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.

 

Broken Cisterns

spigot

I am a city kid…. and the only understanding of water sources i have known are the sinks and spigots in my house…. Water comes as i turn the handle.  It is so very easy, and so instant, yet i know there is a complex engineering design behind those spigots.  And there are people employed to keep the pressure up, the purity of the water consistent, and the service constant.  Cold on the right, and hot on the left.  A ready water source is right there in our homes, works, schools and churches  in this modern age.. piped in, pumped in to us with ease.  I have never had to search for water, with the exception of a camping trip as a child, for fun.

The bible talks about water in many ways, including storage of water.  I have chosen to write this blog about a passage i was again reminded of as my husband and i listened to the bible on his cell phone. (we love the app uversion.  its is so handy, and always with us.)  He is reading through the bible in 90 days, and over the weekend he approached the book of Jeremiah.  Jeremiah always speaks deep to my soul but i must admit i would not have wanted his job.  He was called to preach the truth, and call for repentence to a people who were stubborn and unresponsive to God.  But the book that God called Jeremiah to write speaks to us, as warning, as call to repentance and as hope for the future.  In the midst of listening I heard the passage that took me back to my first days as a christian, and a teaching that i have carried deep in my soul because I can say I was guilty of this myself.

“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” – Jeremiah 2:13

Throughout the bible God does not change.  In the new testament Jesus identifies himself as the Water of Life, and speaks of his word as water to wash the soul.  And here, centuries before he speaks through Jeremiah reminding us that he is the spring of living water.  For a people who live in arrid climates water is essential, for life, for refreshment, and for sustainability. In our modern age where water is readily available we may not think as much about the need, or the absolute blessing of refreshment that water is.

In this passage God is speaking to the heart of the matter, and that matter is a serious one.  His chosen people, whom he has seen through so much history with, have forsaken him.  Forsaken is a harsh decision – it is to abandon, to lay aside never to return, to give up on.  What a contrast in terms.  God is always calling, pulling, drawing, watching over, protecting, providing.  And his people, in this passage, have dropped him like a hot potato.  In itself that is very sad.  It is tragic.  But that is not the whole story.

The passage goes on to say that instead these same people have dug cisterns.  Not being so familiar with agrarian terms, i hit the internet and learned that cisterns are defined by wikipedia as:

cistern (Middle English cisterne, from Latin cisterna, from cista, “box”, from Greek κίστη, kistê, “basket”) is a waterproof receptacle for holding liquids, usually water. Cisterns are often built to catch and store rainwater. Cisterns are distinguished from wells by their waterproof linings. Modern cisterns range in capacity from a few litres to thousands of cubic meters  effectively forming covered reservoirs.  – Wikipedia

Cisterns are a planned attempt to capture and store water.  It probably took great skills to figure out how to create such a thing, which drives home the point.  It took ingenuity, engineering, planning and skills to execute the plan. They put forth great effort to make this plan happen.  They put forth great effort to abandon God and his living water.

But the plot thickens more.  God tells us that these cisterns were built, but they cannot hold water.  As men and women we have a limited capacity for somethings, and we need to discern what is beyond our scope.  The living water is freely offered by God… without requirements to design, engineer, build and test out cisterns.  We must look to him for the source of living water, and know that he will supply our every need for that water.

So maybe there was a time when you went it alone, decided that the source of water for your life needed to be something you created, designed, engineered, and tested.  If you a re like me you would one day realize how leaky the design is, and the water contained in that cistern was fouled, polluted, and far from satisfying.

But the water of life was that and more.

(Jesus said) but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” – John 4:14

The invitation is there.  Jesus calls us to repent of those broken cisterns, and turn to his living water.  I just love Isaiah 55:

“Come, all you who are thirsty,
    come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
    and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
    and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
    listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
    my faithful love promised to David.
See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
    a ruler and commander of the peoples.
Surely you will summon nations you know not,
    and nations you do not know will come running to you,
because of the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel,
    for he has endowed you with splendor.”

Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
    and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
    and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

“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.
10 As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
12 You will go out in joy
    and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
    will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
    will clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
    and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown,
    for an everlasting sign,
    that will endure forever.”