Come Undone


“Hey you, out there in the cold

Getting lonely, getting old

Can you feel me?

Hey you, standing in the aisles

With itchy feet and fading smiles

Can you feel me?

Hey you, don’t help them to bury the light

Don’t give in without a fight.” ~ Pink Floyd

Sometimes, after the pep talks end and the encouragement fades away, we are left alone in the dark; brittle, empty, and afraid. Sometimes we come to the end of ourselves and realize that our painful  situation is still going strong and we have nothing left to give. Sometimes, we find that we are not enough. What then? When reality smacks you in the face like a giant tidal wave, no amount of self-help, Oprah’s book club, pop-psychology will save you.

To borrow a quote from the movie Speed, “Pop quiz, hotshot. There’s a bomb on a bus. Once the bus goes 50 miles an hour, the bomb is armed. If it drops below 50, it blows up. What do you do? What do you do?” (Oh the irony of using a movie quote when I’m talking about facing reality, right? Seriously, sometimes you just have to poke a little fun at yourself.)

OK, so maybe not every situation is as life-and-death as that….but yours may be. Your situation could have you sweating bullets, or sweating because of literal bullets. We live in a very angry world. It seems no one can even state an opinion these days without bringing down a firestorm on their heads. You’d better not say something that someone else doesn’t like. You’d better never make a mistake. Further, you’d better never even suggest that there might be only ONE truth and that it is a Person named Jesus and that he died to save every one of us angry, opinionated, offended, fault-finding, hypocrites. I have realized as I go through life that it is the easiest thing in the world to say one thing and then do another when we come down to the sticking place. But I’m getting off track now talking about Jesus…..Oh wait, no I’m not.

So anyway, Jesus……because he is really what will help us all out here (as in our lives in this world), not more of our own opinions…… Jesus…Name above all names, beautiful Savior, glorious Lord, Emmanuel, God is with us, Blessed Redeemer, Living Word…….In the midst of very personal and painful trials with my own family, my loved-best-in-the-world, my children, my parents, my siblings, my spouse, my dearest of dear friends…I have had to camp out at the feet of Jesus and just weep on more than one occasion.

The funny thing is that from the outside, people have many opinions about the reasons we all hurt, the reasons someone else hurts, or you, or me (SOOO many opinions!!); but we’re all kind-of just winging it as we go. I mean, no offense to you planning, careful types. I know you’ve worked hard and you know where you want to go. Good for you! 🙂

But, let me just say, as a non careful-planning-type someone who knows, that plans unravel and stitches come out, threads holding you to other people fray and tear, buttons get lost and zippers break. Sometimes, many times, our best laid plans are just not enough. Sometimes we get the thing we’ve wanted, and sometimes we don’t. Quite often, in fact, we don’t get the things we want. Many times we get the thing(s) we never wanted instead. It quite honestly seems to be horribly, cruelly unfair.

So, there you are, sitting in front of the blank wall of disappointment, where all your hopes and dreams have been crushed by a giant, undeniable “NO”. And yet, failure teaches us. Pain molds us. Disappointment tests us. We cannot grow without it, whether physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. Without “NO”, there is no reason to change or improve. “No” hurts us deeply. However, “No” is not the final word written in our story.

“For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us—by me and Silas and Timothy—was not ‘Yes’ and ‘No,’ but in him it has always been ‘Yes.’ For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”  2 Corinthians 1:19-22 Amplified

In our own lives, it will take each of us a good deal of time and thought and study to learn about the promises of God. We all have our own dreams and plans. Since we can’t honestly say that the purposes and motivations behind those plans and dreams are 100% godly, it behooves each of us to find out what God’s plans are for our lives and how they differ from our own often-frustrated plans….and how much God’s plans surpass ours in every way. 

Of course, a lot of us will say our own “No” here. We don’t believe it, and we don’t trust it…..but since we’re chatting as friends here, let’s call it truthfully what it is, this big “No” of ours:

We don’t believe GOD; and we don’t trust GOD.

There. I typed it out. You read it. No lightning has struck us. It’s not like it was a big secret anyway. 😉 A big part of the reason why we don’t see the fulfillment to the many promises of God is that we give less credence to the power, integrity, and intentions of the Maker of the Promises than we do to Starbuck’s when we order a drink at the drive-thru. In order to get past this stuff (and move on up, to the east-side, to a deluxe apartment in the sky as it were….you were singing along too, weren’t you?)….In order to set foot on the Promised Land instead of only hearing about it or seeing it from very far off, you and I have to grow up. (This post is taking me literally months as I stop and think about each new thought and walk some things out in my own life.)

You and I have got to quit playing at being followers of Christ, and actually take HIS lead and follow. Long ago, before Twitter or Facebook or any other ironically-named “social” networking site, there was such a thing as being a follower of Christ. The men and women who followed Jesus Christ were just like you and I. They had their own plans and hopes and dreams and families and heartaches and jealousies and livelihoods, etc…etc… Yet, each and every one of them was told to lay down his or her cares, take up their cross, and follow Christ.

When I was little and I would hear those stories with a child’s understanding, I thought they were basically left with the clothes on their backs. In my mind I saw this odd group of people trailing along in the desert wearing different colors of tunics and some sort of head coverings, like the cast of Jesus Christ Superstar. Their families were left behind. Their responsibilities were left behind. Basically, I thought Jesus asked them to beggar themselves and become outcasts. In my mind all I could picture was the loneliness, sacrifice and going without and being in want. I’ve heard it preached this way many times. Usually the follow-up example would be the rich young ruler, then riches were labelled a bad thing we all had to give up, and the collection plate would be passed.

