Raw

imageThe last year and a half has been rough on me. I haven’t wanted to fully admit it (even to myself) and I especially haven’t felt like discussing it. I don’t want to go into all the particulars that has caused this. Life is life and it isn’t always pleasant. For someone like myself, there is nothing harder than to watch bad things or bad times fall upon people I care about. I’m not saying this to prove I’m a good person, but I’d much rather have bad things happen to myself than to my peeps. That is the good and bad of the gift of mercy. I presume every gift has a weakness and Satan uses that weakness to try to tear us down.

Sometimes it is all the little instances that build rather than just one thing. A cousin commits suicide, an aunt overdoses and dies, an old friend dies, and the other instances I do not wish to share. My cousin left me hurting due to all the pain he endured and felt he couldn’t endure any longer. My aunt, where do I begin? I have fond memories of her wit and creativity. I also have painful memories of watching someone slowly destroy their life over many years. My old friend left me thinking of what more christians can and should do for those who live differently…those who have been dragged down, beaten, and have made poor choices because of this thing called life. Actually, everything from this past year and a half have left me thinking that.

My life has been rather “easy” compared to most. I know that and I am thankful. Maybe it has made it easier to have the faith I have. My struggles are insignificant compared to some and maybe that has made me “weaker”. I know some whom feel I haven’t truly lived. I must disagree. I believe we live through not just our own experiences, but through others as well. Our lives are connected and our lives have the power to alter the lives of others. Our lives are far from being isolated, that is a fact. Yes, I know no one else truly knows what it is like to live in thine own shoes, but that does not mean it doesn’t give insight and life to those around.

My somewhat easy life has left me raw and has left me stumbling. Last night, Matt and I had a conversation that I was yearning for and didn’t even realize I was. He thanked me for all the sacrifices I have made for our family and others. He told me he notices all I do. He said he doesn’t know how I do all I do. It made me weep uncontrollably. I did not know how much I needed to release. Those cleansing tears have left me feeling lighter today. Crazy what a few words from a loving husband can do for a person.

My Giver

“Luke gets more attention than me,” Oliver said matter of factly. He wasn’t whining or yelling. I could tell it wasn’t an easy thing for him to say. He stood there, staring up at me with his beautiful brown eyes. I felt his pain more than he’ll ever know. I reached down and picked him up. I apologized. All I could do was say sorry, because his words were true. Most of the time Luke gets more attention.

Oliver is very much his own person. He’s creative, wise, and kind. He’s the little brother that is always looking out for his big brother. He’s been that way since he could walk and talk. He’s a giver. He gives without expecting anything in return. Luke needs a brother like Oliver. He really does…and I thank God for their relationship.

Part of being a giver, is losing yourself in the needs of others. Oliver quietly gives and gives. His needs build and build until they boil over. All that is left is a little guy yearning for some attention. It sneaks up on him. It sneaks up on us too because he shows no signs. He happily gives. He is all smiles and love and cuddles…until he’s not. Boy can I relate!

In many ways, Luke will always require a bit more attention than Oliver. It is a fact. It is something we all recognize and try to do our best to balance the best we can. Maybe the key is encouraging Oliver to tell us like he did yesterday. Maybe that will save him from some of the struggles I’ve faced in my life.

Being a giver is a wonderful quality to have. I never want Oliver to lose that. As a parent, especially as a parent who can relate, I need to do a better job letting Oliver know that he can and should get his needs met as well.

I love my little giver!

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Spiritual Affirmation

Every morning look in the mirror and say, “You’re beautiful. You’re smart. You can do anything.” I’ve heard many examples of personal affirmations and the reasons why they actually work. I cannot say I have consistently tried this in my life. I simply giggle anytime I have tried to talk myself in such a way. It is intriguing, nonetheless.

I was thinking, though. What if I did this in a spiritual sense? Like, take what should be a simple fact that I tend to overlook or brush past, engrain it in my thoughts, and (bam) I feel the truth more deeply.

Take the first part of Romans 8:11, “And if the same spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you…”. The same spirit who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in me. Wow, the same spirit. When I think of my life and the way I’d live my life if I made that a part of my mindset more often. I would have more peace, more joy, more love…more fruitful living. Powerful, isn’t it?

 

 

Peace

Yesterday was a day of peace. A day where I accepted the peace that only He provides. A day of being still and opening myself to His presence. I grabbed a book, blanket, and pillow. I stretched out on my hammock and closed my eyes. The slight rocking put my mind to rest. I opened my eyes and attempted to read my new book. My thought process was too lazy to comprehend the words. So, I set my book aside and just existed for a bit. My boys and their friend were playing twenty feet from me and even their voices seemed like distant whispers.

