Friday, November 21, 2014

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

A sobering realization hit me the other day. There is a lie buried deep in my subconscious that I have taken as truth. Its probably been there since childhood and it has shaped how I interact with God and live my life in relation to Him.

To get this, I have to bring some background into the picture. I was raised in a "God-fearing" church environment. When I say "God- Fearing" I mean just that. I thought of  God as Mighty King and Judge because that was how He was presented to me by the men who preached each Sunday. When I was nine years old I prayed the prayer asking Jesus to save me. I prayed it because I was afraid I was going to go to hell and burn forever.

It wasn't until I was in my 30's that I came to understand that God was more than just someone to fear. I got my first taste of the loving-kindness of Jesus when in my broken state of pre-divorce, with all my ugly hurts spilling out and consuming me, I needed His Grace, Love and Mercy so desperately.  Crying out for Him, He responded: "I want to restore your soul. But I have to have all the pieces."

Full surrender on my part was the key and in that moment I was able to turn to Christ in a way I never had before. Instead of my cries for help based on fear and desperation, I was brought to my knees by His abundant love for me and His desire to have a real relationship with me. That was the turning point and when real growth took place in my walk with the Lord.

Many times of significant healing took place over the next several years and I could feel the chains being broken, link by link, and each day my wings unfurled just a little bit more, allowing me to fly by His grace. Yet, a damaged wing would continue to keep me flying close to the ground, never rising up as high as He or I would love for me to go. I figured this was "OKAY" because He said that in my weakness, I am strong, His grace being all sufficient.

So back to the lie buried inside me that I was accepting as truth. Somewhere, somehow, I came to believe that many of the mistakes I have made are living on in the form of punishment. Punishment from God the Judge. I made a lot of mistakes in my teen years. Running away from home. Marrying at 17. Choices in that first marriage that resulted in years of emotional damage and psychological abuse. I made a lot of mistakes in the years following the divorce, regarding my children and other relationships. And I GET that from choices come consequences. That despite forgiveness we will still have to live with the repercussions of our actions. But it was more than that for me. I was/am still living under the banner of punishment to some degree.

For example. I have had periods of estrangement with both of my children. My son was 13 when I left his dad and things have been strained (to put in mildly) between us since then. The guilt I carry over the way things played out has crippled me in my ability to rebuild a bridge between us. Even though I know that I did the best I could given the broken state I was operating from, and even though I have sought forgiveness from God and from my children, I still struggle with guilt. On some level, I must still believe that I was/am a horrible mother. On some level, deep down, based on all the bad decisions I made, I must think I don't deserve to have a good relationship with my children.

For example. I have had issues with money management from early on. As a single mom I got myself into some deep doo-doo financially. Then I married Bruce and continued to make some poor choices. I'm not talking credit card debt or high stake loans, just every day un-wise, over-spending on things.  A few years ago I got some good prayer council that turned things around for me and I have been able to work with the monthly budget and stick to it. Yet, I realized the other day that on some level I have come to believe the lie that says our current financial issues are a direct result of my past mistakes. That our current situation is a punishment from God the Judge.

Like I said; this has been buried deep inside me, causing me to operate on a subconscious level effectively stunting my spiritual walk. It is time to go back to the basics.... If I confess my sin He is faithful and just to forgive my sin... and He removes my sin as far as the east is from the west. In His eyes I am now forgiven. Righteous.

The enemy would have me believe otherwise, in an attempt to rob me of my joy and of my ability to live in the fullness of Christ. I am coming to see how thinking I should be punished has caused the broken wing that keeps me flying so close to the ground. Yes, I have to live with the consequences of my actions-- if I spend the paycheck unwisely we wont make it to the end of the month-- but facing financial chaos isn't punishment from God. The consequences of my rebellion as a young woman, ultimately resulted in estrangement from my children, but it's not punishment from God.

I am prayerfully committing to having this lie removed from my heart, mind and soul. I am choosing to believe that I am forgiven. I am choosing to live like I am forgiven. In Christ I am a new creation.

I may need (daily) reminders of this until it sticks, but blessedly I know where to go for it.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Focus, Focus, Focus!

Managing my emotions has always been an area of challenge for me. I mean, come on! God made me a passionate woman with strong feelings about certain things. It's not just my streaks of red hair talking when I get worked up about something. It's coming from a place deep inside me and honey, if you can't handle it, get outta the way.

I remember the days of PMS and the hormonal rage I swung through on a regular basis. I remember too the erratic mood swings in the weeks that followed my hysterectomy in my 30's. After years of being stifled  and monitored in my previous relationship, it was with a certain streak of pride that I let loose all those pent up emotions and just laid 'em out there for the whole world to see and hear. I chuckle about this now but I also shudder because I know the way I acted those days were really nothing to be proud of.

