Sunday, July 20, 2014

Love Without... Boundaries?

There's a lot of talk about having personal boundaries and not letting people infringe on them. We learn it is not healthy to let people take advantage of or step over those lines. When I wrote my post the other day with the quote by Oswald Chambers, it stirred up a lot of conflict for me.

Oswald challenges us to be doormats. That raised my hackles right away. I mean, come on! I was someone's doormat for 15+ years and I ain't never going back to that! I don't believe Christ calls me to live a life without safeguards in place. Does He? I'm struggling with this.

I understand that people who go into the mission field full-time make huge sacrifices. They give up financial security as they live day to day on the generosity of others. They sacrifice personal safety as they go into places deemed dangerous. They risk being persecuted for being a Christian. They face criticism from others who might not understand this crazy call on their lives, especially calls that might involve bringing your young children into the mission field with you.

But all I'm talking about in my own life, my own personal conviction, is loving those God places in my path, without reservation, without conditions, without fearing the risk of being hurt.

Let me tell you a true story. Strange, but true.

The other night as we were hosting guests and getting ready to sit down for dinner we had a knock at the door. Bruce went to answer it, me at his heels. There on our front stoop stood a young girl, maybe 18-20. Dark skin, tiny, pretty but dressed--and there is just no other way to say this-- like a hooker. We're talking cut down to there and up to here, short and revealing. And tight.  And her shoes? Bootie-type shoes. Definitely hooker shoes. She looked a little disorientated and her approach was shy yet her request was as bold as you please.  She wanted to know if she could borrow our lawn mower to mow the neighbors yard because she and her boyfriend were desperate for some cash.

Okay. Wait a minute. We've had people from time to time find their way to our door to ask for gas money or food and even once, a place to stay. I don't know how they pick our house out of any other house on the street but perhaps it has something to do with a flashing neon sign above our home with an arrow pointing down. ( I kid!) Somehow people seem to know that this house might grant them favor. (and for that I am grateful, in a mixed up sort of way, and we'll save that discussion for another post) Anyway, we've never had this strange of a request. Ask for money for gas, sure. But you want to borrow my lawn mower to mow someone else's yard? How did you know we had a lawn mower to borrow? What made you think we might say yes? How do we know you won't take off with it and try and sell it (crappy piece of machinery that it is, but still!)

My immediate reaction was NO WAY and I did my best to convey that thought through facial expressions that only my husband could see. But Bruce operates under slightly different principles than me. Walking with her down the driveway a bit so she could point out which neighbor needed a lawn mowed, he asked her why she chose our house. She told him Jesus said to ask us. (it's the neon sign and arrow!)

Short story is Bruce got the lawn mower out of the shed and with some instructions for operating our tricky machine, sent her down the road with it. I wasn't happy but I also know better than to argue with my sweetie when I can tell he has good reason for deciding this is the right thing to do.

Later in private Bruce and I discussed the randomness of this girl coming to our house for help. Bruce allowed that it was strange indeed, and certainly a little sketchy. But a lawn mower is just a lawn mower and he believes in holding on to material things lightly. He is always more interested in what is going on in a persons heart and head and if lending out a lawn mower will allow him a closer peek into their life in order that he might speak God's Truth, than so be it.

This is a prime example of love without borders to me. Where I would have said no way and closed the door and shook my head, Bruce stepped out of the house to learn more. In the process he heard her mention Jesus and a little more conversation took place because of that. She left to get better shoes on before she took the mower down the street and when she returned she was also wearing a t- shirt over her dress. The T-shirt was from a Mercy Me concert ( Christian rock band) Bruce made comment on the shirt and more conversation ensued. She allowed that she wasn't exactly living a life she should be and seemed to be kind of mixed up with some one not the safest and was trying to get her life straightened out. I am sure there is much more to her story and we can debate to the authenticity of her words but the bottom line for my husband was/is: love her. Love the lost. Love our neighbors. Love. Just love. And yep, you might get hurt in the process. You might be taken advantage of. You might get stepped on. But still, love.

Now I suppose if she took off with the mower and never brought it back and then showed up one day to ask if she could borrow our rototiller, Bruce would say no. Because why should we enable bad behavior? But in the beginning go ahead and take the risk sometimes.

