Restoration

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You know my baby’s got the blues, and I don’t know what to do
I don’t know what to say, should I go away
And pray for her sorrow?

She sits there all alone, as silent as a stone,
And I don’t know how to help, should I keep it to myself
And wait for tomorrow?

And if I knew how to reach her where the waters run deep
I would give her the words that would help her to sleep.

At night she lays in bed with secrets in her head
With pain too deep for words, nothing can be heard
But the sound of her breathing.

Mercies and angels up above,
Heaven please help the one I love.
Guide the direction that she goes
Watch every step, each (?) stone
Please let her know she’s not alone
Give her the strength to trust in everything she knows

“Baby’s Got The Blues”~Larry Norman

I am lying on my bed, exhausted, unable to sleep. My mind is racing. I am replaying my day, over and over, and over again. Little, insignificant things that don’t matter in the light of day. Things that overwhelm me in the dark and make me wish I could have more than one do-over to make myself feel better, and appear smarter or younger to those around me. I wonder what is happening to me, and why I have allowed it to happen.

I am a strong woman, I tell myself, yet, somehow, I have fallen  into this horrible pit of despair, this black hole. I have lost my joy; I have lost my strength. What has happened to me? Again, I wonder.

Anxiety overwhelms me, and the cares of this world pile on top of me when I should be enjoying a restful slumber. I worry because I am not in control, and I am so very tired. Where is my joy, my content, and what happened to my peace? Where did they go? What is this dark place, this fog? What are these voices that laugh and sneer? I don’t like them.

I have joked that I am comfortable with the voices I hear in my head, but that is a lie.  I am not  comfortable at all. How was I so bold as to let them in? I am not that strong. I am weak. I know that now.

I cry out silently in the night, but there are no tears. I grasp for the precious words that were balm for my soul; my comfort and my strength. They gave me comfort and strength in days gone by, but they do not come to mind. What were those words, those verses? How could I have forgotten them? They were far more precious than I realized.  I panic.

“You have forgotten,” the voices taunt me. “You have let go. You were so self-assured and wise in your own eyes. You are lost now, they laugh.”

Yet, I have strength to whisper His name, and the voices flee.  They are gone, and the words, the balm to my soul, return. “Don’t be afraid. I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called you by your name. You’re mine . When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.”-Isaiah 43:1,2

The words keep coming, and I know the peace will return. Restoration is coming.

”Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”~Phil.4:6,7

”Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”~Neh. 8:10

Love and Grace, Joy and Laughter

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“Remain in me, and I will remain in you.  No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine .  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”-John 15:4

Love and Grace, Joy and Laughter.  These are simple words to bandy about during the Christmas season. We could all use a little more love and grace,  and joy and laughter.

My husband and I have had a lovely time during our Christmas vacation.  We have recharged our batteries, and I have used some of that time for some introspection.  I am not proud of where my thoughts  lead me sometimes.  I am far too independent for my own good. I profess to let God be in control of my life, yet I struggle with relinquishing control to Him at the same time.

When I read the Old Testament of the Bible, I shake my head. The lying and cheating and war and sex and dysfunction that went on is difficult to comprehend. It’s just as twisted as our society is today, I suppose.  Sometimes I catch myself wondering how I can relinquish control to a God who lets all that stuff happen. Other times I am reminded that God loves us. He gives us gifts to help each other, despite our pride and lying and cheating and dysfunction. In our modern world, when Christians are scoffed at for various reasons, I have hope that my faith in Him,  and in those He has placed in my life, is enough for each new day.

Often, I find  it is difficult for me to break through and keep up with my blogging and writing as often as I want to.  Writing is a charge, and a gift that I take seriously.  If I write something and put it out there, I want it to be worthy of my readers’ time.  I do not want to fill space on my blog just for the sake of posting something on a regular basis.  That being said, I wish I had the inspiration or the energy to write on a regular basis. Life gets in the way, and I do as well.

