Archive for the 'Personal' Category

09
Feb
17

The Gift of Stories

After almost three years away from publishing anything that other people can see, I’m kind of at a loss as to where to begin. A lot has happened in that time. I never stopped writing though. I journal my thoughts, frustrations, and prayers most mornings.  I have things to say, and I have this longing once again to put it “out there.” I don’t even know if I want people to read my stuff anymore. I don’t know if my insecurity in my writing ability and my vulnerability can handle people’s criticisms or even validation at this point. And yet, I still have stuff to say. I still have stories to share, and I’ve seen that in my openness and honesty about where I am that others gain strength and courage and are able to open up and share their stories and their innate desire to be known and loved.

It takes courage to share honestly the stuff that all of us are going through. And sometimes, it takes years to awaken to our own stories and tell others, but in the process of sharing, we find healing and more courage and more strength. I think that’s why I’m back. Not for validation or approval or criticism, but I want you to know that you have a story to share, a story that the people closest to you need to hear, a story that helps us all share in becoming more human, more real, more honest about where we are in this messy journey. We are all struggling with the same stuff. We all need community, and we all need to be able to share ourselves with the people who love us and want us to grow into the people God created us to be. We need friends to be able to hear our stories, cheer us on, encourage us, and love us, and we need to do the same for them. No judgment, no advice, no competition, just listening and openness and love. I think it’s amazing when I’m able to sit with a friend with nothing on the agenda and the day stretched out before us with no plans other than to sit and hang and rabbit trail. I honestly think that’s why I like camping so much. It’s sitting around a campfire with no agenda and no time issues, where you don’t have to be anywhere or do anything. Just enjoy each other’s stories and the time it takes to share them.

Our stories are powerful because they reveal who we are and who we are becoming, and they are ours alone. But not to keep hidden. They’re meant for us to give away. And every once in a while, our stories help others find their way, and sometimes as we’re telling them, they help us find our own way. So I’m back to share my story, the one that some need to hear. But more importantly, the one I need to tell.

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03
Feb
14

when stuff unravels

Jeff and I are in the middle of something that we had not anticipated. It has nothing to do with our family or our church family or us as a couple. From our perspective, it’s huge and troublesome and overwhelming. But the crazy thing is that it’s really nobody’s fault, and for that I am grateful. I tend to be a “blamer,” just like Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. But this crazy, unexpected thing, I cannot blame anyone for. We could not possibly have seen this coming. We could not have prepared for it or even fixed it. We just had no idea. But here we are anyway having to deal with something way beyond our control, something that a few years back would have left me a panicky mess.

I have a few options when I get to these dark places that threaten to overwhelm me and make me want to “numb out,” freak out, and figure out someone to blame. But I’ve been here before. Maybe not exactly the same situation, but I’ve had similar feelings in my gut, and I’ve seen God do some amazing things in those dark times, so I’m trusting that this is another opportunity for growth. We don’t necessarily get opportunities like these every day.

I see God in the middle of this. I trust that He is here with me at all times and lean heavily into Him. This is not something I can make better; not something I can manufacture with an “It’ll be fine” attitude; it’s not something I can ignore or make go away. It’s something that has to be faced head on but can be faced with confidence, knowing that Jesus is walking with us through it and allowing Him to do His good work in us. And eventually when others go through this too, we will be able to comfort them in their struggle…been there, done that; God is good, especially in the middle of it because His mercies never cease. He is truly kind and gentle.

So pray for us. Not that the situation would get easier or go away, but that we would face it with God’s strength. I spent one night last week watching DVDs for hours curled up on the couch, bone-tired and burdened. Today is a new day, and I can face it with Jesus as my strength, and these are not just words that I throw around to make myself feel better or appear especially “religious.” With me, what you see is what you get, and if Jesus weren’t real to me, I wouldn’t be talking about Him or depending on Him as my very life. For me, life is all about relationships…the relationships I have with God, with my family, with friends, with those I come into contact with, and when my relationships are out of whack…any of them, I feel it deeply. Thankfully, God and God alone keeps me grounded. He tunes my heart to sing His grace.