Of course this kind of reasoning flies in the face of verses (from the NIV) like:

Psalm 23:1 ~ “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.”  

Matthew 11:28-30 ~ “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

John 16:33 ~ “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” 

OK, calm down. I’m not spouting heresy here. Just be patient with me. 🙂 Some people are called to leave everything behind and follow Christ into a deep jungle, or a burning desert, or the urban inner city, etc. Not everyone is called to do that, however. In the Bible, Jesus had 12 disciples and there were many others who followed along at different times. They eagerly listened to the challenging and beautiful words of the Carpenter from Nazareth and then brought those words back to their lives and families. They returned to their responsibilities and loved-ones and God-ordained places. They reached out to the people around them every day, their neighbors, friends, and family. They gave their possessions and time and talents and even wealth to the cause of Christ. Spiritually, we are ALL called to set as priority one: Jesus Christ.

No, Christ doesn’t need our money. Christ is seated at the right hand of God. (Colossians 3:1) The people we share the world with, on the other hand, have just as many physical needs as we do ourselves. Therefore, we are presented with a very practical, no nonsense way of showing the love of Christ to the people we encounter every day. People need bus fare, rides to work, babysitters, help around the house, a hand to hold, a meal, a few bags of groceries, a shoulder to cry on, our knowledge, our skills, our time. As indicated by the verses above, our recompense isn’t only waiting for us on the other side of the grave. How does all of this fit in with the concept of coming undone and trusting God to fill in where we’ve fallen apart? I’m glad you asked. 🙂

 

“And the Word (Christ) became flesh (human, incarnate) and tabernacled (fixed His tent of flesh, lived awhile) among us; and we [actually] saw His glory (His honor, His majesty), such glory as an only begotten son receives from his father, full of grace (favor, loving-kindness) and truth. [Isa. 40:5.]” ~ John 1:14 AMP

We, being so spiritually needy and helpless, needed someone to show us how we were supposed to put the laws and principles into living, breathing action. Much in the way a kindergarten teacher has to show their students how to hold a crayon or pencil, even to the point of physically molding the child’s fingers around the instrument, we all need to be shown how to do new things by someone who has already mastered them. Jesus came to show us the practical application of the Word of God, himself being the Word in the flesh.

Jesus came to walk it out for us. He came to show us what love actually looks like in human form. He became 1 Corinthians 13. He gave up everything to come down here in the mud where we live. He protected and taught. He served and healed. He befriended. He forgave. He took us by our sin-stained hands and raised us up. He gave us hope and a chance for a new beginning. Jesus invested himself in us. Now that is someone you can trust. Let’s look at a snippet from one of the verses above again.

“Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest (relief and ease and refreshment and recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls. [Jer. 6:16.]” ~ Matthew 11:29 Amplified

When you’re feeling broken, you need someone to be gentle. When you’re grieving, you want tenderness, not a lecture. While I was figuring out how to say what I was figuring out for myself these past few months, I stumbled upon a Bible study about Jesus (which you can find here)In this study, a lot of emphasis was placed on Jesus’ character. The attribute I want to especially look at here is his gentleness.

“Behold, My Servant Whom I have chosen, My Beloved in and with Whom My soul is well pleased and has found its delight. I will put My Spirit upon Him, and He shall proclaim and show forth justice to the nations. He will not strive or wrangle or cry out loudly; nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets; A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering (dimly burning) wick He will not quench, till He brings justice and a just cause to victory. And in and on His name will the Gentiles (the peoples outside of Israel) set their hopes. [Isa. 42:1-4.] Then a blind and dumb man under the power of a demon was brought to Jesus, and He cured him, so that the blind and dumb man both spoke and saw.” ~ Matthew 12:18-22
In the previous chapter, Jesus bids us to learn from him and tells us that he is gentle. In the next chapter, we have the two pictures of the bruised reed and the smoldering wick. Then immediately after this there is an extremely bruised and smoldering individual who is brought to Jesus. So we can watch him. We can see if he will do what he says he will do. Jesus healed and restored him. Once again, Jesus shows us with his own actions all the things that God’s word has been telling us. He is his own proof.
So, maybe today you are feeling bruised, mistreated, and misunderstood. Maybe, like a smoldering wick, you feel that your own abilities, patience, strength, and importance are used up. Perhaps you feel forgotten. Perhaps you feel like the world has thrown you away. I want to tell you that God sees you. Jesus died for YOU. You are not an accident. You are not a mistake. God has not forgotten you! The breaths you take right now as you read this are no mistake, like someone somewhere just left the TV on and you happened to be in the room.
This life of yours has meaning; YOU HAVE MEANING.
If you are hurting, let me just tell you as someone who has hurt as well, deeply, and come out on the other side, the other side of hurt does come. In the meantime while you are still in the valley, still taking shallow breaths and gritting your teeth against the pain, taking one day at a time, hoping against hope..Remember there is a gentle Savior who walks right along with you. He will sustain you, and he will lead you eventually out on the other side. Keep your eyes on this gentle Jesus. He is our best hope and comfort in this life. He is true to his word. He is able to lead you through and out of any valley you may be facing. One day, Jesus will lead us gently out of the final valley, and we will be home.

