Saturday, March 21, 2020

On keeping calm and trusting God

Yesterday we made the difficult decision to cancel our daughter's bridal shower that was scheduled for next weekend. It was the right thing to do, especially as several of the wedding party work in the medical field and have been in contact with those carrying the virus.

Like you, we have been side-swiped by this virus. My son said yesterday, "We're just not used to bad times." And he's right. We've been able to be in control of our lives for so what we want...when we want...that we haven't had to really exercise the one thing much of the world has come to recognize as vital...


This morning, after a more than restless night's sleep; tossing and turning, tossing and turning, having solved the shower issue but now wondering what to do about upcoming wedding plans, I stood up for more coffee and my attention was grabbed by what was happening outside the living room window...

What moments before had been dead and colorless woods, covered in a fine rain, was now a shining fairyland bathed in sunlight that had broken through the clouds. The dark sky behind it only made the picture more stunning.

God knows I'm a visual learner so I'm taking this as a confirmation of the conclusion I had so agonizingly come to...

We need to have Hope...a Hope that shines in the darkness.

Hope that this virus, and all it has done to our lives, did not take God by surprise...

Hope that He is still on His Throne and in control...

Hope that we can Let-Go-and-Let-God, because none of His promises have ever, ever failed anyone during times of hardship and therefore we can trust Him.

What's the alternative? Hey, I can answer this one! Whine? Complain? Be discouraged? Turn to other gods to give us the fix we need? I have done them all this week, I'm ashamed to say.

Oh, but I have this great excuse I've been using! Want to hear it? I have OCD and it's so difficult to have my world in chaos with things I can't control or put in order.

And it's true. But it's only half the equation. With my eyes on myself the only way is down. God is still God whether I have OCD or any other quirk of human nature. He's bigger than____________. (Fill in the blank) If you can't put your circumstances in the blank, then put in any of the trials and temptations that Daniel, or David, Paul or Jesus faced. That works.

George Mueller said, "The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety."

I'm no great theologian but I'd like to offer the idea that Faith and Hope walk hand in hand.

When we lose faith, we lose hope. And hope deferred makes the heart sick. Heart-sick. That's been me this past week.

But it's time to say, Enough! If nothing else, this time will show us what we have faith in...where we have placed our hopes. And that's a very valuable gift from a God who loves us no matter what.

And it could be a wake-up call on all fronts. I know I need it. Do you?

So, back to the idea of what to do about the wedding. It sounds so simple, but as any of you who have ever helped plan a daughter's wedding know, it's anything but simple! Weddings involve reservations way ahead of time, and lots of down payments on venues and photographers and caterers, etc all willingly offered. But money that could now be lost if decisions aren't made soon to cancel.

We had planned on doing the invitations this week...a sweet time of putting paper form...hopes and dreams for the future...a once-in-a-lifetime Mother/ Daughter thing.

To do or not to do? That has been our heart cry!

But you know what? If all we lose is the money spent on stamps and invitations...stepping out and putting actions to our hopes will be worth it. The worst that can happen is we have to re-order new invitations with new dates  and purchase hundreds more stamps. The best that can happen is our faith will be rewarded.

We have never known what the future holds. Ever. We just have lived like we have.

Now we have an opportunity to start afresh.

I believe with all my heart that all that is going on in our lives will serve us well...not only now, during this difficult time...but for whatever the future holds.

I carry you in my heart and prayers, dear ones. God's got this.

Lord, help me not to be anxious, I know that, whatever I am facing, You are right there with me and have promised to never leave me nor forsake me. Help me to trust You, despite the circumstances that surround me. Lord, when I am tempted to be anxious, help me to speak your promises, to overcome the attacks on my mind with answers from your Word. Let me be quick to respond to wrong thoughts and desires by replacing them with good thoughts.

Thank you, Lord, that You light the way before me. You give clear instructions and keep me firmly on the paths of righteousness. I put my complete trust in You. You are my shield and my refuge. You are my rock and my fortress. You are my hiding place and strong tower. In the midst of the storm, You enlighten me with your understanding and give me peace. I refuse to be anxious about anything. 

From 'Keep Calm and Trust God'
Jake Provance and Keith Provance

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Open our eyes, Lord!

I used to have this appetite for my life, and it's just gone,” Elizabeth Gilbert wrote, “I want to go someplace where I can marvel at something.”

‘Yes!’ my weary spirit screamed, ‘Exactly!’

Turning my eyes from my morning perusal of the iPad screen, I took note of the birds hopping around on the tray feeder outside my living room window. I was especially drawn to one of the Goldfinches, whose feathers ruffled gently in the breeze. 

My first thought was a statement- ‘That would make an amazing picture.’

My second thought was a light-bulb moment- ‘And that’s why I take pictures! My camera helps me focus on what’s important or fascinating or beautiful in that moment!’

Granted any hobby or skill...can take you to an unhealthy place where it becomes all about perfection. And that can be downright frustrating, wanting to get it right and beating myself up when I fall short.

Of course there’s always the tantalizing possibilities that Lightroom and Photoshop dangle in front of you- a Promised Land where no matter how bad your picture is, there’s redemption and the hope of perfection. 

But lately, I’ve been less concerned about getting it right. I’ll probably never achieve acclaim for my photos...except through my gracious family. I’ll probably never win a contest or be on the cover of National Geographic. 

Does that mean I should give up and give in? Sell my camera and equipment on EBay? For sure there have been times when in a fit of disgust over a bad shoot that I seriously contemplated it...times when it seemed I was never going to get the hang of it and what was the use anyway?

And yet, in spite of it all, I am still drawn to photography.

