Monday, April 30, 2012

She Works Hard for the Money!

My friend, a gracious and generous person, LOVES to shop.  For herself.   For others.  For special occasions.  For no occasion in particular.  She is giving to a fault.  In other words, she'd rather give away than save for a rainy day.

This year, she has been attending a financial class at her church.  The gist of the course is to get to the root of your finances; tithe to the church and other charities; live within your means; put enough away for later in life; and stop frivolous spending (that may or may not be) driven by a "lack" in other areas of your life. 

You know the kind - because we all have them:
insecurity,
pride,
envy
lack of faith...to name a few. 
We all handle these traits in different ways.  Some of us overeat.  Some of us drink too much.  Some of us compulsively exercise.  Some of us are workaholics.  And some of us shop!  (Myself included.)  Whatever method we choose to cover our sadness, we are called to address the reasons for our compensations, so He can help us rub them out.

My girlfriend has shared what a difference this course has made to her and how she is trying to change some things about herself.  She wants to be more giving to others in volunteerism ways, not just monetary ones.  She gives so much of her time to worthy charities.  She is a beautiful soul.

Sometimes, it's difficult, though, to see the road ahead and the stress of our realities becomes too much to bear.  One day, she was telling me how upset she was feeling that she couldn't give more to her church.  That one of the course objectives was to make sure each person was seeing the value in committing to tithing.  She was a wreck!

So I told her, "I don't think God would want you wasting alot of time stressing out about this.  That energy is better put to use on constructive things.  And we are not called to Heaven by our good works.  We are called by faith.  He knows the mistakes you've made in the past and knows that you are working to correct them.  When you are able, you'll catch up and the do the right thing in your tithing.  He will bless you abundantly if you stay on this path, and make your situation such that it will be easier for you.  He knows you're trying."

(Okay, okay, all of you devout tithers, pastors and preachers, and financial advisers...I'M SORRY if this was not the advice you would have given.  I know it's important.  I know we're called to give.  But if you had seen her anxiety, maybe you'd lighten up a little?  Cut a girl a break, would ya?)

Anyway, she has doggedly continued on the right path.  I've told her over and over how much I admire her and how blessed she will be because of it.

Yesterday, I stopped by for a short visit with her, and as she was walking me to my car, she exclaimed, "Oh, I forgot to tell you...I got a promotion and a raise at work!"  (I won't disclose the amount but it was definitely worth the announcement.)  We just looked at each other, and I burst out, "I told you!  I told you that you would be blessed!  You know what this is, don't you?  It's God increasing you because of your honest intentions."  We just laughed - and I asked, "Hey, can I blog about this?"

I had to share it.  I had to tell this world of blog readers.  I had to encourage you as I was encouraged by this event.  Because it proves what I know to be true but is heartening to be reminded of occasionally in the flesh...

That He is in our corner.
That we are His children and He wants the best for us.
That, in our transparency, we are slowly becoming in His image.
And that, by endeavoring to be like Him, our rewards...our increase...our promotion...will be experienced and revealed to us in everything that we do.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Tipping the Scales

My zodiacal sign is Libra, September being my birthday.  Now that may mean not mean much to you and doesn't mean much more to me, except to say that from every personality description I've ever read, I am the quintessential Libra, especially in regard to decision making.  You know, the scales...interminably weighing every option.

I will look at each choice from 35,000 different angles...
weigh and measure the outcome...
make my decision...
re-evaluate said decision 35,000 times more, considering the effect on anyone and everyone involved...
Decide again.

It is exhausting.

Thus when I have a path down which I feel I'm being led, it is difficult for me to just blindly accept the guidance without question and analysis.  It is not in my nature to see the signs all around me - Scripture verses, songs, people who advise me - without further thought, worry, and discourse on whether these are true messages for me or whether I am reading into things.  So my mind spins out of control, as I set back on my Libran course.