Then, there are the days where the depression puts me in a place I often refer to as 'beige'. Days of feeling nothing. Not weepy sadness, not explosive anger, and certainly not joy. I think sometimes those days of feeling nothing are much worse than the days of highs and lows.

What I take away from all of this is that while God created me with a fiery personality, with emotions that can and do take me from one end of the spectrum to the other, He also created me with a brain.    Hello.  
I can manage my emotions rather than allowing my emotions to manage me.

Let me say that again. I can manage my emotions rather than allowing my emotions to manage me. 

I have the ability to CHOOSE my reactions to life. I have the ability to CHOOSE how I face today. If I decide that today is gonna suck, guess what? Ain't no amount of new shoes or chocolate gonna make me smile. The shoes'll be the wrong color and the chocolate won't be dark enough. If, however, I decide that today is going to be a day of rejoicing, I can rest assured that this day is gonna bless me and I will be able to bless others because of it.

It all comes down to making up my mind that this day is going to be joyful. I have no control over whether I get a flat tire, or my purse strap breaks while I'm shopping causing it to slide across the floor with me in hot pursuit, but I do have control over how I react to that. I can remain calm and call Triple A for the flat tire. I can laugh as I chase down a tube of lipstick that has rolled away like a bowling ball. That feels so much better than sitting on the side of the road crying or worse, kicking the tire and cursing. I. Have. A. Choice.

My bible study reading today reminded me that if I am willing to focus and make my decisions not based on feelings alone, I can count on God to be faithful to give me the strength I need to face whatever comes at me.

"That's why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in insults, hardships, persecutions and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong."  2 Corinthians 12.10

It might take some extra focus on days I feel especially vulnerable but it is still a choice I can make. And I will choose JOY.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

In This Season of Thanks

And each morning and evening they stood before the Lord to sing songs of thanks and praise to Him. (1 Chronicles 23.30)

So, I just started a 14 day reading plan called "The Power of Being Thankful" by Joyce Meyer.

Day 1 didn't mess around. It started with the challenge to go an entire day without complaining. As usual, God has a way of giving me a message in a multitude of ways. Yes, just the night before as Bruce and I were coming home from a meeting, we talked about this very thing: not grumbling.

Developing an attitude of thanksgiving in every situation is challenging enough when life is normal. It's so easy to gravitate towards the negative. I don't know why. What's so attractive about cynicism? Yet, that's often where my mind goes these days. Given that both of us have been struggling with maintaining a positive attitude in the face of our trials, I think this exercise is very much needed. We need to not lose sight of the bigger picture: that God is in control. That God is bigger than whatever problem comes at us. That nothing is impossible with Him.

I spent a day in quiet solitude, just me, the cat and some good praise music playing. A cup of tea, a blazing fire, a good book. It was easy to feel gratitude for the day with all these sweet pleasantries surrounding me.

I did reflect several times on the devotional reading. On letting gratitude be the foundation of my prayer life. Being in desperate mode often brings me before the Throne of Grace whimpering "Help!" and even though I know God hears me, I am sure it pleases Him to hear me begin my conversations with Him with some praise and thanks for who He is. For ALL He is.

And so...
God you are so good. You created the world and filled it with beauty for me to enjoy. You placed me in this part of the world where green and blue dominate in splendid hues, where majestic mountains and oceans tantalize the eyes.

Then you surrounded me with good people. People who love you and can teach me much about a relationship with you. You brought me to a church that is filled with warm hearts and helping hands. I have a pastor who prays for us, not just because he is suppose to, but because he cares and wants to partner with Bruce and me in prayer. You have brought amazing Christian women into my life who can encourage me and befriend me, who constantly point the way to you. You have brought my sister back home and given us many days of enjoyment together. You have blessed me beyond measure with a godly husband who, I believe with all my heart, is a man after Your heart.

I was looking for songs that express thanksgiving and I came across this one by The Katinas. It's simply called "Thank You" and it captures so perfectly what I want to convey to the Lord...

Just a little while longer I wanna pray
Can't get You off my mind so I came to say
Thank You Lord, just for loving me, alright
Many times I do forget
Every need that You have met
Oh thank You Lord, I know You're showing me

You are there when I am down and out, You're holding me
Your love is so amazing, oh it changed me

Here I am with all I have
Raise my hands to worship You
I wanna say thank You, oh thank You
For everything, for who You are
You cover me and touch my heart
I wanna say thank You...

