Wrecked and burning the bridges – A story of 2015

burningship

If you have at any point followed this blog you know that i was at one time obsessively on top of it,  documenting the things that were at the forefront of my life.  But then life sped up, and the already limited time spent writing was suspended for the tyranny of the urgent.   In the midst of working a full time job for a salary, keeping a full time business flowing (i still dont get paid a paycheck for that one yet), keeping my house (if you can call it that), keepin my hubby organized as much as I can and keeping the dogs in control … would you believe i still love to read as much as i can get my eyes on.  Daily reading keeps the mind sharp and satisfies that need to learn, be challenged and to grow.

Life long learning is a serious theme of my life.  I have a bucket list of things I want to accomplish before  heaven is real.

I have wanted to work out this unresolved upheaval of my life and the stripping of any sense of normalcy that occurred in 2010 when we lost our income, our standard of living, and our purpose (short run).  This year (2015) was the one to lay down the grieving for what was, and fully embrace the life that is now. If you have ever been there it’s not easy to make that turn. Thank God for movement with this- because for so long it has felt like I was straddling a fence with one leg in the past, the other in the future and the present was the pokey fence digging and gauging into the middle of me.

But the truth is 2010 and those mosterous losses were a gift.  A scarey as hell gift that cast us out into deep water with only the provision God would bring. Like a scene from 1519 and ships burning in a harbor port somewhere in the Yucatan peninsula, I identified with Cortez.  There was no turning back- it is forward to the unknown with only the meager provisions, and the grace of God.

There was a freeing of a part of my soul that had been denied for decades, numbed to a whimper by the necessity to work a job, and live like 99% of college educated Americans. Years of obedience, timely-ness and accuracy, of learning to work with a full spectrum of personalities, some of which left deep scars, all making bigger and greater demands of my life, my time, and talent in exchange for a meager portion each pay.

Don’t get me wrong… I really love my experiences (well, I was not so fond of the years working for a women we called hitler’s little sister, but all of the work was interesting.  I am thankful for those years too because they taught me how to recognize and treasure that is working for good people, and to see the the kindnesses, the blessings.

But as the ship of ease and income hit the rocks of the harsh recession it was clear the ship was no longer sail able.  The recession had driven my ship to the rocks, wrecked, forever altered beyond repair.  So burn the ships and let’s conquer new land.  In one quick stroke i struck the match, turned to the dry hulk and lit it up.

That ship had more passengers than i thought.

Fear, my old traveling companion, was big and heavy baggage that had to be cut loose too. Fear always appeared when there was a moment of question, or a change of scenery.  Loud and exhausting to travel with, fear often held me down, gripped with a deep sense of overwhelming emotion.  Fear is a bully.  Fear is a liar.  Lets call this traveling companion what he is… a distortion, a betrayal to what is true, shackles on my feet, and someone who overstayed their welcome in my life.  Fear had traveled these 50 some years with me but it was time… he had to go.  So there in sight of the burning hulk of my former life I parted ways with old Gripping Fear. He chased after me for a long time, but I would not take him back-no, never again would I sit debilitated by him again.

Doubting Doubt, a more quiet of the traveling companions, was always there when we rounded the bend of a new portion of the journey.  Doubt always had strong opinions too, loved to express disbelief in my life, or God’s ability to lead and provide for it.  Doubt brought along others – Shyness, Insecurity, and Procrastination.  Doubt, while quiet, was one of the most destructive voices… often engaging my whole energy, and altering my responses to life itself.  When I first lost my job doubt was there to assure me i would probably not make it, and something hideous was to come next. Doubt often planned, organized and threw lavish parties in my living space, ushering in procrastination who was always dating insecurity.  They kept me up at night, spending long hours speaking to me of anything but truth and peace.

