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Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Broken doesn't mean Useless


We live in a disposable society. If it's broken our first thought isn't to fix it, but throw it away and get a new whatever. Being married to a handyman has prevented my doing this many a time, but I can sympathize with those who have no idea how to fix something and in frustration move on to a new product.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately. I don't have the mentality of someone who survived the Great Depression, but it still bothers me to throw away things that can be reused or repurposed. 

Like myself.

Several weeks ago, after a year of self-medicating with food, I knew my body was sending up gasps for help. I was losing weight at a great pace, which should not have been so as my eating habits definitely did not promote weight loss. I had been at this point 5 years ago and I knew what was happening...my body was no longer allowing glucose into my cells and my insulin was doing everything it could to try and make that happen. I was literally starving myself to death without the energy and life-giving support that glucose gives. 

I knew I had to pay attention. When my blood sugar level came back at over 400 it shocked me (normal is 80-100). I had had no symptoms except weight loss and had hoped (read: deceived myself) to not have to face this again. I had worked so hard to get healthy over the previous years, but COVID and depression and a sense of apathy threw it all to the wind, and now I was right back where I started 5 years ago.

My first thought was to eat something to numb the pain. My second thought was, I desperately need help. I can't do this alone.

I felt like a failure. 

So upon a friend's reference, I met with a Wholistic/Naturopath, who was also a "regular doctor". We spent 2 hours together, her going over my bloodwork and explaining things I already knew but evidently had not learned. A lot of things had to change, both physically and mentally, if I was going to overcome this deadly disease and live a longer and healthier life. She and a Life Coach were committed to coming along side me and giving me the tools and knowledge and encouragement I needed to succeed and beat this.

I still felt like a failure.

I began to beat myself up. I knew better. I could have, should have, would have. And facing the financial cost of the treatment was humbling. Ted had been so willing to support me in the past. Was this over the line? But what was my option? 

As soon as I got home from the appointment I joined a couple of FB websites on overcoming and reversing Diabetes. What I read blew my mind. But the one thing that stuck with me that first day was the post that said, "Yes, it is hard. But losing a leg, or your eyesight, or dying of a heart attack or stroke is much harder. I'm not just doing this for myself, but for my husband and my kids and grandkids. That's what motivates me. It is possible to reverse Diabetes and I'm going for it."

Wow. Talk about an eye-opener! In the past I had centered on what I had to give up, not what I had to gain. I wept on the couch...both from fear and hope...and resolved at that moment to take Diabetes seriously.

One of the biggest changes for me is changing my eating habits: no sugar, giving up carbohydrates in the form of breads, pasta, rice, potatoes, etc. Each one of those yummy things converts to sugar in my body and raises my blood sugar level. I had to start seeing foods like this as poison to me, not comfort. Instead, there are a wealth of foods I can eat that would strengthen me...meats and veggies, eggs and cheese, and some fruits. There is a plethora of recipe sites online to draw from, and the ones I have tried have been so yummy!

I am thankful that God has allowed me another wake-up call. I could have ended up in a diabetic coma, in the hospital. I am not going to stretch His mercy a third time.

I see now that I have literally been throwing my life away. I had always believed that I needed to get it right or I wasn't acceptable or good enough...to God and others. But no matter how hard I tried, I never could get it right...I was always falling short. And so I felt unworthy and defeated time after time after time. It was an endless cycle of defeat. That stops now.

At this point I'm feeling hopeful, albeit fragile, and cracked, and weak. Which isn't a bad place to be. I've had to confess that I can't do this by myself. I have tried before but I did it begrudgingly, there were always excuses and compromises. The temporary satisfaction overcame the eternal good and the battle was exhausting. It is time to talk truth and sense to myself and God. Not that He was surprised by any of this. His patience and long-suffering know no end. Thankfully.

The other day I saw a picture of Kintsugi, the art of filling in the cracks of broken pottery with powdered gold or some other precious metal. The pottery, in all its uselessness and brokenness was not thrown away, but redeemed for further use. And it was made even more beautiful than before. It was breathtaking! It was then I realized that God doesn't have to take away the broken to make beauty...the beauty was IN the cracks! 

My strength is made perfect (beautiful) in your weakness. What a glorious verse!

None of us is perfect. Life has broken and cracked all of us in some way or another. But walking around trying to deny or cover up the cracks doesn't allow God the ability to redeem them...to make something beautiful out of them. Without Him and His work in us, we end up occupying a shelf at the Goodwill rather than in the King's palace.

The world needs hope, now more than ever. Definitely eternal hope, which comes through Christ, but also daily hope...hope that we can go on even in our brokenness. That our life still has great value and usefulness because God, as our Redeemer, wants to pour His love and grace into the cracks in our lives, making us more beautiful than before. We are not failures, but glorious works in progress!

