. It’s what I know. I’m right at home in this weird upside down and around world.

But is it what is right for me?

No.

I won’t straighten up because I’m afraid to be that vulnerable. And because I’ve been so tightly wound for so long that I think I’ll break if I try to unwind. Instead of a graceful unwinding it would be a messy clumsy painstakingly slow process.

But maybe…
Maybe being broken is what I really need. That sounds strange. But broken means wide open. Falling apart means what was all clumped together is split apart. From that fallout comes opportunity. It allows for space to invite inside what is true and permanent and freeing. If I were to break apart this unique prison, it could be a first step toward being everything I ever dreamed of and more. I could embrace real in all its fullness, knowing I don’t have to hide in fear because I’m not alone. I can be a real person with real thoughts and feelings and desires that go deep and strike resounding chords like they are supposed to. I can completely experience every facet of this life I’ve been given.
Currently, broken also means that my design for life is broken. That knowledge is a good thing because my design has been faulty from the start. It not only doesn’t work right; it works in the wrong direction.
I know that I can’t have a new start without a tough and painful breaking away of the old fortress. But I also know that allowing myself that new start means that I can finally move forward unencumbered to become who I was meant to be.

God did not create me to look like and live like a human ball. He created me to stand tall with my chin up and head held high as required by my position as a much loved princess, the daughter of not a king, but The King.

Introspect

Don’t know, don’t care.
Liar.
OK, here’s the truth:
Don’t know, do care.
There is so much. The lack of so much in the life of one I love more than anything.
Care more than the person who should care.

Don’t know, do care.
Don’t know, but yearn to know, long to know. If I know, maybe I can finally comprehend.
Yet at the same time, I don’t want to know.
Not knowing is wiser and safer. Comprehending is not an option anyway.
But yet, going deep
Where my longings stand strong even when everything I see should obliterate them
I want to relate to, identify with, and understand the one who forever has my heart.
I want a response that mirrors mine: relate to, identify with, understand.
So that there is a relationship built on trust and mutual respect.
But current reality mandates that this is not what is and may never be.
Because I can’t make the effort on both sides.
Hard truth is that I can’t make another want what I want.

Oh, how I yearn to fully, freely love without fear of pain.
I have tried so hard to connect where there is no connection.
There is nothing provided for me to connect to.
Experience guides me away from more violent self-destruction.
So instead, I choose to love deeply, intensely, and quietly.
And I work to accept and move on and really live.
But I pray for a day when my acceptance is replaced with miraculous restoration.

Harvey and Beyond

Images…So many images. So many people. So many men and women and children depicted in the worst nightmares they never dreamed but have been forced to live. And then there are the images seared in my heart of so many brave and compassionate men and women who risked their lives and worked many hours with no relief to save lives at the risk of their own. And there are others who kept working behind the scenes but not unnoticed in all manner of service industries helping to keep people safe and the lines of communication open.
The rains stop. The water begins to recede. This brings more images of lives forcibly hurled great distances away from what was known. So much overwhelming devastation. Ripped out carpet and flooring and furniture and appliances and sheetrock and everything imaginable and unimaginable in the front yards all up and down streets everywhere in our corner of the world. Ripped out hearts. Shredded pieces of lives littering the lawns. Among the debris are little meaningful things lost that make big holes of emptiness when they are on top of a mountain of fear and uncertainty and new unfamiliar terrain. Also, there are big meaningful things, tangible and intangible, that have forever altered individual lives that were once filled with a predictable level of comfort and certainty.

I have learned…I have learned that I began living from a new perspective a couple of weeks ago. I have learned that how I feel has a name. It’s called “Survivor’s Guilt”. I have found that this is a common thread with many I have expressed my heart to in the wake of this tragedy. I’m thankful. Yet at the same time I feel guilty for not experiencing at any level what I see all around me. Why did God choose to completely spare me, yet choose not to spare so many others? I surely don’t deserve it.
I have learned that there are so many caring people who are choosing to put forth monumental effort to help others make a completely impossible cleanup situation not only possible, but efficient and quickly progressive with the highest level of safety. I have learned that there are so many who freely share their knowledge and expertise to help others navigate scenarios they have no GPS for. I have learned that there are wonderful people stepping up to coordinate huge volunteer efforts to match people in need with what they need.
I have learned that I can contribute a little and work at new and different goals for others a little and the impact is felt and appreciated at a level far beyond what I give. My feeble efforts are seen so differently than what I feel they are. To me that means God takes my little and multiplies it. For that I am so grateful.
I have learned that the incredible scenes playing out in our communities are a far cry from what many are still experiencing in other areas. And the devastation continues with new storms and other threats to safety and security. Coincidence? I think not.

I’m learning…I’m learning that I have a choice. I’m shaken even though I’m not facing what so many are. But I’m learning to stand while shaken even as I choose to see beyond the local devastation from just one incredible storm. I’m learning to look up to the God of the universe and acknowledge the state of our nation. We choose violence and entitlement and greed and evil over God. I choose to look up in humility and confession and beseech Him to hear from heaven and see a nation who repents. These catastrophic events and accompanying tremendous fallout can be a catalyst for true and lasting change.

 

And…Again.

Regroup, redirect, refocus, re-visualize.

Reframe.

This thing. It happens.

That means the journey is headed this way. I frame the horizon and take my brush and paint the rest of the path beyond the reaches of my vision. This is how it is, this is what will be.

But then, that thing. It happens.

It totally obliterates my sadly lacking artistic expression. My frame is reduced to pitiful pieces. My painting is completely unrecognizable.

So, what do I do? I regroup, redirect, refocus, and re-visualize.

Reframe. Different direction, different frame, different paint color. And I paint the rest of the path again. Ah, here we go. This is how it is, and this is what will be.

But you guessed it… everything changes again. And my frame is in pieces again. And my childish painting is unrecognizable again, even to me.

I keep thinking that this, or that, or that other thing is the new reality, the way things are, the new route, the updated way. Over the years “the way” has been hope filled and colorful, dark and hopeless, or somewhere in between. Each unforeseen change in direction is the forging of a new path. But if I put all the paths together, it’s a mind-blowing zigzagging new definition of crazy. Ribbons of a journey all tangled up together. The ribbons of a journey that is not mine, yet I still find myself intertwined amid the chaos. And I wonder why I’m breathless and exhausted. Relentlessly chasing down every path that isn’t for my footsteps.

The hard truth? This process could repeat to infinity… if.

If I allow it to. If I choose to follow what I see, which is limited greatly. Limited because though I try so hard, it is not possible to get into another’s mind and see what they see. Yet, I try anyway. I keep trying to make something work that is irrevocably flawed.

In the cacophony of confusion and frustration, in the longing to be free, in the heart wrenching gap between what I should do and what I end up doing, I know I can choose to stop and listen.  When I do that, I hear the undeniable silent voice that speaks to the deepest part of my soul, and I work to follow the sound and allow it to lead me.

Look – over here. See this? Master artistry at work, color and light and love and hope and compassion. See the beauty? This is My plan. And over here – hidden by the brilliant light? These are the intricately connected paths that you don’t see because they are Mine.
You, my dear one, are continually chasing what you want to know so that you can rest in the knowledge. But this kind of knowledge is a moving target, ever changing. Choose instead to know Me more and rest in Me. I’ll take care of everything else. I love You.

Progress is painstakingly slow, but my God knows every facet of the mess that is me and loves me anyway.  He continually encourages, and He shows me the way, again and again.  I am a willing student, and I will continue to allow Him to complete His work in me.

I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Ps 16:8, 11