I know my own conviction about loving fully comes from the relationships closest to me. As I said in yesterdays' post, I struggle in the relationship with my mom. As a child, I experienced more than one occasion of what borders on physical abuse from her hands. Emotional abuse was also part of the experience. But as a young mother I developed a better relationship with her. For some time we had a pretty good, fairly close relationship. As she has aged and certain things in her brain have changed, the communication process has gotten more difficult. The memories of those negative experiences of the past have a way of rising up and taunting me when she acts cranky. So I put up my guard to protect myself but as I do, I put a restriction of just how much love I feel for her will be let out.

This is the conundrum. I want to love. Fully. Completely. Without holding back. How do I do that while still maintaining some control over my life and keeping personal boundaries in place?

There are many people who come in and out of my life that we refer to as EGR's. (Extra Grace Required) How do I show love to them without getting sucked into their vortex of crazy? We say things like  "not my circus, not my monkeys" and laugh but does that mean I close the door in their face and miss the opportunity to share Jesus with them?

I don't have the answers to these questions plaguing me right now and I'm not writing this to try and convince anyone else that Oswald really does mean be a doormat. What if loving fully means becoming a doormat under other peoples feet? What if being poured out as a living sacrifice is the only way to truly experience a full life in Christ? Am I willing? Will I go there?

As I said yesterday, I want to say yes.I want to live a full life. I don't want to miss out on what God really has in store for me. Exploring this will be by the grace of God. I invite you to ride along with me and help hold me accountable. There will be more to come...


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Half Full.... But Of What?

I've always thought of myself as a glass half full kind of gal, and sometimes even full to overflowing. I think it is significant to point out that even in my deepest darkest days of depression I've still felt my cup was half full.

This morning though, I was struck with the thought, half full of WHAT?

I guess it hit me as I was kicking a pair of shoes back into the closet, trying to take a short cut to putting something away, a short cut that ended up taking longer than just doing it the right way in the first place, because as I kicked, my little toe, which has been outfitted with a GPS specially designed for finding sharp corners, connected with the said sharp corner and the words that flew out of my mouth as I hopped on one foot, were nothing to be proud of.

This follows a day last week when I found myself screaming obscenities into the tub of my washing machine as I worked to untangle a pair of panties that had twisted itself around the agitator, sucking everything else in the wash into its vortex. The only thing that kept me from popping a blood vessel was to finally walk away knowing there was a chocolate bar in the freezer, and really, is twisted knickers worth having a hemorrhage over?

I've always known there were things to be thankful for, things to believe in, things to hope for. That's what makes me the glass half full person that I am. But when I find myself irritated by little things, when someone says something that sounds remotely critical and my first reaction is one of defensiveness, when I find myself erecting the old wall around my tender spots... well, that makes me wonder just where my attitude really falls in the glass empty/glass full category. 

What struck me this morning is that sometimes there's vinegar in my cup. 

So I ruminated on this, while rubbing my toe and then getting dressed (and why are these panties all stretched to hell? .........OH. Yah.) I knew there was some life lesson tied in with this and so I wouldn't forget this moment I posted something to that effect on my Facebook status. Then I went to my women's writers group and in the meeting room of the coffee house we meet at, I saw a poster on the wall of a mug spilling over with coffee beans that said "Half Full or Half Empty; it really doesn't matter if your cup is half full or half empty, it's what's in the cup that matters." 

Huh. 

Ooookay. Obviously this is a thought I DO need to spend some time on. Maybe I am an optimist, and filled with hope but there's a sour side to me that comes to the surface every now and again. I find it rises most often when surrounded by people I don't trust. I'm not talking about being discerning here. I'm talking about people whom I know have the capability of hurting me. People who I've let get close only to be stomped on. People I trusted only to be let down. People who've proved to be less than I believed they would be. 

Well, shoot, that's just about everybody in the world. We all fall down in our relationships. No matter how well meaning we are, we just fail from time to time. I fall often. I fail often. I've experienced it with family and friends and I know they've been on the receiving end of my foibles. 

