Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Non-Existence of Picture Perfect


 

Do you know that phrase "picture perfect"? It's a phrase that is normally used to describe the weather of the day.  "Oh, it's just such a picture perfect day, isn't it? 60 degrees and not a cloud in the sky!" , a couple that seems to have it all "Aren't they just a picture perfect couple? They look so good together." or on a greater scale, some body's entire life. " She has such a picture perfect life. She owns her own company, is financially well off, is thin, beautiful, has a husband who loves her and two of the sweetest children you could ever meet."

I've decided to take the phrase "picture perfect" out of my vocabulary, because it doesn't exist. Now, one could argue that you might as well take the words "fairy, "Never Never Land" and Mermaid" out of your vocabulary as well because they too, obviously do not exist. However, it should be stated that the location in our brain where logic takes place can clearly identify that a human with a fish tail who lives under the sea does not match up with reality, but it is also just as clear that the phrase "picture perfect" does not prompt such a logical response from the brain; instead, it subconsciously communicates to us that we are to do what we can to obtain this description, and that this description falls under the realm of "good, positive and happy". All adjectives in which we hope to be or become.

With tears of frustration and anger spewing out all over the place, I muttered these words: "This isn't how I pictured it. This is NOT how I pictured things to be." Over the course of the next several days, those tears and anger continued to come, and I simply could not put a stop to it. It didn't feel natural, normal or "right" as a Christian to tell God that "this isn't how I pictured it". With every session of tears and every imperfect, muttered prayer to God, He gently and quietly whispered a truth to my heart.

"Sarah, this isn't how you pictured it. But this is how I pictured it. Let me put your picture together"

As followers of Jesus Christ, there is no such thing as picture perfect.Picture perfect indicates that it is how we would like it to look, howwe would like to feel. It has "I" at the center of the vision, when God is and will always be the only one to see the big picture. The last time I checked "I" was never at the heart of being a Christian, so I've decided that the phrase "picture perfect" is just a sly ,clever, idealized way for satan to influence God's children to make it about them.

Trust God with the camera. Let him choose the scenery, the lay out, the colors and the props. Trust His timing for the best time to capture the right image. Trust God with the big picture.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

At the Heart of Submission


Submission. What is the first thought that comes to your mind when you see or hear that word? I'm sure Websters Dictionary has a definition for this word, and I've quoted him a time or two in this blog, however in this post I hope to provide a fresh perspective on this word and what it means to incorporate it into our day to dayness.

To submit to someone or something, means to put aside your needs, desires, thoughts and ambitions in the form of a physical action. When a woman gets married, she has vowed to God, her husband and everyone in attendance that she will submit to her husband and his leadership, trusting and believing that that her husband is following and being submissive to Jesus Christ. An individual who wants a paycheck has to submit to the rules and regulations of a company (whether or not he agrees to them) if he wants to keep his job. 


My favorite example of submission in the Bible is the story of Ruth and Naomi. After Naomi's husband died, as well as her two sons ( one of which was married to Ruth), Ruth boldly declared "Don't urge me to leave you or turn my back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God." (Ruth 1:16)  Willingly Ruth laid aside everything she knew and loved, and submitted to Naomi and the relationship that she had with her.

However, since it is Christmas, the story of Mary resonates in my heart. At the humble age 13 or 14, Mary submitted to the greatest plan ever to be placed on this earth; to carry the Son of God. For centuries Mary has captured the attention of the Christian church, and her character and life have been analyzed on so many levels. But for this post, I want to focus primarily on the submission that she had to the Lord. The only question that she asked is "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" (Luke 1:34). However, noticed that she didn't question the wisdom or the reasoning, only the mechanics of how such an event could take place in her young, untouched body.

As I reflect on all the events that have taken place within this last year, I am humbled at how I have not submitted to the will of Christ as willingly as Mary did during that precious time in history. There have been many times where I have just muttled through and done my very best to accept my circumstances, realizing that if this is how God sees fit, there is no point in trying to change any of it. But as the bitterness, anger, hurt and depleting level of hope peel away, my heart is revealed to expose the fact that what is missing is the humble and honest act of submitting to Christ and His perfect timing and plan for my life. That my friend, is the heart of Submission. Surrendering your life to Christ without ever knowing what the outcome will be, and trusting that you are where you need to be at just this moment in time.

As we approach Christmas weekend, I encourage you to lay aside the commercialism, the busyness, the gifts, the food, and everything that casts a shadow on the true meaning of Christmas. I challenge you to examine areas in which God is calling you to submit to His plan, His will, His timing, His way. 


Merry Christmas!

A Christmas Prayer

Just like your daughter Mary
Submitting to your will is a good place to start
but Lord I ask that you enable me to do my part, within my heart.
I can say with my lips that I surrender all
but the real work that takes place is inside of my heart as I heed your call
Help to lay myself aside and to choose to abide
to abide in your peace, to abide in your love.
As you send me through the refiners fire, take me to a place that is higher.
My questions, my thoughts, my every wonder of "why"?
I give to you an offering of tears 
wrapped in faith and given in love
And just as the wisemen followed the star
May I follow and trust you to give purpose to my scars
And in turn, help me to see
That it's not about tinsel, the gifts, family or a decorated tree,
but the only gift that you ask for this Christmas is a bended knee.




Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What a Cashier is REALLY doing When They are Ringing You Up


Stocking and replenishing shelves and ringing up items for people has the potential to have a high boredom factor. As such, I have found myself day dreaming, observing and making up potential stories and scenarios of customers based on the items they purchase, their appearance, the people they are with and/or the little bits of information that they give me.

Example #1: The other day I rang up items for a woman who was dressed to the nine, had the perfect body, hair, nails, etc. and she was purchasing some Christmas cards. I noticed that the front on one of them said "Merry Christmas to my man", and then I noticed that she had this huge rock on her finger. In the course of that 1 minute, I wondered what her fiancee/husband did for a living, and I wondered if he appreciated her as much as  she appreciated him. I then found myself wondering about how he proposed to her, and then started dreaming about my future marriage proposal. All in about a minute.