I look at each choice from 35,000 different angles...
weigh and measure the outcome...
make my decision...
re-evaluate said decision 35,000 times more, considering the effect on anyone and everyone involved...
Decide again.
You get the picture.

A few weeks ago, when my sister came to visit, she brought me a gift.  She knows I love coffee and she knows I love birds.  (Yeah, yeah, I know...weirdo bird lady.)  So when she saw a coffee mug with a bird on a branch, with a quote from Scripture, she said she had to get it for me.  It is one of my favorite verses from Psalm 46:  "Be still and know that I am God."

I  love the whimsical look of this piece and its' beautiful reminder of how we are called to live.  I have enjoyed it every morning after the dishwasher run.

Mug - Be Still And Know That I Am GodImagine my surprise two days later, while analyzing yet another course for my guided path, a favorite daily devotional quoted from Psalm 46:  "Be still and know that I am God."  
One day after that, ensconced in my daily assigned Scripture reading, the message was:  "Be still and know that I am God."

A week later, listening to the radio, the host announced the Scripture on which a song had been based.  Can you guess it?  Yep, "Be still and know that I am God."  Yesterday, the same message from yet another venue:  "Be still and know that I am God."

So as I endeavor to quiet my mind, removing it from "spinning mode," I focus on the instruction laid out thoroughly before me:  
"Be still and know that I am God." 
Then, rather than wonder which way the scales will tip, I will inherently know that - either way - as long as I listen and follow His word, they will always tip in my favor.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut

I love pecans...
They are probably my favorite nut.  They are meaty and fruity at the same time, complex in flavor.  The shape is beautiful, those two butterfly halves that form a whole.  They feel more special than peanuts or cashews or almonds or walnuts.  Not so "been there, done that."

When we were small and growing up on the farm in Malbis, Alabama, we had pecan trees growing on our property.  After a few seasons of picking them and using them in as many recipes as we could conjure; or letting them rot because there were too many to pick and not enough time, we discovered we could pick them and take them into town to sell.  Exciting!

Mama would give us each a brown bag, labeled with our name, and we would traipse outside to let the picking begin. Then she would drive our bags into town and have them weighed.  Each girl would get whatever monies was paid for the pounds picked in her labeled bag.  It was thrilling, the anticipation of that little bit of spending money!  And all from the bounty right outside our door. 

There were many foods for free around the farm.  Eggs from the chickens.  The chickens themselves.  (Sorry, my vegetarian and animal rights activists readers!) Soy beans from the field of pods behind our house.  Blackberries from the thorny bushes surrounding the land.  These were a favorite.  

Again, we would be sent out on a hunt with a collection vessel in tow.  Theresa, Margaret, Christine and I would come back with bowls and pans filled with fruit.  Our youngest sister, Liz, would come back home with a plaintiff cry, "I couldn't find any!" showing us her empty pail - and her purple mouth.  It took her a while before realizing the evidence of her mid-morning snack was visible to us!

Christine, even at a very young age the caretaker, would make blackberry tarts, blackberry pancakes, blackberry cobbler.  Ohhhh, so good.  The golden brown top of the doughy chunks blending beautifully with the sweetened tartness of the compote.  It was summer in a pan.

Still as most times in life, these once novel activities gave way to other pursuits...material pursuits...much seeking.  That time spent picking blackberries seemed better used to read, watch TV, shop.  The warm sunshine and the outdoors suddenly felt stifling and poor.  Tending the chickens became much more of a chore than a wondrous glimpse into life and the neverending circle it creates.  Even picking pecans lost it's luster.  The few dollars earned didn't seem nearly worth the effort.  The brown bags, once considered unique, became an inconvenience...a bore.  We eventually moved into the suburbs to a bigger house and a more social way of living.  Farm life became a thing of the past and was soon replaced. 