What happens is that because I've been let down, I start coming to expect it. Take for example my mother. (Please, take my mother.) I love my mom. Of course I do. But she is, God bless her, NOT the happiest camper in the campground. I think it's safe to say my mother is a glass half empty individual. She can be cranky, difficult, sulky, cranky, obstinate, hard to please, did I say cranky? So, when ever I go to visit her, I go wearing my armor. I have come to expect that she will say something that will push a button. I expect she will be argumentative, she will whine, she will berate me and be ungrateful. I know for sure she's going to be cranky. And you know what? I'm usually right. She dishes out exactly what I was expecting. I was right to put up my guard. But in doing so, I find I hold back some of my love. My cup has vinegar in it.

I think about how Christ loves. Fully. Completely. Unconditionally. There's no vinegar in His Cup. And don't I, as a Christ follower, want to be more like Christ? Live like Christ? Love like Christ? Oh, that my cup would overflow, overflow with the sweetest honey. 

What will it take to ensure my cup is sweet? 

The fruits of the Spirit include love. I think that's where I begin. I state right here on my blog that I am loving fully but I am being convicted as I write this. I've placed conditions and restrictions on my heart. I like the idea of loving fully but if I am really honest with myself, I've been holding back. Sure, I can make a case for protecting myself but it comes right back again to living my life as a Christ follower. Ephesians 5.2 says "Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God." 

In "My Utmost for His Highest" Oswald Chambers says "Are you willing to sacrifice yourself for the work of another believer—to pour out your life sacrificially for the ministry and faith of others? Or do you say, “I am not willing to be poured out right now, and I don’t want God to tell me how to serve Him. I want to choose the place of my own sacrifice."

In Philippians 2.17 Paul wrote: But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy.

Oswald goes on to say: It is one thing to follow God’s way of service if you are regarded as a hero, but quite another thing if the road marked out for you by God requires becoming a “doormat” under other people’s feet. ...  Are you ready to be sacrificed like that? Are you ready to be less than a mere drop in the bucket—to be so totally insignificant that no one remembers you even if they think of those you served? Are you willing to give and be poured out until you are used up and exhausted—not seeking to be ministered to, but to minister? 
Ouch. 
Yet I know, if I walk away from this conviction, if I shelve it until I feel stronger, or more ready to commit, I will effectively be denying Jesus. I already feel twisted up inside, much like those poor little panties were, and I know that God is calling me to go deeper with Him. If I want my cup to be full and sweet, I must respond. I must say "Yes." 





Thursday, July 10, 2014

Celebrate, Celebrate, Dance to the Music!

My book is here! My book is here!


Ok, so it's not just My book. My little story is just one out of 100 delightful short stories that touch on everything from soup to nuts. But, my order arrived yesterday. 10 copies of "Mixed Blessings; Simple Pleasures" from Breath of Fresh Air Press.

(10 copies?? Watch for a possible give away in the near future-- a way to win your own copy of this book) 

The level of excitement has never waned. Not from the moment I learned that one of my stories was going to be included in the first anthology of Faithwriter publications since BOFAP took over. I have been on pins and needles for awhile waiting for the day I would hold the book in my hand and see one of my stories in print.



and there it is....... I AM A PUBLISHED AUTHOR.

This book really is packed full of juicy bite sized blessings. You can order your copy by going to http://www.breathoffreshairpress.com/  and look under the Bookstore tab. Deborah Porter, the genius behind BOFAP will be delighted to take your order.

I have been writing since I was a kid. I think I realized early on that writing was something I HAD to do. I was born to do this. It took some time for me to believe this was a gift God has blessed me with. It has also taken me some time to feel brave enough to share my writings with other people. (blogging is one sure fire way to stick your neck out!!) I don't know that I can change the world through my writing but maybe, just maybe I can make a difference in one persons life and that might change the world!

Thank you for your support and thanks for reading!!


Monday, June 30, 2014

A Breath of Fresh Air

It's been awhile in coming but you know what they say about the best things coming to those who wait. And there is another saying about good things come in small packages. Well, this small package has been worth waiting for and it is packed full of goodness!

Announcing the latest publication by Breath of Fresh Air Press: Mixed Blessings; Simple Pleasures.