Raging Resentment was a dangerous guest, bubbling through the surface and constantly trying to get me to remember injustices, and events that were not fair.  Like a cruel animal constantly taunting its prey, Resentment kept on coming.  But i knew better.  One small sip of resentment would be deadly poison to my soul.   For you see, I believe every thing that happens in life is filtered through the gentle hands of our great God.  And i believe there are lessons to learn about life, and my own sick soul, which require tough doses of medicine to protect myself from such poison.  Resentment still tries to whisper soft and velvety smooth thoughts about how injustices should be repaid.  But she lies.  She speaks only in ways that will bring death to my soul.  I meet her with my new friend Forgiveness, who reminds her that every event is an opportunity to let go, love and move forward.  Resentment runs away, licks her wounds and regroups… She is a challenging enemy of my soul.  Yes, she must go too.

One challenging companion that lingered was Guarded Grief, who at every opportunity lamented and was found weeping over the burning hulk of what once was.  She was not consolable, and there was no common ground to be found to negotiate with her . Almost like a pouting and tired child that demands their voice, Grief continued to grab the emotional reigns, and remains fixed on the trauma, the loss, the change.  Truth can be found in Grief.  And Grief must be handled with great consideration for she brings a perspective that is tough medicine.  But she must be dealt with gently and properly, or she will not go, and she will leave you stuck in places that drive others away.  So Grief demands her turn at the dance.  She offers compelling reason to drop back, assess, get angry, find a way of copng with factors beyond your control, and she waits for periods of time, an almost silent companion that walks with you in this place of loss.  Her company is bitter sweet because she brings a richness to a side of life few people want to deal with… and she can bring crystal clear vision, although often she puts on thick lenses of emotion.  Everyone offers advice for dealing with Grief.  I won;t add to it.  I can only say that it is up to you to find that place where the emotions and the deep senses of loss give way to a new found purpose, and a new normal.  Grief can have a cruel side too…. like the smell of baking bread harkens me to memories of my mom, and the intense sense of loss even though it has been 23 years she is in heaven.  Grief seeks to poke and prod with reminders that are essentially good things.  She is a master of tweeking emotions when we least expect it.

Have you ever imagined the traveling companions that have shared your journey? Some of these were old friends, a part of my life for as long as i could remember.  It would be odd to release them, and move forward without them.  But this is what needed to occur.  And this is what happened.

Yes, there on the beach, feet from the burning hulk of my former life I announced my separation from these companions.  I announced my complete break from them, and refuse to travel one more step together.  And there, on the sandy beaches of a new life I gazed at the ship burning, thanked God for the new life to come, and accepted his invitation to travel on abandoned to God.

In those moments of decision, of burning up the ship, abandoning the toxic companions of my past and of taking a deep sigh as i accepted the offer to travel with God there was a peace, and a sense of calm beyond words.  Abandoned, wrecked, but at peace.

While i have know Jesus, and have had a strong relationship with him for 30 years now, this was a deeper calling.  The call was to lay down my trust in myself and my ability to earn and squirrel away money, but instead to watch, pray and ask for my needs because he would provide.  And he has. Over and over, in amazing ways the resources to pay bills, meet needs and survive have been there.  Sometimes seemingly impossible, often simply, and always to his Glory.

 

This is indeed a gift.  It is an opportunity to let go of everything, and let the priorities become reset, not to my own priorities, but to the greater good of a loving God.

I wanted to write this for a few reasons, but i must confess that it is very scary to write about coping with a major life event and subsequent transition because it is personal.  In a human sense it could be deemed an epic failure.   Or it makes people uncomfortable because they fear the struggle and loss is contagious. No, a thousand times no, it is not contagious.  If you have not sensed the deep water of loss, nor struggled to find a new normal in your life I cannot explain in a way you would relate to fully.   These life changes are something individual, personal, yet if you will not be disabled by them, they are transformational.  The depth of grief and loss caused me to dig deeper, love greater, set better priorities, and follow harder after God.

Something changed in me.  The stripping away of all the extraneous was not the only thing.  The process made me see how this life is fleeting, and we only have a finite time her to bring glory to God, and allow him to use our lives to build his kingdom.  The burning ship reminded me that just about everything in our life is subject to that test.  Will my character, my word, my actions stand the test of fire to bring forth silver and gold  for the master, or will they go up like the ship, burned to a crisp with nothing to remain?

