Friday, October 31, 2008

Knowing my Place in the Pack

Sometimes, I am surprised by the behavior of others.... sometimes pleasantly so.

Today, it was the dog. He was actually acting like a decent family member - no trying to sneak in a nibble here or there, no checking to see if I really am "Alpha". Just a quiet evening of chewing on his bone, snuggled up next to me. As it should be. There is hope.

I think back to when we got him. There he was, in the paper. "Chocolate lab pup" - 8 wks old. I went to visit him at the pound. He was so sweet, submissive, beautiful. I adopted him, and brought him home. To the vet we went, where we found out he was sick and not feeling well. A little this and a little that (and a lot of money), and he was on the mend... and his true personality poured out.

Longing for control - to be the leader of the pack - he tried trick after dominance trick. Fortunately, I am not dog-naive. But this little guy, he pressed some buttons. And, he is a lab, so he pressed some buttons... PERSISTENTLY!

Like the day - a week before we were due to leave for a week visit in New England - that he demonstrated competence in climbing the four foot chain link fence. (Fortunately, I demonstrated competence in erecting a 6 foot chain link kennel). But still....

For a while, there, it was a struggle. I wondered if I had lost my mind the day I went to the pound and brought him home. Some days I still think that... those days when he pulls his tricks.

But, overall, he is maturing into a good dog. We still have a few things to work on - but he's not done growing up yet.

That gives me hope.... for my children, and my self. We've still got a few things to work on - but we're not done growing up yet, either. There is hope...

Thank you God, ...
... for your patience, your steadfastness and your persistence in "stalking" me
... for "adopting" me
... for your gentle reminders that I am not 'Alpha' (or 'Omega').

Help me to be submissive, to trust and to follow where You lead... As it should be.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Deer, the Hawks and the Wind

I once lived in an old farmhouse in (semi-) rural Tennessee, smack dab in the middle of five acres. No one knocked at my door uninvited. Few knew my door existed. I liked it that way. No one to bother me. Back then, I preferred an isolated life - it felt 'safer'. Living in the boonies helped protect me from neighbors and the like.

At the edge of my property was a trail - an old railroad line that had been converted into a hiking trail. Every morning, I would walk that trail. My quiet, contemplative time. It was one of the places I sought out a connection with God.

Almost inevitably, as I reached the old railroad trestle bridge, a gentle breeze would rise up, and brush the hair out of my eyes and caress my cheek. It was if God Himself were saying - "welcome back". I began to look forward to my walks - mostly I looked forward to the feeling of the wind on my cheek. I'd close my eyes as I met it, and breathe deeply.

There were times I'd stop in the middle of the bridge, staring out over the water. Just stand there, be still - sometimes talk with God, but mostly listen. On the cool mornings, as I'd step out onto the trestle bridge, I'd notice the dew on the spiderwebs, glistening on the strands of the webs. I called them the "Dew Drop Galleries" - truly a work of art.

On one of my very first walks there, I remember being new at this "walking with God" thing, and I actually spoke aloud "My God, am I on the right path?" Apparently, my voice started some of the nearby wildlife. Suddenly, I heard a stirring to my left, at the top of the ridge. I turned in that direction, to see four deer running in the direction I was headed.

I'd see deer from time to time - they'd remind me of the Gentleness of God, and they'd remind me of myself. Staring silently out into the world - listening, watching.

Years past, I grew, married, moved, grew, divorced, moved again. From the midst of the woods, to the "holler", then out to the plains - in the midst of a subdivision. Three very different periods of my life. Three very different habitats.

There on the plain, one day, my breath was taken away by another incredible creature. In my backyard sat a hawk. I had seen their nest on my neighborhood walk, but had never seen the hawk so close up. I stood and watched him for a long, long time. Beautiful, majestic.

The deer, the hawk and the wind - all very different - all remind me of God. They remind me of the beauty, and grace that surrounds me here on this earth. They remind me that God's hand is here. They remind me to keep my eyes and my heart open.

Thank you God for the beauty and grace that You have put in my life.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

When One Teaches, Two Learn

They say "When one teaches, two learn", and I whole-heartedly agree! I've begun another semester as clinical instructor for a group of nurse practitioner students, and I can tell already that there will be much for me to learn. New students, new location, new group of patients.... much to learn.

Learning is really all about humility. About being "teachable". It is knowing I don't have all the answers. I don't know everything, and I am willing to learn from my students. I am willing to learn from anyone willing to teach. Some of the most profound lessons have come from some of the simplest and most down to earth people I know - my children.

They teach about honesty and love. About forgiveness and generosity. They know the healing power of a hug, and the true power of words. They know how to share, and they know the exuberance of pure joy. They know when to laugh and cry, and jump and dance. Simply by being children, they have taught me much.

May I never forget...

Lord, Keep me humble.... let me learn.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

His Presence in the Darkness

Life has some "dark" times. There are sorrows and pains that inevitably accompany the joys of everyday life. Life changes, people change. We find ourselves in situations we never anticipated and certainly never wished for. We are forced to "grieve the loss" - of people, of our plans, and of our hopes and dreams. We are forced to face the unknown.

For me, the unknown is one of those "dark" places. Being forced to walk on faith as I see things changing around me is not always easy. When I feel the gentle nudge to step forward into the unknown, my first instinct is to stop.

Fortunately, I have been encouraged, time and time again, to step forth.... into the darkness, into the unknown. Sure, there are still times when I want to turn and run the other direction, but I have been taught to stand on faith and move forward. So, I close my eyes, take a good deep breath, and pray, pray, pray.

It takes courage. Initially, I was mistaken about courage. I thought courage was the absence of fear. Then I learned that courage is "fear that has said it's prayers". I also learned that sometimes I must "do it afraid".

But, time and time again, as I "do it afraid", I have experienced one undeniable truth. No matter how dark it seems, or how much I fear the unknown, ...or the pain: When I walk out on Faith, I am never walking alone.

"Yea, though I walk through the shadow of the valley of death, I will fear no evil; For Thou art with me" Ps 23:4

Monday, October 27, 2008

.... in the words of a song.

