Give Us Strength for the “In-Between”

Lord we thank you for the your daily blessings, we are overwhelmed by your mercy and grace, but we still get lost here some days, in the “in-between.”  We know you have led us here to this very day, this very moment, this very path, these very people, and yet we still feel lost sometimes.  It isn’t that we doubt you, it isn’t that we cannot look ahead, it is just that we are feeling uncertain in our steps, afraid of stumbling and losing our way.

Take away our doubts and fears, give us strength for the journey.  Refill us with your assurance that we are headed in the right direction.  Fill us with your strength, guide our feet, guard our hearts, and lead us always toward you.  Amen.

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Jumping Down Off Your High Horse

     When you are very young you think you know everything. I think this naivete is a cloak of ignorance that envelopes us so we don’t just quit before our lives even get started. If we are honest, we all wore that “cloak” at some point, before real life intervened, before we landed face first into the muddy messes we created in our lives, before we really knew God’s  forgiveness, or even acknowledged our need for it.
    I remember thinking I knew a lot about life.  What is it about lack of real life experience that gives us that surety, that unflagging judgement, that indefatigable sense of knowing “better?” I’m confessing I was there once, before real life and frequent failure brought me down a few pegs. You know the drill…before you get married you are a total expert about marriage…before the birth of your own children you know oh so much about parenting, like “only bad parents have bad kids,” you know, really insightful things like that. Life teaches, oh how it shapes us and chiseles off our sharp judgements.
     When I was a little girl, our family went to church every Sunday. We had to, my Dad had to preach the sermon and Mom had to direct the choir and teach Sunday School.  Our job was to be quiet, stay clean, and sit still. (It’s harder than it sounds.)
     I remember sitting in the front row of the church choir and reciting the beautiful liturgy of the old Methodist hymnal’ s communion service. There is a line there that to this day, more than fifty years later, still stirs my soul. “I am unworthy to gather the crumbs from beneath your table, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”
     I sat there, week after week, and year after year, not knowing that I had been healed. I was too young to even know I needed healing.
    This year I will be sixty-four. I have been shaped, chiseled, forgiven, and healed. I still have so much work to do. Life knocks us down off that high up place. We know how much we do not know, and it is daunting and humbling.
    But God uses all of it, the good and bad, the triumphs and failures to fashion us for his purposes. And through it all our greatest gift is a brand new perspective, from a new place, far less “sure” of our own strengths, and no longer looking down on those around us.
    We jump on down off our high horses.

Goodbye 2014

2014 was a rough year, and I honestly am so happy to see the end of it. We lost my husband’s mother this year. Both my parents were in the hospital for scary, pain-filled weeks, and several other family members had surgeries and illnesses. I’m sick of hospitals!

I love the idea of a blank page to be filled with all the good things we can crowd into each and every day. The Big Guy will be 66 this year, and I will be 64. Wow, just wow.

My goal is to cram in as much love and joy and happiness as I can possibly squeeze into each and every day, to pray without ceasing, to love those God has given me to love.

I wish you peace in the living of the days to come.

When a Tornado Knocks Your “House” Down

Imagine sitting in your house quietly enjoying the beauty of your
surroundings.  You have spent some time here, building a comfortable, healthy, light-filled place, always seeking God’s wisdom and guidance in every room, every wall color…every part of this “place” in which you are living.  Suddenly, without warning, you feel the walls shake, and you are tumbled into darkness, with all the pieces of your “house” lying over you weighing you down into a big dark hole. It’s shocking, and you struggle to breathe, to survive, to comprehend the madness that has hit you, knocking you into a deep, dark place.  It defies reason, there was no warning, no time to prepare, no time for a “Plan B,” no way of saving yourself from the devastation.

In truth, this storm hit the emotional “house” of one very dear to me just last Saturday morning. A strong, healthy, carefully constructed relationship built on seeking God’s will and accepting God’s guidance was suddenly ended, with no warning and no explanation.  Dear One (DO) is in the pit of a big, dark hole, with tons of debris weighing her down, and right now she is trapped under the weight of it.

Clichés are never very useful, and irritating at best, but in spite of storms that crush us and leave us reeling, “life goes on”.  Life infuriatingly continues on the outside of the deep hole.  The temptation to just lie there and give up has a strong pull, but you were never designed to just lie down and quit.  You are a mover, a builder, a dreamer of great dreams…lying down and quitting isn’t in your nature or God’s plan for you and His purposes in your life.

The biggest question is…what now? Because my heart longs for reasons and methods to help this dear one dig out of this, I thought and prayed today about the analogy of DO sitting in the rubble of her destroyed house and these things came to me.