And just as James says to rejoice in trials because they allow us to endure and then become more mature in God, I want to welcome this struggle, realizing that we will be able to see God work this out for His glory and our good, as well as see Him grow us up a bit more. And these days, that’s what I long for most, to be fully alive, completely depending on my Abba.

18
Jan
14

Change

We recently decided we needed a change in our bedroom situation.  Jesse (17) and Jeremiah (9) shared a room.  Jonah (16) and Jake (15)  shared the other bedroom. When we moved into our house over 6 years ago, we let the kids pick out what color they wanted their rooms to be.  Jonah and Jake, who are both artistic, were in the 3rd and 4th grades and wanted a rain forest themed room and wanted to draw animals on their walls. I was cool with them drawing on their walls until I fell in love with the blue paint and the green paint (white chair rail in the middle) that I helped them choose, and then I didn’t want them to “mess” up their walls. Jonah wanted to draw vines all over the place, and Jake would have drawn amazing animals.

I prayed last night about the switch in rooms. One of my sons was having a hard time adjusting to the change, and I prayed that it would bring unity and harmony to my teenage sons, and that they would accept each other into the boys’ club with no one left out. (Jesse told me not to call it the boys’ club because that sounded weird.)

Jonah and Jeremiah are now sharing a room. We’re in the middle of painting and moving things around…most of their things are sitting in the hall right now. Jonah likes cool; he likes trendy, and he wanted a rust orange color for his room. I found a burnt orange/brown color on the mistint table at Lowe’s, and he said that would be fine. As he, Julia and I were painting his room, I don’t know if the color that somebody didn’t want was exactly what Jonah really had in mind, but as I finished up tonight, he walked in and called it “pumpkin mocha.” Which means cool. And I’m beyond excited that he likes it so much. He said it looked like a coffee shop. And Jeremiah, of course, he’s 9 and doesn’t really care what color the room is (unless it’s blue…my kids have gotten it into their minds that blue rooms look like nurseries).

Monday after we finish school, we will paint Jesse and Jake’s room gray. Jesse originally wanted “bamboo” like our rec room; Jake wanted “black.” We all compromised and went with “sable grey.” I think it will be nice. Man-cavish. No white chair rail.

I know there will be adjustments. Jesse likes to tease and throw playing cards at people (we watched some movie where the guy threw cards; Jesse thought it was cool and figured out how to do it; Julia and Jeremiah have taken it up as well); Jake likes to be left alone most of the time (I guess he figured Jesse’s throwing cards beat Jonah’s non-stop singing).  Jeremiah doesn’t know what to think because Jesse’s very gentle with him and treats him like a kid brother. But Jeremiah really looks up to Jonah and thinks Jonah is an amazing singer and actor; Jonah has an incredible opportunity to love.

We’re very much in transition. The rooms are a wreck, but my teenage boys are upstairs lying on their beds all watching a movie together, and my heart feels like it could burst.

They’re together. I’m kind of jealous of all that time they’ll spend just hanging out and all the amazing conversations they will have, Jesse getting to bond with Jake kind of for the first time, and Jonah hanging out in their room with them because he’s an extrovert and won’t mind barging in. I’m trying to figure out a way to get the love seat in there because I want to hang out in there too. Teenage boys are really funny.

I’m praying that the change will be good for everyone. I’m praying that kindness will abound, and that they would enjoy the time; it goes by so fast. Change happens. And I don’t want them to miss opportunities to know each other, to love each other, to embrace their differences.

And another thing, I would let my kids draw on their walls now…no matter how cool the paint color. 🙂

01
Nov
13

all too human

Worried…Restless…Dark…Doubt…Insecure…Fearful…Negative…Unlovely

Peace…Rest…Light…Trust…Safety…Love…Hope…Joy…Beloved…Lovely

Which list do I really want? Jesus says to those who are burdened to “Come, follow…” He says His burden is light. But I think some days I’d just rather go my own way than have to follow, than have to listen, even if His way promises peace. Sometimes I think I actually like the craziness of the first list. At any rate, I seem to be more familiar with it. It has a certain appeal, a certain drama to it. And some days, I just seem to be stuck in it.

On those days, when my crazy emotions and wild feelings are all over the place, I tend to want to dwell on the negative, the unlovely. I opt for the roller coaster ride of feelings. So, how do I get off once the ride has started?