“Then I heard a mighty voice from the throne and I perceived its distinct words, saying, See! The abode of God is with men, and He will live (encamp, tent) among them; and they shall be His people, and God shall personally be with them and be their God. [Ezek. 37:27.] God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more, neither shall there be anguish (sorrow and mourning) nor grief nor pain any more, for the old conditions and the former order of things have passed away. [Isa. 25:8; 35:10.] And He Who is seated on the throne said, See! I make all things new. Also He said, Record this, for these sayings are faithful (accurate, incorruptible, and trustworthy) and true (genuine). [Isa. 43:19.] And He [further] said to me, It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I [Myself] will give water without price from the fountain (springs) of the water of Life. [Isa. 55:1.] He who is victorious shall inherit all these things, and I will be God to him and he shall be My son.” ~ Revelation 21:3-7

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Theresa’s Next Chapter


“MY SON, if you will receive my words and treasure up my commandments within you,
Making your ear attentive to skillful and godly Wisdom and inclining and directing your heart and mind to understanding [applying all your powers to the quest for it];
Yes, if you cry out for insight and raise your voice for understanding,
If you seek [Wisdom] as for silver and search for skillful and godly Wisdom as for hidden treasures,
Then you will understand the reverent and worshipful fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of [our omniscient] God. [Prov. 1:7.]
For the Lord gives skillful and godly Wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.
He hides away sound and godly Wisdom and stores it for the righteous (those who are upright and in right standing with Him); He is a shield to those who walk uprightly and in integrity,
That He may guard the paths of justice; yes, He preserves the way of His saints. [I Sam. 2:9; Ps. 66:8, 9.]
Then you will understand righteousness, justice, and fair dealing [in every area and relation]; yes, you will understand every good path.
For skillful and godly Wisdom shall enter into your heart, and knowledge shall be pleasant to you.
Discretion shall watch over you, understanding shall keep you,
To deliver you from the way of evil and the evil men, from men who speak perverse things and are liars,
Men who forsake the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness,
Who rejoice to do evil and delight in the perverseness of evil,
Who are crooked in their ways, wayward and devious in their paths.
[Discretion shall watch over you, understanding shall keep you] to deliver you from the alien woman (or man), from the outsider with her flattering words, [Prov. 2:11.]
Who forsakes the husband and guide of her youth and forgets the covenant of her God.
For her house sinks down to death and her paths to the spirits [of the dead].
None who go to her return again, neither do they attain or regain the paths of life.
So may you walk in the way of good men, and keep to the paths of the [consistently] righteous (the upright, in right standing with God).
For the upright shall dwell in the land, and the men of integrity, blameless and complete [in God’s sight], shall remain in it;
But the wicked shall be cut off from the earth, and the treacherous shall be rooted out of it.” ~ Proverbs 2:1-22
Today, my oldest daughter and firstborn graduates from highschool. It’s an odd feeling. No, it does not make me feel old. I feel more like long-awaited plans have reached a goal along the road of many goals. One long phase of her life, her childhood, is over. (Pause for tears before I can type again. Sigh) We have had some wonderful times, she and I, my beautiful Theresa, the child who first broke ground in my heart in a permanant, real sense. Theresa gets me, like few other friends have ever been able to do. She and I like a lot of the same things, and have a lot in common. In recent years, she has stepped in to a role of encourager, exhorter, and occasionally chasitzer, or is it chaser…..wait no that’s Harry Potter. Anyway, moving on…
When I thought about writing this post, I thought of all the encouraging, boring quotes I could use to point you off in the right direction, Theresa. But, they were boring, trite, overused, impersonal, and not the best I could give you. My best for you has always been my heart. My best has always been to try with shaking, imperfect hands, to point you in the direction of the One who will never fail you, the one accessory you dare not leave behind, and the friend who will never leave you or forsake you. God will never be too cool, or ditch you. He will hold your name in his heart and your life in his hand, so much longer than a tree. (Even a tree’s love has it’s limits, in spite of what Peter S. Beagle would say.)
I must grieve in that mother way, for the times of your childhood when I was your greatest hero, when you looked only to me to teach you things. I will cry a little because the next chapter means leaving some of these things behind, but not all. You and I can laugh only as you and I can, after all. But some of the dependencies you had in me must now be transfered to God. I know you and he have your own understanding. It makes me feel so much better about loosening my grip a little bit more. It’s like when you were little and learning to swim. I’d hold your hands as you stepped into deeper water, little by little you’d work your way past the cold torture of the water as it rose against your skin, your feet barely skimming the bottom. One day, you swam on your own, and you didn’t need me to hold your hands any longer. This has been the dance we’ve done for a long time now.
But times change, and people grow up. Your arms and legs are stonger now. You are able to swim, and learn, and decide, and choose, all on your own. I don’t always agree, or approve, but you have entered the realm of adult action and reaction. Bear it well, Daughter of Eve.
Many have or will or are graduating. This is the season for it. Many are going off on their own to tread the deeper waters of life, not all are as well prepared as you are, some are more so. Some of your future classmates will have more talent in some areas, some less. Many will have different ideas about life and God as they are away from their families and figuring it all out. Listen to them. Learn from them. Be thankful that your life lessons have not been what some of theirs will be. Be thankful that you have ever been surrounded by people who love you and love God and want more than anything for the two of you to be besties for life, and beyond. Yet while you are listening and learning and making new friends, never forget your Forever Friend.  He is the friend of sinners. He is the Savior of us all. Don’t be intimidated or brow-beaten into hiding the Light inside of you. The world NEEDS that Light, it is the only light there is in this dark world. (John 1:1-5)
In a world full of fleeting glowstick-light, the blazing hot sun of God’s love is the one you need to hold dear. In love, as you go about your day to day, this Light will shine on those around you. Love them. We all need love. When they are hard to love, be kind, when it is hard to be kind, be silent 🙂 , but pray. Bless those around you as much as you can and trust to God. He moves in secret places no one else can see. He is the God of hearts, who has a heart, and who changes hearts. While we both wait for a certain heart we both hold dear to soften, we can pray for that as well, and trust them to God.
For you, the best I have to give you is what you already have. Don’t only GO with God, go FOR God and IN God and BECAUSE of God. Not everyone is a missionary in a faraway place. Not everyone ends up in an official “ministry” position, and yet we are all called. We all can minister. This world is hurting so very much. We carry inside our hearts, the Balm for the world, for all the souls of the world. Be a balm. Be the BOMB balm. In times when you feel uncertain and inadequate, remember He is a balm for you as well. JESUS
My amazing, restless, bossy, wonderful, talented, limitless Theresa, you will do great things. Just remember to keep wisdom at your side, God in your heart, and never forget your pocket handkerchief.
“That people may know skillful and godly Wisdom and instruction, discern and comprehend the words of understanding and insight,
Receive instruction in wise dealing andthe discipline of wise thoughtfulness, righteousness, justice, and integrity,
That prudence may be given to the simple, and knowledge, discretion, and discernment to the youth–
The wise also will hear and increase in learning, and the person of understanding will acquire skill and attain to sound counsel [so that he may be able to steer his course rightly]–[Prov. 9:9.]
That people may understand a proverb and a figure of speech or an enigma with its interpretation, and the words of the wise and their dark sayings or riddles.
The reverent and worshipful fear of the Lord is the beginning and the principal and choice part of knowledge [its starting point and its essence]; but fools despise skillful and godly Wisdom, instruction, and discipline. [Ps. 111:10.]
My son, hear the instruction of your father; reject not nor forsake the teaching of your mother.
For they are a [victor’s] chaplet (garland) of grace upon your head and chains and pendants [of gold worn by kings] for your neck.
My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. [Ps. 1:1; Eph. 5:11.]” ~ Proverbs 1:2-10 Amplified