Example #2: Yesterday I had a woman come through my lane who looked absolutely exhausted. Bags underneath eyes, sweat pants, and disheveled hair. Her purchase? Diapers, wipes, $1.00 Christmas crap from our "one spot" and at least 4 bags of Christmas candy and a Dr. Pepper from our beverage cooler. Need I say more?

Example #3: The most adorable older woman came through my lane with sugar, flour, chocolate chips and at least 12 pairs of printed women's socks. I imagined this sweet little lady stirring up Christmas cookies for her family, and wrapping up little individual boxes with one little pair of socks in each one, so grateful to have found a gift that was "unique, equal and yet were not "all alike"  "

Example #4: This young couple came through my lane and purchased condoms, KY Intense for Him and Her, coke, chips and queso dip. Some purchases don't leave anything to the imagination.

Example #5:  A tall, ruggedly handsome man in his 30's with dirty hands, a wedding band and dressed in construction work type clothes came through my lane and purchased a 120 count box of diapers. I had to stop myself from looking him straight in the eyes, putting my hand on his shoulder, and thanking him for being a real man and provider for his family. I'm guessing he might have avoided my lane on his next trip.

So many different people with so many different stories. When you go through a lane to purchase your items, it may seem like you go through unnoticed, but if your cashier is anything like I am.... an imaginative, passionate, creative and completely bored individual in the midst of transition, just dying to get out of  her current season of life...know that you aren't as invisible as you think you are!




Saturday, December 10, 2011

The "What not to be " Guide for Shopping at Retail Stores



Tis the season for Christmas trees, grandma's homemade sugar cookies, red and green everything and.......
  •  Children who have such terrible melt downs that you can hear the ringing of screaming in your ears at least 10 minutes after you leave the store.
  • Customers who stand and watch you struggle to fit their awkward, bulky, long heavy toys into "not quite large enough"bags, only to have them rip, and they watch you start all over again.
  • Women who would rather stand and argue with you that their "card is good", even though the truth of the matter is that they've already spent their limit on buying Christmas crap and are permanently in denial, which somehow ends up being being all your fault.
  • Customers who think that we are mind readers. of course we should telepathically know you want separate transactions because one order is for your daughter and must be paid in cash and the other is yours and needs to be paid with a credit card. Verbal exchange is never needed for such a request.
  • Customers who decide to completely unravel a table of nicely folded shirts, organized according to color and size, because their son is x-tra large and his size sits at the bottom... but it took taking apart every other size to figure out that every shirt has a sticker with the size smack dab on the front.
  • Customers who decide that leaving a bag of half eaten popcorn by the nice flannel shirts is a good idea.
  • When you say "good morning!" to a customer, and they look at you briefly and give you a half smile and no verbal response, even as they are leaving. 
  • When a customer treats you like a scanning machine instead of a human being with intelligence and feelings.
  • Being the "rage outlet" for stressed out, workaholic moms who are trying to balance a full time job, kids and putting on the "Christmas of every one's dreams".

These examples (and there are many more that haven't come to mind at the moment) are a good guide and reminder for you as the consumer, as you finish up the last of your holiday shopping. I know stress runs high and time is running out, but take your cart, stand over by the scented candles and take a DEEP breath and say to yourself "It's all about baby Jesus, it's all about baby Jesus" and hopefully the rest of your customer etiquette will naturally fall into place. :)


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Transformation to Unrecognizable



Last night at work I was ringing up some adorable, mini "real life" looking infant dolls. I took one look at them, and shared with the customer that those would have been perfect dolls for residents in a memory care. She looked at me like I was nuts, and then I tried to explain myself, which further made me appear to be nuts.

And then I realized...

This woman really doesn't care. She smiled at me politely and said something to the effect of "that's nice", and went about her business. I said "Have a great night", and then mentally kicked myself for not keeping that comment to myself.

You see, in my world, finding a real life looking infant doll for $3.00 is something worth mentioning. Why? Because it would benefit and comfort a woman with severe dementia. I could envision handing the doll wrapped up in a pink baby blanket to one of my past residents, seeing the look of sheer love and joy on her wrinkled face as she rocked the baby and kissed the top of her head.

However, my world has changed. It has gone from meaningful experiences like this one, to wearing red and khaki and asking "Can I help you find something?". It has gone from having conversations about World War 2 and rolling out lefse, to pushing chemicals to the front of the shelf. Tears well up in my eyes as I reminisce about what my 8 hour work day used to look like, though I must be careful to not paint a perfect picture of that time.

I simply don't know where God wants me, or what He wants me to do. Right now, I know that  He has placed me in Target to be a "fast, fun and friendly" employee to help pay the bills and serve as a transition job till I am led to a more permanent position somewhere. But I know it's temporary. Heavens, everything is temporary on this earth. Everything will eventually die, erode or move on, everything but God's word (Matthew 24:35). Though this truth is comforting, it still does not stop the human desire to know where He is leading me and who He is shaping me to be. It is so hard for me to accept that right now and right here is what it is  for right now. 

I have been feeling like I have been losing parts of myself, but maybe God is just putting those things on the back burner or removing them completely because those parts werent' as great as I thought they were. I'm sure that there is some glorious, beautiful, refined result of this season of my life... I just pray for the perspective, strength and willingness to believe that there is.

I know many people who read my blog have felt ministered to and inspired by the thoughts and perspectives that the Lord has given me, and I praise Him for that. However, I also pray that my brokenness, honesty and humility will do the same. I really don't have answers right now and I don't have much perspective, but I have the hand of Christ on my heart and on my shoulder, leading me in both ways at the same time.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Memory Loss in All the Right Places

As I sit in the stillness of late morning with a cup of coffee and a refreshed spirit, I am compelled to communicate a truth that God has revealed to my heart.
 I need not spend much time reminding you of what an unmerciful world we live in. We live in a world that is driven by money, politics, greed and selfish ambition. From a young age, we are conditioned to believe that it is the achievement of these things that will give you a name and a place in this world. Many of us (including myself) go out of our way trying to stay on the "right path", doing whatever we can to avoid making mistakes that will give us visible marks that would reveal our humanity; mistakes that would have the potential to haunt us for the rest of our lives.

