Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Things That Make Me Happy

As I was brainstorming writing topics on my way home today, I realized how serious my posts have been lately. So, in an effort to try to lift my spirits a bit and to give my readers something "light" to read, I hope it inspires you to list and remember the things that make YOU happy as well. :)

Spending good, quality time with a dear friend
Singing and listening to old hymns
Witnessing a rainbow after a storm
Rasberry flavored coffee
Singing in general
Looking at paintings
A baby's giggle
The color turquoise
Celtic Women music
Chocolate chip cookies, fresh out of the oven
A good thunderstorm
Pink jelly beans
Cute shoes that are ON SALE!
Philosophy perfume
A book that is so good, I finish it in a week
Jammies that have been tumbling in the dryer
Inspirational messages on mugs, plaques, walls, etc.
Anne of Green Gables
Fresh Flowers
The ocean
My mom

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Surrender Prayer

Throughout the different seasons of my life, God seems to give me specific Bible verses to cling to; verses that are filled with meaning and reminders of His promises with each bend and twist of the road.
This past year, that Bible verse has been Isaiah 55:6,8-9
"Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near..."for my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways." declares the Lord.
"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."

Only a Christian could find such comfort in these verses, for it is a truth that is entirely out of our grasp strictly in the realm of our humanity. As human beings, it is a hard thing for us to understand that the ways, thoughts and timing of an unseen higher power are "higher" than ours; not only that, but in order to experience the peace that these verses have to offer, we must surrender. We are constantly trying to make sense of everything in this world, whether it be tragedy, science, money or relationships. Without surrender to Jesus Christ, we adapt this philosophy that as human beings, we have the right to understand why things are the way the are, and be able to control or influence that which doesn't make sense.
Oh the compassion I feel for the unbeliever and believers alike, who instead of taking comfort in the fact that as human beings God has an understanding and a purpose behind how things unfold in this world, they are constantly trying to control and make sense of their environment, running in a constant circle of pride and fear. A verse from the famous hymn "What a friend we have in Jesus" comes to mind. "Oh what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bear. All because we do not carry, everything to God in prayer."
A prayer that I say and apply on a daily basis is "the serenity prayer". Actually, I have decided to personally rename this prayer "The surrender prayer", because the entire prayer is about surrendering to the fact that without Jesus, I am unable to "accept the things I cannot change, have the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference".
Today and always, may you surrender to the higher ways and thoughts of our Lord Jesus Christ. May you experience the refreshing peace that the limitations of our humanity give us, and rest in His mysterious and holy ways.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Is Your "Normal", Normal?

What is normal? It's been said that "normal" is only a setting on a washer, and that quote isn't too far from the truth. The concept of "normal" is subjective to each individual, but somehow we manage to contrive a rather vague image of what "normal" should be.
For those of us who have grown up in a home that is affected by the disease of addiction (Alcoholism being only one of the many family addictions) our "normal" usually is dysfunctional, whether we know that to be true or not. Severe addictions in a family line ( such as alcoholism) is a family disease. Family members involved in such scenarios often learn ways of responding to their environment that seem incredibly "normal", but in all actuality, are not.
How do I know this? Because I am a part of that category. Throughout my life, I have learned different elements to this truth, but recently have been faced with a very different dimension. This is the "relationship dimension". I have found myself in several dysfunctional scenarios, and with this last one, I finally asked myself "why?". Why would I even entertain wanting to be with someone who doesn't have the capability to give me what I need, is selfish, and has been hurtful to me (but doesn't desire to be), when there are other men that have entered my life that have shown me the complete opposite? What is this seemingly natural drive to want to be in dysfunctionality, and fore go that which I need to grow, heal and thrive as a woman of Christ?
So many women find themselves wanting to "fix" the men in their lives. That somehow, you have a role in helping them "see the light", become a "better man", etc. while it is true that God is capable of doing such a thing through us in our relationships with men, it is not our job. Just because it is something we are comfortable with, does not mean that it is good for us.
And I've also learned that even women who are strong Christians and have a committed relationship with Christ; women who have read all the books, gone to all the seminars and have led Bible studies, and maybe even mentored other women, still don't get it. The "normal" that they know has just been spiritualized, not understood.
How many of us have women in our lives that keep going back to that same "loser", after he's beaten her, verbally abused you, cheated on her, and/or robbed her of her time, resources, and most of all, love? We sit back and don't understand it. But friends, I'm here to tell you, it's time to understand this. It's time to start to learn why women (and men) do these things. Instead of being shocked, dumb founded, and even annoyed, we need to start learning why.
So whether you are a hopeful victim of a family addiction disease, or have loved ones who are, we must plead to our heavenly Father to show us the truth. The truth in the midst of the lies of what is "normal". The lies that chaos means sanity, that love means selfishness, and that it is more important to "take care of" and "minister to" the needs of those who have victimized us. We must lay those people at the feet of Jesus, believing that He has their pain in the palm of His hands, but also believing that we too, belong at His feet, as our pain is just as important as theirs.
I have a lot of learning to do. It's going to take some time to continue to re-teach myself a new kind of "normal". It's actually quite a daunting reality when it's all you've ever known. But that is where the ever present hope in Jesus comes in. Without Him, I will fail in this process, but with Him, I will become all that He wants me to be, and will engage in life giving relationships that align with this promise.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Divorce: It isn't Hereditary or Genetic