There’s no how to. He speaks, and I know what He wants of me, but lately I can barely hear His voice. I know what my particular issue is…I’m not grounded. I have to be grounded in Him, which for me requires a level of time and discipline, which everything in me fights against. I extremely dislike schedules and having things on my calendar and being told what to do. And I actually can’t do it of my own accord; there’s a certain surrender in all of it.

But I’ve realized that my relationship with Him is the most important thing of all things, and I have to be disciplined about time for allowing Him to speak. Otherwise, I get muddied and clouded and distracted. And that’s where I’ve kind of been.

For me, it’s about getting back into nature, realizing that there is a bigger world out there that we’re all a part of. It’s feeling the breeze and hearing birds and leaves blow and contending with wasps and lady bugs (which really smell when they’re touched). It’s seeing the clouds, and not from inside my house looking out. It’s being a part of the beauty He created. It’s reading and praying and singing out loud and receiving. It’s being cold and sometimes getting my feet wet.

There’s no magic formula; I just know it when it is. And I’ve been missing it, trying to recapture what was, but which I’m not surrendered to at the moment. I’ve gotten distracted, and I miss Him, His voice, His beauty. I’ve tried to capture the peace that He gives without having Him infiltrate every part of my being, without giving Him all the parts of me, especially my precious time. And it’s not working. I want the benefits without having to follow, without having to die.

I know well the restlessness and doubt that have come from listening to the wrong voices in my head, and that the only way those voices can be muted is hearing from Him alone. Not trying, not striving…just being.

Be still, my soul…

Our heart is restless until is rests in You. -St. Augustine

16
Oct
13

words that float

I recently saw a friend at a soccer match. She had slipped and hurt her leg badly and was having trouble getting around, doing the stuff she normally did. She had a huge brace on her leg and might have to have surgery. She had a great attitude but was still struggling with everyday tasks like driving kids to stuff and doing laundry and walking up stairs and things that you take for granted with two good legs.

As I listened to her story, I realized that I personally had nothing for her. I had no solutions, no advice. I couldn’t fix her problems. I couldn’t make it all better, make it all go away. I found myself saying that I was sorry that she was going through this. But I know somehow that’s not enough. Even if I had unlimited time to help her in her situation, it still wouldn’t be enough.

So I keep finding in these types of situations that I hear this little voice in my head that says to pray with them. Not later, but right then, right there. Out loud. In those few short seconds, I argue with God about doing this. I argue that I can pray in my head, and I promise Him that I will pray later. But I realize that this may or may not happen since I am so out of sight out of mind. I argue that this is weird and will make the person uncomfortable, not to mention my uncomfortability in all of it. I used to think it was not okay to assert myself, and here I am praying out loud for another person to God about that person’s needs. And I worry that someone will mistake it for a goody-goody, holier-than-thou attitude.

But I do it anyway (most of the time); I pray out loud. I pray using gestures because that’s how I talk. And sometimes it’s loud and it’s long (I don’t mean to be; I just keep thinking of stuff). I pray touching them with my arms around them or grabbing a hand. I want them desperately to feel God’s arms around them, and His love for them.

I find as I pray, my prayers come back to what we all essentially need: faith, hope, peace and love in something much bigger than ourselves and our situations. And I’m no longer thinking about myself and my own insecurities or even the other person’s uncomfortability, but something happens within me, and I have this feeling of freedom and understanding and falling into hands that are much larger than my own. And I hope that the other person will fall with me.

The prayer itself is not a solution, but I’m finding that the words or sighs or groans that float up to God are more than the requests themselves or even the answers; prayer is about connection, relationship, awareness of Someone outside ourselves and also something between each one of us. Prayer is the connecting point that ties us to God and to each other. The kingdom of God truly is among us…between us.

03
Oct
13

no offense taken

More suffering comes into the world by people taking offense than by people intending to give offense. The offended ones feel the need to offend back those who they think have offended them, creating defensiveness on the part of the presumed offenders, which often becomes a new offensive—ad infinitum. There seems to be no way out of this self-defeating and violent Ping-Pong game—except growing up spiritually. —Richard Rohr

If the Richard Rohr quote is true, and most people don’t mean to offend, then I have to ask myself the questions: Why am I offended? Why do I get hurt or angry or upset with people?