For the last couple months, I have been struggling like a caterpillar in a cocoon, trying to break free in God's truth to this harsh reality of life on earth. I have felt like the character of the "wemmik" in Max Lucado's children's book "You are Special".  Instead of getting stars, I have been getting big, fat dots. In fact, the cold sore outbreak that I'm healing from is such a reflection of how I feel on the inside. We live in a world that is quicker to give us dots, rather than stars. And in this world, those dots have a staying power that only Jesus Christ can remove.
This morning in my quiet time, I came across this verse in Hebrews:

"God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them."-Hebrews 6:10

My heart is at rest as I am reminded of the powerful truth that unlike the world we live in, God has absolutely and completely forgotten our sins and mistakes. In fact, that moment we bring them to Him, it is as if it never happened. He will never shove them in our face and threaten our peace, but instead only remembers the work we've done; the love that we have shown others that is pleasing in His sight. Friends, a relationship with Christ is the beginning to understanding a truth as powerful as this one. Otherwise we will walk around on this earth so full of dots that represent every mistake we've made, every person we've hurt and every moment of disobedience that we've taken part in.
He sees you. He smiles when you do the simplest thing that blesses His heart. He keeps no record of wrongs, but only an ongoing list of all you've done right. He's pleased with you, He loves you, and He only desires to give you stars and remove your dots, as he continues to carve and sand you to perfection as His special craftsmanship.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Let Her Sleep

Sleep is such a beautiful thing. It is God's gift to our weary bodies; an essential form of restoration in order to survive. We all look forward to that time at night where we are completely done with the day, and drift into sleep, forgetting about the cares of the day. There are some days where the world seems to be falling apart, but after a good night's sleep and a cup of coffee, everything seems more manageable again.
Sleep is also used to promote healing.When we are ill, we spend a good amount of time sleeping in order to get back to normal ,working order. Just recently I've been battling a virus, and have found myself sleeping a lot more than normal in order to heal.
"Let her sleep, for when she wakes she will move mountains"
I have always viewed sleep in the literal sense, but after reading this quote, I found myself looking at the verb in a very different manner.Today I mentioned to a friend that it seems like all I've been doing is laying around and sleeping, to which he replied "look at it as restoration from the last few months. You've been through a lot."
 Right now, I feel like my life is in slow motion. I am waiting for direction for work, trying to develop a routine where there isn't much structure to work with and struggling to remain positive. But maybe, just maybe, this is a literal time to sleep and rest; not only physically, but spiritually and emotionally. I'm so used to always "doing" something, or striving to "be" something. These last couple of years pushed the "doing" and "being" factors into high gear, and all of a sudden it's been kicked to neutral.
 As a woman of God, I desire to move mountains in this world. Tears come to my eyes when I reminisce on the times when God and I did move mountains together. I desire to thrive and not merely survive, and live every day of my life as if it were the last.
 But right now, let me sleep. Let me sleep so that when it is time to move some more mountains, I will be present in every sense of the word. Let me sleep, so that I can gain back my strength and heal from the open wounds.

"I  will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, o Lord, make me dwell in safety."-Psalm 4:8

Monday, October 24, 2011

Buried Shame, Uncovered Treasures of Truth

There is something very exciting about buried treasure. Remember those infomercials for metal detectors, with those happy retired senior citizens roaming the beach, searching for hidden valuables underneath the sand? Gifts wrapped up in deep boxes and layers of tissue paper can have the same affect, as you excitedly rip away all the unnecessary debris to get to that item tucked away at the bottom.
There also remains the reality that just as much as special, fun, shiny objects can be buried and discovered, there is also a possibility that one may find something not nearly as desirable; a murdered body, a box of hand written love letters that were stolen and never given to the rightful owner, or a secret that has never been shared and festers into fear within the heart of that individual.
More often than not, things that are buried are meant to be buried. There is an intention in the process, whether it be hiding something to keep it safe or in an effort to ignore a painful memory. However, I recently learned the exception to this truth.

"Sarah, I've been doing some thinking, and I've decided that although you do have a lot of strengths, they do not outweigh your weaknesses."
When I heard this statement spoken with such a mechanical, unfeeling tone, I found myself so numb that I, myself, became mechanical in order to digest what I heard. I heard one thing, but it became clear that my heart heard something quite different. Even though I knew that what was said was meant to be hurtful and manipulative, my head and logic was not connecting to my heart. I buried this evil, ugly statement that was spoken to me, deep down in my heart, in a place where only Jesus would be able to uncover it, and make any sense of it.
For over a month, it haunted me. My greatest, unspoken fear of myself was brought into the tangible world to be heard, not just thought in the privacy of my own head. Could it be that despite all my God given gifts and abilities, that my weaknesses were truly outweighing them? Even though on a rational level as a Christian I knew that this was a lie, something wasn't breaking me from it.

This weekend, God revealed to me the importance of knowing the difference between guilt and shame. Guilt says: "I've done something wrong" , but shame says: "I am something wrong". When I heard this description, I realized what had happened. When the statement was spoken to me, it was meant to manipulate and make me feel guilty. But in all actuality, it was a statement of shame. I believed that as a person, I was wrong. I had buried that shame so deeply, and in the busyness of life, chose not to dig very deep to unearth it.Friends, how often do we hear something (and by "hear" I don't just mean just with your ears, as our hearts hear things as well) and interpret something as shame? I pray that if there is any buried shame in your life, that by God's power, sovereignty and grace, you would allow Him to uncover it and set you free. As Christians, we have the most amazing promises to claim. One of those promises is that in our weakness, HE is our strength.
"But He said to me "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ can work in me."- 2nd Cor. 12:9We MUST stand on the word. God's word has the power reveal these truths in a world where satan longs to tinge things with evil and shame. Just as Christ has unearthed the shame, He has in turn polished His priceless treasure and made us shine in a world that is hopeless without Him.