Run On Your Face


“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” – Inscription on the James Farley Post Office in New York City

Sometimes in a race, the glorious competitors have inglorious moments. Sometimes the supreme athletes trip and fall. Olympians have bad days too; but what sets a champion apart from every other athlete? Maybe those who win aren’t the most talented or the brightest stars in the sky (take that however you like and you will surely be right). Maybe a winner is simply the one who keeps going? Maybe the champion gets up again, even if he/she has to hobble the rest of the way? Maybe sometimes a race is won by crawling the last stretch. Possibly you can only win if you choose to crawl the last bit. Sometimes, all we can do is crawl, barely moving, injured, heartbroken, weeping, bleeding, shattered both physically and mentally. Help is near, and relief is in sight; but not just yet……not just yet… Right now, it seems too cruel that you would be expected to get up with your hurts so fresh, your humiliation so current, your failure so complete. I have faced this situation numerous times, naturally; we all do, and have, and will. One time, in particular, comes to mind, when I was 22.

I was in the middle of my marriage falling apart, outnumbered and out-gunned by my in-laws on every side. I was a confused, whimpering, cowardly, cringing, craven mess! I was used to someone else taking care of things. I had a toddler to think about; and I wanted someone to just FIX IT. My ex has mental issues that blew us all out of the water right around the time of my birthday. His poor family didn’t know what to do either. At one point our frequent marital spats were blamed, at another point, I was. However, writing truthfully about past hurts is difficult. Honesty doesn’t always allow us to remain solely the victim, good, well-intentioned, and put-upon. Looking back, I know that I was not to blame for the abuse or the mental breakdown. There was a history of “off-ness”. I didn’t always help with my own choices and attitude, though. One thing became apparent over the several years I dealt with my ex’s mental fluctuations: the mind is a mystery even in this day and age. How much of a person’s behavior is choice, or hormones, or mental imbalance? How much of our wits are a result of past choices and their consequences? This is not going to be a post about mental illness. (I am absolutely not qualified to write that post. I am absolutely qualified to tell you about what I went through, however, so I will.)

The particular incident I wanted to relate was a quite memorable encounter with my brother-in-law, whom I was staying with at the time. He and his wife took me and my toddler into their home. There is always a lot of friction when someone does this. The negative bits of everyone’s personalities often “outshine” the positives because of the inevitable stress of living with someone else who is unfamiliar and doesn’t have the same priorities or worries as everyone else. I recall sleeping a lot, which did not endear me to my in-laws, let me tell you. I was depressed (did I mention my toddler and I were newly released from a battered women’s shelter?), and I was also newly pregnant. I suspected at the time, but felt so overwhelmed already that I was avoiding actually dealing with the possibility. The queasiness coupled with the stress of the situation took 15 lbs off of my weight. I don’t recommend using that particular diet plan, to be honest. 🙂

One day, tired of my complaining and crying, and no doubt longing for his home to be his own again, he confronted me. He laid out some steps I should take to start picking up the pieces of my life and take care of my daughter. I continued to whine and cry and bemoan my fate, when finally he lost patience with me and threw away the paper he had been writing on for me. He basically said “Fine then, don’t listen to me! I’m done trying to help you!” Well, it hurt a lot, and for a moment I decided he was just a hateful person and didn’t understand why none of it was my fault, and the constantly rehearsed stream of why-mes started up in my head….BUT suddenly, I realized that I didn’t have to like what he was saying for it to be right. I realized I had no other options and that he WAS actually taking his time to try and help me. Even after I had this begin to dawn on me, it was actually physically painful for me to get up, go to the garbage, take out the paper, and walk back to him and ask me to help me. My shredded pride was a tough thing to choke back while I was still so hurt and angry. My wounded emotions screamed as I did it, BUT I DID IT ANYWAY.