I felt only the sun, the wind, the rocking. I breathed in the air and exhaled all that has been weighing me down. It reminded me of when I was a kid. I’d find a spot on our anchored boat, usually on the bow, where no one else was. I’d lay down and soak up the peace…and the sun. No worries crossed my mind. I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. My brothers loud voices and splashing didn’t even bother me. All was easily pushed out of focus.

It is in those moments of overwhelming peace that I am reminded of why I do what I do. I remember why I feel the never ending pull to share God’s love with others. Why I know if I only touch one person’s life with my words, actions, and deeds it will all be worth it. All I need is to push the noise out of focus the best I can. So I can be who He wove me to be.

Sometimes, I look at my life and wonder if I am doing enough. Am I enough? I complete something that I put all I could possibly put into it and wonder, “Did I do a good enough job?” I think it is important to evaluate our efforts in life. We need to look at what we can improve. That is, as long as we are acknowledging our strengths as well.

Whatever I do, wherever I am in my life, I strive to make it my ministry. Meaning, I try to do it with all my heart and see my place in life as where He needs me to be. Whether or not I want to be placing a bandaid on my son’s knee I can choose to turn it into part of my mission. Or, I can try to control or change it into what or how I think it should be. That just turns me into a stressed out jumbled mess, though, because I am not using the opportunities given to me.

Peace exists in our present lives, not in our ideal lives. It is in our joys and in our ordinaries and even in our sorrows. Peace is in our letting go and giving it to God.

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A Force

The sun is shining, my dog is sunbathing on our deck, and I am doing what I do best. I’m thinking, of course. I’m thinking about my life, mostly where I came from. From the outside, my life would appear quite ordinary. I grew up in a small midwest town with my parents, my two brothers, and myself. When I look back on it, I see it as anything but ordinary. My parents gave me what many people strive to give their families. Even through their imperfections they gave me hope and a vision of what life, marriage, and family should be.

I’ve been missing them more than usual lately. The other day, Oliver said he wished he could teleport us to Florida. Wouldn’t that be nice? Maybe that is what has sparked all this thinking. They deserve to be recognized and I just don’t do it often enough. So I’ll start off by saying thanks to them, but mostly to God for giving them to me.

Both my mom and dad were hard workers…do-it-yourselfers to the core. If it was broke, they’d fix it. If it was old, they’d make it new again. They used what they had before they went out and bought something new, even though they could have. Unless, it pertained to one of my dad’s hobbies. Then we’d have five. Five snakes, five guitars, five boats. You get the picture. He dove right in and was whatever it was he was passionate about.

In many ways, I am much like my dad in that aspect. I see this in my youngest son as well. We get lost in our worlds, whatever our world is at the moment. It is a strength to ourselves. To some, they see it is a weakness. It is misunderstood. It is something that needs to be changed. To us, though, it is ours. It is the only thing we have that makes our drums beat in rhythm.

I learned from my dad and my mom (in different ways) to be me. To be nothing else. I learned from watching them to love God and to trust God. They showed me to walk the walk He is leading, don’t look back, and definitely don’t look to others for approval.

Our closest friends were always drawn to our home.  I had a friend who practically lived with us when I was ten-eleven years old. There was never even a question whether our not she was welcome to stay the night at our house. Many times after school on Fridays we’d walk to her house, pack her clothes for the weekend, and then go home. Our home was her home while she was there. My oldest brother had a couple friends who actually lived with us at different times. One of them I didn’t get along with. I remember demanding for my parents to tell him that he couldn’t live there. My parents pretty much told me to suck it up because life is bigger than him annoying and picking at me. His life was harder than I’d ever imagine life could be. Boy, they always had a way of humbling me in simple ways. It showed me behaviors were so much deeper than the surface showed.

My parents were a team. They were a couple God would look at and say, “Yep, that’s the way it should be.” They were not perfect, no couple is. But they were one. They made a decision early on in their marriage to put themselves and us kids before others. They did things their way. They never tried to live up to anyone’s expectations. Only their own. It made them a force. A peaceful force. A safe haven for themselves and for me and my brothers. I can see my kids feel the same when they are around them. I have a hard time with that, only because they live so far away from us. I guess that I need to pull a page from their book more often to “read” to my kids. With mine and Matt’s own twist on it, though.

That is where I came from. That force was what I knew I wanted for my life and for my future spouse and kids life. After all these years, they are still all of those things. What a lucky girl I was. What a lucky woman I am. I pray my kids can pull some of these same things from Matt and I when they are older. I really do. I know Luke and Oliver deserve it.

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My Retreat

imageI flourish in the desert when I retreat, when I find refuge under the shade provided. Deep peace reemerges. Underlying joy re-expands. Thoughts decelerate and smoothly travel. Breathing becomes unrestricted. My vision clears and I see the next tree is not so far as my eyes once deceived.