This morning, during my light-bulb-moment watching the birds, I finally understood that I enjoy photography because it causes me to be awake and aware of what’s around me. Have you ever gotten into the car to drive somewhere and you take off and suddenly you’re there and you can’t remember how you got there? That you were oblivious to everything on the way, stuck in auto-pilot mode?

That’s how life can go if we’re not careful! The days and weeks, months and years fly by. Every week we look at each other and say, on Friday, ‘It can’t be garbage day again! Where did another week go?’

Recently, I bought a painting from a woman at JAARS. Her mother-in-law had painted it years ago and she was ready to part with it. It put a smile on my face because it’s a picture of my Happy Place...the place I go to when I need to be refreshed and renewed...Arizona...a place about as opposite the Southeast as is possible! The landscape, the weather, the birds and wildlife all offer me a chance to see with new eyes. Dare I say it’s like going from water to an energy drink?

So, what do we do when we’re just not seeing anymore? When life is monotonous and drab and washed out? When it seems our days are run on auto-pilot and it’s always Friday again?

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Broken is even more beautiful

Let me ask you a question at the beginning of this Advent season, How are you with brokenness? Yours? Others? Mankind's in general?

Advent is a gift, one that is best received in quietness. It's a time to open the doors of our hearts to the Light that came into the world, a Light born of love that longs to draw us back to Himself. But as any light will do, it will expose...our hearts...our sins...our failures...our broken dreams...our shattered hopes. Not so that we may be judged, but because He knows, better than we do, how very much we need to be restored. 

Advent is all about reconciliation between a Holy God and broken mankind. It was true 2,000 years ago. And it's still true today.

Which brings me back again to the question, How are you with brokenness?

Thursday, October 3, 2019

How are you with Change? Well, let me tell you...

Things have been crazy here seems like I'm always playing catch-up, but not enough to ever get ahead, which is frustrating to me, especially when something is swirling around in my mind and I can't grab on to it long enough to make sense of it.

So I decided yesterday to head out to a local library for some study time...some thinking and quiet time. Evidently they had forgotten that though it's officially Fall on the calendar, it's still Summer in the South. Someone needs to tell them to turn off the heat and put the Air back on! Pondering the other options available, I ended up at Starbucks, the hiding place of great thinkers and needy coffee drinkers. I always thought it was so cute the way they all herded in there...students-of-whatever, hunched over their computers, coffee cups nearby...

But the fact is, it was air-conditioned, so I joined the throng and settled in.

So, let me ask you the question of the day, How are you with change?

Do you welcome it? Dread it? Avoid it? All of the above?

Me, I like it once it's underway, but knowing it's coming sets my stress markers off the chart. I'm a creature of habit, who once shaken from her comfortable abode can appreciate change for awhile, but who has to eventually find stability again in the known.

Hence the problem...I need to make a change. And even though it's for good, it still causes me stress. You want to know why? Because I have faced this change before, and was not successful in it.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Who are you comparing yourself to?

I often say, "I am what I am, by the grace of God, I am."

This sounds like I'm content with myself, doesn't it? Like I've arrived at a peaceful resting place, where there's no self-contempt or judgement...just abiding in His grace.

Truthfully, I think I use it more for an excuse and consolation...for the times I fall short or fail...another way of saying, "Well, gosh darn, I still haven't got it right but it's okay...slowly I go, step by step, inch by inch."

I wish I believed it more...that I'm enough, just as I am...a hodge podge of sin and grace, light and darkness, beauty and scars...custom made by the Master Builder with a purpose in His mind, though often I admit I have no idea what that is!

Monday, June 24, 2019

The call to be astonished at who you are!

As I stood there this morning, finger poised above the Start button on the washing machine, I remembered a post I had written years ago about the very same thing...

My parents had just driven off after a lovely visit. Their sheets were in the washing machine and I felt that by pushing the start button I would be forever washing away the sweetness and memories of our time together.

Today, as I looked one last time at the mud encrusted pants and soggy socks thrown into the washer, I felt the same way...

That I was washing away something priceless.

Which really is crazy, because at the time those socks and pants were not welcome. Not at all.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

The power of a dying Osprey to bring about change

How do you know you're hearing from God? And not your own disillusioned mind?

For me, it's usually a matter of running across the same thing, said in different ways, over and over again...usually in a short period of time. Probably because God knows my attention span and containment levels are so low.

It's kind of like those connect-a-dot books where you know there's a picture coming but you just can't quite discern it yet.

So when I'm in Crisis Mode and looking for answers and I see the first "dot" show up on my radar screen, I automatically start looking for the next one.

Like today.

Because I'm madder than a wet hen over something that happened yesterday and though I would prefer to hide away and deal with it over a large chunk of chocolate, I also realize that what I need is resolution.

And courage. Definitely not one of my strong points.

So, what has me so riled up you ask?

If you know anything about me, you know that I am empathetic to a dangerous level. I feel pain deeply. So yesterday, when we as a Naturalist class had the opportunity to save an emaciated, exhausted Osprey and get it to a place that could revive it, we...and I use that term as relating only to the class, and not the individuals in it...left it to die.

It's a long story, but suffice it to say that stupidity won. It should never have happened, and need not have happened. And many of us were angry and disillusioned over the decision that was made.

And to make it worse, the leader came up to me after and admitted that he agreed with me- that we should have gotten help for it. And that was the proverbial final straw. Sure I had stopped to save a goat that was loose on the highway on the way to class that morning, knowing that it might not end well. And I didn't lose it when we found a beheaded Red-tailed Hawk on the trail that had fallen prey to an owl. Such is the 'circle of life'.

But to withhold help to something that could have been saved? To me that is a denial of humanity.

So I looked at the leader and said, "If this is what it takes to be a Naturalist, I want no part of it," And I walked out and away.

And today, I still mean that.

But I see it differently.