People say they admire me for being able to stand up and interpret the music at church. I remind them that "all I am is willing". What happens up there is all God. "You're so brave to stand in front of all those people", they say. "What people?"I ask. I know she means the congregation, but most times, standing up there, in that anointed spot, there are no people - it is just God and me.

Now, sure, yes, I do put in effort. I collect the music ahead of time, and translate and review it with my mentor, my "teacher". I do listen to the music (again and again) until it is in my body, and the signs on my hands. Some week I am more prepared than others...

... and some weeks I am more prepared for the response than others. Invariably, there is a song, or a phrase that "gets me". Brings me to my knees - sometimes literally. Almost always, there is one that moves me to tears. It touches my heart (or convicts me!) in such a profound way. I am overwhelmed by the feelings that accompany the phrase: "Let mercy fall on me". I can feel it - and it does - as the sign "mercy" comes toward me again and again. The same with Grace, pouring down upon me. And Love. And "God-connect". Truly powerful images to be a part of.

God has always "stalked" me through music. This is no exception. The difference with interpreting is, I am participating with the entirety of my body... not just my ears or my voice. I "praise", I "surrender", I "cry out" and I "control-disconnect" whole-heartedly. It also makes me think twice about picking back up something I've "laid at His feet".

And then, there is the aftermath. The days following a worship service I've participated in interpreting. Something happens. I am changed by it. I can't stand up before God and everyone, whole-heartedly sign, "Oh, come, my God, and break me..." and not expect SOMETHING to happen. It is prayer. It is worship. It is exciting and it is very, very scary.

It helps me to trust. It allows me to become willing when that's not my first instinct. It gives me an opportunity to be "bold" in my faith.

I consider myself very, very blessed to be a part of it.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Back to Basics

There are definitely times to get back to basics. When the schedule gets packed a little too full, when life becomes a little unmanageable and my patience runs thin - It's time to get back to basics.

For me, the basics are:

Powerlessness: I can't do it. I can't make it happen or not happen. I can't make people do or not do anything. It is the realization that "control" - for me - is an illusion.

Yes, there are things I can do to improve my situation. I can get adequate rest, eat healthy foods, and get out and do the things that keep me fit - physically and spiritually. (Fortunately, a walk is good for both of those!) I can influence my environment - and my schedule - in a positive manner, but ultimately, I can't control any of it.

But, fortunately, next on the list:

He can: I can trust in the sovereignty of God. There is Hope and there is Justice. Taking time to be with and to focus on God, is really, really healing for me.

Finally, I can surrender. I can quit trying to do things my way, and step into line with His plan. Not nearly as simple to implement as it sounds. But, once I quit fighting it, life is much, much easier.

May I follow where you lead. May I walk on the path that You have chosen for me...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Moments of Simple Joy - the girl

They may have been born on the same day, but my boy-child and my girl-child are very different creatures! Fortunately, they both have delightful personalities.

The girl is the artist - She likes to draw and color, and write. I frequently receive "I love you, Mom. You're the best Mom in the world!" notes. My favorites are the ones that have a little sketch attached to them. I could - and will - fill a scrapbook with all of drawings she's created through the years.

She is a girl who KNOWS what she wants. She also has style! From the time she was very young, she was particular about what she would wear. For a long time, we went EVERYWHERE in her "princess shoes" - you know them, the high healed plastic slides with some sort of glittery this or that. Frequently, people made comments. Sometimes the "Nice shoes!" came with a condescending tone of voice. My standard reply became "We get lots of compliments on those shoes!" In no way did I want to squash her sense of style... and quite frankly, it was a battle I chose not to engage in.

She is the one in whom I particularly notice the "growing up" - though the boy-child has grown more physically recently. It seems like overnight we went from Disney Princesses to Hannah Montana. That'll make a Momma's head spin!

I know I have several years with my little girl...even still... may I cherish each and every day.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Progress, not Perfection

I love the fact that there are people in my life. Some I know better then others, but all can encourage me. All can teach me. Tonight I was shown that in my yoga class.

It was a typical class, with the exception that we had a few extra minutes before class. The usual mix of students - "old timers" to beginners. Some I've been in class with for years, others I met tonight, and the whole range in between.

It's interesting to me to watch people's journeys. To see their progress as they go. They give me hope, and encourage me in my journey.

Tonight, in the moments before class, I witnessed an older man lay on his back, with his head on the floor and his arms stretched out over his head, thumbs on the ground. No big deal, right? Well, for him - life changing. I remember the day he walked into class for the first time. If he had been told him then, that he'd be here today doing THIS... he wouldn't have believed it.

There is another woman, whom I've been in class with for years. Same story. I witness her doing things today she'd never have dreamed of doing when she first started. In both I see a brightening of spirit, an ease in their movements. I see Joy, and Hope.

A third, who always wanted to try yoga. I witness her courage as she joins us for her first class.

Looking at it day to day, it's hard to see the progress... but start adding the days together... WOW!

Then, I realized I'm the same way... poco a poco, little by little, I make progress. A little victory here and a little stretching out of my comfort zone there. But... if I look at it day by day, it's hard to see. With the perspective of a little time, and a series of small steps. There is progress. Great progress.

Of course, I'd PREFER to just do it right NOW, and be done with it. But, that's not that way it works in my life... Perfect, I am not, so progress must be my goal.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Stoking the Fire

One of my favorite expressions of all time is:

"When the fire behind me is hotter than the fire in front of me, I'll walk"

It sums it up so beautifully for me. Some things I'll walk toward independently - some things I'll run for. Most of those things either aren't significant or aren't in my best interests.

The real test comes when I'm called to action, and I'd rather keep my feet planted firmly where they stand. Be it the fire of habit, or fear, or simply the unknown before me, I don't want to move.

Days like these, when I feel the fire behind me being stoked, I may inch my feet forward a little bit. Really, what I need to do is take two great giant steps on faith.... and then two more. But that would mean change. I would be risking what I have now.

The irony is that I have never been called forth to danger. I have always stepped forward to something better. It didn't always feel that way initially - "different" is usually uncomfortable for me at first, and sometimes I must walk through some darkness to get there. Most often, I find the blessings there are beyond my wildest imaginings. When I listen and walk where He leads, Peace, Joy, Hope and Love are sure to meet me...

