Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Tug of War - HOPE

Recently while I was having one of my thinking moments, I pictured tug of war. First, it was in regards to our son, I think. Sometimes it feels as if he has crossed a great divide. There is still a rope that connects us, but there is a large divide and there are days we seem to be standing on opposite sides.

The other word that keeps popping up in my head and in things I've read is: HOPE. Maybe we see what we need to see when God thinks we need to see it. Maybe we just become more aware.

On a grander scale than just our home, I am picturing God and me on one side of the rope. Facing the chasm and a world that seems to be slipping further into the dark. I am praying that God continues to use me, to use us, to pull people over to the side of light toward HOPE. Where we realize we don't have to do everything on our own. We don't have to be perfect or "normal". We just pull.

The more I think about it. Sometimes God tugs at our hearts. Not loudly. Just a little nudge to remind us to spend more time in prayer and reflection. With family and friends.  On a good day it is just a little tug, a reminder. On the other days, I think God will do what He needs to do until He gets our attention!

Romans 5:4 (MSG)
There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit! 
Lamentations 3:25-27 (MSG)
25-27 God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits,
    to the woman who diligently seeks.
It’s a good thing to quietly hope,
    quietly hope for help from God.
It’s a good thing when you’re young
    to stick it out through the hard times.
1 Peter 3:15 (NIV) Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,

Friday, July 25, 2014

Not knowing what to say

My latest revelation is that life is easier to handle when "issues" come one at a time. One is finished before the next one starts. It is when the next issue comes before the one we're dealing with is done and they start to stack up one on another that it can get to be too much! There have been times recently when we seem to have entire subscriptions, not just issues!

And that's just our little family. I have to be careful. I purposely often don't watch the news. The recent plane crashes? One news station was doing a story on the kids on the plane. As much as I care, I CAN'T watch or I will get sucked down to a place I don't want to be. It has taken a long time for me to figure out what/how things will effect me and if it is worth the price I will pay. Often times, it's not.

How much is too much? Personally, it can depend on the day. How much sleep I get or don't. If everyone has been medicated lately.  The same thing that doesn't bother me one day can become my biggest concern the next.

Recently, we have had some stuff happen in our lives that hit me harder than anything I've dealt with. During? Crisis mode. Now that we are on the other side (pretty much), I can reflect.

Here are some of the things I learned:

It is incredibly hard for me to ask for help. I know this. I still struggle every time. I requested prayers. I couldn't post ALL the details because some of it wasn't mine to share. Even without details, there were people that stood in the gap for us. That helped tremendously because for a few days there I didn't even know how or what to pray for. Sometimes, I curse "social media". For support, I give it 2 thumbs up.

"How are YOU?" This is sometimes the first thing out of our mouths. We get SO used to asking, we don't always listen to the answer. Ask anyway. I have kicked myself mentally so many times for asking this at funerals. Duh. I have given myself some grace by realizing it was important I showed up to show I cared. I've tried to move on to give hugs and say I'm thinking about you. I do cards/writing better. In the case of caregivers? It is wonderful to be acknowledged. The person with the issue gets most of the attention. Not saying that it shouldn't be that way. However, it is nice to know someone recognizes stuff is hard on everybody involved.

Being brutally honest? Sometimes the thing we want to say is I don't know HOW you do it! (I'm glad it's you and not me.) I can't imagine the pain you are going through. (I'm glad it's you and not me.) Sensing a theme here? It is so politically incorrect to actually acknowledge the fact that it's OK to be grateful we are not dealing with someone else's issues. However during those times? Sometimes, you get the blessing of being the lean-on instead of the leaner. (*)

Sometimes there are NO words that can make it better, but "just" letting someone know you are thinking of them really does help. I really appreciated one friend who apologized for not responding sooner because she was waiting for the right words to say and then realized there were no words, but just let me know she was thinking of me. I appreciated the family and friends that offered to drop everything even before they knew what was going on to come sit with me. The offers meant more than you know.

SO don't wait until you have the right words to say. (preaching to myself here) Be honest. Just tell them you're there and hurt with them. Hold their hand if possible. Give a hug. Bring a balloon. Bring flowers. Find a card that says what you want to say (that's what those card writers get paid for!)

I have found a lot to say about not knowing what to say. Sometimes "saying" is overrated. Being there...even if a phone call or FB post away means more than you know. Hugs and prayers, my friends. May your subscriptions be few and your issues be fleeting.