Today my blood sugar was 170 points less than 2 weeks ago, which is a great encouragement to me. But I have a long way to go, not just in dropping that number, but in understanding how to take care of myself, physically and emotionally. It must be God and me working together for as long as I breathe. 

Knowing that God wants to use my weakness for His glory empowers me to share all of this with you...to allow you to see my cracks. You are fearfully and wonderfully made my friend, and you have great value. Not because of how well you are doing or how you are managing to keep it all together. No, it's because you have a story to tell others, a story of redemption from brokenness...a story of hope. 

There's no nobler calling for any of us.

You are dearly loved...by God and me! Shine on!




 

 



Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Want to know what Everyday Courage looks like?



So it's Tuesday, the day I have assigned to be 'Write a Blog Day'. 

Last week I came up with this crazy, and probably totally impossible, idea of assigning a task to each day of the week- partly because I need to be more disciplined in accomplishing things, but mostly because I need things to do every day to keep me from drifting into the shadows... 

Monday is 'For Heaven's Sake, Clean the House Day'

Tuesday is 'Sit down and Write a Blog Whether or Not You Feel Like It Day'

Wednesday is 'Take the Puppy to the Greenway and Then Out to Lunch Day' (my favorite day!)

Thursday is 'Gardening and Weeding and Picking Up Sticks Day'

And on Friday I try to find a willing friend to do something with...my 'Be Blessed By a Friend Day'

Of course 'Making Paper and Doing Collage' falls in any open spot of the week!

And finally there's the weekend, which Ted manages to fill up quite well. So far, it's a plan that's working!

Let it be known that I had completely forgotten about it being Blog Day until this morning when I inquired of the Lord, What shalt Thou hast me to do today? And because He has mercy on all those whose brains are mashed potatoes, He reminded me what day it is...Tuesday...and what I had pledged to do on said day...Blog. 

I heard someone say the other day that we are defined by what we do...if you are a painter, you paint, if you are a writer, you write...you get the idea. And though my identity is not totally based on being a writer, writing brings me joy and it is a gift that God has given to me. Someday I will have to answer to God for the use and/or misuse of this gift, so Tuesdays are the day I hope to work this answer out. 

So let me ask you, after reading last week's blog on Everyday Courage, how is that going for you? Has it spurred you on to take an extra step of courage? Boldness? Faith? Have you felt more empowered knowing that you are not alone? I hope so. I know I am!

Just to encourage you, I'm going to share an episode of what Everyday Courage looked like in my life this week. I walked into it, not expecting it at all...

It began with an online post from a local group that popped up on my email, sharing a link to a company to write to if we were concerned about their support of an issue. Nothing more, nothing less. Anyway, I briefly responded that I had recently noticed that another local institution had advertised the same stand. Shortly after, when one of the members responded with some statistics, I asked from where he had obtained that information. And that was it...what I thought was a civil discourse with a group of people that I live and move and have my being amongst.

Until I got a private email in response to my statement/inquiry. I didn't expect the sarcasm and the accusation that I was being judgmental and hate-filled and hey, that's what Jesus called us to, right? I read it. And re-read it, trying to make sense of it. I wrote back and said that posting information and asking questions is not judgmental nor hate-filled...it's a right we have and I'm sorry this person felt that way.

A response came back immediately, basically condemning me to the innermost circle of Hell and accusing me of attitudes and actions that have never, ever entered my thoughts. To say I was taken aback would be an understatement. I've had heard of things like this going on, but up until then I had never experienced it. I had assumed that this exchange was amongst fellow Believers...but really, who can know? Maybe my assumption was wrong...

And that's when my blood pressure began creeping up. What the? I knew I was upset when an unloving thought flit through my mind: So I studied Truth for a year with Chuck Colson, what's your claim to being allowed to speak? Thankfully I did not say that. By then it was time to leave for a Doctor's appointment and I knew that this was not going to fare well...which it didn't. No matter how I tried to explain it, my Doctor was not impressed with why my blood pressure was 20 points higher this time than the last time.

Anyway, it was at a long stoplight on the way to the Doctors that her next email came in. It was volatile and full of vitriol and at that moment I decided that no matter what I said, I would not get anywhere with her. So I wrote a quick message back saying, 'I am sorry but I do not agree with you and I will not respond to any future communication from you in that spirit. And I will pray for you.' 

It took Everyday Courage to let go and back away and not say something I would regret. There was a time I would have rushed in where fools fear to tread...having to be right, having to make a point, having to win the battle. 

It's taken me years to realize that the battle is God's not mine...that there are spirits out there that can only be defeated through prayer. And fasting, but thankfully I haven't met any of those yet! Sometimes the wisest thing I can do is to close my mouth, back away, and pray. Yes, I probably will be misunderstood for doing this. And sure enough, when another message came in later in the day and I saw the first few words....You are a coward...I knew that I had made the right choice.