So, as I feel the warmth of the fire behind me becoming hotter than the fire in front of me. I will walk. One step at a time, I will walk. Through whatever fear or habit or unknown situation lies directly before me, I will walk. To Peace and Joy and Hope and Love, I will walk.

May I walk out on faith.... before I get burned!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Some Things Never Change - but some do!

When I look back over my life, where I have been and where I am now, much of it looks the same. I actually had to laugh recently as I was going through some old books. I was in 'de-clutter' mode, and sorting through the stack of books that had been long untouched. One was a journal of sorts. I picked it up and opened the page: April 24, several years ago: "I feel like I am being called to de-clutter my life. Physically, spiritually...". Hmmm... sounds familiar. I could have written that today - or last week - or last month....

Both now and then, there are joys and struggles, moments of surrender and of willful stubbornness. Just looking at the journal entry and the past few months of my life, you'd think that nothing had changed.

But there is a great difference now. I am not isolated. On so many levels, I am not isolated.

There are people in my life. People that really, TRULY know me. They know me, they love me, they support me, they encourage me, they comfort me. They've been behind the wall, they've helped me remove some stones, they've shined the light into the dark corners. I sit with these people, in some form or fashion, every day. Some I sit with in person, some I sit with online, but none-the-less, there is daily contact.

As wonderful as it is having these dear friendships, they pale in comparison to another relationship I now have in my life. My life is blessed by feeling the daily presence of God. These days, I have a connection with God that I didn't have in years back. He was there - I just didn't know it. Loving me, supporting me, encouraging me, comforting me. Every step of the way, yet I failed to recognize it.

It's amazing to me to fully grasp that idea... that I could be so oblivious. I guess walls and dark places do that to a person.

Fortunately, some things - like God and the business of Refining - never change.
Fortunately, some things - like me - do.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Enjoying a Good Laugh....

A friend of mine was sitting on my couch, having just returned from being away for fall break. We were catching up on our week apart, and I was relating to her my experiences this past Sunday.... the painful misery of it all...

She chuckled as I started my account of the day by telling her I'd "busted" through my "fat jeans", then nodded politely as I highlighted each subsequent difficulty.

Somewhere in the midst of that, her son came down to check out my fish tank.

"Hey, uhm, Ms. Linda....where are your FISH?"

"oh... they died"

My friend looked at me, wide-eyed. The once overly abundant supply of fish had trickled to nothing.

"I think I probably forgot to feed them...."

Her son shrugged and returned to the playroom. My friend started laughing - this deep, rolling, uncontrollable laughter.

Now it was my turn to look at her, "WHAT?"

Through her laughter, she said "You busted out your "fat jeans", AND you killed your GUPPIES?" The laughter continued...

"Oh my God! I love it.... You're HUMAN"

Oh yes.... very, very human....

Monday, October 20, 2008

Choosing "Freedom"

Every Sunday, there seems to be a theme in the music. There is a word or a phrase that I find myself signing again and again. This week, the topic was freedom. Not only did I sign "free", "save", and "redeem"(again, and again, and again!), I broke chains across my heart, and ties to the world. I showed the "power of sin" being "destroy"ed, pushed behind, and crumbling down to nothing then blown away. If only it were that easy.

I laughed - and then I cried - at the realization Saturday night. All these songs about being free, and I certainly wasn't feeling that way. I was feeling more "blind", "confused", "struggle"-ing, "bound" and "broken-heart"-ed

The other irony that didn't escape me: We were just finishing our fall break week. Our "vacation". Freedom - from school...but not from a full calendar! And, as I lay in my bed Saturday night, weeping, I wondered how I got back "here" again. Bound to the schedule, and tied up in sugar and caffeine.

It didn't seem quite right that I'd be standing up there signing about "Amazing Grace" and "freedom" feeling as bound as I did. But, then again, if you know the story of Grace and freedom, it is a story that is "not quite right". It is that part which makes it "Amazing". Besides, one thing I've learned about obedience - I can't let my feelings of inadequacy keep me from stepping forth.

So, step forth I did - with tears streaming down at one point. Song after song. Somewhere in the middle of it all - the tears were gone, and joy was springing forth. Hope had returned

"And like a flood, His mercy rains. Unending Love, Amazing Grace"

Maybe it IS that easy. Freedom is mine to claim. Yet, I often set it aside, and find myself tangled up again where I don't belong - allowing my hands and feet to be shackled, if not shackling them myself. Why is it that I do that? Why do I not accept the freedom I am given?

Therein lies the difficultly - choosing to accept the gift, and in doing so, turning away from the chains that so sweetly bind.

Keep me close to You - help me choose well. May I choose to be free.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Who Am I?

It was near the beginning of my journey. As He always does in my life, God was reaching me through music. There was a song that touched me so deeply, I'd placed on continuous-play on my CD player. It became a quick favorite.

Casting Crowns' song, "Who am I?", seemed to give me direction. It was as if it oriented my internal compass to North. It set my path in the right direction....toward Him.

The chorus is as follows:

"I am a flower quickly fading,
here today and gone tomorrow
a wave tossed in the ocean
a vapor in the wind

Still you hear me when I'm calling

You catch me when I'm falling
and You show me who I am...
I am Yours..."

At the time, I felt infinitesimally small - but there was great hope in knowing that even though I may be "quickly fading, here today and gone tomorrow", a mere "vapor in the wind", I was heard and protected. And when I most need to know, I am shown - "I am Yours".

The song still speaks to me.... These days it is the bridge that most "gets" me:

"Not because of who I am,
but because of what You've done.

Not because of what I've done,
but because of who You are"

It's soooooooooo not about me....

Thank you, God... for teaching me about humility...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Moments of Simple Joy - the fire

We all love the fire. During the cool autumn and winter months, you'll find us gathered there. There's just something about it - it's warmth, the way the flames dance. I don't know exactly. We just like it.

My daughter will sit there til I bodily remove her. My son will pause, and stop for a moment, as he runs by between the playroom and the bathroom. And, me? Well, I'll sit there as long as I can until a child beckons or a task just can't be ignored any more.