I could have died in my sin but You saved me
Didn't have any hope at all
You gave me peace divine, strength to carry on, alright
I should have been the one to pay
But instead You took my place
Amazing grace, it's more than just a song

Even though I don't deserve Your love for me
You look beyond my fault and You showed me mercy

Here I am with all I have
Raise my hands to worship You
I wanna say thank You, oh thank You
For everything, for who You are
You cover me and touch my heart
I wanna say thank You

I wanna say thank You for the sun
Lord we thank You for the rain

Oh Lord I love You
Thank You, that's all that I can say
Thank You for the love You gave

Here I am with all I have
Raise my hands to worship You
I wanna say thank You, oh thank You

For everything, for who You are
You cover me and touch my heart
I wanna say thank You,
Thank You

Thank You~ the Katinas


Thursday, November 13, 2014

clearing our heads

One little advantage to the unemployment blues... there's plenty of time to spend it in the Word, devote ourselves to ministry needs and even take some time to get out into nature and refresh ourselves.

sunshine on a clear cold crisp day. lovely!!

Bruce has work lined up for next week at a retreat center where he has done work before over the years. He needed to go there today to make some measurements and suggested I come with and we could incorporate a hike into the day. It was plenty chilly out there today but sunny. I said yes, put on a triple layer of clothing and hopped in the truck.

getting ready to replace some log support beams.

Measurements done in short order, we set out on the trail that takes one to a fantastic lookout above the retreat center.

It's a short hike (less than a mile to the top) but it is steep. (burn baby burn said my thighs to my glutes!) The entire trail was carpeted with discarded leaves and the crunching of them under our feet was so noisy that at times we couldn't hear each other speak.

Once we reached the top, the bird's eye view took our breath away. It's not the largest mountain, in fact I believe technically it might actually be called a hill, but at around 700 feet it still offers an astounding view of the central fraser valley.

The last few days have been rough as I have mentioned before. What's the best thing to do when you feel you can't stand anymore? Get on your knees and get your support team there with you. We've put the plea for prayers out there to our praying friends and family and been rewarded with feelings of love and peace. Words of encouragement coming in from different perspectives has been so helpful.

looking north into Canada. Canadian Rockies in the background.

Last night as Bruce and I were talking a verse came to mind from James 1 about praying without believing. It warns us that when you ask God for something, make sure you really expect Him to answer, "for a doubting mind is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind." (James 1.6)
This morning when I opened my bible app for the daily verse, guess which verse it was?
Of course.
James 1.6.

We've come to realize that our attitudes have been leading us down a path we don't wish to travel. We've let the situation get the best of us and allowed worry, depression, frustration, and anger to rule in our hearts rather than the peace that passes all understanding.

We needed today to get up top and see the view to remind us that sometimes when we are in the middle of a muddle, we really can't see what God is up to. Climbing the mountain to gain a clear picture of where we live is akin to spending time with Jesus to gain a clearer picture of how much he loves us.

The hike was invigorating and refreshing. We had some time to just be together, enjoying one another's presence and the glorious surroundings we live in. We had time to clear our heads and put worry aside for the day.

Jesus loves me this I know. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Shaking Like A Leaf

I've been struggling.  I've never claimed to have it all together but it's often disappointing to be in this place again.

Depression has been sucking everything out of me. I'm sure it's partly related to the stress of our financial situation, with some physical issues added. The time change that brings darkness sooner isn't helping any. Then to top it off, when I try to pray, I've got nothing. No words. It's babble or it's stuttering but its mostly just dead space where words should be. All this combined has resulted in a great big dish of frustration, sadness, pain, anxiety,and desperation. I have felt crippled and blinded.

I have felt like a little leaf trembling in the wind.

Like a little leaf balanced precariously on a tight rope.

Then, this morning I read Lori Roeleveld's blog post and it was as if it was written just for me. She talks about the emptiness she was experiencing. How her prayers sounded like "blah, blah, blah." She said it was because while her mouth was uttering words her heart was empty. As she struggled with this realization she heard Jesus say "Bring that to me. Bring me your emptiness"

Wait. What? God told her to bring Him the emptiness? Aren't we suppose to bring Him an offering of praise? Yet.... He said bring it and then He would fill it.

Her post resonated with me. I'm learning that whatever we bring, be it praise, adoration, requests, anger, pain, sorrow... or a great big pile of nothingness, He welcomes it.

Hebrews 4.16 says: Let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. 


He welcomes it... and then, transforms it. By His Grace, His Love, His Mercy He takes what ever we have, even the nothing to offer, and turns it into something of wonder.

It might not change the condition of my checking account or lessen the physical pain. It doesn't' always remove the depression and sometimes it doesn't even improve my prayers of dry empty phrases. But it comforts me to know that even in the darkest of times, God is with me. He never abandons me. I may never fully know or understand why He can't just rescue me out of my worst times. Sometimes He does, but often He doesn't. However...He does sit with me in my darkness. He does walk with me through the fire. He swims beside me in the deep waters.

Knowing that gives me the courage and strength to hang on for one more day. Knowing this allows me to rest in His presence.