Yes, I'm human enough to wish that everyone loved me...and agreed with me...and were impressed by me. Conflict is not my forte. Just the opposite...my empathy and desire to see others happy often overrides my need to say/make a healthy choice. The fact that I even responded to her first message was a baby step of courage for me. Like the spiritual song says, 'You gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, know when to run.'  When my blood pressure finally came down, I uttered a sigh of relief that I, by the grace of God, had done just this.

Am I concerned for her? I am. I don't know what is going on her life that would cause such anger to fester. But I had to make the choice to turn from her and run to God Who is a shield around me, my glory, and the lifter of my head...Who has all wisdom and understanding and insight...the One I can trust to lead me in the way I should...or should not...go.

I'm not sure if I will ever be in contact with this person again. Since she's part of the group, I very well may. I can't say what will happen then...God could write an entirely different outcome. I would welcome the opportunity to communicate in a healthy way. But no matter what, I have to trust that throughout every day, no matter what comes my way, Everyday Courage will always be available. And for this I am very, very thankful.

And that, friends, is my story.

How about you? Do you have an example of how God empowered you with Everyday Courage this week? I would love to hear it! It's in these small battle that the wars are won, dear friends. Know that I continue to cheer you on and pray for you!

You are dearly loved!







Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Everyday Courage...or the ability to keep-on-keeping-on



What does courage look like to you?

I think most of us have this idea that it's this BIG BRAVE THING that only a few attain...like diving into a frozen river to save someone...pulling someone out of a burning car...climbing that mile-high mountain...any good thing we normally don't do on a regular basis. Something bigger than ourselves.

Now I agree, all  those things do take a superhuman effort to accomplish. I like to think I could do a BIG BRAVE THING if necessary. So far I haven't been called to one, unless it was giving birth. I loved the end result but I sure hated the process. But hey, I wasn't given a choice to NOT do it, so I'm not sure that counts.

You see, the hard part for me isn't the big things...true confession...it's the courage to keep-on-keeping-on...one day at a time...sometimes one hour at a time...in the little things...when life seems so hard and I want to quit. 

I shall call that an act of Everyday Courage.

And to me, that's a much bigger challenge. 

You see, I struggle with depression. I come from a long line of people with anxiety disorders who found it easier to live life through self-medicating in one form or another. The thing about self-medicating? It may appear to make life more bearable for the person doing it, but it's definitely not beneficial to the others around them. They don't get the benefit of numbing or dulling the pain...all they get is fear and the need to somehow try and make it all better. 

I cannot remember living without fear...my elementary school teachers called me a 'worry wart". I have no idea how this spirit entered my life...perhaps it is genetic or hereditary or learned. All I knew was that there was so much wrong and so much evil to worry about...hiding under a desk during the Cuban Missile Crisis...Kennedy's assassination...the Vietnam War...Silent Spring. Or how to keep a cat from being run over or a dog from being hit on the highway. Could I have done anything about any of those things as a child? No. But neither did anyone tell me HOW to deal with all those fears. So, I taught myself to be in control of all I could to keep myself safe. 

So here I am, 50 years later, still struggling to feel safe. God knows that now there are infinitely more things to be afraid of, courtesy of the world-wide-web and social media. The world has not become safer or less scary. 

This past week I really had to fight to keep on going. Picture a rolling, roiling dark storm cloud coming towards you...surrounding you, smothering you, enveloping you. That's what depression is like to me. My senses are alert to its coming and all I want to do is hide. I have begged and pleaded with God for years to take this away...to show me the way through it and out of it. And maybe He will or maybe He won't. Depression may be the thorn in my flesh that He may never deliver me from. There may only be grace. And that will have to be enough.

Do I think about checking out? Sometimes...when I am ever so tired and the journey seems too long. Until I remember the suicide of someone I dearly loved and the crushing pain it brought on. And the hardest part was never knowing why she couldn't go on. But I realize now that she may have saved my life...for she taught me that though the pain would end for me, it would never end for those I love. So no, checking out is not an option.

The question is, what does it take to keep-on-keeping-on during times of darkness? When something bigger than you makes it hard to breathe and you've lost your direction and the light forward is dimming? 

Everyday Courage. Plain old Everyday Courage. To me it looks like...

   * The grace to just wake up and get out of bed. Maybe open the curtains. Or not.

   * Being willing to be fragile, real, and honest...open to someone safe, someone who will enter your brokenness and not ask nor expect anything from you. 

   *  Doing the next thing. Brush your teeth? Feed the dog? Put dishes in the sink? Baby steps. Don't let fear paralyze you. 

    * Asking for help. Wearing a mask only makes the journey lonelier and longer.  

    * Knowing what you need. And doing it. Self-care is not selfish.  

How are you living out Everyday Courage? What does it look like to you? 