There is something very soothing for me, watching the flames as they dance over the logs. Feeling the warmth on my face, my chest my arms and legs It causes my body and my mind to be still. I can simply close my eyes and enjoy the warmth - for minutes at a time! It provides another opportunity for me to become still enough that I can feel the presence of God.

Thank you God for the fire - and for moments to experience Your presence in my life.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Beauty for Ashes

It was during a period of time when God was actively working on healing my heart that I first heard the song by Shane Barnard, "Beauty for Ashes". "How perfect", I thought - that had become somewhat of a "catch phrase" in my life - a recurrent theme, for sure!

Time after time, when I thought no possible good could come from the ashes that surrounded me, I was amazed and awed at how God restored beauty. The times when I thought my pain and mourning would never end, I found Joy. My burdens were lifted and became reasons to praise!

I picked up the lyric sheet, and sat down with my interpreting mentor. We would sit and translate the English to ASL - American Sign Language. Then I'd go home and practice before the worship service on Sunday morning. I started to read:

"Beauty for Ashes.... a garment of praise for my heaviness...

Hmmm... "What does it mean?" she asked me. "Well, my "heaviness" is my burdens... they become praise." I said, cautiously. "Exactly," she said. I jotted that down, so I'd remember.

The next line stopped me in my tracks:

"Beauty for Ashes.... take this heart of stone, and make it Yours."

Heart of *stone*? Ouch. Conviction there. I had just finished reading the book "Redeeming Love" by Francine Rivers. Although my life had been very different from the main character, Angel - a prostitute - I could identify the same wall of protection she had constructed around her heart, surrounding mine. A "heart of stone". It was at this point I began to fear this song, just a little. I knew it was going to speak to me powerfully, and perhaps be (somewhat) life-changing.

"Trading all that I am for all that is better."

Oh! WOW!! What a great line. Let's see in ASL, I would sign "All-of-me surrender. Grace pour-down-on-me". Little did I know how those gentle sweeping motions would make my heart pause, and tears stream down my face.

I found that out (repeatedly) in the privacy of my own home.... and again at the rehearsal Sunday morning....and again during the worship service itself.

Wiping the tears from my eyes, I realized: this song had changed me. Standing in our anointed place, at the corner of the stage, offering up my prayer - with voice and hands and soul - had changed me. "Take this heart of stone, and make it Yours". The "walls of protection", now cracked and crumbling, left me feeling exposed and vulnerable. Yet, I knew, the mourning would turn to Joy, and the burdens to praise.

Even now, when I hear that song, my heart aches. It pauses and longs for the signs to come forth - "Surrender", and "Grace" and "Connect-my-heart-to-God". My heart knows what it wants - what it needs. "Surrender". "Grace". "Connect-my-heart-to-God"

Beauty for Ashes,... again, and again, and again....

Thank You, God...


"To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified."—Isaiah 61:3

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Maintaining a Positive Attitude

We're right smack dab in the middle of fall break. I find that a little amusing and ironic. It hasn't really been a "break" for me. True there's not school, but the calendar hasn't slowed down any. As a matter of fact, it's a time to schedule in some things that need to happen - like the dentist - so they don't have to MISS school.

One of the things we've been planning to do this break is go "cabin camping". We'll drive to the state park tomorrow as soon as our chores are done and the car is packed. There we'll hike and enjoy the out of doors, maybe catch a pony ride. We'll see what we feel like when we get there.

The kids are excited that the cabin has two bunk beds - so they'll both get the top. The boy-child is not thrilled to hear that there will be no Game Cube, but there will be s'mores, so it might not be all bad.

Over all, we're thrilled to be going. Then there is the weather forcast. It's been really dry here this year. But, tomorrow, it may rain. And the girl-child, who had teeth pulled today, has a little tummy ache.

In times past, I may have spent this evening worrying about the weather, or whether my daughter will "irk" (our word for 'throw up') tonight. Neither, I have any control over. Neither are worth ruining my evening stressing about.

It's one of the ways powerlessness helps me maintain a positive attitude. There are very few things that I can control in my life. My attitude is one of them. Keeping my domain of control in it's proper perspective is key in that endeavor!

Yes, I will pray that the rain holds off, and that my daughter is feeling well. But - whatever happens - we are blessed!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Where You Lead, I Shall Follow

You know, it's really, truly, all about surrender. For me, anyway. Surrendering my ways and following His. Surrendering my attempts to "control", picking up faith and trust, and stepping forward.

I've been taught to ask for guidance and to be still and listen for the answers. Sometimes that is easier to do than others. Sometimes, I fear that when I ask for direction, I'll be told to veer left or right of where I think we're heading. When that happens, my plans change - and I'm not such a big fan of change.

These days, I'm beginning to feel the gentle nudge to move forward. At the present time, I don't know where the path is heading. I don't even know that there is a path. All I know is that there is a nudge - and questions arising that I am sure will be answered in due time.

It's hard for me not to know the answers - to know the "plan". But, with each nudge comes a deepening understanding that is OK - and often best! - that I don't know the destination at the get-go. So long as I keep putting one foot in front of the other, on the journey that is being laid before me - so long as I follow where He leads - I will get there. In the right way, in the right time. I don't need to fully understand. I do need to quit fighting and fully obey.

May I keep my feet in Your light and walking forward on the path that You have set before me.

Psalm 119:105
"Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path."

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Life in the Fast Lane...

This thought came to me as I was - sadly enough - at the drive-thru of McDonald's after work this week: "Why is it that I settle for this?" It's not really what I want. It's not at all healthy for me. So why am I here?

It is "convenient". Convenient? Is it worth the "convenience"? I don't know. (which in this case means: "No, but I'm not willing to admit that yet!") *sigh*

I broaden that thought and wonder what other things I "settle" for in the name of "convenience". What things I do simply because I can? What things do I gather into my life simply because they are there for the taking? I know that things of value take time and effort - preparing meals, tending gardens, building and maintaining relationships, just to name a few! I know that not all things that are out there "for the taking" bring value to my life, or glory to God. Some days are easier to put effort into than others. Some things are easier left behind than others. Some concepts are easier to grasp than others.