No, of course, there were a lot of rocky patches as I used my own wobbly decision-making abilities and determination to struggle up the long hill toward self-sufficiency. Many nights I cried myself to sleep, and it was several years before I could finally break free from my rocky marriage; but it was a start. I faced down my own pride and hurt feelings more times than I care to remember, and still do, and will, gosh darn it, though I hate to even type that!

Sometimes, moving forward means we can’t just sit forever in one cushy hospital bed, or hidey hole, or friend’s house, or relative’s home and nurse your wounds forever. Sooner or later, we must all stand back up, even if we have to crawl for awhile first. Crawl, if you must. Weep if you must. Fear if you feel fear, but do not ever give in!

“You whom I [the Lord] have taken from the ends of the earth and have called from the corners of it, and said to you, You are My servant—I have chosen you and not cast you off [even though you are exiled].

Fear not [there is nothing to fear], for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice.

Behold, all they who are enraged and inflamed against you shall be put to shame and confounded; they who strive against you shall be as nothing and shall perish.

You shall seek those who contend with you but shall not find them; they who war against you shall be as nothing, as nothing at all.

For I the Lord your God hold your right hand; I am the Lord, Who says to you, Fear not; I will help you!” ~ Isaiah 41:9-13 Amplified Version

Pie in the Sky, and Why You Should Try


“If you run, you might lose. If you don’t run, you’re guaranteed to lose.” – Happy Birthday to Jesse Jackson (born on October 8, 1941) 

Ahh Fall! I love this time of year! It has always spoken to me of hearth and home, gathering in, and, naturally, being thankful that we have been kept alive all this year. It also makes me think of all the opportunities we have been given. Some opportunities have gone by the wayside, and rightly so; some, however, we should not have let pass us by. Making dinner for a sick friend, making time for our loved ones, making up, making amends…sometimes we can’t see the grand purpose of our lives through the day to day survival and routines. We miss out. We miss opportunities.

I’ve blogged about missed opportunities before (https://freeatlastww.com/2012/06/21/in-the-palm-of-your-hand/ , https://freeatlastww.com/?s=opportunity …), but my main point today is those “pie in the sky” opportunities. If something just seems too good to hope for, many times we settle for something we are worthy of, in our own minds. We think of ourselves as less than, so we accept a life that is less than. I read an article recently that talked about the way our relationships damage us and make us see ourselves as unworthy. This makes us much more likely to tolerate people who mistreat us, because, hey, that’s all we’re worth, right? Why should we hold out for people who respect us, when we don’t respect ourselves? That’s a topic for another blog, perhaps. 🙂

Personally, I have had this burning desire to write books for as long as I can remember. I’ve taken many side roads along the way. There have been times when I felt that I was kidding myself. (I can’t write, I’m wasting my time, etc.) The desire remains inside of me to write and become a published author. I can always improve, naturally; but my love affair with words is going strong. I expect I will always have this dream, because it is part of me. I expect you may also have a “pie in the sky” dream. Are you pursuing it? Are you working on it? Have you given up? No dream is too big. Men have walked on the moon, cured numerous diseases, fed the hungry, improved the quality of life, made fortunes, composed sonnets….on and on it goes. Sometimes, we may be really gifted in a particular area but still have a niggling dream somewhere else too.

A few months back, I had the privilege to stumble upon a video of Sir Anthony Hopkin’s waltz entitled “And The Waltz Goes On” being performed by André Rieu & His Johann Strauss Orchestra. It brought tears to my eyes. To think that this had been composed over 50 years ago, yet remained largely hidden all this time. It’s been quite a while since I saw the movie Mr Holland’s Opus, but I remember feeling the same sort of lifting in my spirit. How beautiful to not only dream your pie in the sky, but to finally be able to take a big bite!

Pursuing your dreams means a lot of work, and tears, and skinned knees, and falling on your face, and praying, and praying, and praying some more. I’ve had times where I realized I’d gotten a little too fixated on the Amazing Jessie, complete with fanfare. I had missed the point of my given dream. There IS, you see, a Dream Giver. He sits on high, high and lifted up, shining in the light of His Glory… God isn’t just some grumpy finger-wagger though we often make Him out to be. He isn’t a genie we can make wishes on, or a magic flute we can play whenever we’re unhappy. God is majestic, benevolent, all-knowing, forgiving, and GIVING. God gives us our gifts to give to others as well as to lead us back to Him. 

For my part, I feel God speaking to me through the motives of my characters, as well as their fears, failings, and triumphs. A musician might hear God in the harmony of notes, the precision and order of a well-played riff or chord. An architect might study the designed alignment of structures and see intent in the weight they can bear, their resistance to fire and earthquake. There is a seed of God in everything. It is sometimes difficult above the tumult of pain and suffering and injustice to see and hear His symphony, yet it is playing for you and me right now. God’s song of love for us has always been playing. 

Maybe when your “impossible Dream” comes to mind, you can remember that this dream was given to you by One who makes ALL THINGS POSSIBLE. Perhaps this dream is the song he sings over YOU. You are not alone. 

Today perhaps you should look again at this Pie in the Sky. Remember the flavor, the spice of it. Remember that aroma as it wafts again your way. God’s love for you is never failing. He is wooing you through the notes of this song, the nuance and specificity of your dream. Nothing can get in between you and His love for you. Nothing can keep you from the fulfillment of God’s gifts in your life. Nothing.

 

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38-39

It’s a Great Day to Be New!