 It seems like people in this world are constantly blaming their choices and behavior on their family genetics. While there are legitimate things that fall under the genetics/hereditary category ( health problems such as diabetes, dementia and heart disease would be a few examples) While there are many learned behaviors that we acquire throughout life, so often we forget that we actually have a choice in the matter.Since I was about 14, I've been very aware of those statistics of children who come out of divorce. Basically those statistics state that it is likely that the child will repeat history, and will be doomed to the curse of dysfunctional relationships and divorce.

Throughout my teenage years and now into my mid 20's, I've been faced with the choice of whether or not I'm going to believe that because I am a product of a divorced family, I am doomed in every relationship that I am in, because of the "curse" that rides on our family like a scarlet letter, or choose to believe that as a child of Christ, I have the power and ability to overcome those statistical realities, trusting that God will heal this area of my life and lead me to the man, marriage and family that my heart so desires.
I choose the latter option.
Satan wants nothing more then for God's children to live in fear, and to chalk up the choices of other people as being our "fate". He wants nothing more then for us to try to control our environments, decisions and relationships based on "what we came from". If you are a child of a divorced family, the only different thing that you need to do is educate yourself. Make yourself available to the tools available. Mentorship with an older Christian, pouring yourself into books on Godly marriage, attending Bible studies and seminars on what it means to continue to develop into the future husband or wife that God intends you to be; these are all tools that are needed.
My mother has said on more then one occasion that the answer and cure to anxiety and fear is information. When we understand what is out there, the choices we have to make, etc., it makes the fear and anxiety shrink. But more then this, believing in a God who creates miracles on a daily basis; a God who constantly takes broken, smashed hearts and mends them with His love and promises.
 May you not fall prey to the lies of the devil, cleverly disguised as statistics and wisdom of this world. May you rely and trust in a God who can overcome the realities of family curses, and bring hope, healing and restoration in a way that is only possible through Him.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Disarrayed Soul=Disarayed Life