It seems for me that I take offense by the things that I’m already a little defensive about, the things that I question about myself, or even the things I know might be true but that I’m still desperately trying to keep hidden.

If I’m insecure about something, and then someone steps in and treats me in a way that reiterates the same things I’m already hearing in my head, then I get angry or hurt or offended, whether the person was meaning to be offensive or not. It seems I’ve already been questioning those things about myself, and the offender has intentionally or unintentionally brought them to the light. And it’s easier to lash out at them in hurt or anger than have to deal with my own stuff.

Why else would I be offended if someone overlooks me or even tells me what to do or cuts me off in traffic? Because I’m insecure about being overlooked or about being told what to do or really think that I shouldn’t be treated a certain way. Otherwise I wouldn’t care. Not really.

The other night at the soccer field, some teenage girls were practicing soccer, and one of the girls told me and the friend I was talking with to basically move out-of-the-way. Another one joked around by saying that she was really bad and that if we didn’t move, they might hit us with the ball. I have to admit, I was a little taken back that they were so rude. I used to be a teacher, and teenagers shouldn’t talk to adults like that.

These girls acted rude and entitled, for sure. But I realize that was their deal, not mine. If I felt threatened as an adult, an “authority figure,” then I might take offense at their rudeness. But my taking offense does not help those girls or me in any way. So I let it go and realized that their coaches and teachers and parents have to deal with their sense of entitlement, relieved that I’m not the authority figure in their lives. No offense taken.

But a few years ago, I got in this huge fight with a friend of mine. She had taken something I wrote and twisted it to mean something else, and I looked bad. I was resentful that someone was trying to control me. The whole thing was really stupid. I childishly addressed it over facebook, of all things. She actually wanted to have a conversation and talk about the whole thing, and she apologized for her part in it. But I stubbornly refused to be an adult and talk about it in an adult way. Rather than choosing forgiveness and peace, I chose to be offended.

Now, I look back and embarrassingly kind of laugh, because it stings that I acted that crazy and that immature. I later got a chance to apologize for my part in all of that as well as to my friends who had to hear every gory detail of my facebook fight. But I realize now because of my insecurity and control issues, I refused to let it go, and it became bigger than it should have been. I wasted much time and energy on something that could have been taken care of quickly and without all the anger and emotional trauma.

I’ve been reading Corrie Ten Boom’s writings, and she’s become a kind of mentor for me. Corrie and her family were arrested and put in concentration camps for hiding Jewish people in Holland during World War II. Her writings have greatly influenced me these last few months, and in her books she talked often about resentments and offenses and forgiveness.

I recently took offense at something and became resentful toward someone. And I was kind of beating myself up about being resentful, thinking that I really should be better than that, more kind, more willing to let go. But I wasn’t. And then I read something that Corrie wrote about her own resentments and offenses. This is when I realized that resentments and offenses don’t go away with age.

As a seventy year old, Corrie took offense at something some of her friends had done to her. She said she forgave her friends and felt in her heart that she had, but ten years later (at eighty), she realized that she was still hanging onto the offense. Corrie had kept papers that her friends had written to prove their offense. I realized I had done the same things with a friend of mine. I said in my heart that I forgave my friend but held onto something to “prove” her hostility toward me.

Through Corrie’s example, God is teaching me to give my offenses and resentments immediately to Him, even if means that I have to confess and repent again and again. Corrie wrote about being able to forgive the person who betrayed her family, as well as being able to forgive her captors in the concentration camps. This was an impossible thing to do, and yet, God did it through her.

It’s funny because some things don’t seem to offend me at all. But I realize they don’t because they’re not a sore spot with me. So how do I get rid of all sore spots, all insecurities, all the doubts I have about myself? How do I get to the point where I realize that most people don’t mean to offend, but that it’s me taking offense because I take myself too seriously, or there’s something deep within me that I’m insecure about?

I realize I can’t get rid of all insecurities, all the things I doubt in myself, but I can give them to a God who loves us all. I realize I’m going to take offense at times. It’s going to happen. And I realize that the things I’ve taken offense by are usually the very things I’m wrestling with. So, as Richard Rohr says,  I can begin to question what it is in me that needs to “grow up spiritually.”