This gift comes with a price.  It becomes challenging to be around people who have not embraced such change, or who have not been called to this change, yet this is where I am. And this is who i am.

 

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The slow slide

I think it first came to my attention as I watched my parents aging… walking a bit slower, loosing a little hearing, slowing down, slowing down a little bit each day.  Attention to those around us that are aging, graying, experiencing health, financial, and emotional reversals… What you could easily do several times over now becomes a difficult task, done at a fraction of the speed.

Aging is hard to watch in others, and inevitable for us each to experience.  Isn;t it?  Why yes it is.  One of those silly comedian lines that has hung with me since i heard it is “Well there is one thing for sure about life- we are all going to come to the end of it some day!  Yes, Death is one travel adventure we can not opt out of”

Today we learned of the mother of a friend passing on after several years of  significant decline in her physical and mental capacity.  We remember her as a bright eyed woman with the zest for life.  But recent facebook photos and videos remind us that the sin scars of this earth were grabbing and stealing more and more of her each day.

I know i have written about grief before… but for those of us who have walked alongside a loved one who is slowly departing this earth the memories come back.  The good days and bad days, the times when you look at your loved one and think “oh my, they are a shadow of what they once were.”  And a quiet sense of helplessness to change the situation takes us to our knees and prayer.  We may not have any power to change the situation, but God Almighty does.

I think often of the last year or two of my mom’s life, of how she went from a woman of deep strength – strong spiritual belief in God, and a strong determination to embrace whatever life threw at her.  Hands and feet severely crippled by Rheumatoid Arthritus but that never slowed her down… baking , cleaning, cooking… the house was spotless, life was in order.  Even her african violets knew they were loved and cared for.  Funny thing is after she died they were never the same….

So as i think about the transition of yet another special person from earth to heaven I return afresh to the emotions and memories of my own life experience… and I return to the only one who can make sense of this – God.

I wanted to leave this post not on a downer, but with words of encouragement, of comfort.  Here is a list that i put together for myself when my mom was aging quickly, getting more sick, and life was getting hard:

  • Take time with them – spend some quality time just enjoying their company, listening to their stories, sharing life.
  • Encourage them – Bring them flowers, or rent that favorite movie, buy them a fluffy bathrobe, or a new warm sweater.  Or just bring yourself, your family, your kids…. make them the center of your focus.  I would add – turn off the electronics – no pagers, no cell phones, no ipads, no electronics… just you and your loved one.
  • Take some time for yourself – do activities that will encourage you, nurture you, recharge your battery.  for me it is always reading my bible and art…. i can get lost in the depth of wisdom i find in the bible.
  • Remember the past, embrace the changing present, prepare for the future – I had a hard time letting go of the image of my mother as the strong nurturing caregiver, but realized the roles reversed.  Acceptance is hard, but it makes that time  so much easier for everyone.
  • Find a friend to talk to – have an outlet – a trusted friend that will be there to listen to you, and offer their support, encouragement, insight.  Often having another person helps you see the situation differently, and it is so nice to share the weight of this season of life with someone else.
  • Take pictures, stroll down memory lane, ask those hard questions you want to know about life, family history, and your loved one.  Journal, video, take photos, blog… but capture the memories.  One day they will be more precious.  I regret not having video taped my dad’s stories of WW2, and his life experiences… they were amazing and a wealth of information that never was recorded.
  • Read, and learn about health issues – find out details, ask questions  so you are educated on what is happening to your loved one.

We cant change the slow slide, but we can perhaps do it a little better.  End of life deserves dignity, respect, love  and admiration.

More on Job

The sunday sermon has lived on with me  this week, and i have often reflected on what there is to learn from Job.  And how God has allowed me to experience Job like times.  Here are some more lessons i have learned, or are still working through.

Traumatic events need to be grieved– Grieving is not the optimal state for most of us.  We want everything clean, neat and tied up with a shiny bow.  But have someone you love die, loose that career focused job, have your health shattered with a diagnosis that is not reversable… and the bow unties, and like a pile of wood… it all comes crashing down.  Job was the patriarch of a large family, had lots of servants, and was clearly rooted in deep….. In short order he and his wife became childless, their wealth taken away, and his health deteriorated to wheeping sores.