“If we’re growing, we’re always going to be out of our comfort zone.” John Maxwell

Right now I have a packet of seeds, several packets in fact, sitting in front of me on my desk. Have you ever looked at a seed, to simply marvel at the size of it? Even a very large seed, like from an avocado, is small when you take the time to consider the possibility and potential that lies inside. A seed on its own doesn’t usually give much of an indication of the eventual fruit of the tree or plant it will become. The majority of seeds are dry, sometimes withered, unattractive, and easy to discount, easy to overlook. I have never once felt hungry when looking at the seed of a watermelon or tomato or orange. I have never looked at an acorn or maple seed and thought, “Now that is some lovely shade.” There is a lot of time and work required to get anything of value out of a seed of any kind. Time……Work…..Time and work…….Hmmmmmmm…….. Did I lose anyone? 🙂

A funny thing about these seed packets is that they all look the same. They’re all about the same size and color. Some are slightly heavier or thicker, but for the most part, they are all the same: packets of potential. On the paper is printed the seed names, instructions for best results, and a hand-drawn picture of the expected plants lying dormant inside each one of them. (I love botanical prints, but that doesn’t really come into this post much. 😉 )

Each one of us, living on this Earth, is like a seed packet. Some of us contain the seed for great works, or beauty, or development, or discovery. Some of us contain the seeds to nurture and care for those around us, or lead, or inspire, or protect. Each of us, no matter what out outsides may look like, where we may live, what we believe, or who we love, or fear, or mistrust, have inside of us the seeds of who we were meant to be. Not all of those seeds will grow. Many will be poisoned by life and sin and choices of our own and others until we stop believing that there was ever anything good or helpful or wholesome or even worthwhile inside of us. Some of us will grow weary with the strange and capricious weather of the world and opt to not plant our seeds. Why risk the heartache and the long years of work and waiting to see if one or two of our dreams may come to pass? It’s too much to hope for. It’s too hard. Its too…..I’m not….They don’t care anyway. Who needs ________________ really?

STOP. Just stop and listen to yourself! What would have happened if the greats had said this and taken no and wait for answers to their burning questions?? Our world is a hard place to live now. Think about how much harder it would have been without the brave souls who paid the price necessary to plant their seeds! Do you think there’s no cost when you plant a seed? You just dig a hole, put the seed in the hole, cover it up with soil, and walk away?

What about the seed, leaving a safe place for the dark unknown, where there is mess and regular dealings with garbage, manure (to put it nicely), and all manner of threat from above and below? AFTER a lot of watering and sheltering, this most fragile living thing finally emerges weak, twisted, and STILL not anything like it’s potential promises. One seedling looks pretty much like any other. They are all delicate, sensitive, and easily discouraged or even killed. This is the fate of embryonic dreams. When we finally have the courage to go ahead and plant them, very often they seem to disappear and we wait an interminable amount of time for them to finally show some signs of hey-I’m-not-crazy-after-all! Patience is hard. We want what we want and we want it NOW!! There was no waiting involved in your imagination when the dream first come to you. There was no hard work or try, try, trying again. What gives? Now in the sick and weary world our dreams are held up for scrutiny and ridicule even by those we most love and that hurts very much. There are even times when we may forget what we even planted. (Wait, is this row radishes or rutabagas? *Author’s note: I will NEVER, EVER plant rutabagas in my garden. Also why is it spelled rutabagas when you pronounce it root-a-beggas? Anyway, moving on.*)

Some people would tell you that labeling your rows is just plain old common sense. I expect most serious gardeners would. I often forget to mark my seeds, or the kids move them, or play with them, or for Heaven’s sake eat them (who knows?)! I find this to be true quite a lot, and not only when it comes to the garden. I find myself distracted by life and the turmoil that comes with raising a big family, let alone dealing with my own inner turmoil and fears and sense of inadequacy as a woman, mom, and wife? I mislay my dreams and hopes and goals. Sometimes I mislabel them, like when I was still a single mom waiting for Mr. Wonderful. I labeled my hopes “Mr. Right”. I should have labeled them “Mr. Right-for-ME”. Alongside that goal, I should have also placed a marker for “Healthier, Happier, Self”.  That crop had to mature a bit first. (Take note, lonely single people.)

Set goals for your dreams. Measure their growth in benchmarks. Keep track of your hopes and dreams. Never forget how far you’ve already come! You are a packet of potential! It’s up to you to show the world what you have inside!

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but [only] one receives the prize? So run [your race] that you may lay hold [of the prize] and make it yours. Now every athlete who goes into training conducts himself temperately and restricts himself in all things. They do it to win a wreath that will soon wither, but we [do it to receive a crown of eternal blessedness] that cannot wither. Therefore I do not run uncertainly (without definite aim). I do not box like one beating the air and striking without an adversary. But [like a boxer] I buffet my body [handle it roughly, discipline it by hardships] and subdue it, for fear that after proclaiming to others the Gospel and things pertaining to it, I myself should become unfit [not stand the test, be unapproved and rejected as a counterfeit].”  1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Amplified 

Phoenix Rising


“We draw our strength from the very despair in which we have been forced to live. We shall endure.” –  Cesar Chavez

Death, despair, desolation…the defeat you have faced is so overwhelming, you wonder how you can go on. All hope lost, all dreams shattered, even your friends have gone, you are alone with your pain, and the smoking ruin of your life collapses around you. You have lost everything.

When we are faced with a loss so deep, a grief so great, that we can’t seem to make sense of the point to even draw breath, we have come to the end of ourselves; and we have found out that we are not enough to fix it, to heal, to cope, to survive. So many people are faced with these kinds of situations everyday. The doctor’s report is in, the police officer at your front door with hat in hand, the judge’s sentence, the letter of dismissal, the empty place at the dinner table, the Dear John note; and we think that we have come to the end of the sentence and the end of meaning, and there is no more to be written.