Walk in the freedom that there is NO condemnation and shame for those who belong to Jesus Christ. Bury yourself in Him.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Farewell, Happy Place

Saying "goodbye" is apart of life. I have often associated a tearful goodbye with a person rather than a place, but this time, it's different. 

About two years ago at the end of January, I put "coffee shop" into my GPS, and was led to a location that I would later affectionately dub as "My happy place". An old train station restored to a Caribou Coffee, my "happy place" was a constant comfort in the midst of all of the change and transition that I experienced since my arrival to Cannon Falls. When I was completing my degree, I did hours of homework. After I graduated, I went there to clear my head, write, journal and spend quality time with my Savior. And then there were those times where life just simply got too much, of which I would run to this refuge of espresso and cozy chairs, find a corner, and cry or just simply close my eyes and try to meditate on the fact that God is faithful and loving, even when you are losing it. I know that God meets us wherever we are, but it seemed that He especially spoke clearly to me within the walls of that nook.

As I am soaking up the last of my precious time in this place, I find that it is also serving as a closing of a chapter in the book of my life. People and relationships are so fickle. They are one of Gods greatest gifts to us, but loving and investing in people is a big risk. You never know when they will turn on you, move away, or simply decide that investing in your friendship isn't a priority any more. However, a building...a special place that one can go to, doesn't change or disappear as easily. Sure, it can get torn down or remodeled after a time, but for the most part it's constant, sturdy, predictable.

I have come to realize and understand that my relationship with Jesus is my true "happy place". He never changes, He never leaves, He never decides to withhold His faithfulness from His children. No matter what life may bring, He is the only constant. He is like coffee for my soul... inviting, satisfying, spreading warmth throughout my body. He invites us to nestle into His word, and listen to His voice in a place where the distractions of this world are put on hold.

May you find refuge in the constant of Christ, and comfort in the certainty that He is and always will be there...and you needn't drive very far to meet Him.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Another Chapter of Trust

I have always loved the season of fall. There just seems to be this "hush hush" element added to nature that only fall can bring. Although we haven't experienced much of the cooler tempts quite yet, the leaves have started changing their wardrobe from shades of green to the warm, inviting shades of red, yellow and orange. I find it ironic that as nature is making a literal transition, I am also making a similar one. In the spirit of that understanding, I am reminded that the transition from fall to winter is one of the most beautiful, breathtaking times in nature. By the grace of God may I see this in my own life as well.

God has officially shut a door, and a few windows are being cracked open a little bit here and there. As of this Thursday, I will be moving from my apartment in Minnesota to my true home with my mother and sisters, until God reveals the next steps in my life. I am experiencing many emotions as so many things are yet to be discovered and understood, but I do hold on to the truth that His "thoughts aren't my thoughts, and His ways aren't my ways".

A friend of mine reminded me the power of being thankful. As I ponder this thought, I am impressed to communicate how thankful I am that I have a hope in something greater and better than myself. I am thankful for the fact that by God's grace and mercy, I am able to look past the confusing and hurtful, trusting and having faith in the unseen and yet the truly visible presence of Jesus Christ in my life.It seems that no matter what season of life we are in, trust is key. God allows things to happen in our lives to give us another opportunity to trust Him on a deeper level than we did the last time. To trust is to allow yourself to be refined, bent and broken. However, God never allows this to take place without transforming it into something beautiful.

Don't you want that? Don't you want beauty? Whether you are a man or a woman, we all want beauty in some form. Whether it be beauty to hold, to take in with the eyes or to hear, it is something we all desire. As a woman, I have always desired beauty. The older I get, the more I realize that the most valuable beauty is given to me when my Father refines, bends and breaks me.

Beauty is trust, trust is beauty. Maybe, it's just that simple.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

What Happens when the Door Slams

The old saying goes "When a door shuts, God opens a window". As far as I know, there aren't any comforting cliche sayings for when "the door slams in your face, and knocks you so hard on the head that it sends you sailing backwards, landing on your back." Oh, one could argue that a window will eventually open, but what this saying fails to emphasize is the unknown, trying hours that are spent waiting for that window to open so that you can climb down the tree to the next opportunity in life."Opening a window" is an equilative to God answering our prayers in a specific way. When a door slams shut in our face, it is uncomfortable, scary, intimidating, frustrating, maddening and depressing.

Have you ever had someone slam a door in your face? Maybe it was during an argument with someone, and one of you decide that the easiest way out is slamming the door; an action that doesn't need words, and often more powerful. This scenario is especially hurtful when it is in regards to a close, meaningful friendship/relationship. One day, something is said or done, and it can't get worked out. Then, when you least expect it, they shut the door. No more phone calls or heart to heart's over coffee. No more affirming words and support. The door is closed and sometimes it never opens again.What if God chooses not to open a window? Does that make Him any less capable, righteous and loving? And here's a thought: What if that slamming door is the open window?

You see friends, God promises His children that He will always provide. Also known as, He will always open a window. However, we must strive to see what window God opens through a slammed door. Right now, I'm learning that that window is a window that opens to full and complete dependence and trust in Jesus Christ, a desire to pour myself into His word and to pray as if it is physical water that I need to survive.

May you have the courage to step through the windows of slammed doors, allowing the Holy Spirit to help you recognize one when you see one. There are no closed doors, only opportunities to trust God unlike you ever have before.



Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Vision Keepers

What is a vision? "Vision" is one of those words that encompasses several different meanings. As humans we strive to have "20/20" vision to properly see and for hundreds of years people have had visions for a company, a product, and/or idea. There is also the type of vision that is placed in the heart of a person. Much like Martin Luther King's famous speech "I have a dream", could easily be interpreted as "I have a vision".
This post was inspired by a song that came on my Pandora.com radio station this morning during my quiet time. The song is entitled "A Women's Heart" by recording artist Jenny Jordan Frogley. The whole song brought me to tears as I felt God tenderly touching my heart through those lyrics. There was one part of the song that spoke especially clear to me:
"She's a keeper of the vision

She's a beacon in the night

A teacher and defender of truth

and everything she touches

bears the traces of her light."