Any one of these things would be more than enough to deal with…. I have grieved the loss of my parents, of friends, of Steve’s dad… and i understand a little bit of how final, how hopeless to change the situation the news of the death of someone is.  But not only did he loose 10 children to sudden and devastating death, but his wealth departed him.  It is always so much easier to increase in financial stature than it is to decrease.  Having tasted of life with more money, the ability to do more, see more, go places, have bigger things… well when that is pulled away from you it is devastating too.  But poor Job also had a health condition develop… a difficult condition.

At some point when we go through transitional times in life the only thing we can do is sit in the dust and ashes for a time… numbed by the news, traumatized by the sudden change in our life.

The book of Job is so very important to me because I see how God deals with this series of events.  He lets Job grieve in silence, and rage loudly to all who would listen.  Yet God remains there, in the midst of his  situation, and watches over his faithful servant.

I have learned to lay my concerns out there before God… my grieving, my crying, my fear, anxiety, pain, struggles.  God knows where we are, and understands.  But like a small child having a tantrum sometimes he just needs to let us get it out of our system before he can respond.  So grieve it out… be honest before God.

Each of us grieve differently – Job sat in the ashes speechless for 7 days.  His wife was as impacted, but her response was to try to push Job around.  I have seen some people never pull out of a time of grieving, stuck in a place where they either lost their joy, lost their hope, or just are unwilling to move on.  Perhaps this is where Job;s wife was at… stuck, heartbroken, devistated, lost her sense of purpose as the matriarch of the family… dealing with 10 children gone… all of which she gave birth to.  Don;t we know some people like that… so broken apart by their loss that they just find it impossible to move forward.

Others work it through, and move on quickly.  In my life grief is something i have wrestled with, and which seems to be under control until a memory triggers… the smell of warm homemade bread, the sounds of some music, seasons…. and suddenly waves of grief rumble back in.  My mom has been in heaven for 21 years, but i still miss her, and have my moments when i would just love to hear her voice, or get her encouragement.

The experiences that come to our life are equipped with the power from God to see us through – Last sunday Julio first asked how many people, if they could, would put their troubles in a big ten gallon hat he would pass around.  At the end he asked everyone if it were possible to then pass that hat around how many people would choose different troubles?  or how many would choose their own?      I agree with him… i would take my own troubles hands down over others woes.  We each carry burdens that we can lift with the help of God.

The bible says that trials produce fruit in us.  They refine us, tame down the wild monster within, and change us little by little into the likeness of God.  Its a work in progress, but one day in heaven when we see God face to face we will not even have to ask why we went through the things we did… we will know his powerful work to refine us, and give us his purpose.

In my life right now i must tell you I am thankful and grateful for how God has showed up for us, been there when the bottom fell out, and it seemed like the pit we had fallen in was bottomless.  He walked us through grief, forgiveness, and refining our lifes for his purpose… its a work in progress, but I am thankful that He gave us Job to remind us His ways are not ours, and His work is always done well.

Memories are good

Twenty years ago in the middle of the night my mom made the transition from earth to heaven.  It was a night filled with small and big blessings, which eased the process of saying goodbye on this side of heaven.  Mom’s health had been more and more challenging, leading to a massive heart event, with two of the four heart valves giving way under the duress of long term steroid use for her severe arthritis.  But i will remember always that evening, with the snow flying, crisp wind at the face, and an inner sense that this was gong to be a life changing night.

My mom had hearing problems… with deafness to the left ear for some 30 years, and the hearing loss from aging to her right ear communication could be challenging.  To add insult to injury the hospital had lost her hearing aid.  But that was a big blessing – Mom could hear.  I was talking very loud to compensate for what i knew to be her inability to hear when she said softly “lets use our indoor voice… you don;t have to shout”.  Wow, she could hear? Amazing grace of God in a time of need.