Yesterday, I was eating some mixed nuts from a canister of Planter's that I bought a week ago.  I sifted through the almonds...the hazelnuts...the cashews...the peanuts...the Brazil nuts...looking for those ever elusive pecans.  Why are there always five pecans to the hundreds and hundreds of other nuts in those cans?  I love pecans!  I wanted pecans!  Where were my pecans?  And in my want, I realized how rich we were growing up...how abundant our lives were in the natural and uncomplicated way that we were raised...and how self-serving and immature it was to overlook this beautiful form of wealth.

Why, oh why, Mr. Peanut, has it taken me 35 years to realize that, in the simplicity of my childhood, I had all I ever needed right in my own home and just outside my front door?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Nesting in the Rafters

I'm turning into a weirdo bird lady.  You know the kind...the one who sits and stares out the window at birds or who stands in her yard and stares at birds.  Either way, she's staring at birds and enjoying their antics WAAAYYYY too much.  Pretty soon, I'll be wearing a purple hat and carrying around a set of bird glasses.

We have a birdie married couple who inhabit our yard each year in the spring.  I purposely leave the hair shed by my dogs on the ground and don't sweep the patio so the birds have access to this premium nest building material.  (Sure, that's why you don't sweep, Cynth.  Not being lazy...only trying to advance the habitat of our feathered friends.)  This year, I've been watching the birds fly back and forth with materials, shooing away my dog, Bubbles, when she gets too excited about the birds' presence.  I want the birds to feel free to live in our backyard if only for a short time.  I want to feel that new life nearby.

A few days ago, I heard it...the peeping and chirping of newborn baby birds, hungry for their mother to come back home and feed them.  But I couldn't for the life of me see the nest and their little heads bobbing up and down in the rafters where they usually reside.  So yesterday, when I heard them again, I ran outside to listen closely, following their cries.  It turns out these innovative creatures turned our outdoor speaker into their new home.  Genius!  But unfortunately for me, the area is so contained that I couldn't catch a glimpse of the babies. 

I circled it from underneath...nothing.
I climbed on a stool and craned my neck...nothing.
I knew I couldn't get too close or touch the area or their mother would abandon them, so I stopped trying.
The disappointment was palpable...knowing they were there but unable to see them.

Yesterday's gospel reading from Luke finds Jesus among His disciples, appearing to them after He had been crucified.  The men were terrified.  They thought it was a trick.  They didn't know if He was an impostor or a ghost. 

Jesus set their minds at ease with four simple words:  "Peace Be To You."  Then He reassured them further, showing them His hands and His feet, letting them touch Him and eating a piece of fish in their presence...all to demonstrate His life after death and rising from the dead.  Their eyes were opened with these proofs and they were filled with joy. 

I cannot imagine the wonder of being there for this miraculous event.  Yet I am so grateful the apostles saw and believed, sharing the Word with generations to come.

I am charged with believing in His new life even though I cannot see Jesus in the flesh.  It is disappointing sometimes to not be able to touch Him; converse with Him in a mortal way; see Him in His heavenly glory.  But just like my little birds in the hidden nest, I feel joy whenever He is near.  I hear Him singing His sweet song in my ear.  I want to make room in my home and heart for His presence, shooing away that which may hurt my relationship with Him or distract me from Him.  True, I crane my neck to see Him to no avail.  But I stop looking for a visible body because I feel Him near, and my heart is full knowing that He is with me in every season of my life.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Big, Fat, Hairy Deal

When we were young, we used to love the Garfield comic strip.  Jim Davis's lovably cantankerous cat was a source of great amusement for us, and it was the one cartoon that would make my dad laugh out loud...and for a long time.  Daddy would get red in the face, wheeze for a moment (which always preceded his laughter) then burst out laughing.  I loved when that happened!  One strip in particular that caused this response stuck with me all of these years...

In it, Jon, Garfield's owner, says to Garfield, "Today is the first day of the rest of your life."  To which Garfield replies, "Big, fat, hairy deal."  Daddy couldn't get a grip over that one.