Sometimes I think very highly of myself and when I do, I find I will fail every time.  I think this happened to Peter when he stepped off a boat to walk on the water’s surface. Jesus called him by name and said, “Peter, come out of the boat and walk towards me.” Peter listened to this strange request and actually walked out of the boat and towards Jesus on top of the water. After a little while, he began to sink, so Jesus reached out, grabbed him by his hand and lifted him up; he kept him from sinking into the sea and drowning.  ( Matthew 14:22-23)

I have wondered why Peter began to sink before reaching Jesus.  I am not a Biblical theologian and I have not formally studied the Bible, but I think perhaps Peter was like, “WOW!  Look at ME! I am walking ON THE WATER! How cool is THAT? NO one has ever done this before…I am SO incredibly AWESOME!” At least, that’s how I would have felt, so this rendition works for me.

I think that, as soon as Peter thought he was doing this on his own, because he was so awesome, not because Jesus was giving him the ability to do it,  he began to sink. Of course Jesus reached out and saved the day, or at least, saved Peter from drowning.

This happens to me. Every. Day. I am just like Peter. (I think I am awesome, even though I am not, at least not always.) When I let myself get in the way, I am useless at what He asks me to do.  I am unable to use my words effectively, and I am unable to demonstrate kindness, or love, or grace, to anybody.

I had a situation at work that dragged on for months.  I started a new position at work, in another clinic within the same company. I love my job and was excited because my new job was only 4 minutes from home.  Who wouldn’t love that? My excruciating commute in Atlanta traffic was over.

I was excited to meet my new coworkers, and for the most part, most of them were wonderful. Strangely enough, however, a couple of people were a little disenchanted with me and with the fact that I had been transferred over to their clinic. They had some incorrect pre-conceived notions about me, and  did not welcome me with open arms. I didn’t understand why, and tried to correct the situation, but however I tried, I could not make things right. My work environment felt hostile, and  of course, I started to feel rather ugly myself. I could not summon up any good or warm feelings towards these other staff members.  I prayed for the ability to forgive these people, and still, I could not. Again, I confronted them and explained how I felt. I thought for certain that this would rectify things.  I learned that their preconceived ideas were due to lies that were told by other individuals, but still, they refused to show me any grace.  I was at my wits’ end, and couldn’t stop ruminating about this situation.  It was causing me a great deal of stress and anxiety.

Finally, one day , after many days of praying for change, I had an epiphany.  These people had not apologized or asked for my forgiveness, so why was I so intent on doling out forgiveness?  I realized that I was only required to love these people, not forgive them, at least in this situation.  Yet, how could I feel any warmth towards these individuals, let alone LOVE, after I felt I had been wronged?

However, I felt a wonderful freedom when I let things go and stopped looking for an apology.  I concentrated on getting myself in order, in doing my job well, and treating those around me fairly. I spent some time nurturing my relationship with the One who calls me to be me. Going forward, I hoped my situation would improve and it has.  For that I am grateful. Pharisees asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was. Jesus replied, “Love God with all your heart and soul, and then love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt. 22:34-40)

To  me, this was my miracle of the Christmas Season, this act of Blessed Release. I released something that I could never control, and it was replaced with Love and Grace. A special Love and Grace that I am incapable of conjuring up on my own. A Love and Grace towards others that can nurture Joy and Laughter in its wake.

”But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show us that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”-2 Corinthians 4:7

Mother’s Day

Ask the Lord for rain in the springtime; it is the Lord who makes the storm clouds. He gives showers of rain to men, and plants of the field to everyone.” – Zechariah 10:1

This verse in Zechariah has been resonating with me since the beginning of the New Year. I have felt that I have been living under the shadows of many storm clouds for a very long time. I have prayed for the strength and wisdom to shine through them with His strength. He has whispered to me softly over the years, and I have not always been in tune enough to listen. Some of my angst and turmoil has been caused by the fact that I am a mother and a daughter, and as many of you know, sometimes that carries with it some heartbreak.

Today is Mothers Day, and my children live  out of state, and my own mother is no longer with us here on earth. I know that Mothers Day is for some a day of celebration of family and love, and for others it can be a day of heartbreak and tears. Many women are not mothers, and would like to be, and many  have lost their mothers or their children, and are missing them today. Many mothers  have had wonderful dreams for their children that were altered by life circumstances and poor decisions.   As I was taking my dogs out for our early morning walk, I couldn’t help but think about what this day is for so many of us.