Packed full of snack size readings from many wonderful authors, this book is sure to bring a smile to your face as it refreshes you with encouragement, fun and inspiration. I am just a wee bit excited about this new book release because.... (little drum roll) I have a story in the book! Yep, one of my short stories is being published! This is the first of many Mixed Blessings books to come and I will have stories in a few of them. Very exciting!!

You can check out Breath of Fresh Air's online bookstore here. and order your copy today! I have already ordered mine and I am so juiced for my order to arrive. Not only will you make me thrilled to death by your support, you will make yourself happy as well. I am sure.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Changes

I love to rearrange things. I grew up having built in beds, closets and bookcases. They were practical and sturdy and served their purpose, but maybe because of this, there's a restlessness within me that bursts out every now and again. I like to rearrange the furniture in the living room. I like to move pictures around on the walls. I love a new coat of paint on things and I like switching things up on my blog!

I've been toying with the idea of changing the name of my blog for some time now. As I state on my side bar, I started the blog when we were preparing to go on a mission trip. It was a great way for the folks at home to stay in the loop of what we were doing. I chose the title "How Beautiful On the Mountains" because of the verse from Isaiah 52 that says "how beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news" It gets paraphrased a bit in Romans 10 but the meaning is the same. I thought it the perfect name for the blog and as you can see, we take pictures of all the places our feet have gone, in the name of Jesus.


But, more and more, Bruce and I realize that our mission field is right here in our backyard. Or up the mountain. The neighborhood we live in, the church we attend and the people we worship with, that's our mission field. It doesn't preclude that on occasion we may feel compelled to dig out our passport, pack our bags and fly away to Timbuktu! But for the most part, we know this is where we've been called to serve.

Deming, WA


I have also reflected on my posts over the past several months and notice that a lot of what I write about is more geared to my own personal battles, agendas and callings. I feel  compelled to share about my battle with depression, and chronic illness and my victory journey from an abusive past. I love to share how God is walking me through all of it. I celebrate what He has done, is doing and is going to do in my life. It's all good!


After some thought, I decided to change the title of the blog. I wanted to keep a tie to the original however. I use the name "Songbyrd" for my online presence so it seemed like a natural fit. I love to sing and I know God has put the song in my heart.(I have a small tattoo on my ankle of a heart with musical notes that represents just that.) I do feel that God has given me a new song to sing, a song of freedom, a song of rejoicing, a song of thanks.

So..... 
Welcome to (the new and improved) Songyrd on the Mountain!

He put a new song in my mouth,
    a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
    and put their trust in the Lord. Psalm 40.3, NRSV



Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Senior Moments? Who Me?

What a silly day it's been.
For one thing it was raining and yet it was too warm for a jacket.
I had a bunch of stuff to do and I had my list.
I forgot the list when I left the house and I left the house late because I was making a list.
I was halfway to town when I realized I left my phone behind.
No time to retrieve it so I drove on.
After my first appointment I realized I forgot the clothes I was going to take to consign.
And my car was on empty because I forgot to fuel up this morning before I left.
I limped into Safeway because I forgot to put my super feet in my non-supportive-but-very-cute- shoes.
I got my Rx and fueled up at the Safeway gas pumps. Two nice things happened.
The price of my prescription has gone down about a dollar and I had Safeway points to use for fuel.
With a full tank I pulled out on the road and was driving  like a horse heading for the barn, when
I remembered my sister had invited me for tea and....
I was halfway home and couldn't call her because my phone was at home!

Talk about 'Senior Moments" !! Is this what I have to look forward to?

The day was not a total waste however because, Life IS Good. God is good. The rain stopped and it got very sunny and warm and I got in another bike ride today. I love my new bike! It is exactly what I have been dreaming about and looking for for some time. One speed, old school brakes, fat tires, my favorite color... it even has a bell now. Note the beverage holder-- perfect for a glass of wine. Just kidding. Water bottle!!



After my bike ride, (I am going to have fabulous thighs) I was inspired to do some writing and the story I have been thinking on for some time got squeezed out in a few hours! Whew. Except I lost track of time and there was NO Dinner ready when my man came home! Not to fear... I had stir fry makings in the fridge and we were sitting down to eat 30 minutes later.

