Restoration …Again

“Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world.

All things break. And all things can be mended.

Not with time, as they say, but with intention.

So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally.

The broken world waits in darkness for

the light that is you.”. L.R. Knost.

Earlier this spring, My husband and I were planned a trip to Minnesota, to visit our grown children who live there. Our daughter was graduating from grad school, and it was also Mothers’ Day weekend. It would be the first Mothers’ Day in several years that I had spent with both of our children, so of course, my excitement meter was high.

Prior to our road trip I took the car in to the dealership to have the oil changed, and I learned that the tires were bad and needed to be replaced. I cheated and replaced only the back two tires, intending to replace the other two at a later date. The tires on my car are “run flat” tires, meaning they are designed to not go flat even if you drive over a nail or puncture them. For this reason, my car doesn’t come with a spare tire. It is deemed unnecessary, because you are supposed to be able to safely get to a place where the tire can be replaced or repaired. I thought that cheating on the tires would be okay.

We packed up our car with our belongings and our dogs, and were set to have a fun road trip. We were having a lovely time until we drove over a large pothole in Illinois. The sidewall of our front tire blew out and the hole was catastrophic.

We pulled over beside a field of dirt in the middle of what felt like nowhere. We were stranded until roadside assistance could get to us, because, you know, we didn’t have a spare tire.

The next several hours were spent waiting for a tow truck to arrive. We stretched our legs occasionally by walking our two dogs along the dusty roadside. It was also less than three weeks after I had had full knee replacement surgery, and I was more than uncomfortable because of the waiting around, and inactivity in the car.

A moment of clarity came to me when I was stretching my legs. I was feeling very happy that our incident didn’t result in anything more catastrophic than a hole in our front tire. We were inconvenienced and would miss precious time with our kids, but I wasn’t feeling anxious or angry. I realized at that moment that there had been a change in me over the past several months. The anxiety I would normally have felt in a time like that was non-existent, and was replaced with silent prayers of thankfulness and a feeling of well-being.

It has been a year since I wrote my last post called ‘ Restoration ‘. That was the beginning of a slow process of change for me. What many call mindfulness and meditation, I will call prayer and worship. This, and a prescription from my doctor has helped keep my anxiety at bay.

It’s amazing to me that I am able to rationalize my experiences quite clearly. I spend less time getting caught up in what I refer to as the muddiness of my thoughts and emotions. I’m able to let things go without feeling as if I have to fix what I think is wrong around me. This, I realized when I used the restroom at work and saw that someone had hung the toilet paper in the “wrong ” direction. I was able to just use it without fixing the roll first! Progress is a beautiful thing, and the realization of it totally disarmed me.

I am thankful for the life I have. I am giving angst and turmoil less space in my head, and will embrace each day as it comes with thanksgiving and hope for the future.

“I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.”-Jeremiah 31:25

“He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds.”-Psalm 147:3

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God.”- Philippians 4:6

Does The Heart of God Weep?

image“God’s Message:

“Cursed is the strong one who depends on mere humans, who thinks he can make it on muscle alone and sets God aside as dead weight. He’s like a tumbleweed on the prairie, out of touch with the good earth. He lives rootless and aimless in a land where nothing grows.  But blessed is the man who trusts me, God, the woman who sticks with God.  They’re like trees replanted in Eden, putting down roots near the rivers–never a worry through the hottest of summers, never dropping a leaf, serene and calm through droughts, bearing fresh fruit every season. “The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out.  But I, God, search the heart and examine the mind. I get to the heart of the human. I get to the root of things. I treat them as they really are, not as they pretend to be. “-Jeremiah 17:5-10; The Message

I have mentioned before that writing has become very cathartic for me, but I have also come to notice that if I let myself, I can become quite obsessive about this work of mine. Sometimes I am surprised at how many people actually read my posts and comment, and at other times, I am even more blown away when people have absolutely nothing to say; this,  when I think I have made a very profound point or observation. Often, ( in my head, ) I anticipate my blog creating a social media frenzy after I have posted it,  and then am quite crestfallen when this does not happen.

I realized this morning, as I was thinking about these things, that perhaps this is how our Lord might feel. He has written pages upon pages of posts to us; pages of wisdom and love and instruction, because He wants to spend time with us, because He loves us, because He created us. He wants to teach us, and to show us He loves us, and to guide us; He has wisdom to impart. I wonder if He feels alone and rejected when we barely skim the pages of what He has written. We are too busy to spend time reading it properly; we don’t have time.  I wonder if He feels sad when we don’t take the time to let Him know we appreciate what He has to offer; that perhaps we love Him in return? I wonder if we are making His heart weep?

“Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed, save me and I will be saved,  for you are the one I praise.”-Jeremiah 17:14

*photo credit: my daughter

This One is For Jeremy

imageJust a Thought About Faith

“Yesterday, life was so simple,

Today, it is so complicated,

and tomorrow, if and when it comes,

Holds something quite mysterious,

Possibly bringing with it, more problems, or complications.

Yet I will not fret, 

But stand in faith in the Lord,

For He will surely guide me, 

Through any hardships I encounter, 

And through whatever troubles befall me.

So in His strength,

I will battle against

Whatever attempts to get me down;

and override it with love,  joy, and peace,

Which I will receive, from the Lord.” –Belinda Mah

I have spent the last weeks moving to a new state and unraveling my old life out of cardboard boxes and brown paper, trying to make it fit comfortably into this new land of peaches and pecans. As I was unpacking, I came across some old journals of mine. In 1982, I had been so moved by this poem written by Belinda Mah, that I penned it into my journal. Now, as I read it, I was reminded of the comments my son had written in my previous blog post.  You see, he had made some rather raw comments, and he also noted that he was interested in memories and thoughts that resonated with me as a young person.

I wondered then , if he thinks I led a rebellious crazy adolescence , riddled with partying and social experiences in my college years.  Little does he know what a straight arrow I truly was, and how I was ridiculed for it in those years, and how it didn’t bother me in the least.  I had sold my life out to Jesus in every aspect and I was not ashamed.  Everything was so straightforward and simple.  I saw what the effect of over-indulging in alcohol had on my older brother, and I was not interested.

I grew up in modest circumstances, and finances were a strain for my parents. We always had enough and we always knew that my parents loved us. We could depend on them to help us out when we needed; as long as what we needed was within reason and within the family budget.  When it was necessary for me  to apply to  college after high school, I did not know what I wanted to do with my life, and deadlines for college applications were approaching.  So, I did what I had learned to do; I talked to God, and I let Him know, that I needed to know, what I should do with the rest of my life. In my naiveté , I believed an answer to that prayer would come. Then, one day, my dad came home from the dentist after having his teeth cleaned, and he said, “That would be a good job for you, my dear!” That was it.  I decided that was my answer, and armed with that, I made an appointment with my high school guidance counsellor and told him I was going to be a dental hygienist. It was a program which accepted only 12 applicants at each of three colleges in the province I lived in, and each college had 1500 applicants, so of course he tried to persuade me to apply to a different program. I insisted I had prayed about it, and this was an answer to prayer…I’m sure that poor man thought I was a nut case.  I really did not take the time to understand how impossibly slim my chances were of getting into dental hygiene school were at that time.  Miraculously, I was accepted at two of the three colleges I applied to.

Tuition for this program was not extremely high, but it was high enough that my parents could not afford to pay what was required to send me to school the following fall. My grades were good, but because I had applied to a community college and not a university, I had not applied for any scholarships, nor were any available to my knowledge.  I was devastated, and I attended my graduation ceremony with a heavy heart, thinking I would not be able to go to school the following fall. Still, I continued to pray, hoping for a miracle. Imagine my surprise when I received two unexpected scholarships at my graduation ceremony; exactly the amount I needed to pay my tuition  for my first year of college. God is good, and He answered many simple prayers for me in those years of my youth; these were just two examples. These are just a couple of memories that resonated with me as I read some of my early journal entries from years ago.

It wasn’t until much later in life, as an adult, when I was hurt by people who professed to love God, but later I learned were blinded by their own self -interests, that I started to question everything I had been taught about God by the church.  I even questioned His existence, but blessedly , I have come to realize that He is real; He is just not who I thought He was, and He loves me.  I don’t have to be perfect; I am screwed up, and He loves me anyway.  That is where grace comes in and it is beautiful.

These days, I get tired so easily.  This move to Atlanta. has just drained me and squeezed me in ways I could not have thought possible.  I love to be here, but I just can’t imagine a time when every cardboard box and every piece of brown paper will be gone and everything will be in its place.  In the old days, when our family re-lcoated in a move such as this, I think I can honestly say that everything was in its place in less than 2 weeks.  What is happening to me?  It has been almost a month, and I am still not done. The move itself was agonizing. Things are not falling into place as quickly for me as far as my job goes. I am tired. I am worn out.

“Today, it is so complicated”,  but I will wait for God’s timing. I can use this time to pray, not just for myself, but for my children. It is a difficult world that they need to navigate,  and I do  not envy the blurry lines that separate right from wrong, that I could not even imagine when I was their age.