I remember her little face, scanning my face, sensing apprehension and quickly wanting to encourage me that things would be ok.  She assured me of her faith, and that we would one day again in heaven see each other.  And she was so worried that I eat dinner, take care of myself, and Steve.

And that night we made a few phone calls… my mom’s church and her pastor (priest – orthodox), and a friend who was the counterpart of our nursing home ministry.  If you know me you will know that as an only child i often prefer small settings to large gatherings.  My friend came with her husband, food for an army and called everyone i knew.  That waiting room to the ICU swelled to 25-30 people, and took on a party like atmosphere.  She meant well, wanting to feed me as a way of comforting me, gather people around so i would not be alone… but the buzz of that throng of people was so much at a time when i just wanted to soak in the last minutes with mom, and pray hard.

And then it came, the doctor pulling me aside to explain the depth of the damage to her heart, and that it was not repairable.  He only confirmed what i already knew.  Sometimes I think God prepares you for moments like this.  But what i will never forget was his harsh sense of life and death.  We had a rather heated discussion on who has the right to make life and death decisions, and how that fits into the faith i hold strongly.  Scientific method versus sovereignty of God…. He wanted me to sign do not resuscitate orders, to pull any plugs if needed.  I firmly believe that life is in the hands of God, and he will decide when and how our life on earth ends.  So i prayed… give me wisdom to do and say what you want Lord, what will bring glory to you.  And he answered my prayer.

Mom’s orthodox priest was on vacation, they sent a fill in – who was young, and clearly overcompensating for his discomfort in this situation.  He asked to speak with my mom, and then pray.  And I remember we prayed together… it was not an “orthodox prayer” written in some book, but it came from deep in his soul… grant peace in death, peace and comfort to the family and thank you for the gift of eternal life.  Mom was vocal in agreeing.  I know the moment she passed on she was in the presence of the Lord.

Her heart monitors began going off, and they asked us to say any last thoughts, and then scooted us out of the room.   We hugged, kissed, said blessings to each other, and that was the last of our conversations.  It was off to a waiting room.  Moments later the nurse came out to tell me she had passed.  “Abscent from the body is to be present with the lord.”  “In the presence of the Lord is fullness of joy.”  Wow, the scriptures rumbled through my head… And then it came… that intense gripping pain of grief and loss filled my heart and mind.  This was going to change my life forever.  No longer would l have the whit and wisdom of my mom to come to, the big hugs and “it will work out” pep talks.  And no longer would my best friend in life be there to share the highs and lows.

So here we are, twenty years later.  The sting of that night has lessened, giving way to memories that are filled with joy and fond remembrance of a woman who impacted my life profoundly.  From the earliest moments I can remember she was a loving, hard working woman apt to teach, give selflessly, and hope eternally for the good in others.  There were a lot of amazing qualities of her character: strong work ethic, selflessness, faithful friend, and the one i admire most was her gift of discernment.  She would know someone’s character in 2 minutes… and was highly accurate.  I have asked God for that gift, but it is not in my tool box of character qualities.

So today I celebrate a life lived well, and one that is missed so often here on earth.  And I celebrate the goodness of our God to call her from her physical suffering to a place of peace, free from the limitations of earth’s sin scarred experience, and free to be in the presence of the Lord where there is peace, safety and blessing forever more.

I miss you mom, but i know you are ok in heaven, and i look for that day when we will again see each other again.  Memory Eternal.

Super Storms

Hurricanes, floods, high winds, record threat to life and limb – the news media has been whipping us all up to a frenzy to prepare, to go out and buy survival supplies, generators, and the like in preparation for the Super Storm.  Not sure why i react like this, but I often wonder if the event to come is as catastrophic as the media paints the picture of.  Sometimes they hit it on the money, like Hurricane Katrina several years ago… in fact estimates fell far short of the total destruction that we say.  Sometimes it is a lot of talk about something that comes and goes and is not so major.  But then I saw the radar photo, realizing that all the rain we are getting is a wide swath of the hurricane… Cleveland is not close to the Atlantic Ocean, so imagine the breath and width of this storm.

