A Sudden Dawning

More transparency from me.  A sequel of sorts.  And well, since I’m detail obsessed and orderly by nature,  “Part 2” has to follow “Part 1”, right?   If you know me, you are smiling right now.  Glad to see that smile.  🙂

So yes, there was a season of sadness.  There was prayer to shift my focus from myself to God.  Well, God answered my prayer and dramatically shifted my focus from myself, but not in the way I envisioned.  Now my job is to complete the transition to place my trust and hope and faith in the only One who can save.  Another chapter in my life’s journey, a progression in the process of God drawing me to Himself.  I’ve said this before but it bears repeating:  My God is so very patient.

A sudden dawning
A shaft of light, a thin line in the darkness
Bright, harsh and hard, piercing, shining for an instant and then gone
Bleak illumination.

But I didn’t see
So focused on my own limited vision in the shadows
My sadness and frustration and what I thought I was seeing
That I didn’t see

So God reached down and pulled me out of myself
To show me that moment when the light revealed the pathway
And the lone figure there

Broken
Everywhere broken
Pieces dangling and barely hanging on
Attached with… ordinary tape and sheer self will
Constant repair for temporary resolution that is no resolution
When there is movement, pieces fall and shatter
More pieces
Hands
Broken and bleeding from picking them up
Taping them back
Through the pain
Continually

Oh. My. God.
Forgive me

Completely covered in broken pieces
No
Made up of broken pieces
All brokenness
No wholeness no healing no help
No hope
False hope that denies the enormity of what is
A reassurance of improvement that falls flat
Empty words
Too busy moving and hurting and bleeding and taping and pretending

I see.  I see with painful clarity.

And I see what’s coming
That quick glimpse of bright light shines down the road
Revealing imminent danger
Shards of explosive pain
As everything so painstakingly held together
Crashes

I’m afraid
And I know I need to let go of the scene playing out in my mind in various ways
The outcome is not within my reach
Yet I grasp for what I can’t hold or control or fix
I long to save

But there is only one Savior.

Isaiah 43:11:  I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no Savior.

Zephaniah 3:17:  The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

 

A Gradual Dawning

A time for transparency.

A season of sadness.  We all have them.  Sometimes a tragedy, a crisis, will rock our world and a new and unexpected season slams upon us with the force of a tornado.  But other times, there can be a gradual dawning of a time of darkness.  For me, this is one of those times.  A time when I cling to what I know, and work through what I feel, with the otherworldly confidence I have in Jesus Christ.  I share this for everyone who struggles in the darkness of the soul.  There is light.  It is there.  He is there.  Receive and acknowledge His truth.

A gradual dawning
But not of light
A dawning of darkness
Engulfing darkness
A progression that moves slowly
Piece by piece, time by time, moment by moment
To inevitable painful reality affirmed again
And again
A wakeup call that makes slumber a longing
A reality that makes everything before feel like pretense
Before when there was a glimmer, a glimpse, a possibility of a different dawning
That I touched and marveled at
And allowed myself to believe
A lie
Or was it truth that is gone?

A weariness in the deepest corners
Of my soul.

There is no storm
Only silence in the dark
Familiar
Yet different
I have allowed this to come upon me
And now it surrounds all of me

Why do I feel waves crashing
Why do I feel like I’m drowning
When the ocean is calm?
Yet there are waves that can’t be seen
Only felt
And felt
And felt
The rhythm of the ocean beneath the calm
The internal storm rages

The gradual dawning brings no morning
No new day
Only the same
The waves have a heartbreaking pattern
Stuck on repeat.

Habakkuk 3:18-19
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.

That one thing… Part 2

About a month ago I shared some very personal writing here on my blog.  And it seems only fitting that I would share this as well – Part 2 – the learning and growing part.  “Hope Springs Eternal” is a famous quote that is true, but only the right kind of hope.  Our hope must be based on it’s sure, steadfast, forever embodiment:  Jesus Christ.  To base our hope on anything else is to invite pain when the temporal nature of it is exposed.

The aftermath scene

It’s still obvious that disaster happened here

Regrouping is not working

 

Gathering hope and waiting

Yet watching pieces slip through my fingers

Can’t hold on

The pieces pour right through my hands

Like water.

My hands are still empty

 

Struggling longing yearning

For hope

Regathered redesigned reborn

But it’s illusive and vague at best

And at worst

Nonexistent.

Saddened at a level that is surprising and unsettling

 

I was not where I thought I was.