It is so tempting to lie down in our ocean of grief, feeling betrayed and abandoned, and make the oh-so-easy choice to close our hearts, not only to the people around us, but to the possibility of there ever again being a possibility. We let the waves of sorrow wash over us, and we sink into the sea of misery and drown. Hope seems foolish at this point. Joy mocks us. Happiness, too, we’d like to cover with earth and let it fade, mouldering in the ground where our dreams have gone. There are no words to speak to such grief. Even time is an enemy, as the clock’s ticking eventually brings each day to a close; and then night comes, when we lie in our beds and think, and think, and think. We stare at the ceiling, but all we see is black. Our days are spent, looking past the real world, to the realm of memory and what might have been, where we stare, transfixed at the source of our grief, and all else falls by the wayside. We can sometimes be this way for long periods of time; and those around us (often also grieving) are afraid for us, and love us still, and miss us while we walk like zombies in this half-life that has claimed us. We might as well be buried along with our hopes and dreams.

But life goes on, all the same.

It is important to remember that life goes on after grief. It seems wrong; it seems unfair, but life continues and we remain for a REASON. Of course, we can make the choice to sit in the ash heap and sift through the rubble for the rest of our lives. We can succumb to our feeling of hopelessness and make it a reality. OR….we can make a different choice, and have a different fate.

“Most beings spring from other individuals; but there is a certain kind which reproduces itself. The Assyrians call it the Phoenix. It does not live on fruit or flowers, but on frankincense and odoriferous gums. When it has lived five hundred years, it builds itself a nest in the branches of an oak, or on the top of a palm tree. In this it collects cinnamon, and spikenard, and myrrh, and of these materials builds a pile on which it deposits itself, and dying, breathes out its last breath amidst odors. From the body of the parent bird, a young Phoenix issues forth, destined to live as long a life as its predecessor. When this has grown up and gained sufficient strength, it lifts its nest from the tree (its own cradle and its parent’s sepulchre), and carries it to the city of Heliopolis in Egypt, and deposits it in the temple of the Sun.”  Ovid, on the Phoenix Bird

The Phoenix does not only live on choice and expensive spices and resins, but it springs out of a nest of ruin. There is no re-birth for the Phoenix, until there has been a death. There is a time and place to deal with death, but that is not where the Phoenix lives.

“So when the new-born Phoenix first is seen,
Her feathered subjects all adore their queen,
And while she makes her progress through the East,
From every grove her numerous train’s increased;
Each poet of the air her glory sings,
And round him the pleased audience clap their wings.” Dryden 

Not only does the Phoenix rise from the ashes of desolation, but it is surrounded by scores of other birds because a Phoenix is a glorious conqueror, beautiful, remarkable, and rare. The Phoenix is an overcomer, and we are all encouraged by someone who overcomes. Against great, impossible odds, the Phoenix rises, strong, triumphant, and aflame!

Do not be drowned in your ashes. You can rise again to a brand new beginning! There is joy after grief, as surely as day follows night. You are alive for a PURPOSE. There is a PLAN. You can OVERCOME this sorrow, and be a light to encourage many people.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.On the contrary:

‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:9-31

The Nature of Me


My Blog, aka, Sorry My Mind Must Have Wandered

I once wrote a biography for English in my junior year of high school. Naturally, it wasn’t a very long story and maybe not even a good read, but it was interesting to make an effort to see my life as it might look from the outside, to an impartial observer. It took some years for me to finally figure out that, contrary to science journals and social experiments, there is no such thing as an impartial observer. Bias makes us human, and also interesting. We can relate to one another through our bias, or preferences. I might like Chinese and Mexican food but the thought of trying a certain Ethiopian crock pot recipe (again) makes me want to just pitch my slow cooker in the trash! Quirks and eccentricities are what give us all our unique personalities and ourFLAVOR!

I remember desperately trying to be like everyone…

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Be Still and Know…


“There are times when parenthood seems nothing more than feeding the hand that bites you” – Peter De Vries

Blogging has become a very therapeutic  activity for me. Sometimes it helps me just to make sense of the world and my place in it. If I can encourage other people while I’m at it, then all to the good. Sometimes, however, my being a mom tends to get in the way of things I really want to do, like blogging, or learning to quilt, or taking a shower. I’m sure a lot of parents can sympathize with me on this one.

On 9/11, I had a great ( in my mind) blog post all worked out……..it somehow did NOT work out…..or even several days later, when a young, lovely girl here in our local high school that has a graduating class of less than 200, who took her life after school. I wanted to exhort, encourage, I wanted to say something profound and shed a little sunshine into otherwise dark and depressing times. My job as a mom took precedence, however, as wisdom reminds me….it is supposed to do just that.

Even though my family is warm and dry and well-fed and protected and all the blessings we hope and pray for our families to have, I often feel that  am missing out on something big, something I could have done, or said, or written, or experienced…. I know I am not alone in this, either. There are scores of books and movies about women (and men) who override this immediacy of parenthood and run off unshackled into the sunset to pursue their dreams. They live happily ever after, for the most part, in those stories. Why doesn’t everyone do this then? Why don’t we have generation after generation of orphans instead of these silently exhausted and stressed-out masses who find it difficult to have a normal adult conversation without recounting so-and-so’s bodily functions for the day?