Seeing that little leaf perched there on that wire the other day made me think of the song Hold Me Jesus by the late Rich Mullins. One line in particular jumped out at me so I had to revisit the lyrics. It seems to capture where my parched and weary soul is these days. It goes:  "So hold me Jesus, cause I'm shaking like a leaf. You have been King of my Glory, won't you be my Prince of Peace?" 

I may be perched precariously and trembling but I know, and I trust, God's got me.

Monday, November 3, 2014

With Thanksgiving

Come, let us sing to the Lord! 
Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. 
Let us come to him with thanksgiving. 
Let us sing psalms of praise to him.
 Psalm 95. 1-2

Funny how just when I enter a whiny, self centered phase, my daily bible readings start cropping up with reminders of being thankful. Yes, God must be trying to tell me something. I'm working on it Lord, I'm working on it! 

I am thankful for...

... work for my husband! It was only a couple of days worth of work, but it will pay another bill! 

...getting to spend the day with him. Not only getting to watch him work (something that always amazes me-- truly-- carpentry never fails to impress me) but being able to help even in a small way.

... FREE lattes! Yes, Oh, Yes!! (thankful for a full punch card!! whoot whoot!) (hey, it's the little things!)

...Rain...because it smells wonderful, it sounds delightful and even watching it (from inside a cozy warm room of course) brings me comfort. (full disclosure: I skipped walking today!!!) 

...  a  freshly made bed. Now, granted, I made the bed so I guess I could add that I am thankful I can make a bed!

... a couple of leads on other jobs for hubby. One that sounds very intriguing, one that would utilize his brain power instead of his body. 

...a big ol' sack of potatoes. Yep, someone gifted me with a 10# bag of russets. That'll go a long ways to filling our tummies. Potato soup, hashbrowns, baked taters, etc... sister. Today is her birthday and she is my next best friend after hubby. Oh, the adventures we have had! 

... speaking of sisters and birthdays, tomorrow I get to spend the day with her and help her shop for clothes! Yay!

... thankful for a hot cup of tea to settle down and round out my evening. 

... and last but not least, I am thankful for God's Grace and Mercy, NEW every morning. His daily reminders of his love and provision, his love letter to the church, his bride. 

It's not my complete list of grateful's but it's a good start. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

On Being Thankful

Be thankful.
A simple concept, yes?

Scripture tells me to be thankful over and over again...

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Jesus Christ. 
(1 Thessalonians 5.18)

Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; His love endures forever! (Psalm 107.1)

Give thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5.120)

BUT... let's be honest....Some days it's harder than others.

My husband is self employed, as you may already know. That means when he's not working, there isn't unemployment to tide us over to the next job. Because the past several years have been incredible lean, there is no cushion called savings to fall back on. And let's be even MORE honest. At our age it's really difficult to find a job working for some other company. (Despite his vast experience they want to hire younger people.) Anyway, I am sure you get the picture. No work means no income. And even though we've been there-done that- (too many times to count) and even though God has never abandoned us (and has surprised and blessed us in amazing ways) it is still quite wearing on our morale when the season of no work hits.

This morning I was reminded of this bible verse: All who are weary, come unto me and I (Jesus) will give you rest. I was also reminded to not worry about anything, but by prayer and petition presents my requests to God. In doing this I will experience peace. Peace that exceeds understanding.

That sounds awesome. I am more than willing to release my burdens to Jesus. I am totally ready to surrender my worries and take up His peace. And I do. But, I still can't pay my power bill or my mortgage.

I still have faith that God will provide. I never doubt that He has His best planned for us. I believe that there is always something going on behind the scenes --sometimes things I will never see or know about-- that will prove God was at work. I know all this yet... navigating these curves is exhausting. These tough lean times are depressing... and to some extent,demoralizing.

I don't need to be reminded to be thankful. I am thankful. Thankful that because my husband isn't working right now he has plenty of time to soak in the Word each morning. Time to focus on home projects. Time for giving his all to men's ministry at church.

I don't think you ever get used to the stresses that these kind of times bring. I can paste on my smile and practice an 'attitude of gratitude' or 'fake it till I make it'. I can refuse to worry and refuse to be fearful  and instead be faithful and faith-filled but it doesn't change the reality of our situation. There's this funny little practice here in America called paying our monthly bills and those entities get a little cranky when you don't follow through with payment. And even though I know that this work gap won't last forever, I also know that it will take us twice as long to catch up.

I often wonder what it is I am missing. As in, I should be learning something from this experience and obviously I haven't gotten it yet because here I am taking the class over again.

Maybe I'm making too big a deal out of this, since I am sure I am not the only person who is going through a similar situation.

I don't want this to be a negative, whiny self centered post. It does sound like it though. Like I said, I'm just really really weary.

Weary, but still, thankful.