On Mothers Day when my children were young, I would often awake to sounds of rummaging in the kitchen. I pretended to  be “sleeping in” as I heard my daughter’s very loud whispers of, “Shhh! Mom is sleeping–don’t wake her yet!” She was admonishing her brother and father as they were clattering away in the kitchen. When they finally burst into the room carrying my breakfast tray, I would rub my eyes sleepily, and they would proudly sing their  happy Mothers Day wishes. I am quite sure the coffee was always brewed and poured before the toast was made, because it was always cold by the time they brought it up to me. As a matter of course, the dog and everybody jumped on the bed and watched me as I drank my coffee, and nibbled on the scorched toast and the boiled egg that always had bits of shell still attached to it. Later, as my children grew, the breakfasts they made became more sophisticated and sometimes we went out to eat. The whole family (minus the dog) was treated to a special meal to celebrate.

I wouldn’t change those breakfasts for the world; they were breakfasts fit for a queen, and I always loved it.  How I miss those days; I always knew where my children were and I knew they were safe.

Eventually, as the teenage and young adult years came upon us, Mothers Day wasn’t always a day of celebration for me. Rebellion and resentment took root in the lives of our kids, and suffice to say, that was difficult. However, these are not my stories to tell. I know someday my children will share their stories if they choose to, and others will be blessed.

I have often grieved about my circumstances with a dear friend who has experienced similar storm clouds to mine. She has always encouraged me with her wisdom, and by reminding me that we are privileged to be the mothers of our children. Specifically; we were chosen to be their moms, and we could choose to grieve and cry, or we could choose to rise up, embrace the storm, and shine through the clouds in His strength. It is with this thought that I cry tears of gladness, because I can feel the springtime rain coming down on our lives.  The fields are being planted. My children are grown; they have survived the storms also, and I am very glad, and very proud.

While my mother was still alive, I neglected to be perfectly honest with her regarding the trials our family was experiencing. I am not sure why I chose to keep things from her. I guess I felt she wouldn’t understand, would be disappointed, or she would judge me too harshly. One day earlier this spring, my husband had just finished a phone call with our son.  They had had an enjoyable conversation, and my husband was in a very good mood. That simple thing made my heart sing. I felt joyful, and I felt blessed. I also wanted to call my mom right away and tell her about it, and then of course I remembered that I could not. It made me realize how wrong I was to keep the sad things from her while she was here with us. In hindsight, I realized that she would have understood, and helped me. After all, she had her own experiences with the rebellion and stubbornness of her own children (present company included) to draw from.

Mothers’ Day has become a day of quiet enjoyment for me now that my husband and I are empty nesters.  He is lovely; he jokes that he is no longer an amateur and can make a decent breakfast and serve our coffee hot. Our children stay in touch, and we celebrate our moments with them, whether they are here in person, or whether we just have a chance to speak with them by telephone. We enjoy the day and take time to enjoy life’s simple pleasures. We are grateful for today and hopeful for tomorrow.

Happy Mothers Day. Be blessed.

“Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man….he will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.” – Psalm 112:4,7

 

 

Feeling Worn

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One day last week, I came home from work, exhausted, as so many of us do. I could not muster up energy to do anything other than be a slouch on my couch.  I settled in to read, and all four of my fur-babies tucked in around me.  It was a wonderful comfort to cuddle with them. It reminded me of another comfort that I had experienced in the past, on a similar day when I felt worn and overwhelmed.