Perhaps parents everywhere, on every continent, know the secret to being a parent and keeping their life’s light of hope still burning. Perhaps these parents have learned that there are not stretches of eternity….not in this life…..but seasons that are ever-changing, each beautiful for its own characteristics. Maybe they know that there will be days in the future when the little inconveniences and annoyances and heartaches we endure for our children’s sake (and sometimes because of them), will fade and leave mostly happy memories and funny stories in their place.  I try to remind myself this on days when I feel overwhelmed and want to run away and hide, after selling all of my children to the gypsies….or the circus….or maybe the bargain bin at Grocery Outlet. The frantic need for peace and quiet claws at me and makes my best intentions seem quite thin at other times. What I am left with is a simple verse out of the Bible:

“Be still and know that I am God…” Psalm 46:10

I must trust that my days as “Mommy” who wipes noses, tears and bottoms, listens to silly stories and book reports, corrects papers, and on the list goes, will one day change and I will be more like Dear Abby, giving advice and listening from afar. I will miss this and will probably not feel like doing the things I think I am missing out on now. Those things I’m missing, aren’t worth my time as much as these little adored human beings I am responsible to raise to giving, living, loving adulthood. In the end, I don’t think my most important work is being left behind. I think being a mom is the most important thing I will ever do, even when my wildest dreams come true, as some of them surely will. Let me encourage you, also, with this ridiculous stream-of-consciousness rambling that I am doing. God sees what you do, your children see what you do, others see what you do. A good parent is priceless. Don’t undermine your day in and day out job of teaching someone how to be an amazing human by doubting if it’s all worth it. It is. They are. You are. One day things will change. When they do, be able to look back fondly on memories of how you invested in these small ones who looked to you for everything. Be still, and know that He is God. You’ve got this; and He’s got you.

“God is our refuge and strength,an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come and see what the Lord has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’ The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” Psalm 46:1-11

Once Upon a Life…


“Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” C.S. Lewis

I have always loved pretend stories. Fairy tales, tall tales, folklore, mythology, fables; they have enchanted me since I was little. As I have aged, like many others who share this love of fairy stories, I have seen grains of truth and life lessons inside these tales. Many, like Aesop’s Fables, have morals and lessons woven into their fabric. Other tales are presumably told for the love of storytelling. As we go through life, however, we learn that every story has a moral. Sometimes we see actions to emulate; and other times we might witness perils to avoid.

Our own lives are filled at times with goblins, enchanted forests, vile sorcerers, shining heroes, and the rest. What we can take away from this is that, unlike a pre-written tale where the actors have no say about its many twists and turns, our stories are peopled with those we happen upon as well as those we choose. Our actions have much to do with our ultimate conclusion, so much more than our initial story’s setting. We can all be working toward our “happily everafter”. The farther you have to go to reach this end, the greater the accomplishment, the more inspiring and harrowing your life’s tale will be. Who wants to read a story that goes from “once upon a time” to “happily everafter” with nothing in between or after? (Happily everafter takes some work.)

Many of the most popular stories have a great opening.  “In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit.” – C.S. Lewis, The Hobbit.   “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” – John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath  “Call me Ishmael.” – Herman Melville, Moby Dick. The very best tales, however, have a good ending.

Does not wisdom call out?

Does not understanding raise her voice?

At the highest point along the way,
where the paths meet, she takes her stand;
beside the gate leading into the city,
at the entrance, she cries aloud:
To you, O people, I call out;
I raise my voice to all mankind.
You who are simple, gain prudence;
you who are foolish, set your hearts on it.
Listen, for I have trustworthy things to say;
I open my lips to speak what is right.
My mouth speaks what is true,
for my lips detest wickedness.
All the words of my mouth are just;
none of them is crooked or perverse.
To the discerning all of them are right;
they are upright to those who have found knowledge.
Choose my instruction instead of silver,
knowledge rather than choice gold,
for wisdom is more precious than rubies,
and nothing you desire can compare with her.”  Proverbs 8:1-11

 

 

Pinocchio’s Prize: The Velveteen Equation (Part 2)


“How long should you try? Until.”  Jim Rohn

We all have dreams. Some of us seem to have to work so much harder and longer than others to reach our goals, however. Consider, if you will, Pinocchio. Incomplete, or so he thought, he was loved, cherished, and cared for by a kind old man who wanted a son. Pinocchio had much that many would covet; but he wanted more.

Its funny, I’m sure, when we hear about some people and their dreams and then watch the choices they make. Some people want to be debt-free, but continue to make poor financial decisions. Some people long to be married, but make themselves so unpleasant that it would be unlikely for anyone to want to be their friend, let alone their spouse for a lifetime. On and on it goes with the human race. We are so ridiculously foolish sometimes, it seems that it would take nothing short of an act of God to turn us around and get us going on the right path again.

But wait, who is this little fellow tagging along wherever Pinocchio goes? We could all use a tangible Jimminy Cricket sometimes. Like Pinocchio, we often get distracted along the way by things that seem easier, more popular, less restrictive, and more fun. Somehow, sooner or later……many times much later, we realize that none of these things was worth the time we invested or the many things (and people) we lost along the way. It’s easy to picture Pinocchio, locked in a cage in Stromboli’s wagon as it rolls down the road while his father, Gepetto, trudges through the rain and the dirty streets looking for him. How embarrassing it was when he was caught in his lies and truancy and procrastination and idleness, time and time again.  After all that he put himself and his father through, Pinocchio finally made good by persevering, hoping, and ultimately sacrificing himself and his selfish desires to save his father from the dreaded whale, Monstro.

What is the prize that Pinocchio won? Was it his long-awaited dream of becoming a real boy, or was it something else entirely?

“And because you [really] are [His] sons, God has sent the [Holy] Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, Abba (Father)! Father! Therefore, you are no longer a slave (bond servant) but a son; and if a son, then [it follows that you are] an heir by the aid of God, through Christ. But at that previous time, when you had not come to be acquainted with and understand and know the true God, you [Gentiles] were in bondage to gods who by their very nature could not be gods at all [gods that really did not exist].” Galatians 4:6-8

(To Be Continued…)