We all have fears. We all struggle with something. We all need help. You may not struggle with depression like me. Perhaps you've been afraid or hurt or living life on the edges because it's safer that way. Perhaps Everyday Courage looks to you like...

    * Speaking the truth in love. Yes, you may be rejected but that's not the point. Stepping in to something difficult takes courage and though the outcome can't be controlled, you will have taken the first step to freedom.

    * Writing a letter, making a phone call, reaching out...finally...doing something long overdue because it's the right thing to do. And God always honors the right thing.

    * Making a good choice...letting go of something harmful...embracing a new beginning. Walking in a new, healthy direction is an amazingly good and brave thing!

Everyday we are given opportunities over and over again to be courageous...to choose the right thing...do the right thing. Trumpets may not sound and banners may not wave, but our souls need it. And they are of greater value than any trumpet or banner.

I love that life is a journey...that there are so many truths to learn, and ways to apply them along the way. Have you ever gone on a perfect journey? I haven't! With every trip I have taken there are necessary stops and what seem like unnecessary breakdowns, detours and changes of plans, conflict and times of bliss. To expect it to go perfectly is to be delusional. The same with life...day after day after day, for however long God gives us, there are of thousands of opportunities to grow in Everyday Courage.

I pray this post is an encouragement to you. Being this open and transparent is scary to me. I could be fearful and expect rejection, mockery, or dismissal. Or, I can believe that  I will be accepted, loved, and understood. I choose to believe the second option. I choose Everyday Courage. 

'Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.' Joshua 1:9

We can do it!  


 











Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The dawning of mercy on a frozen heart



I remember the first time I heard the difference between Grace and Mercy explained: 

Grace is getting what you Don't deserve. Example-Christ's substitutionary death on the cross for our sin. We deserved punishment and Hell but instead we received forgiveness and hope.

Mercy is not giving us what we DO deserve. God could have blasted the Israelites for turning their backs on Him and worshipping idols, but when they cried out for forgiveness, He showed them compassion and mercy. 

Huh. 

Many years ago, when we were in a more legalistic environment, we spent a whole year studying Grace. And Grace became our key to healing. Unfortunately, I have not yet done the same with Mercy. My only goal has been not to confuse the two when using them in sentences. I never want to look too stupid.

So all to say, I believe in them both and am very thankful for each of them in my life. God knows how many times they have been extended to me for my stupidity, sin, and overall unwillingness to turn to Him and do what I should, not what I want. 

However, to my chagrin, I am beginning to see that I am very good at receiving them, but not so good at extending them. Especially Mercy.

I don't know what's happened, but sometime in the last year I have become short of temper and patience. Mostly with people...i.e. all of humanity...basically anything that lives and breathes and that I come into contact with, excepting my dog and my chickens. They are safe.

No, it's the i----s that drive with no care or consideration for others...the s----d stuff that I read that shows that the writer has no filter for decency, much less Truth...the lack of care shown to Creation and its inhabitants...a world that seems to be spiraling downward at an extremely fast pace. And there's so little I feel I can do about it. So I get angry and scream out Justice! along with a few other not-so-nice things. Let's just say I have found myself saying and thinking and doing things that would shock my mother, God rest her soul. 

Granted, after doing this, I temporarily feel better but I haven't solved a thing. I fear I am becoming an animal of different stripes who is unknowable and reactive. 

I am not proud of this. I feel like something external is pushing me into this mold, but I keep popping out at the edges, not sure I want to conform to this new creation. I am literally homesick for who I used to be. Once in a while I catch glimpses of her and I catch my breath and tears well up in my eyes. Yeah, sick for home and the way things used to be.

Anyway, yesterday I was "talking" to God about this. What is wrong with me? Why can't I be more patient? Understanding? Kind? Being reactive is not helping me or anyone else, and I'm pretty sure it's playing havoc with my health as I've been self-medicating with food and not sleeping well.

Now I'm not going to say He actually helped me, at least not in the physical sense, but He did give me something to think about. Kind of reminded me of my parents when they had become completely frustrated with my attitude and "gave me something to think about." Just like that.

And that something had a name: Rudolf Höss, an SS officer, the man in charge of Auschwitz and the grizzly deaths of almost 2 million people. A man who surely deserved Hell and damnation for all the atrocities he had committed. A man who lived with his wife and 5 children in the yard near the crematorium. A man who deserved judgment, but instead received Mercy.

It’s the Priest’s fault I learned of all this. Because yesterday, on Divine Mercy Sunday, the Priest shared about him in his homily. As he duly noted all the atrocities that Höss had committed, I felt my indignation rise up along with my blood pressure. Where was this going? Surely, if you are trying to prove the point that Mercy does not extend this far, I agree. Thanks for validating what I have been thinking: Mercy is limited and people get what they deserve.

Ugh. Did I really say that??