I can confidently say that throughout my whole life, I have possessed a vision for something or someone. I have always been able to see in my heart and within my wild imagination, how I envision something to look and be. I believe that these visions are what keep us alive and keep us pressing beyond the struggles and the mundanes of the present. There are people who are given special gifts to envision something, and then bring that vision to reality. A good friend of mine has this gift. She took a few pictures that I had taken of my apartment, and turned it into a beautiful, cozy little nook that I can truly call a home. There are others who have a vision, but are too afraid to carry out what it would take to bring it to life.
While healing from my concussion that occurred a little over a month ago, I had lost my vision. I lost my vision for my job, my position, opportunities for my voice, my writing, my relationships, goals. It was as if the glasses that give me that vision were stashed away in a drawer somewhere, buried underneath daily, persistent headaches, fatigue, irritability and depression. I am still healing, but in addition to the healing of my brain, my heart has been healing as well.
Pain makes us surrender; Surrender to medications, help, sleep, changing a habit, etc. Eventually the pain can become so intense, that we realize that the thought of dealing with the pain or finding a solution on our own, makes things even more painful. It is in that time that our heavenly Father stops our pain by stepping in.
Oh, maybe the actual physical and/or emotional pain doesn't completely go away. But if it did, would we understand the importance of true and literal dependence on Jesus to carry us through this life? I desire a reprieve; a "mountain top" season of life, if you will. But for now, the wilderness is going to have to do. For now, it is a "crash course of Jesus dependence" time of life.
How about you? Do you have a vision, or has it been lost? Ask Him. Ask God to give you a vision. A vision for your relationship with Him, your family, your job, your education, volunteering, and serving Christ as a whole. Remember friends. We are the vision keepers and beacons of truth in this world. Shine that light.




Friday, August 19, 2011

The Bingo Game from Hell

One could use the word "challenging" when it comes to working with senior citizens, but throw in seven senior citizens with varying stages of dementia, and challenging doesn't seem appropriate any more.
Every Friday I play bingo with my memory care residents from about 2:15-3:30. Nothing fancy like playing for "4 corners" or "postage stamp", as just remembering where the "B" and the "I" are located is enough mental work. Usually we have a pretty quiet game, with some singing in between the rounds, but today things got changed up a bit.
A new couple moved into our home, and my boss asked me if I would please take the wife to memory care with me to play bingo, as she thinks she would really benefit from it. I walked over to their apartment, knocked on the door and was introduced to one of the happiest ladies I had ever met. I have certainly never seen dementia in this form before! She was laughing at everything that I said, and with a little coaxing from her husband and I, I got her to join me for the afternoon. All the way there her eyes were glowing with excitement, and she was just overflowing with joy. Her laughter was certainly contagious and, looking back at the experience, was a blessing in disguise.
She settled right into our memory care family, and the game got started. I put her next to a "Alice", a down to earth, genuine ex- one room school teacher, farm wife and mother of 6 boys. "Alice" 's eye sight is even better than mine, and when it comes to games and instructions, she follows them to a "t" and often "teaches" and coaches the other residents who struggle. Well, the new resident (we'll call her "Iris") told me that she had never played bingo before, so I knew that setting her next to "Alice" would probably be helpful move. Boy, was I wrong.
I don't know if any of you have called bingo before, but after awhile it gets pretty boring and annoying. After every single number I called out, Iris would repeat it several times and giggle in between. After looking under the free space and every other spot that was already filled for the number that was last called, she finally decided that she certainly doesn't "have that one this time". Well, the ex- one room school teacher was about ready to tear her hair out after the above described incident happened after every single number was being called. "No, no, NO! Here's the "B"! Now, the number called was 15, but you have 19, so you don't have that number this time!"
To top it all off, I had another resident calling a resident a "dummy" because he wasn't playing his card ( and isn't even capable of doing so). "Ya dummy! Didn't you hear her? I 25, you have that one, it's right here! Geez." Down the table, I hear another resident whom I have deemed the "ham" of our group, pipe up with "Do you have an "O Shucks"? ". Needless to say, the game was cut short by about 25 minutes. For the record, 3 games were played in over an hour's time. To put it in the words of Iris "Ha ha! I think I'm losing my mind!" Yeah, well, you aren't the only one.










Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Coffee and Cookie Lesson

Maybe one of the reasons that I enjoy working in a memory care environment so much is because of the simplicity and honesty of my residents. When a person has dementia, they are stripped of many ( if not all) of the mental "filters" that healthy human beings possess in their brains. You know, those filters that prevent us from verbally telling someone that they need to lose weight, or the outfit that they chose to wear looks hideous. We all think those things, but when you have dementia, what you think comes right out of your mouth. I have often thought that people with healthy brains could learn a thing or two from these people who have been labeled as "losing their minds".
In my personal life, I have been undergoing some very difficult times, due to a concussion and a very stressful working environment. To be quite honest, everything that I do these days wears me out. If I am not dealing with a raging headache or inconvenient nausea, I'm battling mood swings that seem to have a life of their own. These symptoms have directly affected the entirety of my life, especially my job. It seems like I'm forgetting a lot more things these days, having less patience and by the look and sound of the reaction of my superiors, that I'm not meeting "performance standards".
In this world, there are a lot of standards that we have to meet. Some of them are standards that we place on ourselves, but there are many standards that are placed on us just by living and breathing. And, if you are like me, if you desire to go "beyond the standards" ( which I'm learning is highly overrated), it actually can backfire, because than people set their standards and expectations to what you have set for yourself. So the moment you make a noticeable mistake, experience the set back of an injury or get sick, you are than slowly lowered into a hole that was dug on your own accord, with the help of a few willing bystanders.
Today was a rough day. By 2:30, I had two hours left on the clock and absolutely no will or ambition left. I forced myself out of my desk chair, and made my way to the 4th floor. I knocked on all of their doors, enticing them to come out for a cookie and a cup of of coffee. One by one they shuffled out of their rooms and made their way to the dining room. As I poured the coffee and served the cookies, one of my residents had a seat at the kitchen island. As I poured him a cup of coffee and gave him his cookie, he looked me in the eye and said with absolute sincerity."you are such a sweetheart. Thank you!". As I fought back tears, I realized how blessed I was to be with people that were impressed at my sheer ability to give them a cookie and pour them a cup of coffee. That was enough them. I didn't need to write an impressive blog post, haul them on an outing, respond well in a care conference, or throw a fantastic event with streamers, music and cake. Love, appreciation and affection was poured out on me as a result of a cookie and a cup of coffee.
It didn't take long to realize that that is what the Lord was trying so desperately to communicate to my heart. Despite my earthly circumstances, God just desires me to love on Him, to trust Him and to to be faithful to Him. That's all. That's all that He asks of us. We don't have to earn His approval, we don't have to meet standards that are never verbalized or communicated. Although we can't get lazy and apathetic in the grace that has been extended to us by His death on the cross, we are enough just the way we are.
When we fall in the world, it seems as if we get a red dot placed on our forehead to represent our mistakes and failures. But when we fall in God's grace, it is simply another opportunity for Him to love and nurture His child and affirm them that because we are His, we are sufficient. We are enough. We are His.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Empowering the Men in our Lives