I have never been an organized or "neat" person. I have always struggled with the concept of making my bed in the morning, and hanging up all my clothes once I'm done wearing them. Somehow life always gets away from me, and what was once one coffee mug in my car multiplies to three. It seems that no matter what area I regularly inhabit, the same nasty habits follow me wherever I go. When I was on tour with the Continentals, I regularly left at least one thing behind at host homes, even after I "combed" the place out. My family will tell you that they know when I've been there, because I leave a trail of bobby pins.
I had always thought that my messiness was a result of being lazy or tired. However, I had become so overwhelmed and busy with life, that it took being sick and isolated to get me to really let things go, and "be still". Doing this when your apartment is in a disarrayed mess was a rather harsh reminder of how much I have neglected myself. My car is the same way. It desperately needs to be cleaned, but those two things are areas that I just haven't paid attention to. I read a quote in a book that I'm reading ("Let Me be a Woman" by Elizabeth Elliot). The quote went something like this " The condition of our environments is a reflection of the condition of our souls". That truth hit me like a ton of bricks. That quote was an exact representation of my life right now. I just can't help but wish I was one of those "anal cleaners" who have a disarrayed soul, but an immaculate house, and are very organized. Ha ha!
All this time I thought that my messy habits were simply that: messy habits. But recently God has shown me that it is only a symptom that has resulted out of the condition of my soul. The deeper I dove into this, the more I realized why indeed He allowed me to be smacked with so many annoying physical ailments. It was a rather painful way of Him intervening to show me the pain that I was harboring; the mess in my soul. In a sense, living in this chaotic, messy environment has convicted me of the fact that if I'm willing to live in this, what would stop me from being willing to put up with the same thing within my heart?
God is a God of order, complete control and peace. Most of my life has been anything but those adjectives. Could it be that chaos, disorder and dysfunctionality is what I am comfortable with? Is it so much a part of me, that it took being knocked on my butt to realize how dysfunctional parts of my life have become? the answer is a resounding YES. Once again, I view this blog as a ministry; as a "heart to heart "chat with a good friend over a cup of coffee in a cozy cafe. I risk my vulnerability with you. I desire to be transparent, so that my genuine honesty can be used to HIS glory, and will speak into the lives of my readers. I hope that sharing this fact about myself has fulfilled that.Now, the question that remains for me is this: How do I gain peace and organization within my soul? The answer is: Jesus. However, I know that the application portion of that answer is a titch more complicated then that. So, hence the journey continues. A journey that I didn't really realize I was on, until I was smacked with an abscessed tooth, upper respiratory infection and gastric intestinal yuckiness. The things it takes for God to get our attention! Oofta.
May the God of peace and order act as a broom to sweep out anything that isn't to be in your life. May you turn to Him to give you the strength to overcome your weaknesses, and to lean on His grace, which is our only hope. May you have a greater understanding of what it means to do "spring cleaning" in your heart, and have the courage to throw away things that are taking up unnecessary space. May the cobwebs in the corners of your life be swept out, and may you not run too far when you encounter those spiders along the way.
God bless you all!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Big and Small, God Covers it All