Then the Priest went on to tell the story of the end of Höss's life...how he had come to see the great crime he had committed against humanity, and the remorse and grief he felt over what he had done. He went on to ask the Priest for Confession and though it took hours for him to recount all the sins he had committed, he received absolution and Communion the following day. He died by hanging at Aushwitz...a forgiven man.

Whoa! Are you serious??? On a scale of badness he was off the scale!

Mercy that big? For someone that evil?

And then it fell on me, a truth that I had been missing for ever so long...through all my days of self-righteousness and judgment and critical thinking...

I was greatly lacking in the Mercy department.

The problem with Mercy is that it runs counterintuitive to our reasoning. And in my mind there are levels of sin, similar to Dante's rings of Hell...from stealing gum at the convenience store to taking the life of another. But the lives of almost 2 million people? That tipped my scale on how much could be forgiven...how big Mercy was. I sat there for quite a while, rolling it over and over in my mind and this was my new-born conclusion...

God is real. Mercy is real. It's His to do with as He likes. And the bottom line is, God has made Mercy boundless and available to whosoever should ask for it...no matter what they have done. Repent and receive Mercy. Me, you, Hoss.

The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in Mercy.

Think about Jonah, who received the Mercy of God many times over, but in his heart judged Nineveh unworthy of the same. He took more care of the plant that provided shade on his behalf than he did of the lives of those God loved.

But God said to Jonah, "Do you have a right to be angry over the gourd plant?" Jonah answered, "I have a right to be angry- angry enough to die." Then the Lord said, "You are concerned over the gourd plant which cost you no effort and which you did not grow; it came up in one night and in one night it perished. And should I not be concerned over the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand  persons who cannot know their right hand from their  left, not to mention all the animals?" (Jonah 4:9-11)

I may be wrong but I think God could be saying that the Ninevites were not too swift, not knowing their right hand from their left. Which means intelligence is not a requirement for Mercy. 

And I love that God was also concerned about the animals! 

So where does this leave me? 

It leaves me humbled and very aware that I do not live in the same sphere of Mercy that God does. I am deeply aware that I need to do a study on Mercy, so that the Word of God can do a work on me...so my heart and soul can be softened. So ultimately, I can become like Jesus. Which is the goal of God for all of His children.

"We can learn from Jonah's mistakes. We are not to view ourselves as better than those who are different from us- instead, we are to see others as God sees them: sinners in need of a Savior, just like us. We should be eager to share his Gospel with others, they they, too, may understand God's power and mercy.”

Jacki and I were talking yesterday and we came up with this...something practical that we can aspire to on our journey to becoming Merciful...

"Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious- the best not the worst: the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse...Do this and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into His most excellent harmonies." (Philippians 4:6-9)

And that, my friends, is my challenge. And my hope. I need to make a U-turn on this Mercy thing, or become someone that, in time, no one will want to be around. Heaven knows I want to be a kind, gentle old lady, not one lashing out, with no filter, with a hard and embittered heart. I know it could happen as I've seen it. But God, please, not to me.

Be merciful to me, Lord, a sinner. Be my guide, my example, my enabler on this journey to becoming more like you...a blessing, not a curse, a mini-Christ in a world that desperately needs Grace and Mercy. Remove the fence from around my heart and let Mercy dawn in my heart. 

To your Honor and Glory, and the good of all those you dearly love. Which, is everyone. 

Amen and Amen.


















Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Rise and Shine! It's time to wake up!

 


For the last week or so I have had the rumblings of a blog inside my head, which has been encouraging.  I've started one several times over the last few months, but each time I ended up closing the cover on my computer and walking away. I blame my lack of success on mashed potatoes, for I feel that is what my brain has become. 

Before Covid, all the neurons were firing as they should (hopefully). I wasn't forgetting things as much, and I could carry a thought from beginning to end without hesitation (most times). And I especially wasn't garbling my words, struggling to express my thoughts into clear concise sentences. It would be hilarious if it weren't so ridiculous. So I let my blog go...

The fact that there hasn't been a blog in months speaks volumes. If I'm not hearing from God, you're not hearing from me. 

But recently I noticed some activity on my blog site. I wondered, Is this another person whose brain has also become mashed potatoes and they don't realize they are reading the same old blogs over and over again? Or has someone new found my blog, and it's only a matter of time until they discover that's all there is, and there ain't no more?  

And this concerned me...

Being stuck at home for most of the past year, I have had the opportunity to get better acquainted with myself. After all, there weren't places to run to and keep busy with...meetings and clubs and get-togethers were non-existent...church became virtual front pew...and relationships morphed into online chats. Introvert that I am, I really didn't think it would be that hard. But I was wrong. I need people more than I like to admit. 

Which is why yesterday I spent three hours on the phone with my sister. We did our typical complaining and criticizing, encouraging and dreaming...and challenging, which is probably the most beneficial part of any of our conversations. Only sisters can do this and come out unscathed!