I've read many inspirational books over the last year.  There is generally a common theme.
Adjust your perspective.
Live with gratitude.
Trust God.
Seek His counsel.
Know that your attitude affects your life's outcome.
Don't compare yourself to others.

Yada, yada, yada - you get the idea.
 
Further, they all generally encompass the idea of "starting now" to live like this.  In other words, "today is the first day of the rest of your life."  Some authors pen this phrase and some simply infer it.  The problem is that every time I read it or sense it coming, my subconscious mind says aloud, "Big, fat, hairy deal."  Now, although this makes me chuckle to myself - it is a warm memory after all - I can't help but feel a bit frustrated with myself for letting it leak in.  It's kind of ruining the inspirational message for me.  But truly, even though I've started to see it as a kind of humorous pain, I really don't want to let it go.  It's too familiar...and comforting...and funny...for me brush to the side.

There are many familiar, comforting things I don't want to let go, I've realized.
Each time I draw myself up, stick out my chest and start to change, these old and familiar companions accost me and give me an excuse to stay in my rut:
"It's really time to change my ideas and approach to food." (But you're Italian, Cynthia.  You live to eat!)
"I can't wait to start freelance writing on a regular basis."  (Wow, SO many steps to take before that can happen.  Boy, it's gonna take forever to get going.)
"I trust God's plan for me and my family."  (Why isn't God moving in my timeline?  Why aren't I moving forward?  Why is there so much suffering and turmoil all around me?)
"I'm going to take a big leap from now on in all that I do."  (You really aren't very daring...or talented for that matter.  Best to just get the laundry done and stop thinking about it.)

You see?  I'm up against a bunch of "big, fat, hairy deals," none of which are amusing or comforting.  Just familiar - and all together sad.

But today I realized that I am aware of them now.  I see the signs around me.  Things begin to change for the better then, just as I think life can't get any more promising, 17,000 things attack to bring me back down again.  I get a migraine, my children frustrate me, my dad gets sick, my outfit looks terrible.  But today, for once, I did not slide.  Today, truly, the first day of the rest of my life, I started to change it.  I recognized the signs and what was needed to turn the tide, and I did it.  I turned a grateful heart to God; praised Him for His timing, His ways, and His path then waited.  It was not perfect.  I was not at peace the entire day.  But I hung in there and kept firing back. Then it seemed, as quickly as they appeared, the old negatives began to melt to the sides, and I began smiling in spite of myself.  Finally!!  I figured it out.  I know the way out.

And you know what?  It WAS a big, fat, hairy deal!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Just Looking...




I heard the car door slam this morning and looked up at the clock. 5:45AM. I didn't realize my husband had to leave quite that early to meet his friend for their run. But, as usual when Drew leaves the house and we are still in bed, I cannot get back to sleep until I check to make sure the front door is locked. So up I rose in the cold, wrapped myself in my favorite fuzzy orange blanket, checked the door, mentally thanked Drew for remembering to lock it, went to the bathroom and shuffled back to the bedroom. As I shed the blanket and snuggled back under the covers, from out of my peripheral vision, I saw a huge mass rising up from under the covers beside me.

I screamed out loud.

Drew exclaimed, "Honey, I'm so sorry I scared you. Are you okay?" As I breathed loudly and tried to still my racing heart, I began to realize that Drew had never left. I had actually heard our next door neighbor's car drive away.

How did I go through that whole process...the wrapping myself up; the door check; the bathroom run; the getting back in bed...without ever seeing my husband? All massive 6' 5", 200 lbs of him?

Simple. I never looked.

And there I found my daily spiritual metaphor...

God has been beside me forever, all glory and splendor and infinite size of Him ...

In my sleepy fog and unawareness.

In the cold and the dark and the fear of night.

In the checking of locks to my heart, my dreams, my very soul...wanting no stranger to be let in, but encouraging wide, open doors to those I love.

In my thanksgiving for my husband, my children, my life, both when uttered and when overlooked.