I think back to when bottled water was new on the market. I was outraged - a DOLLAR for a bottle of water? NO WAY was I paying THAT!! Instead, I'd pay $1.29 for a diet coke that I didn't really want. What I wanted was water. But, my perception of what was reasonable, was skewed. (oh how stupid I felt when I realized what I was doing!!)

Along the same lines, but with a little different twist - I wonder how many times the phrase from the song "Hold me Jesus" is true in my life. "I'd rather fight you for something I don't really want, than take what you give that I need" I wonder how often I refuse to let go of something that is ultimately making my life more difficult to maintain the illusion of "control".

I am sure I would be astounded to find out how much time I would have if I would let go of some of those things. Things that I do, simply because I can, rather than because I should. Time - precious time. Time I could use to be still. To simply be. To do things that I enjoy. Freeing my life up of the 'conveniences' to savor the delicacies of life... wow. What a concept!

There is a feast set before me! How often do I choose "fast food" because I am too impatient to wait for God's preparations to be complete? How often do I overlook the abundance waiting for me because my gaze is focused on that which I am holding tightly in my grasp? How often to I fill my life up with stuff simply to have it? When will I learn?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Facing the Music

So, you should have seen me after church on Sunday afternoon. There I was "Tending the Earth", and I just started shaking my head, and laughing quietly to myself. I had been thinking of the events of the morning; that bridge still running through my head. "Lift up your head, oh, oh, oh, Lift up your head, Look on Him...". Then the thought of the video recorder, and YouTube. I don't care much for pictures, and video, in my opinion, is even worse. Yes, it's wonderful for kids and cute animal things, but for ME... uhm... no, thank you. It's too..... honest.

THAT's when I start laughing and shaking my head. Hadn't I just written the other day about how I didn't always LIKE honesty, but I needed to walk toward the truth. *sigh*. Well, here we go.

My mentor and I have discussed using video tape as a means of objective feedback for our interpreting. We could sit and watch together, critiquing as we went along. I like the concept. I think it would be beneficial. Yet, we've both drug our feet in the implementation of it. I think He may be telling us it's time to do exactly that.

But.... YouTube? Don't get me wrong, I like YouTube, but... there is something disconcerting about knowing that my mistakes are going to be "out there" visible to God-only-knows how many people. It's... well, very humbling. "Another opportunity to embrace my imperfections", I suppose. A chance to let go of my pride and admit to the world, that yes, I am human. I do make mistakes.

It's also an opportunity to learn - for that I am grateful. It's an opportunity to walk toward the Truth... as much as I'd like to pretend the video tape didn't exist.

Yes, I could have kept this under wraps - my 'little secret'. But I have learned (the hard way!) that keeping secrets, and hiding myself from the world is not in my best interests. And, I have friends who I'm sure would have discovered it, and confronted me with the fact that I hadn't shared. The joys of being loved.

It's time to face the music,... and the honesty of a video camera. How appropriate the words... "Lift up your head, oh, oh, oh, Lift up your head...." I so don't want to look.

So, today, I am walking on faith that my fear of facing the truth is worse than actually walking through it. I guess I'll know for sure once the video is published and "out there".

"....oh, oh, oh, Lift up your head, Look on Him..."

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Tending the Earth

One of the things I most love to do - especially on these beautiful autumn days - is "Tending the Earth". I love the creative process of planning and setting up a garden; then watching it grow, develop and transform with each season. This time of year, I'm pruning, mulching and preparing for Winter's rest. (And establishing a new border in the process...)

Today's primary goal was putting the hosta into the ground. When the dog obtained rights to the fenced in portion of the back yard this spring, there were two choices - put the hosta in pots for the summer, or let them be trampled by a quickly growing puppy. I chose the former. When I dug them up, I didn't know where their final destination would be, so into pots they went.

They came to me from my mother's property in Massachusetts - and likely arrived there from my Grandmother's home in Virginia. They spent some time in the ground in our previous yard, and then moved with us to our current home. This year, they have thrived, bloomed and produced seeds. (Which I scattered beside them in their new border beneath the pine trees).

Second on the project list was pruning the Rose of Sharon. Heavy with seed pods, the branches leaned nearly to the ground. As I trimmed their edges, they straightened. The pods were then scattered behind the row of recent yearling transplants. With any luck, some of the hundreds of seeds will develop into a thickly flowered hedge.

Final project on today's list: weeding the driveway. I love the mindless task of weeding: Especially in areas where it truly is mindless - like on my gravel driveway. If it's in the gravel and it's green, I can pull it. Yes, I know I could buy some spray that would kill all the life among the stone, but I have way too many issues with widespread distribution of toxic chemicals. Besides, it's one of those places where I find God...

There is something about having my hands in the dirt, or handling these great creations - plants - that captivates me. The thing about plants: they trust. They know their purpose: Grow, bloom, seed, prepare to rest. Even the crabgrass knows it's purpose - TAKE OVER - and it does so with abandon! It doesn't question: "here?" It grows. (and grows and grows....)

The other thing I love about "Tending the Earth": it invites silence and quiets the mind. The "Ever-loving To Do List" is temporarily set aside in my head. I take time to pray, and I take time to listen. I notice the birds in the trees, the sun on my back and the wind on my face.

I notice the thoughts that pop into my brain. Some meander in, and pass right through. Others enter dramatically and demand attention. Without the usual background "noise", it's easier to decipher the messages in their urgency. Once decoded they can be brought before God, and the healing can begin.

It seems like nothing more than digging and planting and just plain hard work. But, for me, "Tending the Earth" is a time and a place for me to be with God. It is a place for me to grow.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Lift Up Your Head - Face the Light

I hope that this is not too much of a "give away" to the folks that worship with me on Sunday mornings, but it's where I keep returning when I sit and ask "what should I write about today?"... So, I will "speak" it.

There is always a song that "touches" me. This week is no exception. It is a new song for me; one I hadn't heard until a few days ago. Right now, it is permanently etched in my brain - well, at least the "bridge" part is:

"Lift up your head, oh, oh, oh
Lift up your head, Look on Him"

And, as I sit and listen to the music, I think about how I would sign those words. The fact that it repeats six times makes it either easy or challenging - depending on your perspective. After I have some sort of idea of what I THINK I would sign - or in those times when I have NO idea what I'd sign - I just close my eyes and listen, and set my hands free of my brain's conscious control.