All was going well until she asked, Are the churches open there yet? And I replied that Yes, yes they are. And then as easy as that I went on to admit that though they are open, we are not attending. Hearing myself say that gave me a spiritual nudge. So, why are we not going? Are we worried about sickness? Is it the uncomfortable masks and the ensuing rash? We have this gift and yet we are not taking advantage of it? For Heaven's sake, there are people in the world who risk death every week to attend church!

I continued to dig my grave as I confessed that I've gotten used to cuddling up on the sofa with my coffee and sometimes even brunch (aghast!), watching my favorite Priest do what he does. No need to get dressed, go out in bad weather, or drive 35 minutes to church. 

No need to be inconvenienced!

Whoa, light bulb moment! That just did not sound right. At all. The next word that popped into my mind was slothful, whose definition includes words like lazy, idle, indolent, work-shy, inactive, inert and sluggish. Ouch

So now I'm beginning to think that not only has my brain become mashed potatoes, but my spiritual life may be in peril, barely alive, gasping for air. And it's not just church I've drifted away from, but how about Bible study? Prayer? Reading books that will help me grow in my relationships with God and others? And let's not even mention taking care of the temple of God.

As my sister continued on to name some of the big issues confronting the world right now, we both exclaimed, How had it gotten this way? Was there any hope? What IS wrong with this world? 

And then the spiritual 2x4 hit me: I am what is wrong with the world! At such a time when Absolute Truth is being swept into the dustpan, I have been lulled to sleep, embracing quarantining as my excuse. Yes, in the beginning there were uncertainties and things that made made me fearful. And for that reason I did all I could to stay safe. But as time has passed, I have become more and comfortable in my Covid world and have not discerned it may be high time to get off the sofa and get on with life.

I don't know about you, but I have forgotten who I am. Whose I am. I have forgotten my mission and my calling. I have been immobilized way too long. I have become lazy spiritually, mentally, and physically and I can picture Satan, gleefully rubbing his hands together over his success in this. One down, out of commission!  

It's time to wake up, wipe the dust from my eyes, look around, and get moving. I may not be able to do everything I could pre-Covid but I can do something!

'Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you' took root in my mind. 

It was at that moment that I confessed to my sister that I was convicted and I needed to change, and as I did I felt hope welling up in me for the first time in a very long time. It grieves me that I have wasted so much time, often living in self-pity and indifference. I was blind but now I see...no more excuses, no more embracing the lie of helplessness and hopelessness. It's time to say no to slothfulness and yes to living life...the life I was called to...the one He will enable me to live as I trust and follow Him through whatever lies ahead.

I confess it would be so easy to stay asleep. It's comfortable and there's no pain or confrontation or conflict. No broken hearts or hurts. I could just wrap my soft and fluffy sheets around me, curl into the fetal position, and dream my life away.

But it's not what God has called me to. I am to be His hands, His feet, and His mouth to a world that is rapidly descending into darkness. And in order to do that, I need to be awake. I do believe that someday we will give an answer for our lives, and how or if we used the gifts and talents He gave us. Lord have mercy if we neglect such a calling.

So now you know. I'm back. Still a little groggy as I wake up from a very long sleep. I covet your prayers to stay awake. I've been sleeping for almost a year now and much time has been wasted. 

Like my Dad used to say, 'It's time to get up, get out of bed, get out of bed you sleepy head. Rise and Shine!'

My dad is a wise man...


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photo credit: Antonio Cinotti  <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/46378751@N02/50959207997">Sunrise in San Quirico d'Orcia</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">(license)</a>




















Tuesday, December 15, 2020

But God meant it for good




It's early here...for me at least. Prissy and I are snuggled together on the couch...she with her head poking out of her favorite red binky and me wishing I could join her, but finding it very hard to type and snuggle at the same time. I'm content just watching her, occasionally stroking her neck where she likes it best, right behind her satiny ears. I never knew dogs could sigh, but she does...a long slow, I'm living the dream sigh. Which makes me very happy.

Most of you know the roller coaster ride we have been on with Prissy for the last month. And if you know me, you know I hate roller coasters. I barely survived the kid's one at Disney, staggering off it and vowing I would never risk my life on one again. 

I never realized until now that there are some rides you choose to go on, and others you are thrown into, barely having time to fasten your seatbelt before the insanity begins.

Prissy has been diagnosed with Pancreatitis, something I have never encountered in my 60+ years of life on this planet. We've had probably twenty something dogs, and never has one of them traveled down this road. It started with us trying to heal her from her inability to walk...a trip  to a specialty hospital in SC showed it was Rheumatoid Arthritis, and a local vet put her on steroids and doxycycline, never knowing that she was one of the 2% of dogs that go into Pancreatitis, along with liver, and gallbladder issues from those drugs. To say she was sick was an understatement...not eating, vomiting all the time, comatose, unable to walk. No matter what I did, it failed. 