What does it mean to "empower"? Dictionary.com defines "empower" as "to enable or permit" and "to give power or authority to". Since the late 1950's, America has been on a hot pursuit to empower women. This empowerment included but was not limited to, education, equalization and sexual rights. It was implied that men were too powerful, stifling the growth and the potential of the "weaker" sex. While I cannot deny that abuse from the male gender did ensue throughout the years, I also cannot deny that there is a distinct confusion amongst both genders when it comes to the concepts of "empowerment" and "control".
Nobody wants to be controlled, but there are plenty of people who want to be in control. People who feel the need to control often are experiencing an intense fear of the unknown; what would happen if they actually did let go. Empowerment is quite different. Empowering somebody means that you are giving something valuable to somebody so that they in turn can do something even more valuable. God's word is empowering, education is empowering, self help books and conferences are empowering. As women, we are taught of the importance of empowering ourselves, but as a Christian woman, I can testify that very little is taught about how to empower the men in our lives. There are authors and books out there that touch on this subject, but since this blog is "my little corner of the world", I thought I would share my perspective on this concept.
I am the type of person that can be empowered by words. If you compliment me on my appearance, on something that I've done or something positive that you observe about me, I could live on that compliment for days. Of the "5 Love Languages" (written by Gary Chapman), one of mine is most definitely "words of affirmation". People can be empowered in different ways, placing the emphasis on the difference of personality and upbringing. But in our world, we have often been taught and conditioned to not divide male and female as an example of those "differences". The concept of empowerment in relation to the different sexes is no exception.
As Christian women, we desire to be led by a man who is being led by Christ. Even if a woman identifies herself as being independent and a natural leader, she is wired to desire to be an integral part of an adventure with a man who is beside her and slightly ahead of her. What has been a mystery to me is how do we allow the man in our life to lead us, but also be able to empower them with the strengths, talents and traits that we possess in which we are clearly more of a "leader"in? In other words, how do we supply the men in our lives with our unique giftings, knowledge and wisdom, without knowingly or unknowingly using them as a tool to "get what we want" or control the a situation? Biblically, the man is to be the head of the household and the head of a relationship (1st Cor. 11:3), but also a marriage is comprised of three strands which are not easily broken (Eccl.4:12). Amongst those three strands is woman, completely and totally unique in her giftings and understandings of love and life, a leader in her own right.
I firmly believe that as women of Christ, we are called to empower the men in our lives by simply being present. By serving, respecting, and offering leadership in areas where it is needed. I am learning that the Holy Spirit will grant that discernment as it is needed, and that we need only keep an attitude of humility and understanding. A man who lives his life under the authority and Lordship of Christ is a powerful man indeed, but coupled with a woman who is like"hearted", is a serious threat to the enemy and an important part of God's plan for His people.
I pray that as women we may pray for discernment and wisdom on a daily basis, asking the Lord to show us ways in which we can empower the men in our lives with our encompassing internal and external beauty; a true representation of the Bride of Christ.









































Reminders

As we go throughout our busy lives, we often need reminders to remember to do various things. An alarm clock reminds us that we need to wake up from our slumber and sticky notes are covered with "to do's". When we are hungry, our stomachs growl, reminding us that we are hungry and we receive emails and written statements reminding us of bills that are due ( or over due). In our age of advanced technology, we are even reminded with 'dings' by our cell phones and computers when we have a hair appointment or how many days away a loved one's birthday is. Our world is full of reminders to help keep us on track, and yet I have come to learn that reminders take place in so many more ways then dings on a cell phone or a sticky note on your desk.
About two weeks ago to this day, I fell in the shower, hit my head and suffered a stage 3 concussion. It has been a huge uphill climb as I have been dealing with symptoms that include persistent headaches, irritability, depression and some minor short term memory loss and word placement issues. After taking two days off for rest, I had to get into the "swing of things" again in life. It didn't take long for me to get frustrated as I realized how much I had taken my strength for granted, and how much energy is actually expelled when making a phone call or giving directions to somebody. In my exhaustion and frustration, I found myself getting quickly worn down. I have never experienced headaches on such a persistent basis, so after a few days of constantly dealing with them, I asked God to show me what He wanted to teach me during this time.
I have always struggled to fully rely on Gods strength. For some odd reason, I think that in my humanity I can accomplish and overcome the things that come my way. It doesn't take me long to realize that the only way to break that cycle is to allow myself to be broken, acknowledging my need for God's strength and faithfulness. With every headache, frustration and bought of depression, I found myself being reminded of how absolutely vital it is to remain and abide in Christ at all times. What if we viewed pain and the things that we can't control, as strategically placed reminders of how we are to rely on God's strength alone? How would that change our outlook on our circumstances?
"Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. "-John 15:4

"But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate[a] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. "- 2nd Cor.3:16-18

As you abide in Christ, you abide in His love. And as you abide in His love, you are abiding in His faithfulness. Abiding in your Father is all that you need to bring you through every struggle that you will face, and will give perspective to every happy time that you are privileged to experience.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Captivity of the Mind