And then I thought about the passage about the disciples in a small boat… with the storm churning up, and they began to fear for their very lives.  This super storm is nothing any human can control… it is a fearful thing to imagine the sheer volume of water, the high winds, the wave damage all would hit on a full moon, with tides at the high tide mark.  But what can we really control.  We can be like the men on that boat, fearful, anxiety ridden, clammoring for any shadow of hope.  Or we can look to the God who created the weather, and seek his peace, knowing that even the weather is in his control.

I dont like Super Storms.  Does anyone?  But I am thankful that I know the God of the weather, and nothing escapes his loving care.

 

Thinking more about prayer

“You may as soon find a living man that does not breath, as a living Christian that does not pray.”  Matthew Henry

Prayer has been on my mind so much these days.  As a constant companion, prayer offers a way to work through, talk through, think through the rough and tumble life we live.  I talk to God because He is:

  • More trustworthy than anyone, God listens, and gives his wisdom.
  • Better than a counselor or shrink, He gives us clarity, purpose and hope because his plans for us are for good.
  • Stronger than anything or anyone, He can overcome any obstacle, and tells me he will never allow us to be seperated
  • Wiser than the most wise human, His counsel is always right and always good.
  • Loving and merciful, He will tell the truth, and walk with us through anything, holding back the wrath we all deserve
  • Gracious, He gives us what we do not deserve
  • Able to move mountains, He is able to change even the most bleak situation, or change our thoughts about it.

Over the years of my life prayer went from something written down by the ancients that we memorized and repeated…. like the lords prayer, and the catechism.  Good words, sincere words, filled with great truth.  But they have moved to a fluid conversation with the God of the universe.  I think God delights to hear us pray these written prayers, but I bet he smiles when we just talk to him with our heart opened, and the facts spread out, not holding back with the raw emotion that comes with this life.  

“Satan trembles when he sees the weakest Christian on his knees.”  William Cowper

That said, I have made a decision to take more time to pray, and to write more about prayer… what i have seen and what i am learning.

Prayer and community

Today’s sermon continues in the Sermon on the Mount, and we have progressed to the 6th chapter of Matthew, and the passage many call the Lord’s Prayer.  It is probably one of the most familiar passages, with the obligatory memorization of it as a child. 

But the sad thing i missed for so many years is how practical, how appropriate, and how logical that prayer is:

  • Recognize who God is – my father
  • Recognize where God is – in heaven
  • Recognize what God is – hallowed, holy
  • Recognize his plan – his kingdom will come to earth
  • Recognize why his plan will occurr – because it is already happening in heaven.
  • Recognize that God has a plan – his will be done
  • Ask for physical daily needs – food, shelter, provision  – today
  • Ask for spiritual daily need – forgiveness
  • Ask for God’s  help – that we can forgive others
  • Ask for God’s leadership  – not into temptations
  • Ask for God’s power and provision –  deliver us from evil
  • Resolve why this will happen – because God is the reason – his is the kingdom, his is the glory and his is the power – forever.

These last 2 years God has taught us to ask for our needs – for providing the food for our table, the money to pay bills, the job to earn money.  And he has shown us how when we ask he will respond. 

Forgiveness has been an issue to overcome… I have wanted often to hold on to incidents, words, experiences that have been traumatic, painful, and sucked the life out of my spirit.  But I also realize how vividly clear it is to forgive others, and move on.  Years ago i did a study of several passages on forgiveness, and learned that it was a common practice during Jesus time for Roman jailors to shackle dying or dead prisoners to the most hard core prisoners… often looking face to face for days.  This is what unforgiveness looks like – it shackes the circumstance to you, holds you down, and it stinks.  It stinks badly. 