In this song, I literally "lift up" my head to start. As it progresses, my hands also sign "Shame. no." That works too. "Focus to God" works as well.

And then I stop to think about that, as I write the sign-words on the lyric sheet (so I won't forget!). Wow. How true it has been in my life. Lifting my head and facing the Light - the Truth. I think back to the days when I often ignored or "overlooked" the truth. The days when I turned away with my head hung in shame, believing there wasn't enough forgiveness in the world. That there were valid reasons I felt cold and alone.

I didn't realize my choice then. I could choose to look toward the Light or the Darkness. It seemed easier at the time to avoid the Light. I didn't realize then, but the Light is where the healing is. It truly is the Way, the Truth and the Life...

Fortunately, there were those in my life that knew this. They knew that there is ALWAYS Light at the end of the darkness. And, no matter how thick and cold and impenetrable it seems, so long as I kept walking toward it, I would find the Light. As I slowly began to trust, and to face the Light, I began to feel the warmth. I began to believe and have faith that Hope exists. I realized I had never been alone.

I do not walk in shame any more. I don't always LIKE the truth, but I've learned that it doesn't go away or get better by ignoring it. It does get better as I face it and walk toward it. I also realized that often the last one to forgive me is.... Me.

It doesn't matter where you are in life. It doesn't matter what you've done, what you haven't done... "Lift up your head..." Face the Light. Feel the warmth. There is Hope.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Shift of Knowledge

Anatomically, the heart and the head are relatively nearby. Emotionally, and spiritually, they can be polar opposites. They also have very different perspectives on time. The head, for me, often wants it "right now" or "later - much later!" - the heart wishes for the timing to be "right", whenever that is.

It's interesting to me: There doesn't seem to be a clear formula for which will "get it" first, nor how long it will take the other to catch up. When I am grieving, my head is aware long before my heart that the pain won't last forever. At other times, my heart will say "this is over", and my head will struggle with the fact that plans C,D and E still haven't been implemented!

When there is a change that I need to put into effect into my life - diet, exercise, scheduling issues, it really doesn't matter what it is - it is MUCH more difficult to do so if both my head and my heart are not in agreement. I can often "will" it for a short time, but if my heart doesn't buy in, it falls apart. They're a team, and they need to work together...

If the heart and the head disagree, it is also much more difficult for me to speak it. For some reason, the throat and the voice tend to get stuck in the midst of the battle.

For a long time, I didn't recognize the head-heart conflict. I just knew that life was HARD and there seemed to be a constant argument inside me. One day, someone suggested I listen to both sides of the argument, and pay attention to what I felt when I did. Novel concept. I'd try it and see what happened. Couldn't be worse than eavesdropping on the whole conversation anyhow...

I listened. It took some practice, but what I found was, that when the truth was spoken - either by my heart or my head - there was stillness and peace within me. Anything but truth brought confusion and fear.

I extrapolated this into a decision-making process. If I didn't know what I should do, I got quiet, and listened to all options. The "right" decision was the one that brought peace. Now, believe me, I didn't always choose that one first. I had to try a few wrong decisions along the way. Then I began to trust, and listen for the peace - even if that option seemed far-fetched. If there was peace and stillness, it was "right" in the end. (And, as you might imagine, asking God to show me which was right, facilitated the process and deepened the peace.)

Spiritually, it's been the same thing. For a long time, I have had a very cognitive understanding of God. I could tell you what I'd been told, or what I'd learned. Sure, there had been some glimpses of heart-understanding, but mostly I was in my head with it. Then, one morning, I woke up and I was weeping with my heart-knowledge of the presence of God in my life. Many of the "I should...."s and obligatory service fell aside and were filled with more heart-felt initiatives. It was truly life changing. I could share from my heart.... from my experience.

My friend, Karen Tucker used to sign every email with the following quote:

"See with your heart not with your
eyes, for beauty lies everywhere.

The mind reasons, the heart knows."

How right she was... There are times when my head must lead - but my heart must remain connected. I want to see the beauty in the world and in others.

May I see through my heart... it *knows*

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Things We Take for Granted

I am reminded yet again, of how much I take for granted. I see this a lot in my work at the Trauma Center. There is inevitably someone whose life has been dramatically altered by an 'accident' or as a consequence of a choice they've made. Nearly everyone's situation has changed in some way, and they find themselves more 'dependent' than they once were. (If only we realized the gifts that we can find there...)

Today's reminder comes from someone I've never met. Someone whom the person that shared this with me doesn't even know.... she knows his friend. A young man's life is forever changed by an accident at a youth retreat. So is his family's. And his friends'... and hopefully mine.

As we talked about and prayed about this situation, we were reminded of exactly how much we take for granted. Our health, our children, our homes, our families, our jobs. Every single aspect of our lives. Not one bit of it is guaranteed. No matter how largely we write our plans on our calendars (in ink!!) - they remain just that. OUR plans. Vapor in the wind...

I do not wish this to turn into, or have it be interpreted as a position of fear or dread. It is not! Quite to the contrary!! It is a call to gratitude! When my car starts and there is food to eat - may I be grateful! When my children are healthy and I wake to meet another day - may I be grateful! My hands work, my brain works, my computer works (mostly!) - may I be grateful!

Life's minor annoyances are just that. Even the major annoyances. Mere annoyances. May I keep my perspective. May I remember that my plans are just my plans. May I know my place. May I honor God in His...

May I hug my children a little closer and may I tell those that I love that I do.

May I not miss the blessings that lay before me... simply because they've always been there.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Moments of Simple Joy - the boy

"I love you SOOOOOOOOOO much, Mommy", he says. It's our standard greeting...and farewell. "I love YOU SOOOOOOOOOO much too", I reply. "You are my favorite boy in the WHOLE world" I tell him. It's true. He is. "...And you're my favorite mom", he says (unless he's mad at me, in which case, he lists off two or three moms who are ahead of me on the list. Good news is, I know that fades as quickly as his anger!)