For as long as I can remember, my mind has been the greatest battlefield of my life. I think that that is a true statement for many people, as our minds and hearts are private to everyone except ourselves and God. We compile mental lists in our mind, day dream about delightful things or scenarios and respond to our world internally during those times that it may or may not be appropriate to verbalize or act upon.
The things that we tell ourselves in our mind have the power to make or break us. We've all heard authors and motivational speakers talk about the effectiveness of positive "self pep talks", as well as the impending doom of destructive thinking. I have learned that somewhere along those lines, the ultimate adversary of evil can weave his way into this personal world, at times making it a literal prison in which we can't break free. There is a song by the popular Christian music group "Selah" called "I Bless Your Name". In that song there is a verse that always ministers to my heart, and prompts me to pray for others who struggle in a similar fashion. "Some midnight hour if you should find, you're in a prison in your mind; reach out and pray, defy those chains, and they will fall in Jesus name."
Praise God when we can identify that we are truly in a mental prison, but what about the times when we can't even identify that there are actual lies we are believing that are putting us behind those bars? On our knees and in our willingness to follow Christ, to seek His peace and to understand His ways, we are given the opportunity to allow Jesus to penetrate our hearts and show us the difference between a thought life that is free of the captivity of lies and one that is abiding in the richness of a Father who loves you, and desires you to have nothing but peace.
Just the other night, I was wrestling with some severe anxiety and worry about something going on in my life. I found myself going back and forth in my mind, and then realized that this wasn't of the Lord. Remembering a method that I had read from a book that I just recently finished, I decided to do my best to put words to the thoughts that were going on in my head. As I articulated the thoughts from my pen onto the paper, it didn't take long to discover that many of the thoughts were lies straight from the enemy. Next to the lie, I wrote down the truth, and then did my best to find scripture to back up that truth. By giving words to those lies, they lost their power. They were revealed as the destructive, unnecessary, life sucking demons that they really were.
How about you? Do you find yourself "in a prison in your mind"? Maybe it's depression, or maybe it's simply just the tendency to over think and over analyze. But whatever the case, God desires to break you free of that stronghold. Satan has no place or authority in your heart or mind, despite his deceptive visits that seem to be harmless.
Disrobe the darkness in your mind by allowing Christ to illuminate His light on your path. Just like crickets in a dark room that are being invaded by the flip of a light switch, so will Christ cause those lies to scatter to the corners as He rolls out His carpet of peace and truth.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Standing on the Promises

It was a rainy day yesterday, and as I struggled to pull my wits about me with my memory care residents while recovering from a concussion ( long story. I will probably mention more details in another post), I was struggling to come up with something creative to engage my residents in during our morning activity group. The rain inspired some music with rain in it, and then it led to a conversation about the account of Noah and the flood in the Bible. When we got to the rainbow part, I knew where God was leading me in our time together. I gave them each a large print hymnal, and asked them to find hymns that specifically stated God's promises. After doing this for a little while, one of my residents looked at me thoughtfully and said "And us old people, we can say that these things are true because we've lived it!". Her confident statement sent a chill up my spine, and peace to my heart.
In our youth, we can only depend upon the testimonies in God's word and the people in our lives in regards to God's promises and our faith in something we cannot see. We must live years on this earth to see those promises put to work in our own lives. To be reminded of that truth brought me to a place of appreciation for life. If we aren't living, we can't experience God's promises, and too often we don't focus on the rainbow, but instead focus on the storm that forces us to look up.
May you be reminded of God's unending, beautiful, life giving promises. May you view your years on this life as an opportunity to see those promises in action, as they come alive from the pages of His word, translating into your life as a visible, God honoring testimony of who HE is.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Merry-Go-Round Optional

As a child, I have special memories of a merry-go-round in a local mall. I remember the excitement that I felt as I picked out "my" horse, examining all of them carefully to see which design I liked the best. Once I chose my horse, the ride began. Oh the thrill of going up and down, and round and round to the tune of old circus music! But like all good things, it would come to an all too soon end.
 have learned that as an adult, we have opportunities to get back on a merry-go-round ride. However, the difference is that this ride has the potential to not stop and to make you dizzy; there is no joy in the "ups and downs" like there is on the merry-go-rounds of our youth. The merry-go-round that I'm referring to is friendships,relationships and interactions that take place with an individual who thrives on drama and controlling people with their emotions. I'm sure at some point, we've all known a person like that in our lives. Those people who react to absolutely everything, whether it be good or bad. Those people who will say and do things to manipulate you to feel a certain way, or to get a certain answer or response. Oh, it's not like these people are always unbearable. They have the potential of being quite lovable, somebody that we enjoy spending our time with. But before we know it, we find ourselves going round and round and round about the same things, experiencing the same negative feelings again.
I have learned that it is optional to get on this type of merry-go-round. I have also learned that it is absolutely imperative that we do whatever we can to keep God's peace, which means staying grounded in the truth of a situation. We must learn to detach from the behaviors and the reactions of others. Doing so gives us the option to ride our horse for a little bit, but be able to get off when the music and the "up and down" motions get to be too much for us to handle.
However, there is one other thing you need to know. Many times these people don't like the fact that we choose to get off the ride. In fact, they may go so far as to insult, incessantly question and badger us. But the truth is friend, deep down in their heart they wish that they too, had the courage to get off that circus ride. They are just as, if not more, tired, dizzy and sick as you. For many people, this merry-go-round ride isn't just a leisure activity or special event, it's their life. Can you imagine having a circus crazy life that goes round and round and round, and never stops? No potty breaks, no change in scenery and you see people leave, but rarely do people stay.
May you have the grace and courage to stay grounded in the truths that Jesus Christ has brought to His children. Enjoy the ride friends, but never forget that there are many choices along the way. You choose when to get on, and when to get off. Trust Him, and you're feet will hit the ground.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Not Much