I’ve awakened to find myself in entirely different surroundings

I allowed myself to believe

To hope

Based on another’s actions

What I thought was evidence of real and lasting change

Of moving past

The past

My thoughts were flawed

Hopelessly flawed

 

I’m lost

No familiarity

Nothing to cling to

A wanderer who searches blindly

In the harsh cold sterile grayness of the new reality

Only lingering pain and desperation

Wondering if acceptance of this horrible scene

Is my only option

 

Oh but then the Love…

An enveloping love

A soft and sweet breeze

Caressing with such compassion it takes my breath away

And light

Oh such beautiful light

Gently washing over me

Touching my pain and confusion and frustration

And gradually

Brilliant color replaces the grayness and the shattered chaos

The stark and cold landscape becomes beautiful and warm and sunlit

He shines down on me

I see

I realize

I was clinging to temporary

It was stripped away and crushed

And I was desperately trying to gather pieces that were no longer there

At all.

 

I acknowledge Truth

And I understand.

I must choose

Daily

To have Hope and Joy

Based only on what I know is real and right and true.

Based only on Him and who He is.

Eternal constant and definite

Always.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That one thing…

So…I don’t usually do this. Not sure why I feel this urge to do it, but I do, so I’ve learned to follow those urges as there could be, probably is, a reason beyond my understanding.  What you are about to read is my heart in its shattered state after a rare deep conversation with my son.  He and I had our “adventures” during his teenage years, but God has healed our relationship and now my ongoing prayer is for him as a young man to see the love of Jesus that is for him and with him.

That One Thing

11/24/15

Stark cold damp

Hues of gray the only color

Ashes and debris are the remnants of the landscape

Fallout

Darkness

Shattered pieces

Shattered all

Shattered everything.

Before, there was that one thing.

Just one small piece of

Good and right.

One small, infinitely small, shred of confidence

Of knowing

Of reassurance at a time when it was so scarce

That small piece was dusted off

Cleaned up

Shined up

And held closely and tightly.

And in that long ago time when everything exploded gradually

Painfully

In slow motion

Into chaos and confusion and overwhelming loss

It was then that I learned to cling to that one thing

Rubbing it between my fingers

To feel it and be reassured it was there.

That one thing

That I knew I would always have.

You just took that one thing

And calmly crushed it under foot

Telling me you didn’t blame me and not to feel bad.

What was small but visible

Cherished

Became blended into the dirt.

No longer visible or separate or different

Gone

Gone.

What I knew and longed for you to know

Gone.

I still know.

But now, that longing for you to know

Is a feral cry from the depths of my mother’s heart

With no thought or understanding or order or reason

Just crying out

Please, Please show him

Illuminate the lies.

Illuminate the Truth.

Please.

You think you weren’t given a chance to choose

My intent, my reasons, my goal for your good

I wanted to show you Truth so you would see

Truth.

At first sight.

You chose not to see

And you choose to see lack of choices as detrimental.

That one thing

That I cherished and remembered holding onto so tightly

When chaos and confusion reigned and swirled around me in increasing velocity

That one thing that when everything was failing I knew it had not

That one thing.

Gone with a few words.

Leaving me with empty hands and a heart overflowing with lingering sadness

Shifting and regrouping

Gathering hope and waiting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Loving Memory of Mary

Some moments in time are just moments.  Others make a lasting impact.  And then, there are those moments in time that last forever.

Real, true, undeniable beauty, overflowing from the heart. A shining jewel, a piercing, yet gentle bright light, touching without touch. Making life better. Brightening a day here, lifting the fog of sadness there, bringing clarity to confusion, solutions to questions, and resolutions to problems. All in a day’s work. And all with a smile and graciousness and love for everyone.

Mary made a forever impression. Far reaching, ongoing.

It was and will always be a very special gift from God that I was allowed to experience all she was to so many. I thank God that His plan included more than 15 years when our paths would cross and I was given the privilege to know her and love her.

“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you”. Phil 1:3

We worked together, and I read this at her funeral. Yes, she truly was that special.

So who was Mary?

She was beautiful. Deeply, all the way, inwardly, outwardly, everywhere, beautiful. On the outside, she always had that “put together” look. The hair, the makeup, the clothes coordinated with colorful, sparkling jewelry. She loved her bling! 🙂 And oh, how she sparkled from the inside too. Inward beauty overflowed in a glittering, glowing cascade of soft light. She focused perpetually on others and how she could brighten their darkness and fulfill their needs. She invited a different perception and outlook with her genuine smile. That smile was always in place, regardless of her feelings or struggles or anything else. Nothing got in the way of that smile, because it was the expression that aligned with her heart. She truly loved and cared for everyone, and her love was reciprocated by so many because it was the response that came naturally with no thought or decision.

A few years ago, there was a time of deep connection for us. It was a God ordained season of a special level of closeness during a difficult time for her. For a season, I was chosen to encourage her and just listen. I am grateful that I was allowed to be used by God in this special way. What a timeless gift that I will always cherish.