And as I continue to give my doubts, my insecurities and my offenses to God, then He can grow me up into what He wants me to be. Paul (according to Philippians) realized that he didn’t have it all together, but he had the goal of knowing Christ better. And that’s probably a better goal anyway…eyes on Him and His love and forgiveness.

A person’s insight give him patience, and his virtue is to overlook an offense. Proverbs 19:11

23
Sep
13

gifts

I decided that I needed to take a day and sit outside, praying, reading, thinking, letting go, receiving. I set up different areas in my backyard so that I wouldn’t get too bored being in the same spot. Between that and trying to dodge the sun throughout the day (this 42-year-old girl doesn’t need any more sunspots), this worked pretty well. But the day I kind of planned out in my mind ended up being different, better. A gift.

Before I even ventured outside, Jeff told me that there was a song he felt described me, my relationship with God, anyway. He had left our bedroom quickly that morning because he felt that there was something for him, and sometimes my voice drowns it out. (He would never say this; I just know it to be true :)) And the something that he received was, in fact, for me.

It was a John Denver song that got stuck in his head, and whether or not you like John Denver, the song fits me, not in terms of human love. because I realize this is impossibly sad for someone to try to fill, but in terms of my relationship with God. And it was perfect for my day.

You fill up my senses like a night in a forest
Like the mountains in springtime like a walk in the rain
Like a storm in the desert like a sleepy blue ocean
You fill up my senses come fill me again

Come let me love you let me give my life to you
Let me drown in your laughter let me die in your arms
Let me lay down beside you let me always be with you
Come let me love you come love me again –“Annie’s Song”

I made a copy of the song, took it outside with me and started softly singing this song in my chair, next to my table, piled with my books. By the second verse, I was weeping. I couldn’t even get the words out. I sang it over and over and over. I was grateful that Jeff was the recipient, the messenger. Another gift.

All day, I sat in the backyard with books and Bible and journal and songbook and coffee and tea and water. It was chilly and then warm and then chilly again as night came on. I soaked in God’s presence and His abundance. I heard the birds and the crickets, almost deafening at times and watched and heard the tall grasses in the field behind our house blowing in the wind. I saw butterflies flitting and birds flying. Clouds in the sky came together in one instance and then moved quickly to another position, followed by a cloudless, bright blue sky. Another gift.

For some of the time, I sat under a tree that was just a little taller than my husband when we moved here six years ago. He thought about chopping it down at the time because it was little more than a bush and rather scrawny at that. Jeff wants things to look more manicured. I love overgrown and tangly and crazy. And now, this tree offers shade from the sun. By the end of the day, the tree was raining sap down on me, on my chair, on my books, and now I have sticky dots to remind me of this day. A gift.

This was the Psalm for me for that day.

…I have calmed and quieted myself like a little weaned child with its mother…

That’s what it was like. I felt content, satisfied to just sit and soak in what God had for me, not demanding that He meet my needs, not demanding that He feed me like a child who is desperate to be fed, but I felt content, happy to just be in His presence. Calm and quiet. A gift.

I noticed my tea bag held a special message for me that I never noticed before. On the little piece of paper connected to the string of the teabag that is supposed to sit outside the mug, it said “Be heard.” For me, I always thought asserting myself was presumptuous, and that I had nothing to say. This was a lie that I believed for years. We each have a story; we each have a gift to bring to this world, a gift that no one else has, and it is okay to be heard. My presence matters. A gift.

Jesse came out to check on me around 3 o’clock, and we talked and laughed for a while. He didn’t plan on staying but ended up pulling up a chair and hanging. Jeff came out after a while. And we all talked. Another gift.

As night came on, Jesse came back out to see if I needed a jacket and then brought me a blanket. Julia and Jeremiah came out later, read with me, and we sang “Amazing Grace” together. Julia did numerous cartwheels, and we belly laughed because she was so dizzy that she almost hit the table every time. Then, we watched the stars come out and sat quietly, mostly. A gift.

Jeff took care of the food that day. From my husband. From God. To me.

Solitude. Relationships. Beauty. God. All gifts.




time flies

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