In our instant world of fresh coffee, fast food,email, i-phones and zippity-zip credit cards, it is clear that there are many places available to spend our money. Our society has created a trend that in order to truly live, you must spend. The Internet doesn't need one more blog post on consumerism, so I won't bore you with that lecture. But I would like to share with you my new found understanding of being content with "not much".
For as long as I can remember, I have found pleasure in material possessions. These possessions were never expensive, and often they were second hand. I distinctly remember one of my first independent purchases. It was a plastic coin purse with "water" inside, where little mermaids and beads squished about. There is something truly euphoric about having something pretty, whether it holds your coins or is worn in your hair. From little on, we receive the message that when we have things,we are o.k. and when we don't have those things, we aren't o.k. As Christians, we are taught that Jesus Christ is all that we truly need; all of our needs will be provided through Him. I've wrestled with this truth for many years, but I feel as if God has finally brought me to a place in my heart where I can understand and see this truth for what it really is.
Living the "20 something, single and absolutely broke" lifestyle has presented some interesting challenges. I have found that it is far more important to have money for gas to get to work, then it is to get your hair professionally colored. I have learned that a box of cereal or packages of oatmeal are a cheap and filling way to feed yourself, and that toilet paper nicely replaces the need for Kleenex boxes. I have forfeited pretty for practical, finding that pretty is often not practical, except for those rare occasions in the discount aisle. I have learned how to stretch outfits into more outfits, and to go months without purchasing new clothes, and when I do purchase them, it is usually a yellow tag sale at Good Will.
Several weeks ago, I got a "wild hair" and decided to finally transfer my library of books from the plastic tote they've been sitting in to the book shelf where they belong. As I shelved each book, I somehow felt like I was incredibly wealthy. Each title represented a specific area of my life that I have invested in throughout the years, or a Bible Study that I've done that I could certainly do again. When I saw all the tools that were at my fingertips to build the inner wealth of my relationship with Jesus and my knowledge of His principles, it was clear that despite all of the "worldly" necessities that I've learned to do without, I had everything I needed.
There was a previous post in which I wrote about the "fear of lack". I still struggle with that fear, even though I have embraced penny pinching more now then I ever have before. There are definitely areas of growth in which I need to fully learn to trust in my Savior, believing with everything in me that He is enough. That the beauty He has built within me, the truths that have blossomed and resonated in my life and the lives of those I come in contact with, is all I need to combat this world of materialism. That is not to say that I don't desire to go on a wild shopping spree, get my nails done, buy a piece of jewelry that was "calling my name", or snag that adorable denim jacket that would go with anything. I adore the pretty things in life, and look forward to the day where I may have a few more resources to work with. But the truth of the matter is that right now in this state of "absolutely broke singleness", He is cultivating a spirit of "absolute contentment and brokeness" within my heart; a foundation for the life that He desires me to live, with priorities that are above the worlds.
May the inner wealth that you obtain as being a prince or princess of The King be more than enough to combat this world of selfishness and materialism and may you find your identity by the title of your maker, and not the brand of your clothes, embracing the truth that you are worth far more than any designer item.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Above and Beyond

As human beings, we are limited. Limited in our thoughts, perspectives and abilities. Our limitations is one of the many things that clearly distinguishes the difference between an infinite, powerful, omnipotent God and us, His creation.
It amazes me how often I have limited my Heavenly Father in regards to what He is capable of doing. Trusting in a limitless God often clashes with experiencing limitations as a human being. We tend to trust in what we can see, and what we know we will find success in. Our day to day lives are like puzzle pieces; each day, God gives us another piece to put on the table of our life. Sometimes we are able to put the pieces together, and other times there is a long stretch before anything fits together.
Why is it that we "settle" for something that is "less than God's best"? And more importantly, how do we really know what is God's best and what is settling? I am learning that this is one of the great joys in being a child of God. God only wants the best for His children, and when we truly take this promise to heart, there is no possible way that we could "settle" for second best. Just when we think we think God has blessed us with something great, He pulls the "God card" and blesses us above and beyond our human limitations.
This is not a matter of perfection. God is perfect, yes, but anything that He blesses us with on this earth will not be perfect because it is not within the confines of heaven. This is a matter of listening, trusting, and doing "the next right thing", for it is His Holy spirit that shows us what that next "right thing" is. When we understand our limitations, we understand how unlimited out Heavenly Father is.
May this truth act as a sort of helium in your spirit, lifting you high, higher and higher into God's reality, and not your own.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all of your ways, acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight"

~ Proverbs 3:5-6

Monday, July 4, 2011

A Trust Relationship

Porch Coffee. Separately, the two words are charming. But together, they create a fantastic experience. Drinking a fresh cup of coffee in my Jammie's with my mother on her porch, with the breeze blowing, birds singing their "good morning" melody. I am convinced that God meets my mother and I on that porch, guiding our hearts and thoughts in conversation in which He shows up and reveals Himself faithful.
While sipping our morning brew, a variety of topics were covered, but the one that influenced me the most was how our relationship with God is certainly a "trust" relationship. In all of our relationships, we want to be able to truly trust that person. Trust them with our secrets, our flaws, our pain, our fears and our concerns. As we all know, having a perfect "trust" relationship with human beings is impossible; they will break that trust completely, or sever it by a slip up of the tongue or a defect in character.
In relation to this topic, we discussed the concept of prayer and how we have both learned to not pray in specifics for events, or things we "want" for ourselves or other people, but rather to ask God for the grace and tools to be able to handle whatever comes our way. My mom then made a point that it is so easy to become the "whiny" child of the Heavenly Father. What person is appreciative of a whiny person? As children of God, we have already given ourselves fully to God and His plan for our lives. We pray to let go and acknowledge a power greater than ourselves. It's that simple, that profound, that beautiful.
I desire to fully trust my Heavenly Father; to know that His "yes will be yes" and His "no will be no" and the ever consistent "Not yet my child" will be apart of my understanding of having faith like a child: simple and without question, not in need of any more detail and not feeling the need to be entitled to know what lies ahead.
May you fully trust your Heavenly Father. May you learn to pray to let go. May you let it happen, instead of making it happen. May the peace of God blow over you like a gentle breeze, and may it cause you to spread your wings and fly out of your nest of doubt, and into the arms of your Heavenly Father.