We worked in different areas and our paths did not cross every day. But when we saw each other I got to experience that treasured smile and her sweet spirit that reached out to me simply by an exchanged greeting in passing.

I did not even know she was having pain and health issues. I was plodding along in my day in day out routine life, and she was hurting and struggling.  I saw her, yet I didn’t see.  One day, I came to work and learned that she was in the hospital after a diagnosis that there was nothing more that could be done medically. She was dying. She had been off work for over a week and I just assumed she was out on vacation. When I heard this sad news that she was not expected to live and the family had asked some of her special coworkers to join them at her bedside, I felt my world just crumble. No, more like explode. Violently. Immediately. Pieces of my world everywhere. Chaos. Confusion. Questions. So many questions. But no time for that. Even reeling from shock and trying to wrap my mind around the devastating truth, I knew I needed to go to her. For once I did not question what my heart was shouting to me. I did not stop to analyze why I felt this so strongly. I did not, miracle of miracles, second guess myself. I did not wonder about whether or not this inexplicably intense desire was from shock, or selfishness, or anything other than God. I just knew with a knowing deeper than anything I had ever experienced. I felt so strongly about this that I did not even ask my boss if I could go. I told him. I just said I was going because I had to. Praise God for a fabulous boss who completely understood and just nodded.

So seven of us headed to the hospital. Her family welcomed us and called us her second family. And we were. Strangely, it was not awkward at all to be there with her family at such an intensely personal time. I had the honor and the privilege of going to her bedside and sharing my heart with her. She could not respond. But I have an assurance that is not of this world that she listened to my words and graciously accepted them. It was an incredibly sad, yet equally special time that I was allowed to be a part of.

She moved right into the arms of Jesus while we were there. Joyfully and immediately united with Him in an unfathomable loving embrace. So hard for those left behind, but an undeniable hope to cling to in the midst of tears of sadness and loss.

I hate the fact that I did not continue to nurture the special connection that we shared. That I was usually too busy to say more than “Hello” in passing to her, too busy to ask her how she was doing. Too busy to stop and get myself out of my “work mode” mentality and realize that relationships are so much more important. And just a minute or two every once in a while would not have made any difference at all to my work load, but it would have made all the difference to me on a personal level if I could have been there for her and prayed for her and encouraged her.    After all, she had battled that ugly “C word”, Cancer. Yes, she was victorious, but this disease is well known to regroup and come back for another attack in a wide variety of ways. I knew this. But I just said hello and we smiled and waved at each other and it never entered my mind that anything was different. But everything was different.

Now I believe that for some reason it was simply not meant to be that I would share in her struggle this time around, this ultimate struggle that took her life. Hard for me but I trust God and know that for some reason this was not a part of His plan for me or for her.

My God who supplies all my needs knew I would struggle with this, so He gave me a great gift that I will treasure close to my heart forever. I was told by more than one person that she shared my knowledge of the special bond we had. It was still there, strong and sure, even though we had not connected like that in some time. It is a great comfort to me to know that I was not the only one who felt it, and I believe she knew, as I do, that it was a unique way that God allowed us to walk a path together and touch those deep places…experience Him together in a way that is unexplainable.

My life has been forever changed. Forever. Changed. I have realized with wonder and amazement that I was included in the select group God chose. I was part of those who have the privilege to know and love someone who had such an impact on others. I am honored that God allowed me to know and love her.

Now, I have an acute and heightened awareness of how important it is to nurture relationships. Take that extra moment now and again to remind others that they make your life better and brighter just by being themselves. Not just the people you know well and do life with, but everyone who has a positive impact upon your life. Tell them. Offer encouragement when you think it’s needed. Smile at them when you don’t feel like smiling. They may need that smile. I know I will always cherish hers, especially because I now know that for a time when she would smile at me, she was in great pain and trying not to show it.

I bought a bracelet a while back that I wear in her memory. It has a heart with the breast cancer awareness ribbon all in rhinestones – some sparkly bling for her. I wanted something tangible to remind myself of the things she taught me in our fifteen years of sweet relationship.

Smile. Positively impact as many people as possible, every day. Be compassionate and caring, always. Love others, even those who seem unlovable. Do all you can as soon as you can to uplift others. Brighten their shadows. Lift their spirits. Make it so that when others encounter you they are better for it. Be the embodiment of the love of Jesus to everyone you see.

We are not guaranteed tomorrow.

…yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. James 4:14

But I do look forward to the tomorrow in Heaven when I see her. I imagine this scenario in a variety of ways, all beautiful, all wonderful, all good.   She’ll be easy to find. All I’ll have to do is look for the bling.