* Lean on Me (Bill Withers)(NOTE: Give it a listen if it's been awhile. Preferably with lyrics. They are some GOOD ones!) 
Lean on me when you're not strong
And I'll be your friend, I'll help you carry on
For it won't be long
'Til I'm gonna need somebody to lean on

Psalm 27:8 (NIV) My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek.

Psalm 122:8 (NIV) For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, “Peace be within you.”

Psalm 91:9-16 (NIV)
If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

"Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Getting what we deserve?!?!?!?!

I think we're falling down the rabbit hole, my dear Alices, and I'm not sure that we'll like what we find when we hit bottom!

The world (or the infamous "they") tell us that WE deserve: Better...more...just....just....ugh! They don't necessarily tell us why or how much it will cost OR even HOW to get it. Just that we do. Deserve "it". It, like normal, has become an ever moving impossible to bullseye target. Mostly because what works one day won't necessarily work the next. The big "it" of today becomes the left behind who cares? of tomorrows. We are living in a world that can spread truth, lies, happiness or sadness all in the brief moment of hitting "send" or "post".

However, when we see someone get what the world says we deserve (money, fame, respect, _______, etc etc), people tend to get their panties in a bunch because then jealousy has a tendency to creep in. It is a hamster wheel we can't get off of....or can we?

Truth be written, we get what we think we deserve. Oh, the limits we put on what we think...unless negative thoughts. Those little devils seem to be quite willing to be as loud as we let them get. Yes, I wrote "let them". BECAUSE we have a lot more control over our thoughts than we give ourselves credit for.

I am beginning (again!) to realize how much I place my limitations on God. He believes we deserve better. Why don't we?

God is willing to give us the complete opposite of what we deserve. The question then becomes: are we willing to accept it?

Ephesians 3:14-19 (MSG) My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.

20-21 God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will direct your paths.

Matthew 7:11 NLT
If you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Journaling the journey

It is something I really wish I would have started earlier. Thankfully, I have a mom that saved things for me. Every once in awhile, I get a bag of goodies. I had a bag of paperwork from 3rd grade....when one of our kids was in 3rd grade so it was fun to compare. I have found some things that I wrote down, but it wasn't "officially" a diary or journal. Some of my "Young Author" books. Definitely not award winners by any means (for writing OR illustrating) BUT it gives me a good look at what life was like at least at that point in time.

Recently, my husband asked me how old one (hahahaha, if you know our family, you know why I laugh) of our cats is. I trekked back through some of my journal books and could give him a pretty good guess. I also discovered how many kittens did NOT stay at our house. Hard to tell though if you visit.

I started to look at one of the books I did with the kids. Our son was 5 the first time we wrote in it. He had told me a story from the bus about Chuck E Cheese. I wrote it down. There is a ticket stub from the White Caps....from 1998. There is a picture and corresponding story of the day our daughter snuck out at my sister's house, went through the sprinkler and came back around and knocked on the garage door. She looked slightly drippy and guilty when we opened the door. Our son is now 21. Our daughter is 17. Time flies!

Oh, the smiles, tears and memories that are held in those journals. I never really intended them to become what they have. A record of our family. Of our journey. Of the joys and pains as we have moved through life together.

The little things that our kids did that I swore I would never forget. I am reminded of them as I read back through the pages. Sometimes there are gaps of time not covered or covered in 2 different journals because I would grab whatever one I could find. Some of the things are truly little things that would not or will not mean anything to anyone else other than me. Some of them are prayers. Some written in desperation as I did not know any other way to get out the pain that was in my heart. Sometimes it is difficult to go back and read through as I realize things I wish would have changed years ago....are still the same.

Lately, things seem to go more on Facebook or blogs. However, there is something beautiful in seeing something in writing in pen or pencil.

I write this to encourage you to find a book to write in, even if it is "just" a notebook. Find a place to keep it handy. Even if you don't like to write. Maybe doodle! Let your kids doodle or tell you a story and you write it down. Jot down those things that you think you will never forget because you will forget.....even if it is something you or your kid did often! Write the date on the page somewhere.

Our journey will end someday. New journeys are beginning everyday. It is in looking back that we realize the destination is not the goal. Focus on the journey. Just don't get so busy journaling about it that you forget to live it! Journal and journey on, my friends!

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Exodus 33:14 (MSG) God said, “My presence will go with you. I’ll see the journey to the end.”