And totally unrelated to any of this, I want to share some photos from the amazing sunset the other evening. Because these kinds of things so blow me away and remind me of just what an incredible Creator we have!

shooting through a car window pane, in a moving vehicle...





Yep. Life is beautiful. God is good.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

One Year Later

Give or take a few days. I thought it was time for a check in/update/post script. A follow up to the Big D from last June. I know it is a cliche to say that it is hard to believe it's been a year since ______ (fill in the blank). But isn't that the way it always goes? Time just zips by, sometimes leaving a whiplash effect.


I look back over the past 12 months and feel grateful. Grateful for a full life and all the people in it. Grateful for church and family and my husband. Grateful for the area I live in, the experiences I have had and yep, even-- perhaps especially-- grateful for depression and the lessons it continues to teach me.



I'm sitting in my living room from where I have a great view of my back yard. I can see my deck with it's freshly painted patio furniture scattered around. The primary colors of the chairs and table cheer me to the very core.


I can see the planter boxes and pots filled with an array of flowers, all dancing happily in the breeze. Beyond the deck I see the wickets set up for a croquet game and the memory of this past weekend and some fun competition between friends makes me smile.


We've been blessed with a couple of weeks of delightful weather: sunshine almost every day with lots of gentle breezes to keep it from becoming too hot. It's been perfect weather for ice tea, gardening, reading books in patio chairs, sunscreen and sunglasses, shorts and flip-flops. But then, yesterday we woke up to heavy gray clouds that soon broke open with rain. Rain that cancelled some exciting plans for the day even as it nourished the plants and the lawn. It forced me to come up with a new plan for the day, or at the very least, a forgiving and accepting attitude about how this day was going to be played. This is exactly how it goes with depression.


My anti-depressants work well. I have many days of 'sunshine' and feeling full of energy and strength to tackle whatever may come. But there are still occasional days of feeling dragged low by emotional/mental dark clouds. What can I do but learn to roll with it. I have learned to read the signs, respect them and adjust my life accordingly, just as we do with our fickle pacific northwest weather. Even the heaviest days of rain hold a certain amount of beauty if we just look for it. 



Perhaps that is one of the things about depression I am most grateful for. It has taught me to search harder for the happy that sometimes feels beyond reach. It has taught me that there is an inner strength that I did not know I had until I fought for it. It has taught me that it's okay to fall down and that when I fall it's also okay to just lay there for awhile and rest. But it has also emphatically taught me that eventually I must get up and press on. Depression has forced me to open up and let others in. It has made me dependent on God much more than anything else I have ever faced. It has taught me about being vulnerable and where to put my trust. Depression has also given me a deeper empathy to others who are in pain.


What depression has NOT done is robbed me of my joy. "Happiness is fleeting" and we often say happiness is a choice and we can choose to be happy. But joy is something that runs deeper. For me, the best way to summarize the difference between happiness and joy is that happiness tends to be an outward expression of elation where joy stems from a place of inward peace and contentment. Happiness is temporary based on outward circumstances. Joy is lasting, based on inward circumstances.  I can be happy because the sun is shining, but I have joy even when it rains because I know the Maker Of All Things Good.


Depression has taught me that Joy is possible even in the midst of my lowest moments. But I am grateful that the lowest moments are fewer and far between. The past year has been rough but it's also been good.



Psalm 30
I will exalt you, Lord, for you rescued me.
    You refused to let my enemies triumph over me.
Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
    and you restored my health.
You brought me up from the grave,[a] O Lord.
    You kept me from falling into the pit of death.
Sing to the Lord, all you godly ones!
    Praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment,
    but his favor lasts a lifetime!
Weeping may last through the night,
    but joy comes with the morning.
When I was prosperous, I said,
    “Nothing can stop me now!”
Your favor, O Lord, made me as secure as a mountain.
    Then you turned away from me, and I was shattered.
I cried out to you, O Lord.
    I begged the Lord for mercy, saying,
“What will you gain if I die,
    if I sink into the grave?
Can my dust praise you?
    Can it tell of your faithfulness?
10 Hear me, Lord, and have mercy on me.
    Help me, O Lord.”
11 You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.
    You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,
12 that I might sing praises to you and not be silent.
    Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!