I came, I saw…

I came, I saw, but I didn’t conquer. Better than that. I was conquered. Me…and all that I think I am or am not, was forcefully moved out of the way and with that big mess set aside, I breathed in spiritually and saw and felt at a level I can’t even begin to describe. God showed me how love and joy and simplicity, with no stuff to distract, leads to compassion and vision that sees what God sees. The process was slow because I am slow to learn. So glad my God is very patient.

I went to Kenya, Africa, on a mission trip. I, as in me. As in… me and Kenya and mission trip together in the same sentence. Completely unreal, yet real. The unknown, above and beyond any unknown I had ever encountered before. And even stranger, I chose to do this. God did not prompt anyone to offer encouragement or give a gentle, or not so gentle, push. He knows I need pushing sometimes and He uses people in my life like that. But this…this was a direct call from God to me. I made the decision to go because I felt so strongly that I was supposed to do this.

So many who know me were shocked when I informed them I was going. Like really-shocked-but-trying-not-to-look-so-shocked… for my sake. And as time marched on, some people even expressed surprise that I was going to completely follow through and not back out. Some were concerned, even though most did not tell me that. Concerned for my safety, yes, but also concerned that maybe this was way too far out of my tiny comfort zone, and what would happen to me? After being plucked from the cozy box I like to reside in and being forcefully thrown many miles and many worlds away from home – arriving in a 3rd world country so very far away, and far removed, from anything I have ever known, would I be OK? Ummm…yes. Or at least, my version of OK.

Indecisive, overcautious, afraid, over analytical me. Yes, I received a very personal and powerful call from God that I could not deny or hide from. But yes, it was scary, and it felt very awkward at times, and uncomfortable on so many levels. Yes, I had moments of “What am I doing here?” and “Did I misunderstand God?” and “I can’t do this!”

We arrived on a Saturday and our first activity was to attend a church service on Sunday morning in a small community about an hour away. Sunday evening, we had a debriefing and shared our thoughts on the church service and the people. There was some discussion about the obvious evidence of how fortunate we are to have all the material things and conveniences we have in America, and how we should remember our glimpse here of an environment where there is little in the way of material possessions, and yet these people have plenty of what is important.

After the sharing died down, we were given this question: “If you had to leave tomorrow, what would you take away from this?” I remained contemplative and silent. But my mind was the scene of an intensely competitive race as thoughts tumbled one over another, scattered, willy-nilly, and yet, one thought trumped all others. If that question had been posed to me just hours earlier that morning before we left for the church service, my response would have been: “If I can go and not impose on anyone else, when can I leave? I’ve made a mistake and I shouldn’t be here. God didn’t really call me to this. I imagined it.”

You see, that morning getting ready, I went into full blown panic mode. My destructive and fearful thoughts that try to run my life were very busy.

My fast running thoughts went something like this:

“I don’t know these people on this mission team. I’m not like them. I don’t have a passion for this. I’m not excited about this. The schedule of all we will be doing that was shared last night? Others are thrilled and can’t wait to begin. I’m thoroughly terrified. And leave it to me, I did not even know enough to pack the right gear for this trip. I am the only one with a big purse instead of a backpack and a carryon that I actually had to carry all over the airport because it didn’t have wheels. What was I thinking? I’m not cut out for this! I’m the square peg that will never fit into this round hole. This isn’t me. I don’t even know how to pack for a mission trip, much less participate in one.”

And the clincher:  that reoccurring thought, faster and more intense than all the others –

“I’ll mess this up!! I’ll somehow inadvertently hurt the precious children’s feelings. I’ll say the wrong thing to the adults and offend them instead of being an encouragement to them and showing them God’s love. I’ll be a detriment and a burden and create all manner of drama that shouldn’t happen.”

And that was just for a little while Sunday morning as I was getting ready to attend the church service with the others. Yeah, I know. I’m a mess. And yes, I had this same type of panic complete with snowballing thoughts several times during the two week duration of this trip.

But God…

Through it all, God gave me, in His perfect timing, shining, dazzling, unmistakable glimmers of His hope and light. Reassurance and affirmation that He was in this, He wanted me there, and He was working even as I panicked. He lovingly reminded me of what I knew. This was what I was supposed to do. I was where I was supposed to be, even though there were times I felt like a fish out of water on the beach I’d never seen in the unfamiliar sand I’d never felt.

This trip was God’s miraculous gift to me. It was absolutely a miracle that I went, and another miracle that God showed me, in spite of me, how I can help make a tiny bit of difference simply by giving a hug or holding a hand or giving a high five. I could see the difference immediately in the responding smiles and laughter and love reciprocated in much larger proportion than I gave. I also learned that I don’t have to have a passion for missions. I don’t have to yearn to serve others in a third world country to be a viable participant.