In the emptying of the waste that contaminates my world.

In the the comfort of the coccoon in which I ensconce myself...the billowy warmth of my home and hearth.

Yes, so many times I've forgotten to look for Him.

And yes, I never cease to be surprised that He has never left. That he deems me worthy. That I am the bride to His bridegroom, even on the days when I forget the oil for my lamp. That He is turning over to watch me and hold me. That He rises up within the room of my very being.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Not a Reunion...a Union

This weekend was a milestone for my daughter, and one that I am so proud to share.  She studied for the past two years, going to class, learning about her faith, participating in service projects (yes, she and her classmates built two loft houses for the homeless in Ensenada), discerning what her involvement and commitment would be to her faith.  Through all of this, she was totally engaged, rarely complained about the time she needed to spend on it, took retreats with her fellow Confirmandi then received Confirmation on Sunday.  She is now considered an adult in the eyes of our church.

We found out months ago the date of her big event.  Then, as I've found often happens in life, we realized it was the same weekend as a huge reunion event my husband and I were invited to attend.  (Do things like this happen to you too?) 

The Young Americans, the song and dance company where Drew and I met, has meant the world to me for over 25 years.  The organization taught me to be a better singer, a better dancer (yes, I eventually learned the fundamentals of tap dancing), a better performer. It formed lifelong friendships, ones that I cherish and depend on to this day. It helped me see more of the world.  It provided a home away from home for me in my late teens and early twenties. It was the basis and object of my career for over 20 years.  It fostered incredible human values...the importance of a great work ethic, flexibility ("make it work, people!"), empathy for my fellow man, the value of music in every life, both educationally and emotionally.
 Still as soon as I found out about the date conflict, I knew without doubt or hesitation which I would choose.  There is nothing in the world that could have pulled me from my daughter's side.  I cannot express the pride and joy Colleen gives me each day, and for her to solidify her commitment to her faith on her own...without duress of any kind...was an event I was blessed to witness.

This decision created times of reflection for me over the past few months.  I remember reading about our Fathers love for us in one of my devotionals.  The question was posed:  "Do you ever want less than the best for your children on Earth?  Imagine how much more God wants for us as His children."  When I read this passage, I realized that God, my Heavenly Father, has been with me every step of my life, even when I didn't want Him or recognize His hand at work or said it didn't matter whether or not He was there. 

How, then, would I have felt if, when I reached a life milestone, He took off for something more interesting.  "Sorry, Cynthia, but Isaiah, David, Solomon, Noah and Moses are getting together this weekend...gotta spend My time with them.  They need another player for poker and I'm supposed to bring the dip.  Good luck with your achievement!"  I would have been devastated.  I know I have been called to follow His example of parenting...and even though  God can be in many places at once and I am limited by my humanity, still these choices for me require no thought.  I want to be made in His image.  I want to be the kind of parent He is to me. 
My sister, Christine, was Colleen's sponsor, chosen for her incredible example of faith in action, love for the family and individual care for my child throughout the years.  Colleen recalls our summer visits with the extended family at a beach house in Alabama and told me how much it meant to all of them that "Aunt Christine would pray with us before we went to bed." 

Christine and her husband joined us on Friday and another brother-in-law flew in a few hours later.  Together we enjoyed a beautiful day on the bay (how happy am I that our family is a Bay Boat Club member?), lunch, visiting, basketball and sitting in the sunshine back at home, homemade dinner and Cold Stone Creamery for dessert.  I knew there would not only be joy found on the occasion of Colleen's Confirmation on Sunday, but grace for our entire visit, spending time in the warm embrace of family.
 
Drew's family joined us the next day for the ceremony, pictures, dinner, dessert back at the house.  And through it all, even after having strep throat the entire week leading up to Sunday, Colleen was a picture of the Spirit...smiling, laughing, praying, living life in faith.  What a celebration!