I love both of my children and I have a heart for young people, but today, I bless my son, and I pray for love, joy and peace for him, as he finds his way. I pray that he will learn to listen for the soft, gentle Whispering in the desert.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.  “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” -Isaiah 55:8,9

“I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out-plans to take care of you, not to abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen. When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.” -Jeremiah 29:11-14 The Message

*art credit J. Pieniniemi

Blessed Release…I Am Not In Control

image“The more often he feels without acting, the less he will be able ever to act, and, in the long run, the less he will be able to feel.”–C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

Sometimes I feel very strongly the things that I must do, whether it is to give someone an encouraging word; whether it is to write something down for others to read; or whether it is simply to knit something for someone, and pray for that person while I am knitting it. When this urge  to do these things comes upon me, I cannot describe it any other way, except to say that I must do it , or suffer all sorts of unrest and anxiety. In my younger days, it was quite simple really.  I just followed this God-thing within me. As I’ve grown older, it has become easier to second guess myself and wonder what it is that compels me to be this way, instead of just doing what I know is required. I have felt a need to have all things, by outward appearances anyway, in order first, before proceeding with anything else.  I have also come to a place in life where it has been difficult for me to listen to the promptings within me, for fear of being misunderstood, or mislabeled.

In the mid nineties, DC Talk was a popular Christian band and also one of my favorite musical groups. One particular album of theirs, “Jesus Freak”, was one that I played over and over , and over again, in the cassette deck of my car, as I drove to and from work. I loved that song, “Jesus Freak”.  I was not ashamed of those words, and I wanted the world to know. I even had a bracelet, fashioned from a leather strap, with a metal plate on it with the label “Jesus Freak” stamped in it.  I wore it proudly, and I hoped passers-by would see it and wonder. I’m sure they did.  I’m sure they saw it , and wondered.  I think  If my husband had let me, I would have driven around with a fish bumper sticker on my car; I was THAT devoted.

Things were so very black and white for me. I had a very clear idea of what I thought was right and wrong, and I didn’t question what was taught from the church pulpit. I was a Sunday school teacher, I prayed for my own children  daily, and read books with titles like “How to Raise Godly Children”. I was sure that if I did all the “right” things, my life would turn out perfectly and God would continue to pour out His blessings upon me.

Since then, life’s circumstances have taught me that people will indeed disappoint me, and because of this, I have had to deal with more anger, bitterness, and resentment than I thought it was possible for me to own.  I have become a little less sure of myself and I am not as eager to share my thoughts with others.  Sometimes I worry that I cannot follow through with the things God requires of me, and the lyrics of one of the  other songs DC Talk used to sing ruminates in my head : ” What if I stumble , what if I fall?  What if I lose my way and I make fools of us all?”

I recently had a conversation with a close friend who happens to be a Registered Nurse. We were talking about suffering from the effects of anxiety,  and she told me about a website, Anxietynetwork.com, where I read about ANTs, which are Automatic Negative Thoughts. This is an actual psychological term for something that I think I deal with quite often. Who knew there was a real term for the  angst going on inside my head?  Anyway…for some people it’s common to have a negative thought and to beat yourself up about it , and then not follow through with anything good that you may feel led to do because of these negative thoughts.  I am oversimplifying this whole process, but this happens, and apparently, I am not alone. 

I am by nature a worrier.  I cause myself all sorts of unnecessary angst because of it.  Some dear friends of mine recommended a daily reading , “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young, which I started in the New Year.  It has helped me to enjoy the peace He offers in His Presence. It is Lovely. It is through this process of learning once again, to find peace amidst the turmoil of Life, that I have taken time to reflect and wonder what it is that has happened to me over the course of these years that have gone by. More importantly, despite all of this, I have learned that God is indeed real, but He is not who I thought He was.  He is much more loving and full of grace than I could have  imagined. It is because of His Faithfulness that I am still here, still struggling with Life, but still here, still breathing.  I have relearned Love and Forgiveness, and lyrics like  “Blessings are not just for the ones who kneel” (U2’s City of Blinding Lights),  move me in a way that was not possible before.   I don’t need to worry  people will realize that I am not in control at all.  I had forgotten the rest of the lyrics of the song, “will the love continue when my walk becomes a crawl?  What if  I stumble and what if I fall? I hear You whispering my name. You say My love for You will never change.  You are my comfort and my God.”

It’s totally okay for me to not have all my ducks in a row before I venture out and do the thing that is required of me, whatever that may be.

” The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God , and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” — II Corinthians 10:4-6