So it was back and forth to the vets to be hospitalized, never knowing if they could save her. By the last visit I said, Enough. She was on eight medications, most of which caused her to vomit. Her vet and I made the decision to take her off all meds so she could hopefully rest and heal. If her body couldn't take food, it would only be a matter of time until she died. It was the scariest decision I have ever made. I felt damned if I did, and damned if I didn't. I knew I had to let her go. I loved her too much to put her through any more suffering.  

During all of this, I had begged and screamed and cried out to God for a miracle. If He wouldn't heal her, couldn't He at least give me a sign? Say something? How hard would that be? I had begun to believe that we didn't matter. After all, look at all He had on his plate in 2020. 

So when His reply finally came, it was a total surprise. I was flying down the highway to pick Prissy up from yet another hospitalization, totally exhausted and fearful of what was to come.  I had lived this moment over and over again for weeks; I would pick her up with hope and then several days later, after her not eating or drinking, I would bring her back again for another hospitalization...all my hopes shattered. 

It was then, through puffy eyes, that I saw them...

Dead animals on the side of the highway. Well, really in the median of the highway. Those poor animals had crossed that same road many times without problem. But then somebody put up miles of concrete barriers and all of a sudden they couldn't cross...there was this huge thing in front of them, keeping them from getting where they wanted to go. They must have been terrified...running along the barriers, trying to find a way through, only to be struck by a vehicle and left to die. Yup, that's exactly what I felt like.

Was it God who had put the barriers up in my life? Or was it just plain, We live in a fallen world and it's part of the story. So many things are out of our control. But that doesn't mean God is out of control.

And friends, that's where I had to make the decision to trust God again...even without answers or explanations. What it really was, was  my life verse: To know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering. By faith I had to believe that He suffered with me. and by coming near to Him, we could share this suffering together. And hopefully, all things were working together for good, in spite of what I could see.

He reminded me of the good that was coming out of this...

~ Feeling the pain of all the animals and people involved in emergency veterinary work, and the call to pray not just for Prissy, but for them also.

~ Buying a Christmas tree from a lot whose profits go to local research for childhood cancer, and then following them on FB and seeing the pain, and the joy, that these families are going through. 

~ Following a Canine Pancreatic site on FB, and while looking for answers, found so many whose beloved dogs had died. Pancreatitis is a life-long, slippery slope and health can change in a heartbeat. Prayer and encouragement are gifts I can give. 

~ People who prayed and wrote to encourage me...others who had also experienced loss, yet were willing to share their pain and carry mine...a gift I never could have bought.

~ How almost losing Prissy...and I may still...has taught me to slow down and enjoy the people and gifts in my life and not take them for granted. Coming so close to death has taught me that there are thing that matter. Choose these.

This has been a hard year for all of us...not one of us is entering 2021 without scars. But I don't want those to be the only signs of my having lived through a difficult time...

I want to come out stronger, wiser, more compassionate, more grateful and thankful. I want to remember the pain so I never take for granted...or miss...the people, experiences and opportunities that present themselves to me in the coming year.

And if hard times continue to come, I want to remember that He's not always seen, but He sees. 

You. Me. Everyone. And all that we are going through....this year, next year, and forever. 

Praise God!

A blessed Christmas, dear one. You are truly loved.











Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Get out of your head!

 


If I had any doubt that I was supposed to write this blog, the case of the missing mouse tells me I'm on the right track. I mean really, how far can a computer mouse run? But I shall not be deterred...I am determined that this blog post will see the light of day!

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It was the second day of our trip to Hilton Head. Ted was out in his boat for the morning and I was thinking on what to do by myself. Remembering that I needed a good read for the trip, the idea of biking to Barnes and Noble appealed to me. It was only a couple of miles on a well groomed bike path, a ride I had done many, many times in the past.

I could  picture myself, free as the wind, beauty all around me and a good book and cup of coffee ahead of me. 

Hurriedly getting ready, excited over what lie ahead, I was surprised when suddenly a blanket of doubt smothered me, causing me to stop mid-stride.

"You know you are going to fall. Why do you think you can do a ride like this alone? You are a klutz...think about how many times you have fallen in the past. And you know people coming at you aren't always paying attention. And how easy would it be for a car to swerve off the road and hit you?"

By then I was convinced this bike ride was not a good idea. At all. I needed to wait til Ted came home and we could do it together. Safely.

I walked out on the deck, my bubble of excitement and fun totally burst. And I wanted to cry. How many times had fear done this to me? Stolen opportunities and thwarted my hopes?

It was then I did something courageous...so outside my normal scope of reference. I got mad. Mad enough to say, I'm going to do it anyway! Granted I was still afraid, but something in me snapped and I was willing to take the risk.  