All that is required to participate in a mission trip is:

  1. You must be a living, breathing, person, and fairly healthy.
  2. You must have a willing heart to learn what God wants to show you.

That’s it. That’s all. And knowing what I know now, it also helps if you have a spirit of expectancy for when God shows up. Because He will. And He will blow you away with His presence and His love. He will bless you for your obedience in unfathomable ways – in really big God ways.

When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required. Luke 12:48b, NLT

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. Phil 2:5, 7, NLT

As a Christian living in America with an over abundance of comfort and so many things I don’t really need, I have been given much. Much is required of me. And I am to have the attitude of my Savior. Giving up a few conveniences for a short period of time to minister to others does not begin to compare to all Jesus Christ gave up, for me.

Easter Reflections

In this Easter season, I find myself wondering about the people who knew or knew of Jesus and lived when He walked among them.  I wonder what that was like.  And I wonder where I would have been if I had been there.

Maybe I’m here, in this crowd.  Come with me and see.

I am a part of the infinite mass of people shouting “Crucify Him!”   I’m in this huge crowd, and I know along with everyone else that the highly esteemed religious leaders have made it abundantly clear that Jesus deserves to be punished.  I’m in.  All the way.  Of course, I do not realize that these arrogant leaders want to stop what Jesus is doing because they fear losing control of their perfectly ruled, perfectly ordered society.  Jesus is really rocking the boat, and they don’t like it.  But I don’t stop to consider or question.  Everyone around me is loudly proclaiming the injustice of what He has done.  I am one of them. I am involved in this angry mob in every way.  I am caught up in the frenzy.  Look – there I am.  I find myself nodding my head, clapping my hands, shaking my fists, shouting right along with them. Why? Because this Jesus…He claims to be the Son of God!!  That’s crazy!! That’s just…wrong!!  And He speaks so strangely, and He says things that make absolutely no sense. Oh, and it’s so cool to be a part of the crowd, right??  The adrenaline rush. The false but strong sense of belonging. The feeling of power over another who has done…nothing. But He is so different, and He is not explainable.  He is the voice of change.  I am fearful of change, just like the religious leaders.  I don’t take the time to seriously consider that maybe what He says is true. I don’t consider that maybe He is in fact the Son of God.  I don’t yet know He is here to save me, at all cost.  All cost.

I don’t see the look of compassion in His tortured eyes. I don’t see the love in His tortured heart. I don’t understand that He knows the nightmare that is about to begin, yet He does nothing to stop it.  He knows that He was born to die.  And not just to die, but to die an incredibly violent and painful death. A way of dying so horrible that even today with all the medical knowledge we have about what crucifixion did physically, we can’t begin to imagine the depth of pain and agony that He went through for us.  And that was just the physical part.  The emotional and spiritual torture takes what He did for us to a level never before, and never again, attained.

I used to wonder how the people could have chosen Jesus to be crucified.  And not only that, they chose Barabbas, a known murderer, to be freed over Jesus, who no one could find fault with. How could they do that?  Both Herod and Pilate wanted to let Him go. Pilate thought that the usual practice of letting one prisoner go free for the Passover observance would be a sure strategy to free Jesus. It was so obvious who should be freed. But the people shocked Pilate, with one voice, in unity, shouting as loud as they could. And Pilate washed his hands, as though that would free him of responsibility.  How could the people have done this?  How could they sentence someone to die who was completely innocent, who was…God?

If I had lived 2,000 years ago as a Jew, seeing Jesus, hearing Him speak, watching Him perform miracles, what would my reaction have been?  I like to think I would have been among those who followed Him. Perhaps I was in with the group of the women who went where He went and ministered to His needs and the needs of the disciples. That’s a nice thought.  Warm fuzzies here. How must it have felt to be with Jesus, a silent listener just soaking it all in like a sponge as He visited and taught and just hung out with the disciples. How wonderful would that have been? But if I am honest, I must say that is wishful thinking. Could that have been me? Sure. But given my personality and my love for the routine and predictable, I don’t know.

I could also have easily have been among those Jews who whispered among themselves as He walked by. The ones who smiled at Him when He made eye contact, but then turned to whisper when He walked past.  Whispers about how He must be a liar, He must be using the power of demons to perform miracles. He can’t be who He says He is. For that to be true defies all that I have ever heard and all that I have been taught. He is the opposite of all the rules, traditions, and rituals of my culture. He wants us to abandon so much of the belief system we have always known and accept a completely new reality. He is not predictable, not routine, not structured.  He is here just like I am, yet He is so not like me, not like anyone.  He must be wrong. Yes, I could have fit right in taking that side.