It was one of those days; we’ve all had them: I was dragging my old bones around, and I didn’t have a lot of enthusiasm for much of anything. If you were to speak to my husband earlier that morning, he may have told you I was a little bit grumpy. I was tired and feeling blue. Finally, well after lunch time, I decided some exercise was called for; to blast the cobwebs out of my brain. I donned my running gear, plugged in my headphones , and turned my music up. I love iTunes radio…my favorite station is Tenth Avenue North…but that morning , I think I could have used something a little more cheery than the first song that came on. Some of you may be familiar with the lyrics from the song “Worn”. If not, I have taken the liberty of writing a couple of verses out for you:

“I know I need to lift my eyes up
But I’m too weak
Life just won’t let up
And I know that you can give me rest
So I cry out with all that I have left

Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart
That’s frail and torn
I wanna know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
Cause I’m worn

My prayers are wearing thin
Yeah I’m worn
Even before the day begins
Yeah I’m worn
I’ve lost my will to fight
I’m worn
So, heaven come and flood my eyes”

Fortunately for me, a much spunkier tune came on afterwards, and I was able to finish my run in fine form, but this other song has continued to be on my mind and on my heart.  So often when we feel too tired to go on, it is good to know God is always faithful to carry us, and mend our brokenness.

For some reason, God, in His Infinite Wisdom, has decided He would rather work through our prayers, when we have a need, rather than fixing things without them.  I don’t understand this rationale; perhaps because by nature, I like control. However, I have realized that this is just the way it is, and prayer is a powerful tool.

When I find my own prayers are not enough, I know  there are caring people around me who will pray for me when I have a need, and will listen when I just need to talk. This is important because it is too difficult to carry burdens alone. We are not designed to do that; we are designed to thrive in relationships with each other, and with our Father. Together, our relationship with each other, and our relationship with our Father can heal what is broken and worn inside each of us. 

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” —John 14:27

“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.” —John 16:33

Be Blessed

IMG_4059.JPGMy eyes are dry
My faith is old
My heart is hard
My prayers are cold
And I know how I ought to be
Alive to You and dead to me

But what can be done
For an old heart like mine
Soften it up
With oil and wine
The oil is You, Your Spirit of love
Please wash me anew
With the wine of Your Blood  ~Keith Green

It was my last day of work before my Christmas break, and I was walking my dogs in the cool, crisp, Georgia air. The windows of the cars parked along the road, and the mailboxes standing at the end  of each driveway, were covered in a thin layer of frost that sparkled in the moonlight. The air was so cold I could see my breath, and I was reminded of another “last workday” before my holiday week, a long time ago.

We lived in the Niagara Peninsula, in Canada, and I was driving home from Hamilton, Ontario, where I worked. I had had an especially long day and was extremely tired. I was anxious to get home to my husband and our four year old twins.   I was also thinking of the turkey I had yet to defrost,  turnips that needed squashing, and potatoes that needed mashing. My husband’s family was joining us for Christmas Eve, and it was my turn to cook. I remember wondering how I would accomplish everything I needed to.

It was dark,  snow was drifting across the road, and I could barely make out the taillights of the car in front of me. Suddenly, I heard an angelic sound of jingle bells, and in my mind for a fraction of a second, I saw a dazzling , glittering light. It was just an instant of time, but it was enough to wake me before I veered my car out onto the ice of Lake Ontario. I don’t know how long I was out, but I had fallen asleep  at the wheel,  while driving in icy, wintery conditions. I have often wondered what that was, that brilliant light, that jingle bell sound, that little Christmas miracle, that woke me just at the right moment. It has been a long time since I have sensed that feeling of comfort and safety, as if Heaven’s angels were watching out for me.

As I was driving to work this year, I was listening to Christmas songs on the radio. It  was the local Christian station I was listening to, because they always have the best Christmas music.  In between songs,  the DJ  was taking calls from listeners. A lady called into the station, and told her Christmas story.  She wanted to thank the people of this station for the work they do in the community. She explained that she had been an atheist, and had come to faith simply by listening to this radio station 2 years ago. She mentioned that now her husband and children were followers of Jesus as well.

I found myself considering this lady’s story for the rest of  my day. The fact that God would care so much for this woman and her family, that he would reach out to them through none other than a radio station, blew my mind. I was unnerved, because I was so surprised by this story. When had I changed?  In the past,  this story would not have impressed me so;  I would have easily believed it could happen.

Later that day, a coworker of mine left me a Christmas card, taped to the doorway of the room I work out of. I opened the card, and saw she had written, “Be Blessed.” The glitter on the picture of the beautiful card reminded me of the frost I saw on the ground that morning.  Consequently, I was reminded  of the night I fell asleep while driving  so many years ago.