As I sit in my thoughts, grateful for the fact that I have been able to stomach two glasses of ginger ale and a banana and a half (stupid flu bug!), I feel as if God is intentionally making me stay put in order for Him to really get my attention; to really teach me things that I need to learn. I think I'm past the irritation of the dent that my "paid time off" account is going to take after dealing with all of these sicknesses, and trying to embrace the stillness and the quiet time to read, write and pray. I have been reminded that it is more than my physical body that needs some healing.
 About two months ago, I moved into my new apartment. After months of living in basements, a crazy person's house and an attic, I finally have found a place to call my own. However, the apartment that I've moved into was abandoned and left a complete disaster. I was able to negotiate the security deposit with my landlord if I cleaned and painted everything. Little by little, things are coming together, but life has gotten in the way, as life tends to do. Between some emotional and physical hardships and a 40 hour a week job, my "home" hasn't really gotten put together.Last Sunday, a dear friend of mine asked me how my apartment was coming along. I was honest with her, telling her that most of the painting isn't finished and I'm struggling to find the time and energy to make my apartment into a home. She assured me that she would come and finish the rest of the painting while I was at work. Absolutely grateful for this generous offer, I told her I'd leave my apartment unlocked.
When I got back from work that day, there were two little angels with wings and paint brushes; but as I looked closer, I noticed a bunch of little "touches" in my kitchen. New pot holders, a candle, some dishes and a sweet little prayer book. Then as I went into my newly painted "barely turquoise "bedroom, I was surprised and amazed to see a brand new bed comforter, curtains, towels for my bathroom, a rug, a shower curtain, a piece of art for my wall...and other little "touches" that would help make my apartment a home. After they had both gone, I opened up my fridge to retrieve the milk for my regular dinner of honey bunches of oats, only to find my fridge absolutely stocked with fresh veggies, fruits, coffee creamer, homemade soup, cheese, bread, etc. Just as they painted my walls, touched up my house, and stocked my fridge, so was God doing the same to my weary heart.
Words cannot express what this act of kindness has meant to me. I was drowning in so many things, and here God brings two wonderful women into my life to come along side me, and help me do what I simply cannot do for myself right now. I am in a season of life where I simply don't have the money for "home touches", and rather am lucky if I can successfully afford getting a pair of glasses or making my car payment for the month. In my weariness of "20 something,single and broke", God understood my need and once again met it with such hand crafted love.Prior to receiving that amazing gift, I had received some very promising news/ encouragement from my boss. Basically she told me that the "head honchos" of our company are extremely happy with the work I am doing, and are going to be relying on me a lot to give them direction on how to make our memory care community top notch. Not only that, but they assured my boss that when our community is full and profiting, I will be able to work in memory care on a full time basis.
 Praise the Lord!I tell you all of this in an effort to communicate that if God can take care of little things with "Barely Turquoise" paint, a stocked fridge and positive assurance that you are where you need to be and that He is pleased with the work you are doing, can He not handle those bigger issues that keep up awake at night, wake us up in the wee hours of the morning and take residence in our hearts and minds, fighting hard to make us worry and harbor anxiety for the unknown and the uncontrollable? Friends, our Heavenly Father truly does care about all of the details of our lives. Nothing in our lives is "small" to Him. If it affects His babies, it's a big deal to Him too.

True Beauty. True Ugly.

As a 24 year old woman and an activity director for senior citizens, I feel as if I have a very interesting, unique perspective on the concept of beauty. In many ways, my occupation has helped me come to peace with my own struggles and insecurities with my physical appearance. I know I have written on the beauty that comes with age in other posts, but I am hoping this post will have a slightly different angle to it.On a daily basis, I am surrounded with true beauty and true ugly. When your skin is wrinkly and sagging, your hair is thinning or pure white, when you can't see, hear or walk very well; let me tell you, true beauty and true ugly is very apparent.
The World War 2 generation was an era of frugality, hardship, hard work, and simplicity. People and relationships were valued over material possessions, and beauty and love were understood by such acts as men going to war for their country and women remaining faithful in their duties as a wife, mother and homemaker, despite how she "felt" or whether or not it was "fair". It just simply was. Flash forward to today, and love and beauty is rarely found in such concepts. I find it extremely important to personally take a stand against what our current cultural definition of beauty is. Don't get me wrong; I'm not against doing what one can do to look "nice and put together". I have always believed that it is a good thing to do what we can to be the "best version of ourselves". But what I have learned, is that with age, this concept ebbs and flows.However, it doesn't matter what generation you were born in, the concept of "true beauty, true ugly" carries through humanity. When the true heart and soul of an individual is being masked by hard work, a successful job, a great body, flawless hair, money or intellectual smarts (just to name a few), the natural progression of life begins to peel away all those things, leaving a person exposed. It is this very fact that should be a "wake up" call to all of us. In a society that demands that we spend nearly every waking hour "bettering" ourselves, notice how very little of those acceptable methods have anything to do with bettering our internal beauty? It's a foreign concept, and if it is even slightly understood, it's turned into a legalistic "to do" in order to further that unobtainable beauty that society deems as the "ideal".I am going to tell you a story about 3 different residents in an effort to give evidence to this personal belief.

Resident #1: "Classy""Classy" is a beautiful, put together woman in her early 80's. She was born into money, she married money, and is by far one of the most physically attractive women in her age group. She is very cultured and elegant, but one of the worst behaved women I know. She almost preys upon the differences of others, and anything that is different or threatening in any way, gets a turned up nose and a nasty comment. What is ironic is that a woman who has been blessed with so many cultural experiences and the means to live a "full life" has turned into a close minded,arrogant fearful person. She may still look good now, but I fear what kind of an individual she will be when she loses so many of those things that she prides herself in. Evidence has shown that what will be left, will be "truly ugly".