Of course here and now I know that He wasn’t wrong at all. He was so right, perfectly right. And He wasn’t demon possessed or crazy. He stood firm against the fierce and intense flow of insanity as the only sane one. The Anointed One, the real and true Messiah. The Savior.

We have what those who lived then don’t have. We have the Bible that shares His life and death and resurrection. We know what happened to Him and we know why. We know the story. But if we aren’t careful, “we know the story” can become “we know the drill”.

Easter Sunday services.  A celebration of what Jesus did for us.  But if we aren’t proactive we can easily miss it – present physically, but not mentally or spiritually.  We are busy with our busy lives.  We can get lost in those Easter tradition details and forget the significance. We allow our minds to just keep on going like the Energizer Bunny.  Jesus-was-crucified-and-died-and-rose-again-I-hope-it-doesn’t-rain-during-the-Easter-egg-hunt-but-it-did-rain-yesterday-I-hope-it’s-not-muddy-will-everybody-be-on-time-this-year-will-Johnny’s-girlfriend-pick-a-fight-again-in-front-of-everyone…Our minds wander, and our hearts wander instead of focusing on what really matters.

This year, join me in making a choice.  I choose to focus on Him.  I choose to think through every single detail of His incredible suffering and death.  I choose to experience afresh the true story of God’s elaborate plan to save me.  I choose to ponder the fact that Jesus was left utterly alone in agony because God could not look upon the sin state of the world that Jesus was embracing, bearing, and pulling up from the depths of evil and depravity and despair.

Is 53:3-7

He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised, and we esteemed him not.  Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But he was pierced for our transgressions, upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – every one – to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.  He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.   

I choose humble and all encompassing gratitude to Him for my very life.  I choose, because He chose.

 

I am (not) an Independent Woman

I am Woman.  Hear me roar.  Several lines of this classic song have been going through my head for…oh, about a month and a half now.  Can’t you hear my roar?  No?  Maybe it’s in secret code.  Or maybe it’s only for select audiences.  Namely, an audience of one.  Me.

So I had another adventure in the ongoing relatively uneventful saga of my life.  I guess my single independent control freak  woman-ness needed to be taken down several (many) notches.

I decided I would stoop down to look at something that seemed really important at the time.   Ms. Grace here stumbled backwards trying to stand back up and fell…and instinctively put my right hand behind me to break my fall (yes, I am right handed).  I successfully broke my fall.  Yay me.  But my wrist did not fare so well.  I thought at first it was sprained or wrenched or whatever, but after continued swelling I decided a trip to Urgent Care was warranted.  They were supposed to confirm a sprain and wrap it up and send me on my way.  They did not follow my instructions.  Imagine that.  Don’t they know I’m an Independent Woman?  Yep, that’s me.  Thank God for wonderful girlfriends who know that persistence pushes me out of the way when I need help, like when I realized I could not fill out Urgent Care paperwork left handed.

A follow up visit to the Orthopedic doctor confirmed the fracture and the slight misalignment of the radius bone in the wrist area.  I now actually know the name of a bone in my arm. 🙂 I got a big cumbersome splint from hand to above elbow and I was to return in 10 days for a cast.  Living life like this was very interesting.  I learned to be resourceful and found there were some things I could do, just not in the normal, easy, efficient way.  I learned that everything takes longer to do and some things are just meant to be impossible.  Even Independent Woman has to ask for help sometimes.  Hate that… but shouldn’t.

Why is help such a bad word for me?  Why do I take such pride in my supposed independence that really is not mine at all?  Sometimes, I finally have to give up and allow help, or just give up and not do what  I was trying to do.  But that pride that comes when I can pretend the accomplishment is all mine is quite a rush.  That sounds terrible…  Well, it is terrible.  Because it means I’m way too attached to pretending.  Wow.  This is me, being transparent.

Back to my current adventure.  I went back to the Orthopedic doctor 2 weeks later for another x-ray and a cast.  Or that is what was supposed to happen.  He came in the room and told me the x-ray looked worse.  The bone had drifted slightly so that it was further out of alignment and he recommended surgery.   What???  Wait.  Hold up.  This is not the right page or the right result or the right idea!  I’m frantically searching for this scenario in my head, and it’s not there.  I never imagined that this was even a remote possibility.  This came out of nowhere and I find myself, horror of horrors, unprepared.  This just isn’t right, but it is happening anyway.  So I struggle to wrap my mind around this new reality and start my usual reworking and regrouping process at warp speed. The Planner has to come up with a new plan, pronto.  I admit this is a rather useless coping mechanism, yet it makes me feel like I’m doing something.  More pretending.  Ouch.  I allowed my useless coping mechanism to trump what I should have been doing.  Stop. Breathe. Pray.

A week after surgery I went back to the doctor to get – Praise God – a removable hard splint that I can take off when at home.  He gave me some restrictions and exercises, and released me to return to work.