Life has a way of stripping us down at times. It doesn’t matter what or why or how long. It doesn’t matter how strong the person. It can happen to anyone. Last week, a friend mentioned something she saw in a television show that made her think of life in general. It got me thinking. It made me reinforce something that’s been brewing in me. Sometimes all we need is to rest in the arms of the only one who can be steady. God. God is the only steady in our lives.

He is the only steady and he is the only unbreakable we know. Sin prevents us from living a life of perfection. In a sense, it turns all of us into glass. All it takes is one big rock or many smaller rocks to shatter us. We can be put back together, but there is nothing we can do to fully shield rocks from striking again.

I happen to love being a shield to others. I try to catch the rocks of life from shattering people. I cannot help but to help build people back up when they are shattered. I am that person to many. I feel blessed to be that person. I was made to be that person. I thank God for the gift of mercy and cannot imagine my life without it.

I am introverted, though. Not the kind who doesn’t like being around people. I love being around people. The thing is, I need time to recharge. I need time to retreat and rebuild my shield so I can care for others as I so long to do.

I’ve learned along the way that I can only shield so much at a time. I’ve struggled with this all my life. I know I don’t have the strength to do it any other way. It just so happens that recently I needed to be a shield for myself. More, I needed to allow God to hold me and be my shield. I needed to stop…completely stop and just exist for a bit. I felt vulnerable, more vulnerable than I have ever felt.

It somehow strengthened me. It strengthened my family as well. Through my stopping I felt led to do less living as the world draws you to. I actually began doing more living the way I feel led to. I broke my attachment to my phone and social media. I mean, to the point I keep forgetting my phone at home. I have never loved the idea of having a smartphone and all that goes with it. It is funny when you take a step back and see how much it becomes a part of your everyday life. It is funny how less distracted I feel. I am learning more and more that social norms are not always for me. I need never hesitate to stop and choose to do what I feel led to do and be.

The end.

 

 

The Judgement Files-Bird Of A Feather

There are times when I pray and pray. I follow the pull to do something and then things happen that are too inline to be a coincidence. This little series of mine has been another example of this. All I can do is shake my head at the timing of things.

I guess the best place to begin is with a poem I jotted down the other day to clear my mind:

I remember the you you once were.

That was the real you, the beautiful you.

The you who told me I was pretty when I didn’t feel so.

The you who was brilliant, funny, smart, and ambitious.

I don’t want to remember the you who slipped away.

The you trapped by the pains of this world.

The you that felt like a stranger the last we met.

The you that makes me hate this world.

The you that shows me my judgmental ways.

It was easier to walk away from someone like you.

They told me it was the smart choice.

Who needs that sort of trouble in their life?

I was “too good” to hang around that sort of trouble.

I wish I could have seen what I see now.

You didn’t ask for any of that.

No one does, no one would.

Still, I cannot push it all out of me.

The judgement is still there.

I would tell my kids to walk away too.

I know it is wrong.

We need to walk alongside those like you.

We need to fight the world together.

But, that would be too hard.

Wouldn’t it?

I wrote this about someone I was once very close to. I would run into her from time to time and we would hug, catch up, and exchange numbers. I would throw out an empty promise to keep in touch. In the back of my mind I would think of all the trouble she was. Trouble as in the real kind of trouble you try to steer your kids way from. Birds of a feather flock together and that would have been like trying to put hawk feathers with a cardinal. They just don’t flock together, you know?

I know Jesus chose to fly with all birds. That’s what made people turn their heads. It made many upset and furious and probably confused too. Jesus saw the larger picture, though. He saw the pain they never asked for. He saw the sin…but more…He saw beyond the sin. He saw the person, the real person, not the person this world has turned them into.

Can I ever be brave enough to do the same? Is there enough strength to keep standing each time I am knocked over? Am I able to hold my head high when I myself feel wrongly judged?

So, something happened to the person I wrote about that has me reevaluating. Something, the same something, happened to three people I was close to this last year that has me reevaluating what this world tells you is the smart thing to do.

Since this same thing happened to that many people in my life in such a short time, I feel I have a duty to dig deeper for the solution. Especially when it has caused so much grief that I haven’t been able to get past. I’ve seen the ripple effect it has caused since the others…and I now I know what is to come in the lives closest to this most recent oneimage.

I don’t have the answers. I wish I had all the answers. The one thing I know is no one ever really chooses pain (sin) in life. We need to stop asking why people make the choices they make. Instead, we need to start asking why people feel they have no other choice than to do what they do. That’s where the answers lie. That is how we can see past their trouble and seek solutions. That is how we truly love our neighbors.

This has been a tough series because it very much slaps me in the face as well. It needs to be said, though. We all need to hear it. If we honestly evaluate the state of things that are coming to a head all at once, it tells us we need to step out of our safe little nests and fly against the wind of this world as Jesus did.