Resident #2: "Sweetheart""Sweetheart" is in her late 90's and can barely see, walk, or hear. She struggles with pain from sitting too long, but struggles with pain when she tries to walk. However, whenever you see her, she is dressed to the nine. Her hair and nails are always done, and she is always wearing a beautiful shade of pink or purple. She has memorized poetry that she has previously written, and recites them with love and pride; poetry about her family, her faith in God and her love for nature. She has an attitude and contentment that most of us could only hope to obtain. She truly is a "true beauty".
Resident #3: "Jezebel"Ok, so, that is a bit of a harsh fictional name for this woman, but if you met her, you'd realize that this isn't really too far from the truth. "Jezebel" is 96, smarter than a whip, does use a walker but literally whips around the corners and walks faster than I do at times, sews non-stop for mission organizations and can see and hear practically perfectly for a woman her age; however, we have had people who have not moved into our senior community, because she lives there. no kidding. She is the rudest, meanest, most selfish person I have met in my life thus far. She also preys upon the weaknesses of others, shows no grace, compassion and understanding to anyone. She takes control over anything and everything, not knowing that she does these things because she knows that eventually, she won't have the control that she does. And, I think that deep down inside, she may realize that very little will be left when she does. She is "true ugly".Now I ask you, what will be left of you when you don't have a car, don't have a fully functioning body, don't have your spouse, don't have your job, can't see, hear, read, or even talk? Hopefully that question will cause you to search deeply within yourself, and outwardly to your Heavenly Father.
Friends, now, now is the time to start evaluating and investing where your personal beauty lies. Don't fall for the traps of the millions of masks that are given to us to hide our inner beauty. What takes place within will eventually become external. Trust me. I firmly believe that when Christ is dwelling within, He shines through us; past all of the distractions of who we really are.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Through the Horror, He is Holy

With a cup of coffee in hand and a peaceful heart, I don't even know where to begin this post; however, I know I must begin somewhere. God has clearly laid it on my heart to communicate something in "my little corner of the world" (AKA, this blog).
Tears come to my eyes as it all slowly sinks it. I am grateful for the concept of "sinking in". Imagine if everything that God needed to teach us just hit our system like an electric shock; instant, effective and most likely, unwelcome to our humanity. But our Heavenly Father loves us and knows us better than we know ourselves; as such, His lessons and His leading comes in gradually, like the perfect timing of an accomplished orchestra. The music wouldn't have the same sound if the flute, violin, oboe and piano came in at the same time. It is the precise timing that makes it beautiful.I have been deeply hurt. We have all been hurt at one point or another, whether it be physically, emotionally or spiritually. But this morning, at this exact time, I have come to the realization how deep some of the hurt really is. Within the last three months, I have been experiencing a grieving season that I've never experienced before. Death "close to home" hasn't really been a part of my life thus far. Working in geriatrics, death and "end of life" moments are plentiful, but in my own personal life, I haven't had to experience a whole lot of grieving of individuals. Not until now.
In my grieving process, I have wanted to just be plain angry. As I would talk to Papa in my prayers, it would sound something like this: "But God, they hurt me! Can't I feel something different for them? Something other than this deep love, compassion and understanding? Why can't this be about me, about how I feel, about this deep pain that I'm going through?". I've had many, many conversations like this with Papa, and each time He takes His hand, places it on my heart and leaves it there. The power of His hand on my heart has been the visual that has helped me understand that it is because of Him in me that I am able to remain In His love, and love those who have hurt me.
I am in complete and utter amazement at how God has communicated to me and met me in my grief and pain. He has truly given me His eyes to see and receive Him and all His goodness. If you are a regular follower of my blog, you will know that I've written several posts on His communication to me through the book "The Hiding Place" by Corrie Ten Boom. In addition to this book, the Lord has led me to read and finish "The Shack" by WM. Paul Young. In both of these books, forgiveness and freedom of the soul are ongoing themes. Both of these books were not read with the intent to find out this information, but simply just entered into the picture.