It’s a few weeks later now.  I’m gradually regaining function.  It’s little things, like I can tie my tennis shoes, put my makeup on, use both hands to wash my hair.   Things I never thought about before. Now I get excited when I can do something I have been missing for weeks.  It really brings home God’s complex orchestration of all the body’s moving parts and how they work together.  I found a new appreciation that I want to keep.

Independent Woman took a spill and landed on the hard, unforgiving concrete.  Healing takes time.  This wake up call also takes time to completely process and learn from.

And what of this self made pretend independence I’m so proud of?  I found it to be a fair weather friend, again.  I am reminded, again, that whatever taste of the independent life I am blessed with comes straight from the hand of God.  The more I rely on Jesus, the more I learn that this is where I should always be. Relying on Him. Leaning on Him. Trusting Him.  To truly be independent, I must be fully dependent on Him.  Paradoxical and illogical, but then that is the beauty of the Christian faith.  It does not make logical sense, yet it works perfectly.

I am not a self made roaring Independent Woman.  Not really, not ever, not at all.  I am a much loved child of a Savior and King who longs for my consistent trust that He will take much better care of me that I can.  In fact, His care is the best.  His best, all for me.

 

 

It is what it was

You do what you gotta do.  You do a lot of praying, a lot of wishing and wondering and questioning and searching, while just trying to function at some small fraction of a normal level.  You’re overwhelmed, overloaded, and over-exhausted.  But because of the hope in Jesus Christ and His grace, you make it through the deep dark jagged-sharp-edges-to-watch-for place of crisis.  Then, very gradually, slowly, painfully, and with no small amount of love and encouragement and prayer from friends God has placed in your life, you breathe again, a little, ever so briefly.  And then another breath, and another, over time.   You continue to lean on God and you begin to put one foot in front of the other ever so slowly…forward, backward, an unscripted dance.

Though the surreal horrible time has passed,  there are still unforeseen changes on the horizon that sometimes catch you off guard.  Your guard is still there.  It has served you well and continues to provide some level of at least imaginary security when you feel anything but secure.

Time passes.  You discover one day that you are functioning sort of normally more days than not.  You feel more of life in brief moments, and these moments occur more and more frequently.  Your life with God’s help finds a new routine, and you plod along day by day doing your best to enjoy the blessings that you have.  You learn to move on past the past toward the future planned for you.  You ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after.  The. End.

Wait – Hold up.  Not so fast. My story is a real story, not a fairy tale.  I’m a long way from the end, even after such a long time.  That’s sad but it’s where I am.  It is what it was.

There have been a couple of times in my life when fear and pain and anger and grief melded together into searing flaming hot coals that plunged straight into the center of my soul.  Because of the love of Jesus and His balm of peace and comfort, I have healed and continue to heal as I continue to learn.  I used to think that I had already been through the last chapter and closed the book.  No, not at all.  God continues to show me things about me.  Like maybe I’m still enjoying keeping my guard up and maybe my walls have been weakened but are still there.  You know, those walls of protection that at one time were necessary just to keep my sanity.  I recently discovered that I painted them to look like a sunny meadow outside with blue sky and puffy clouds and sunshine, and after a while I forgot they were walls.

I realized not long ago, thanks to a dear friend, that  just because walls are painted so that they are camouflaged does not make them any less there, even when I had long forgotten about their existence.   And while keeping your guard up is recommended in certain situations, it was never meant to be a day in day out way of life forever.

I’ve learned that different alternatives can be, and should be, explored.  Alternatives that never entered my mind because the walls hid them from me.  This exploration of different alternatives can lead to more healing and more growth and more possibilities that I ever dreamed of.  I can actually really hope for some of my closely held dreams to not be dreams any more.  For the first time.  Ever.

I’ve learned that I was moving forward, but dragging my walls with me everywhere and keeping my guard up and very close to me for added protection almost continuously.  It is what it was.  I was moving forward, while missing so much.  My mindset was that everything was just like it used to be.  Everything at its worst, everything I had to question, everything I longed for but knew I would not have, everything that was.  Still there with no changes. Everything I feared was still right in my face, yet not really there.  I really believed all of this to be true even though I did not realize it.  I never entertained the idea that I had a choice.

It is what it was is now in the process of being updated to the present:  It is.  The past is breaking up and moving away to reveal a whole new present I did not know existed.  Letting my guard down and tearing down walls is a gradual process; everything with me is.  It’s scary.  And going away from what has been a part of my life for so long is strange and uncomfortable.  I feel like a prisoner who has been set free but has no clue what to do and longs for familiarity, not quality.