So off I went, a little wobbly at first, praying the whole way that I wouldn't fall or hit an oncoming biker or collide with a car at one of the many intersections. With every stroke of the pedals, my confidence grew and I felt the weight of fear fall behind me, shattering on the bike path.

I was doing it! I had stood up to my fear! Thankfulness bubbled up inside me when I safely arrived ALIVE at Barnes and Noble! I wanted to scream out, Who's the woman? High-Five, God!

Have you ever felt that way? Like you are just NOT going to be able to do something? I have. Way too many times. In fear, convinced I will fail, I have short-circuited too many opportunities. I have listened to the lies in my head, not the God of my heart.

Which leads me to the point of this blog...

Once I got inside the store...which BTW is absolutely the BEST Barnes and Nobles ever...I prayed from the deepest recesses of my heart, Lord, You know I am burned out. I have come this week desperately hoping to meet You here. I can't remember the last time I felt joy and peace. I have been living in a very dark place but I want out. Please, please guide me to just the right book. I desperately need to hear from You, to have hope again.

So I started wandering...up and down aisles, picking books up, putting them down. I was beginning to wonder if I would ever find anything that spoke to me. I felt hope eroding away and the same old doubt resurfacing: "God doesn't care about you. Why would you think He would? Look at all the pain He's caused you. And you think you can trust Him?"

I wanted to cry.  But holding back the tears, I kept on searching. I didn't realize it then, but it was my second faith-act of the day, and God was waiting to meet me in it.

And that's when I found it...


Whoa! I immediately thought, How cool is that? Followed by, "Ah, a New York Times Bestseller, probably written by some liberal millennialist who has lots of words but nothing to say."

But I was desperate, so I purchased a Chai latte and plunked myself down to skim through it. It was only a few minutes later that I knew...this was God's answer to my prayer! Seriously, I could have written the book! There have been only two books in my life that I have pretty much totally underlined and marked up: Shattered Dreams and this one. 


Suddenly, everything else I had planned for our time at Hilton Head fell away. God had handed me a gift and I clutched it like a life preserver. Just the thought that He had seen me! And knew what I needed! And had answered my prayer gave me hope.

And the author? Thankfully she did not live up to my fears. I could relate to her hopelessness...her lostness...her depression and blindness. I felt I could link arms with her and together we would find our way Home again...out of the spiral of toxic thoughts and lies I had been living in. And together we could step into a healthy, God-filled place...a place I had been homesick for for a long, long time.  

I wonder, can you relate to this? Do you wonder why you just can't rise above and over the thoughts that continually condemn you? Thoughts that are negative and destructive and entangling? 

I have been walking with the Lord for almost 35 years now, and yet I still fell prey to the lies and deception of the Evil One, the one whose goal is to keep us blind and captive and despairing, and whose intent is to turn us from God and into ourselves and the world's thinking...rendering us all but useless. 

The Deceiver has mastered the arts of camouflage and deception! Masquerading as an angel of light, seducing with a lie here and there...planting seeds of doubt and condemnation that over time strangle any hope of God's goodness and His love for us.  Slowly, we enter a very dark place...one that we can only be delivered from by the Light of God's Truth. 

On the last morning of our time at Hilton Head, I took the book down to the pool. While there, a Wren made it very clear that I was to pay attention to him. He jumped up near to me and literally stared me down, as if saying, I have something important to say so listen. I mean he was in my face! So I asked God to help me to understand and this is what I heard, (the Wren looking up for awhile) Look up to God and (the Wren, looking from side to side over and over again) do not look around. Then you will stand on the high places. And what do you think the next chapter was on? Yup, keeping our eyes on the beauty and wonder of God and not on people or circumstances. I rest my case.

It's been a week now, and as I have worked through the book, Light has begun to seep into my thoughts and hope into my heart. I have been given a manual for war, though granted it will take time to implement it all and become successful in it. But the tools and the strategy are there, and that gives me hope! With God I will win these battles, and ultimately the war. Now I want to tell others that they can overcome also!

Dear one, I don't know where you are, but I do know many of us feel defeated. And tired. And the thought of spending a lifetime this way is overwhelming. Take heart! We were meant for so much more! God will enable us as we throw off the shackles of doubt and fear, and turn in trust to our Lord, who will not only walk with us through the battles, but provide us with everything we need to fight victoriously!

If you are Fearful. Doubting. Anxious. Battling thoughts and beliefs you just can't overcome, consider this book. No, I'm not getting any payback from recommending it...just the joy of passing on a gift that I was given.

May it be a key that unlocks a door that you have been staring at for way too long. A key to all the good that God has for you. 

Oh, and the missing mouse? Still MIA. In the past, I would have said, Forget the blog, it's too much work without the mouse. And I would have let go of the opportunity to share all that I have. But I recognized the enemy's fingerprints all over that situation and wrote it anyway. So there, Satan! 

Dear one, you are loved!