“Be Blessed,”  is a common phrase amongst people here in the South, I have noticed. Be blessed, they say, or I am blessed.  It warms my heart, and it reminds me of the church I attended in my youth. We spoke Finnish in that church, and fellow worshippers would greet each other with the word “rauha”,  which means peace.  Their version of the saying, “Be Blessed,” I suppose.

This year, as I have baked and cooked, and tried to make Christmas nice for my family, I have considered this salutation of blessing, and my cynicism towards life.  I know that over time, “my heart has grown hard, and my faith has grown old. ”

This New Year’s Day morning, I was up early, once again, walking  my puppies. The air was damp and chilly; it was not cold enough to see my breath in the air. The sky was grey, and it was raining steadily. A stark contrast to my pretty Christmas frost of a few days ago. The sadness of it all made me feel empty inside, and I asked God what  it all means. I expected to hear His voice or admonition;  instead I felt only silence.

Despite my impassivity today, I decided to post a favorite verse on Facebook: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!”  I thought this was a great verse to encourage my friends this New Year. It is a passage in the Bible that both my husband and I are very familiar with. He proved this when  he pointed out the fact that I had neglected to post the reference to the verse. ” Why didn’t you let everyone know it’s from Isaiah?” he asked. I let him know I was too lazy  to look up the reference. He is ever so helpful, so of course he looked it up for me. It is found in Isaiah 43:18, and the first part of verse 19.

He also pointed out that the rest of verse 19, and the following verses, were wonderful also. “Here,” he said, ” let me read them out loud to you:”

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen…”

This. My husband’s voice, reading this . I realized, my eyes are not dry, my prayers are not cold, and I am blessed.

Enter Into Joy

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“Now this is what the Lord Almighty says, “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough. You drink, but you never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.  This is what the Lord Almighty says, “Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the Lord. “You expected much, but it turns out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin while each of you is busy with his own house.” ~Haggai 1:5-9

I read the above passage this morning, as I was drinking my  coffee.  I wish I could say this is a daily ritual of mine, reading Scripture while drinking coffee, alone and quiet in my kitchen.  It used to be, but somehow Life has become very busy, and my morning visit with my Father has often been left by the wayside.

This passage was a part of the message that the prophet Haggai had for God’s people in Jerusalem. God had rescued them from exile in Babylon and brought them home.  Eventually, as time went on, the Jewish people let themselves forget what God had done, and that He was their reason for living. They became apathetic and confused. The prophet Haggai was sent to remind them that they needed to re-examine their priorities.

I can relate to what happened to the Israelites in this period of history. My “busyness” and my attention to only myself, has led to the apathy I feel. It pains me to say this out loud, but it is the truth. I feel as if God’s house around me is in ruins. In my last post,  I wrote about the vulnerability I felt regarding worship  with my church community.  It has been three months, and I have to admit, I have not been to services.  I know that lack of support in my life contributes to the sense of hopelessness that threatens to overwhelm sometimes.  I am not taking care of “God’s house” in my life, and it is reflecting on me in other ways.  I am being robbed of my Joy. This is leading to other unwelcome feelings of anger, resentment and bitterness , and quite frankly,  I have had enough. This morning’s time reading my Bible helped me realize that I have not been myself, and now I know why. Forgiveness and change are mine for the asking, and I can go forward, unafraid.

“So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we wear?” For the pagans run after all these things and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”~Matthew 6:31-34

This is work; it is not easy. It can even be frightening. “Entering into the joy of the Lord” (Matthew 25:23), and rejoicing in His forgiveness, is a choice; a decision.

My son made the teapot in the picture on this page above,  and the angel is a friend’s gift to me. She told me it was called “The Angel of Hope.” She had her reasons for choosing this particular gift for me, and I remember our friendship fondly whenever I look at it. My angel and my precious teapot take up valuable real estate on my kitchen counter. In my turmoil and angst this morning, as I looked at these lovely gifts,  I was reminded of the love I have for my family and friends, and of the love they have for me. God wants us to take joy in Him, and in the community around us. This is how He whispers Hope and Joy into our souls.

“The joy of the Lord is your strength”~Nehemiah 8:10