Yet, I know Jesus has promised me life, and life abundant.  (John 10:10).  And I know I can’t enjoy that abundant life dragging walls around and working so hard to keep my guard up. It’s exhausting and counterproductive and just plain unhealthy on so many levels.

I don’t need walls, and I don’t need my constant guard between me and everything.  I already have all I need.  I have Jesus.  He is urging me on and encouraging me.  And it all started with His love shown by one who cared enough to speak truth into my life.

I will learn to live more and more in the here and now as I continue the tedious process of dismantling and tearing down and letting go.  Tough work.  But finally, work that will allow me to move forward unencumbered.  Tough work that will lead to true freedom.  Thank God.

I came that they might have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10b, ESV)

…and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8:32, ESV)

The beauty of ugly weeds

My flower bed has a story to tell.  Now I know what you’re thinking:  “Huh? You want me to read a story about plants telling a story?”  Wait, please don’t stop reading.  Work with me here as I share an analogy that God revealed to me.

I have a 25 year old flower bed in my front yard.  Mainly azaleas.  It doesn’t belong in a gardening magazine; it just hangs out in front of my average home.  I am definitely not a work-in-the-yard-dig-in-the-dirt kind of girl, so the flower bed fends for itself most of the time and still manages to look pretty when the azaleas bloom.  🙂

The azaleas had not been cut back in quite a while so last year I had someone work on them.  They did a great job.  The finished product was all trimmed and manicured so that the flower bed looked neat and tidy and better than it had looked in years.  But I began to notice something almost immediately:  The weeds!  The flower bed had been inhabited by various vines and such for a very long time.  When the azaleas were up and out and over and under and every which way, these weeds peeked out ever so often and I would cut them back just enough so that they were no longer visible.  This remedy was now useless because the wild things were prevalent and invading and on a mission to rule.  They didn’t fit in with the new nice shape of the azaleas at all.  I swear they were rebelling by growing back in time-lapse photography speed.

See, here’s the deal.  When the plants were all over the place, the ugly wild growth could hide. It was just as present, but not as “in your face”.  It could be pretty easily ignored much of the time.  And give it a slight trim every once in a while and all was well.  Or all looked well, which made everything alright.  Or so I thought.  The old out of sight, out of mind adage at it’s best.

Right after this nice trimming, what was there all along suddenly had a much smaller hiding place, and what was hidden before was now blatantly obvious just about every other day.  Wow.  And I figured out something that I already knew, but that knowledge was now greatly magnified.  This truth hit home:  The closer I get, the more I look, the more I see.

So what’s the analogy here?  The nicely trimmed flower bed and my discovery of the over indulgent weeds mirror this time in my life.  God is showing me so much about me.  And He is working alongside me.  This is a time where God is very busy pruning me.  He is pulling and cutting and removing as I unearth all manner of ugly bad stuff I had buried or put away in the back of a high dusty shelf long forgotten, but still there and still wreaking havoc.  He is also trimming and shaping what remains to make it more healthy and happy.  I am pretty much a complete overhaul project.   This is a time of really, truly seeing for the first time, listening, waking up, recognizing, lamenting, and longing to change. And I realize through all of this that I am learning and growing.  To grow, I must allow God to stretch me.  So I find myself stretching.  And stretching.  And stretching.  Did I say stretching? 🙂

This time of self realization and evaluation has been, and continues to be, tough.  And it’s hard when I see up close what needs to be overhauled:  Pretty much everything!  God’s pruning is painful, but I know it is necessary.  Sometimes I get completely overwhelmed by all the overgrown ugliness that I have allowed to inhabit my life for so many years.  The whole mess is just huge!  But as I continue to lay myself open before Him and He continues to work away, (ouch) He will occasionally show me the stack of what has been removed.  He will point to it and say:  “See that stack?  You are making progress!”  Slow, gradual progress, evidenced by a growing stack of beauty.  Yes, that’s right, ugly weeds and just plain chaotic overgrown-ness are beautiful.  Because this is a part of my story and evidence of my progress.  It is a reminder of where I used to be, but no more.  It is a marker that says:  “You were here, but you’ve made the hard decision not to stay here.  Look at how far you have come!”

Coming face to face with what lives in the ugly bad dark and unhealthy hiding places of my life is difficult at best, and purposely digging into all these hiding places is painful and scary.  But with each step, I move toward freedom.  And with each step, more is found and more is brought to light and removed, and more ugliness is added to my stack of beauty.  Ugliness becomes beauty when it is defeated by His power.  God continues to lovingly touch up and gradually transform His work of art to look, and be, more like Him.  I am one of many pieces of supernatural art created by the Master artist in various phases of completion; works in progress.  Flashes of brilliant yet soft and beckoning light that can illuminate the whole world with His power and His love.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.  Phil 1:6 NLT