Friends, our lives are not our own. I know that I've written about this concept before, but it is becoming more and more clear to me with each passing day. In this world, absolutely nothing will make sense, hold any worth or value or represent any form of sanity if we view our lives as being ours. As God's children, our lives are His. God does not represent sanity to this world in any way, shape or form. How can they when God's ways involve the mass genocide of millions of individuals for their faith, or that they were an unwanted life? How can God represent sanity when His own children who desire to lead others to Christ, are raping individuals of their innocence and fulfilling their own lustful desires? What sanity is there in a God who allows children to become orphans, lovers to become widows and parents to lose their children?
Amazingly enough, by God's grace and His Holy spirit working through my heart, I am for the first time seeing the complete and utter sanity behind such horrific realities. I am beginning to see that as God's child, it is purely a matter of trusting Him that through the horror, He is Holy. That through the confusion, He is clear. That in the times we are questioning Him, He has all the answers, and that that is truly enough.
So I stand in the present alongside those who have gone before me with a new understanding of the One who delivers us, leads us and loves us. I pray that you will find that peace, and that through His spirit working in you, forgiveness will abound and your spiritual eyes will open to all that our Heavenly Father has to show you, His beloved and precious child.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Faith for the Physical

Right at this moment, it is 6:23 on a Tuesday morning. I had one of those "one hour earlier than anticipated" internal alarm clock moments. At first these internal wake up calls were getting on my nerves, as I would have just really preferred to sleep an extra hour before having to face what would most likely be a busy, chaotic full day; However, they have become more frequent, and I am slowly getting the point that I think that God has something to do with this.
I like the idea of God waking me up to start my day. It's far more appealing then the incessant chime of my cell phone alarm clock. An alarm clock wakes me up to face the day, but having God wake me up is kind of like walking downstairs in my bathrobe to see my mom making a pot of coffee, with a "Good morning sweetheart!" and a warm hug. It's personal, intimate, and exactly what I need.
At this time in my life, I am going through what could be described as a "rough patch". I've been through "gravel in the shoe" and "lost in the woods" moments before, but this one is unlike any that I have experienced before. It's an incessant pang in my spirit that is constantly present, drawing me closer to my heavenly Father. I'm quite certain that that is why He has allowed me to experience this difficult time.
When a young child skins her knee, or her best friend turns against her and trades her in for a "cooler"friend, what do you think would be some of the emotions that would result from such physical and emotional blows? My personal answer to this would be to cry, and want to be held.
On my commute to work yesterday morning, I told God that I needed to be held. I felt totally silly saying that out loud. How could a spiritual being "hold me"? Would it be the same as experiencing the strong and safe embrace of a man, or the tender touch of my mother? And yet, those were the words that came to mind, and out of my mouth.
I am learning that a very key and yet difficult piece of having faith in God is having faith for the physical needs. Our physical needs directly connect to our spiritual and emotional needs as well; they are simply a symptom of a greater need. Telling God that I "needed to be held" meant so much more than a need in the physical realm, which I was unaware of at that time. But isn't that just like our Heavenly Father? He knows exactly what we need, when we need it, and what a comfort when in our humanity, we only know a small snippet of why we have that need?
Since telling Jesus what my need was, I have felt this serene peace. Although I can't feel a physical embrace, the truth is, I needed far more than what a physical embrace could provide. and of course, He knew that. My prayer for all of you is that upon reading this post, you won't think to yourself "wow, she's really brave to share this with the world!", but rather, would be encouraged to share your own needs in total trust and vulnerability to your Heavenly Father. It is only in our vulnerability that we can experience the peace that comes from complete transparency.
May you have the courage to have that transparency with Jesus and those in your life, and have the peace of knowing that He knows your deepest needs, and will meet them in the deepest, most beautiful ways.