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Start the day with S.I.P.

Let me clarify. By S.I.P., I do not mean hauling out some booze to help start the day. However, there are days when it does seem like that would be a valid way to work out some issues.

I was thinking of this recently. The days that I do not just jump right out of bed to start dealing with the day? My day goes better. If I take just 5 - 10 minutes to ease my way into the day? I'm guessing it doesn't change the things that will happen during the day, but it does help me in dealing with it.

I was kind of doing each thing individually. Not really naming it or anything, but those little phrases that remind you of other things make it easier to remember. (Lesson for the day, who knew? I thought it started with a "p":
mnemonic - something intended to assist the memory, as a verse or formula.)

SO: *S - Stretch *I - Inspiration *P - Pray

Stretch - Technically, you don't even have to get out of bed. Just stay there for a few minutes. Reaching up and out. Pulling your legs toward your chest. Whatever feels good. Think about it. Once we get up and on the move those muscles remain cramped especially if you do not have a physical job. We jump into our cars, hunch over the steering wheel to rush into an office where we sit in a chair probably on a computer for way too long. Trying to remember good posture.

Inspiration  - Can be combined with stretch if you pick music or listening to a devotional, etc. My phone has some music selections that I find inspirational. This has been one of my nicest things to do with my "smart" phone. I can download a short devotional or song and play it back whenever. Some of them have become my ring tone and bring me some peace during the day.

Pray -  Something else that can be done while doing something else. However, finding SOME focused time during the day when you can do more than just sentence prayers can really help put things in perspective. If you drive to work, try leaving the radio off. At first, it seems kind of awkward. When you get really into it, you might start talking out loud to God just like you would to a good friend. It may look odd to passersby, but face it there are worse things you could get caught doing in your car! ;)

I think my biggest insight into all of this though is it takes being intentional. I know all these things in my head. Exercise even a bit is better than not doing any. Finding some inspiration can be beneficial for me and for others to encourage them on their walk. Prayer can take care of a lot of the worries that don't ever happen. The "if" factor.

Life - Prepare by taking a S.I.P. than diving in!

Psalm 3:4-6 (MSG)
3-4 But you, God, shield me on all sides;
You ground my feet, you lift my head high;
With all my might I shout up to God,
His answers thunder from the holy mountain.
5-6 I stretch myself out. I sleep.
Then I’m up again—rested, tall and steady,
Fearless before the enemy mobs
Coming at me from all sides.
2 Timothy 3:16 (MSG)
There's nothing like the written Word of God for showing you the way to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.
2 Timothy 2:22 (MSG)
22-26 Run away from infantile indulgence. Run after mature righteousness—faith, love, peace—joining those who are in honest and serious prayer before God. Refuse to get involved in inane discussions; they always end up in fights. God’s servant must not be argumentative, but a gentle listener and a teacher who keeps cool, working firmly but patiently with those who refuse to obey. You never know how or when God might sober them up with a change of heart and a turning to the truth, enabling them to escape the Devil’s trap, where they are caught and held captive, forced to run his errands.

Friday, July 04, 2014

YOU are a gift. Share It!

This week, I was reminded of gifts. Spiritual and otherwise. The gift of friendship. The gift of just being there and being able to know that others were sharing the stress and pain of life even if they were not physically present with me. A gift of knowing that when I was feeling battle worn that there people standing in the gap with me....for me, praying when I did not feel the strength to even issue an amen.

Often, we think of gifts as being physical. We think of gifts as something that have to be purchased. Something that we give a person to open. Maybe we used fancy, expensive wrapping paper....or in my case when in a pinch....comics have done the job. :)

There can be times in life when we don't feel gifted or even beneficial to the universe. It is at those precise moments though that God works His best.

I was also blessed this week to attend a healing room. We often think of physical issues that need healing. We often neglect or fail to take the time to recognize the full value of mental and emotional healing as well. Many times healing takes just that....time. We want an instant fix. Sometimes it is instant. Sometimes healing takes a bit longer or looks different than we expect.

In this moment though, I want to acknowledge the fact that we have each been given gifts that are unique to us. Gifts that we need to acknowledge to be able to help others and often though helping others, we are blessed as well.

1 Corinthians 12 7:11 (NIV) Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues,  and to still another the interpretation of tongues.11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

1 Corinthians 12:25-26 (MSG) The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.

Galatians 5:22 (NIV) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance (patience), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.