I was blessed with this one. He is a truly lovable child - and smart. He has some quirks (don't we all!), and a million questions. He is "awesome" at game cube, and he's a pretty good snuggler, as well. This boy has never met a stranger, and is not afraid to ask for what he wants.

I tuck him in at night these days and wonder where the time has gone. It wasn't THAT long ago that he was in preemie clothes. Now, he is outgrowing clothes faster than I can put them in the closet! Nearly seven, he has friends and interests, and preferences! They sure grow up fast.

I pull up his covers, give him a hug, and kiss his forehead. "I love you" I say. "I love you too.... sooooooooo much" he echos back. I kiss him again and tell him, "I'm so glad God let me be your mom, and you be my boy". He smiles. I can't help but do the same.

Thank you, God, for these moments of simple joy... Thank you, God, for my son.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Keeping it in Perspective

I love my friends. . . for many, many reasons. One reason in particular that I love them is that they help me keep things in perspective. I have the personality that given one bit of information, I tend to jump to "worst case scenario". Partly, I do that because if I can 'handle' "worst case scenario", then anything else will be OK. Partly, I just "go there".

My friends remind me to stay in the now and to have faith. They remind me of Matthew 6:34 "So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own" (NASV). They remind me of a favorite quote "If you pray, why worry. If you worry, why pray?"

Which is another reason I so love my friends. They pray with me and they pray for me.

I have been blessed with many wonderful, wonderful friends.

Thank You, God!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Go! Fight! Win!

There is a brave young girl that I know named Makenzie. She is eight years old and has some "Cancer germs" making her sick. She had some surgery on her brain to have the "cancer germs" removed, and will soon start chemo and radiation.

I have been awed from a distance to watch the process unfold - via their "Care Pages" blog. Makenzie's strength and determination as she works to regain some of the skills she once took for granted - walking, talking, seeing, and being her self - are amazing! Her twin sister, Madison, adds her "Super Sister" updates, as do her parents.

I read a plaque long ago that said: VOCATUS ATQUE NON VOCATUS DEUS ADERIT. It's latin and means: "Bidden or unbidden, God is present". In this situation, God is definitely "bidden" - called forth. And He is definitely present.

I have witnessed the support that this family has received - from neighbors, friends, members of their church, and perfect strangers. In each update, I can sense their appreciation and gratitude for the love and support that has overwhelmed them in this difficult time. I read of their faith that God truly is with them. And, I have witnessed them being surrounded in prayer!

As it has been true for me, I see it now true for them - and very, very fresh. I remember being there - crying out - calling God forth - and being overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support.

I also remember the times, before I trusted that God was present and working in my life, I did not call out as I walked through some dark times. But, fortunately, "Bidden or unbidden", He is always there. I see that now, and am ever grateful!

For you, Makenzie, for Madison and your brother Justin, for your mom and for your dad, I add my prayers to the "prayer globe". May you know God, may you feel God, and may God heal you completely!

Remember.... Bidden or unbidden, God is present.

And as part of the team cheering you on, I whole-heartedly cry out:


(Many thanks to your school website for this beautiful picture of you and Madison! The one I have of you two is VERY old... this one is MUCH better!)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Call to Me... and I Will Sing to you

I recently had dinner with a dear friend of mine. She has walked much of my Tennessee path with me, shining lights and holding mirrors. Gently confronting when appropriate. Grieving hopes and dreams together. This night, we shared our experiences with God as we walked through our divorce experiences. Similar, yet different. The similarity is the end point - a sweet, sweet relationship with God. The difference - the path and the means. God has spoken to each of us differently as He has called us into relationship with Himself.

We shared stories, and caught each other up on the events in our lives since we last shared a meal. We laughed and drew pictures and jotted down phrases on the "to go" bag that lay on the table. (One day, we will learn to bring our own paper!!)

"Jeremiah 33:3" she said. "Call out to Me and I will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known". That had been our experience. We had called out to Him with every essence of our being - from the brokenness of our hearts, we had cried out. And He has shown us great things. I continued to read to verse 6: "Behold, I will bring ... health and healing, and I will heal them and reveal to them abundance of prosperity and security". There is nothing that I can add to that but "Amen". It is my experience exactly! (Thank You, God!)

We joked as we left that still had to blog when I got home. She asked "about what?" - "I don't know", I said, "but I am sure I'll find out on the ride home". I pulled out of the parking lot, and turned on the radio. The music started...

"The wind blows hard against this mountainside
Across the sea into my soul.
It reaches into where I cannot hide

Kyrie eleison - down the road that I must travel
Kyrie eleison - through the darkness of the night
Kyrie eleison - where I'm going will you follow
Kyrie eleison - on a highway in the light

Kyrie eleison - Lord Have Mercy on us. Crying out to God. "Have mercy on us..." Kyrie eleison... I smiled and sang along. I pulled out a napkin that had come with the unsweet tea I had ordered that morning, and started jotting down the title so I would remember when I got home... I would blog about this... Calling out to God... Kyrie eleison. Jeremiah 33:3.

The music continued. The song changed. I listened - then wrote....

"Hold fast
Help is on the way
Hold fast
He's come to save the day
What I've learned in my life
One thing greater than my strife
Is His grasp
So hold fast

I continued to sing and nod my head and jot down lyrics (and drive!). The next song, I'd never heard before. But the chorus, I loved immediately:

"knowing clouds will raise up
storms will race in
but you will be safe in My arms
rains will pour down
waves will crash all around
but you will be safe in My arms

Then songs of praise and thanksgiving. YES!

The next song I had signed at church:

"We cry Holy, Holy, Holy...."

I saw before my eyes the sign "cry out" - from the heart to the heavens. Crying out to God. A pouring out of my heart to God. That had been my experience as my head-knowledge shifted to heart-knowledge. At first, it cried out in brokenness and grief. I cried out, and He responded with "great and hidden things" that I had not known. He responded with "health and healing... abundance of prosperity and security". Now, I cry out (most days!) with praise and thanksgiving!

As I turned into my driveway, I recognized the tune that was beginning. I'd heard it for the first time as I pulled out of my driveway that morning. The first song on my way to work:

"If you’re living
If you’re breathing
You got something to say
You know if your heart is beating
You got something to say
And no one can say it like you do
God is love and love speaks through you
You got it, you got it
You got something to say

We all have something to say. We all have a story to tell.