Now we are so fortunate to have the Holy Spirit in spades moving within the hearts and lives of our home.  We Confirm along with Colleen our commitment to our faith.  Then, years and years from now, we can rejoice at our own reunion with Him in Heaven.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Grasping Hot Coal

I was talking to one of my dearest friends a couple of weeks ago, and she brought up the subject of this blog.  She said to me, "I don't know how you think of something to say or write about all of the time.  Is it stressful?  Are you always looking for things to write about or does it just come to you?"

I hadn't thought of this question really...

I replied, "Well, I generally pray about it alot.  I ask God for clear direction about what He's trying to say to me.  Usually, there are lots of things to choose from but every now and then, I get in my own way, walk the path I'd prefer to walk...then, it's pretty challenging.  Because without Him, nothing comes to me."

Today I find myself in that very quandary.

It's been a strange few days.  My mind is in spinning mode, which is never good.  Usually I spin and spin until I'm out of control during these times.  And I eat alot - especially chocolate...again, never good.  I find it difficult to settle in prayer.  But realizing that some personal issues were taking time away from my children and their Spring Break, I decided it was time to cut it out and ask for help.

So I asked...

And I prayed...

And asked some more...

And then I read...

The following passages, written by other authors, both ancient and contemporary, make up my inspiration for today:

"And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also:  Knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope."  Romans 5: 3-4  (I hope through prayer that I can move on...)

"But God is always recycling hurts to bring growth, upcycling hard experiences to bring understanding and redeeming the old to make the beautiful."  - Sarah Markley, (in)courage  (I want my hard experiences to bring me understanding.)


"Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one getting burned." - Buddhist teaching  (Dear God, please show me how to throw the coal as far away from me as possible...or not pick it up in the first place.)

"And what I know is that it is not my own righteousness that enables my Father to see me as beautiful, but Christ's." - Christi Milligan, (in)courage  (Father, please help Jesus's righteousness remove my self-righteousness.)

"Stop and thinketh before saying something that stinketh!"  - FB post of my friend, Diana...who by the way is also Italian and made me feel better by showing me that someone else finds this a fault and an issue!  (Lord, I stink!!!!  Guide my speak so I don't wreak!)

"We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us - they help us learn to endure.  Endurance then develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation." - Romans 5:3-5  (Enough said on this one!)

"No matter what storm rages in your life today - no matter how fierce the winds or how high the waves may be - where you are is no surprise to God.  Heaven is not in a panic.  Keep your gaze on Him and your glance on the raging waters.  Lash yourself to Him and He will supply everything you need to stand firm in the storm."  - Mary Southerland, Girlfriends in God blog, emphasis added  (God, when  my mind spins out of control, remind me that Heaven in not in a panic over my problem.  Thank you for these trials and the strength to get through them.)

And lastly, from Joel Osteen's newest book Every Day a Friday:

"Human nature tends to turn negative in difficult times.  But the scripture tells us to do just the opposite: 'Count it all joy when you fall into negative trials." - James 1:2  That doesn't seem to make sense to some people.  'You mean we're supposed to be joyful and glad-hearted in the middle of tough times?'...Yes, that's right, because when you lose your joy, you lose your strength.

You need your strength more than ever in the difficult times, and your strength is dependent on your joy.  When you're facing a financial crisis, dealing with an illness, going through a breakup in a relationship, or raising a rebellious child, you need your strength.  If you go through those challenges feeling negative, bitter and discouraged, you will not have the vitality to stand strong and fight the good fight of faith.

You can keep your joy knowing that on the other side of each test is promotion.  On the other side of every setback in opportunity.  On the other side of every offense is growth.  The difficulties you face are not there to defeat you.  They are there to increase you.