Forgiveness has been a lesson that I often thought i had gotten right, when a new wave of memories, thoughts, pain from injustices crept in, causing new anger, fresh waves of pain, and a new sense of injustice.   But that is where the lord’s prayer comes back to life… if we recognize God is all powerful, has a plan, is holy, loves us enough to call us his children, and he filters everything he allows in our lives to occur.  If this is true, He is using these circumstances to mold us, shape us, build up spiritual muscle, and release us from our tight control freak grip on our lives.  OMG, I am such a control freak, and it needs not be true of me.  If the lord’s prayer is cautiously read there are things I must do – Acknowledge the holyness of God, acknowledge he has a plan, that plan is already in force in heaven, and we must seek him for daily provisions, seek his leadership for navigating this sin scarred terraine, and open our hands to release anything that might shackle our feet, hands, mind.  It is our obligation to open our hearts and our hands, and iti s God’s to provide and lead. 

So prayer is a powerful place… a quiet conversation with the creator of all, the one who loves us so much and yearns to give us answers.

I must tell you that our church has taken the summer off all activities to pray, to seek the leadership of God, and to draw closer to God.   There have been two corporate prayer meetings so far, and they are powerful.  Saturday was our second prayer meeting.  I was tired from a day at the art business, sitting in the sun, and felt weary, but eager to see what would happen with this evening.  We gathered, listened to music, sung, prayed corporately, and then we were asked to pair up with someone other than our spouse…. By the time i got out of the pew there were only 2 women left to pray with… and that was good.  The challenge was to wait quietly and then pray for the other person or people in your group, making the prayer a blessing, and promise from god, words of encouragement, or request for specific healing. 

“So Barb, what is your need tonight? How can we pray?”  Hmm, I know there is so much to ask for, but the one thought that hangs on my heart is related to the idea of forgiveness, and overcoming the past – ‘Well, God has done so much for me, and i want to continue to thank him for his work in my life, but the one thing i need is healing from the emotional scars of the toxic experiences of my past.  I need to stop filtering life through toxic lenses… Iam holding the verses in Isaiah 43 seriously – “Remember ye not the former things, nor consider the things of old.  now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, [and] rivers in the desert.”  and i want that new thing.  I want the freedom to love and respect people in my life without questioning their motives, words, judging their actions just because they remind me of someone in the toxic past.”    So we prayed, and i honestly believe this work will happen….

But the real privelege of prayer was one of the other gals in the group, who confessed her desperate need to be healed from the sins and scars of her past.  My request made her cry because apaprently she was right at the same point of wanting life to be made new, of pain and scars to be healed, and of the courage to follow the lord, laying down the patterns of sin of the past.  We prayed as a group,sensing that her heart and her desires were deeply painfully sincere.  She said she felt like large weights were lifted from her shoulders.  My prayer is that each day she will continue to look to God for her strength to move beyond what had happened, an that life would be new again, vibrant, and she would remain hungry for God in her life.

this is what i love… the need we have for community – for others that can walk along side us, and pray us through times of struggle.  For hugs, and laughter shared when times are blessings, and for that iron that sharpens iron experience of other christians sharpening the faith in me by their love, their prayers, their willingness to gather, to care,  to listen.

What vows are we telling ourselves?

A week ago the Sunday sermon was on the passage in Matthew 5 about making vows.  I have heard many teachings about this passage in terms of keeping your word, or promise…but that Sunday I heard something new to me.  They asked “what vow have you made of something or someone that has affected your life…for example ‘I will never eat carrots.'”. She explained that after 2 years in Senegal she remembered saying on the plane ride home “I will never go back there again.” It was a difficult 2 years, and she said she could never imagine doing that again.  She came home and felt like life was just not the same…  And at a conference someone challenged her about these inner vows…vows made quietly, often to one’s self.

During the sermon I knew I have made these inner vows….and the crazy thing was these bows block god’s ability to work, and give a foothold to the darkness.   Yep, I think I see that.  So I spent that Sunday taking inventory of my life, and confessing the vows that were wrong.  Monday morning I sat down and asked god to show me what else I needed to confess….  Now I don’t hear voices, but I had a profound sense of this: “you said you would never work for a bank….is that still true?” No, ofcourse I will work wherever the door opens….in fact I am happy to scrub bathrooms if that is gods will. 