May I be bold in telling mine.

I have called out... and He has sung to me.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

IALAC - I Am Lovable And Capable

I first heard this story - or a version of it - when I was training to be Summer Camp Staff at a YMCA camp in Connecticut. During one of our orientation days, Gordon - the assistant camp director - stood up holding a piece of paper. It contained five letters: I A L A C. The skit began.

Gordon - now "Billy" - was a camper. As he interacted with the other campers, and staff - played by other executive staff members - an interesting thing happened. As he was verbally belittled, ignored or disregarded, he'd reach down and tear off a piece of his IALAC sign. Each person he met, said or did something to make him feel unlovable, unimportant and, (how do I say?)... stupid. He went to bed that night with a tattered sign that was only a fraction of its original size.

He did wake up the next day with a brand new sign, but it was significantly smaller than the original.

They were trying to impress on us - the staff - who would soon be welcoming these young children into our care - the power of our words and actions. "IALAC", he explained, stands for "I Am Lovable And Capable". We could build up these kids, or we could tear them down. Very, very easily. The choice was ours. We merely needed to be aware of the power of our words and actions

In a recent bible study, I was reminded again of the power of the tongue. It can encourage and build up, or it can destroy.

I have been on both ends of the tongue - and in both of its uses. I have encouraged and I have torn down. I have received support and encouragement. I have also received ridicule, and disregard. I have seen IALAC signs grow and be torn apart. I have witnessed the same of my own.

"Death and life are in the power of the tongue...."

May I choose my words well...

May I speak life...

Friday, October 3, 2008

Inhale..... Exhale.....

There are some days, when I need to return to the basics of my yoga instruction: "Inhale.... Exhale...." The days when the kids are "Mom"-ing non-stop and the dog needs some extra attention. The days when the "to do" list is unending and the rest periods are short. Inhale.... Exhale...

It seems so simple. I do it unconsciously. But, that is the problem. I do it unconsciously. So, I take an intentional breath, and notice what is going on in my body. How am I breathing? Deep, full respirations, or rapid shallow ones? Where are my shoulders? Are they're settled down where they belong, or are they full of tension and I'm "wearing them as earrings".

I close my eyes and deepen the inhale, then the exhale. I settle my shoulders down my back. After a few good breaths, the urgency in the situation has subsided, and I feel some peace. If nothing else, it has given me a brief moment of stillness.

I was reminded today on the yoga mat, how important stillness is. It is essential. It is a time for me to rest, a time for recharging. It is a time to connect with God. Life tries, every day - in a thousand ways - to pull me away from it. If I am to be still, I must do it intentionally.

"Be still....", He says. "Be still and know that I am God".

Thursday, October 2, 2008

My Ebenezer

From the moment I had a contract on the house, I knew it had to have a stone. My Ebenezer, for surely, Thus Far, God has been with me.

I knew roughly the size and the shape the stone should be, and I knew exactly where it would go. There was a spot between the steps leading to the porch and the side of the house that was just crying for something... and I knew exactly what.

I searched and searched for the perfect stone. Then, one day, I found it. I had laid a quilt in the back of my minivan, and on top of that, the forklift lay the stone.

Once I got home, the full realization of what was to happen next hit me. This stone was HEAVY... I backed the car as close to the house as I could, and slid the stone out onto the ground.

Side to side I rocked the stone, and inch by inch, we got closer to it's resting place. Finally, I was within a few feet of it's destination. I laughed at myself - at the sight I must be to the neighbors. And I wondered HOW I could possibly get the stone where it needed to go - in the path were plants I didn't want to destroy, and there were the steps.

Then, I laughed again. I figured if God could move a mountain, surely, He and I together could move this rock! But I wondered how it would happen. There was no lifting this stone, it was far to heavy - moving it a few inches at a time, pivoting on the other corner was work enough.

I got quiet, closed my eyes and still had no idea how this rock was going to move the 2 1/2 feet that lay between where we were and where we were going. Finally - YES! - I lay the quilt along the lower steps, and tilted the rock onto the step. From there, it could slide to the end, and with all my strength (and then some) I could lift the top, and it would be in place. Worth a try.

As you can see, it worked. Stone in place, I sat and laughed again. "Thus far..." I said "Thus Far, God has been with me." Thank You, God

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Seasons of Change...

Autumn is here. There is no denying it - YES!! The days - and especially the nights - are cooler, and there is a hint of color on the leaves. Truth be told, Autumn is my favorite of the seasons - though I do find goodness in all of them. Rebirth in the Spring, warm lazy days of Summer, and the long, peaceful nights of Winter's rest. But Autumn.....
I love.

I love the crispness in the air, the color that seems to explode overnight on the hillsides. I love boots and sweaters, and snuggling under a blanket with my children. I love cider and apples, and "fall fests". And I love Thanksgiving. A holiday about Gratitude. That's right up my alley! (oh! and there's food - that's right up my alley, too!)

Somehow - like Spring - Autumn, for me, is an easy transition. There is a natural progression in the "change" of seasons. By the time Autumn arrives, I'm ready for the long hot days of Summer to be over. I willingly embrace the change of the season. I'm ready for my kids to be back in school.

If only other life changes were as easy. It doesn't matter that it's a welcome change, I tend to hold on to a piece of the past - even if full transition into the future requires complete surrender of that which has been. And then, of course, there are those changes that I dread, the ones where I dig my claws into the ground and go kicking and screaming.

That is part of why I love the seasons - and Autumn in particular. The progression of the seasons reminds me that change is a natural part of life. Children grow up, people die. Friends come into our lives during a particular "season", and some may leave when the "season" is through.

And, Autumn... the beautiful irony of Autumn: It is a season where there is great abundance, and color and invigorating winds - yet, it is a preparation for rest - for Winter. The quiet time when there doesn't seem to be much life. The days are short, the nights are long, and seasonal depression runs rampant.

But, knowing that, Autumn does not hang on to it's leaves. Autumn knows it's purpose. Autumn lets go. Autumn trusts. Autumn has faith that - despite the dark and cold days that lie ahead - Life will spring forth again.

May I live like Autumn.