Just keep reminding yourself, 'Even though this is hard; even though I don't understand it; even though it's not fair, I'll keep a good attitude and stay full of joy, knowing that this is not setting me back.  It is setting me up for God to bring me through to the other side of this in an even better position.' "

Thank you God, for these written words at a time that I truly needed them.  Thank you for filling me with the Holy Spirit so that I can remain full of joy.  Thank you for quieting my mind with Your peace and strength.  Thank you for increasing me beyond this trial.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Faith's True Measure

I love my husband and his dry humor so much...

Drew was rehearsing with our church band for Holy Saturday services over the weekend.  At the end of an extremely lengthy opening hymn, the choir director and pianist were contemplating cutting the last 4 instrumental measures of the piece, noting that Father Jim may likely not want to wait to begin the service since the song was so long.  From behind his drum kit, my husband said, "It's been 40 days...surely he can wait four more bars." 

I love him...

This very apt observation from Drew got me thinking:  Now that the 40 days are over, what do I still need the patience and fortitude to wait out?  What measure of faith am I gauging my actions against?

Those continuing assaults on my faith:  insecurity, worry for my family and friends, the lack of vision for my path even when God is full body slamming me in a clear direction.  There has been real improvement in these areas in the past year, but my mind is still not clear of them.

Healthy living of mind, body and spirit...especially body!  (Now that Lent is over, will I continue my physical journey toward health when chocolate is back in the mix?!?)

Honest thought and language in every situation, no matter how daunting it seems.  Honest thought has never been a problem but the ensuing speech has often been, since there is a real threat that my honesty can be construed as uncaring.  I need to continue to pray for God to give me the right words and the right timing, so that others know, in my forthrightness, how much I care.

Ongoing transparency in my actions and intentions.  No underlying motive or passive aggressive behavior to color my true intent, my higher calling.

Oh, the daily struggles that continue after the Lenten season.  How grateful I am to realize that in dying for us, Jesus gives us the opportunity to answer our calling in His name, blessing us with His full support and love. 

What measure of faith are you still awaiting?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Bad or Good

bad day bad news bad habits bad marriage bad children bad direction bad work bad husband bad wife bad parenting bad future bad language bad grades bad health bad choices bad mouth bad ideas bad skills bad images bad food bad sleep bad dreams bad decisions bad friends bad associations bad goals bad life

and then we remember, He has given His life for us on the cross...again...yet another year...

good news good day good future good spirit good relationships good parenting good ideas good direction good intentions good work good dreams good realities good families good friends good health good mind good focus good language good thoughts good goals good opportunities good life Good Friday

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Don't Talk to Her

When we were young, my dad's Sunday habit was to take an hour nap in the afternoon...a day of rest and all that.  And he would instruct one of us to wake him after the hour was up.

A fight over who had to wake him would ensue.

It wasn't that we didn't want to honor our dad's wishes.  It was just that he was THE WORST person to wake EVER!!!!  And it didn't matter the method you employed.

If you tiptoed in and softly spoke, "Daddy, it's been an hour;" touched him softly without speaking; or clomped loudly down the hallway in an attempt to wake him before entering the room, the result was always the same.  He would awake with a start so hard and an exclamation so loud, it would take your breath away.  And he was never pleased that the hour was up.  Very grumpy...

Last month when I was blessed to stay with my dad while my mom was in Florida, this issue cropped up again.  I thought, "Well, I may as well just address how he wants to be woken up," in my very forthright way.  So I asked, "Daddy, do you want me to wake you up so you can get up, go to the bathroom and have breakfast?  Or should I just let you sleep and you try to wake up on your own?"  He looked at me sideways and said, "I think you should wake me. (pause)  But I'm mean when you do."  So I said, in my very honest but empathetic way, "I know, Daddy and that's all right.  If you are cranky, I'll just tell you that it will be okay."  Daddy took a second to process this and then said, "No, I wouldn't talk to him if I were you."

I wouldn't talk to him - as if he were a different person entirely.

And although I was greatly amused by this response, I also identified with it greatly.

There are times when I feel like I am two different people, depending on my level of comfort; my level of exhaustion; and my belief in myself.