About a half hour leter the employment agency called and his opening question wad “Hey Barb, how would you like to work for a bank?  Oh, can you start tomorrow?”. Overwhelmed that a simple act of obedience could open a new door of employment I gladly walked through.

And the job feels like a good fit.  On the 3rd day they asked for my resume (I am temp now), and today I had a set of interviews.  So I am hopeful they will like me enough to hire me.  At this point I am grateful that I am employed, and that the environment is professional.   Who knew that telling yourself things like that would hold back gods work.   So what have you said as a vow?  And what do you think is holding you back.   Confess it and let go.

This road we walk

What a beautiful morning to walk up to sunshine, and the birds singing their praises to the Lord.  They were quite vocal today, and it struck me as i sat down with my bible how all of nature freely sings praises to the great creator.  It is so easy to do that on days when the sun is shining down, and the wind is blowing a warm and gentle breeze.    My thoughts turn to a big field, running is a field of wildflowers, celebrating all that is created by our wonderful God.  There is something special about just drinking in the beauty of nature, the sweetness of every detail… flowers, colors of birds, fragrances in the air, or utter silence with only the sound of the leaves rustling in the wind.

John 16:33 b: “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Those rolling fields of wild flowers seem to have turned to a steep mountain pass, requiring total trust in your guide, knowing that the ledge is narrow, and set high on the precipice of the mountain. There is something both adventurous and windsome in following the Lord where he calls us.  I want to keep praising and thanking him for each step…. because this feels like he is doing a deeper work in my soul.  Its not about the terraine (the conditions surrounding me) , or the emotions, but a complete trust… surrendor and trust even if i have no clue what is next.  But this current life situation still feels like a very narrow and technically challenging mountain pass. 

I am not a sports oriented person, but in our early years of marriage I remember Steve returning from Marine war games with new found skills, and i distinctly remember one sunny summer day when he was bound and determined to teach me his new found mountaineering skills.  I must tell you that i have always been adverse to heights.  I like my feet on flat ground, and sometimes even wince at looking out the 2nd or third floor window.  So, dutiful young bride musters great courage, and obediently follows Steve’s directions on how to find “foot holds” and “hand holds” and together we climed the cliff.  Not so bad, i thought, and then i realized we had to go down the same way.  OMG!!!!  With the assistance of my husband and a Park Ranger we found a less extreme trail

Something in my soul shouts out – OK, Lord, if it is climibing mountains that you want for my life, you know the mountains, and i will follow you closely so my foot does not slip.

Faith often requires a complete trust in what i do not see, but in the truth that is written in the bible.  There are far too many promises written that speak of how we are special, chosen, loved, and yet we are like sheep – dumb, slow to learn, creatures of habit.

I can tell you today that my prayer is not that our adventures in economic setback cease, but that the Lord would refine his work in our lives and he would lead us where he wants us to be.  Because in His presence is fullness of joy, and at His right hand there is a pleasure forever more!

Spring and renewing hope

What should I write about  today, I thought .  I’ve taken my lunch on my new job and I’m sitting in a quiet place .  The area were I am is very park like was beautiful trees, landscaping and lots of bird activity .  and there’s a gentle perfume in the air on spring flowers and budding trees . Ah spring, that’s what I need to write about .  Spring, not just in the physical sense of the seasons but in the spiritial sense of the new season in my life .  it has felt like 1,000,000 years since I’ve seen the colors and vibrance off spring in my life .  I know the colors have been here all along however  it was just my eyes but could not see them .  the past season of my life was a deep winter of sorrow and stress and challenge and  a lingering sunset struggle . it was a time of deep growth underground in my soul where is was not visible on the surface.   But like that returning spring season there is a new vibrant color to the life in my soul .  I know that life is something that was long expected eagerly anticipated.   The old friends of winter are still there and the memories on freshness of the struggle linger on.   But there is the new vibrancy and eagerness to see what is next in my life .

so as I look at the colors of spring I think austin of how my life has changed .  yet in the changes there’s no there’s newness that seems familiar .   I like the simplicity of my life these days .   thank you lord for what you’ve done in my life  and for what you’re doing now .