When I am very tired, out of my comfort zone, or feel insecure in any way, I am often the "loudmouth" or the "funny one" or the "potty mouth."  I know intrinsically that I act this way to make myself feel better, thinking I'm covering up my insecurities by going for the shock or the laugh.  That way, no one can see that I am truly frightened or hurting in any way.  That's when I become her.

When I am secure, rested, at peace in my strengths, I am myself and a much better version.  Still funny (at least I crack myself up!), still loud(er than most), still say what I think.   But most times softer in intent and definitely a much better listener.  With greater insight.  With greater empathy.  I am not consumed with myself and my own discomfort, and I am able to give that energy to others.

I wrestle with this now most often in situations where I am struggling between career worlds.  I have been getting many questions lately:
"Are you a singer?" 
"Why aren't you teaching anymore?" 
"Oh, what are you writing?" 
"Why are you writing?"
These questions throw me into her world, as I look longingly back at my world...the dancers and singers laughing and rejoicing together in a collaborative art form, while I sit in solitary silence at my desk, pecking away at my computer and dreaming of the days bygone when I had a voice that all listened to rather than read.

But I must remember in these uncomfortably frequent moments of insecurity that I am not alone at my desk.  I am being led down this path.  And being in my head doesn't have to mean living alone with my thoughts...it should mean living in communion with His, as I hammer my interpretation of them out onto a page.  I want to be me, secure and at peace - not her, as I move forward on this scary but wonderful journey that is daily bringing me closer to Him.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire

Can we talk for just a minute about those three guys in the book of Daniel?  Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.  First of all, their names ROCK!!  Kinda wish I had considered one of them when I was looking through the Biggest Book of Baby Names for my kids. 

"Shadraq, you get down here this instant!"

"Stop that crying, Abednedgo, or I'll give you something to cry about!"

"Meshach McGarity, just wait until your father gets home!"

Yeah, it could have worked...

Anyway, facing certain death by furnace in Ancient biblical times by a king (Nebuchadnezzar) who was unstable at best was, I'm certain, not a pleasant prospect.  However, rather than bow down and worship King Neb's golden statue in place of God, they chose to remain steadfast in their faith.  I'm sure it would have been a much easier task for them to have pretended to worship that false idol whenever they heard the sound of a trumpet, flute or lyre rather than risk being cooked medium well.  But they chose the less popular path and refused.  To reward them King Neb had the furnace heated to seven times its normal temperature.  (Come on, was that really necessary?  So rude...)

The thing I loved about their response was that they were okay with whatever God chose for them.  The king challenged that God wouldn't come down to save them from the fire.  And they said (and I'm paraphrasing here), "Oh, He could save us if He wanted.  No doubt!  Make no mistake that He's that powerful.  But even if He chooses not to, know that we went down happy to not serve your god."  Oh, the courage...

Thankfully, the story has a happy and miraculous ending.  Just after all three men are thrown into the blazing fire, bound, K.N. jumps to his feet and inquires of his men, "Didn't we cast three men into the fire?"  When they answer in the affirmative, he protests, "But I see four men unfettered and unhurt walking in the fire, and the fourth looks like a son of God."  The angel of the Lord had taken their hand to walk them through the fire, unscathed, simply because they trusted God...whatever His decision.  I was so inspired as I was reading this passage on Wednesday.  Then I realized that it took me 42 years to get to the point where I would allow myself to be led through my raging infernos accompanied.

How many times did I walk through the fire, hurting myself, because I didn't trust that anyone would take my hand and guide me out?
And how many times did I doubt that I was worth saving?

Oh, the burns, the blisters, the scalded hurt of living life without the kind of faith that says, "God loves me...is All-powerful and present...He will save me, even if He doesn't give me what I want."  We all walk through the fire daily.  Now I choose to walk through it holding the hand of the angel of the Lord.  And I, too, will emerge unscathed.