1) Assess the damage.  Can your breathe?  Can you move your body, can you see or feel anything? Just the basics of maintaining your human body must take precedence over anything right now.  It’s like the airlines tell us if a plane is crashing, to “put your own oxygen mask on first.”  You cannot save anyone else if you cannot breathe. You have to eat, rest and continue to keep your body alive in the world.  Nothing good can come if you are not here.

2) Stop and take a look around.  Listen. Can you see or hear anything? Is there any light coming from any source near you? Who else might be stirring around in the rubble?  It might be your children or your closest friends, check and listen to see who is in this with you.

3) When you have figured out that you are still alive…even if you are having trouble believing you are…you have to figure out how to get out of the hole. What do you need to lift and move out of the way?  What is blocking you? There is no way to predict how long this process might take, minutes, days, hours, or weeks…no matter.  You have to keep lifting and climbing.  Listen….there are people outside now calling your name.

4) Before you even try and stand on your feet, get first aide.  Get treatment for your injuries. Recognize and acknowledge your pain and damage.

5) Look around..is any one still trapped in the debris?  If you are unable to help them without further injury, try and have someone else help them.

6) Get good help.  There are pieces and parts of the mess that are worth sorting through and saving. Take each piece and weigh it in your hands in light of the before and after.  Some you need to cling to, and some needs to be left behind.

7) Hang on to your faith.  In spite of the damage, the loss, and the devastation, just keep hanging on. Scream and cry out to god, be angry, express the pain in your writing, and seek solace and comfort.  Your house fell down on you, God gets it.  And in His sovereignty He “allowed” this to happen, but He is not the author of your pain. God’s perfect will does not knock houses down on people.  He doesn’t take away gifts He has given, He doesn’t throw His children into deep, dark holes. You would not knock a house down on your child, and neither would He.

8) Take some time to heal. Grant yourself some grace. I know what works for you, so keep busy, but also acknowledge that this pain will be your companion only for a season.  Let those who love you help you carry it.  Let us hold your heart in our hands, and keep you as safe and cared for as possible.

9) Figure out what cannot be saved from the rubble.  Some things are precious and others need to be left behind in the mess of it all.

10) Take the good stuff left, and rebuild.  This is the hardest step. This one takes time.  It means you have to look forward, and looking forward is impossible when you are in survival mode.  Just try and believe this step is out there ahead of you.

11) Seek wise council, in God, your church, any and all who are gifted in this way.

Just breathe, and keep breathing.

Peace In The Deep

Love the imagery.

Just Breathe

There is something soothing about the ocean. Something about the noise it makes as the waves crest and crash into the sand just lulls me into a relaxed sometimes almost catatonic state. The waves just keep coming in rhythmic formation, building, cresting then washing up to the shore, then back to the water. I love watching the ocean, feeling the balmy breeze across my face, and lounging to just get in the water. Soothing, calming, relaxing.

Watching the ocean is therapeutic, but there is always that moment where I no longer want to be a spectator. I no longer want to just listen to the sounds and watch the beauty of the water, I want to experience it. I have to get in. It always starts the same where I walk to the edge of the water and let the waves wash over my feet, feeling the warmth of the…

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Clueless

It has been a difficult time for us. The accident and death of one parent and now the illness and hospitalization of two more. There are no books that teach how to cope with this, no classes on protecting the lives of your elderly parents, no celebrity infomercials on how to be in this awful, exhausting place and not become a quivering mass of ineffectiveness at a time of immeasurable need.

My husband’s mother, that immovable, indestructible force of nature is gone. She was taken from us by an injury that had she been even five years younger, instead of ninety-two, would have barely slowed her steps. How can she be gone? I thought she was indestructible. Her spirit and will were legendary. I miss her.

And then, not two weeks later my father became dangerously ill. He spent agonizing days being tested and retested after gloom-filled “talks” that he could not hear and refused to listen to. He saw things out his hospital window that only he could see, and told us he preferred his alternative reality to ours. Who could blame him? Cancer might be the ugliest word ever spoken to him. Why should he agree to listen to it?

And while he lay there having test after test, mama fell, and fell again and again. And because we were focused on him and the danger he faced we didn’t hear her pain, or see how badly she was broken. And she hid her pain and just gutted it out like she always does and always had until she could no longer stand the pain. So he went home to her and she left to go to the hospital.

And her body is broken, so broken that only time can heal her. If at all.

And still, I have no idea how to do any of this. I don’t know how to let them keep their sense of self and maintain their small grasping clutch on what is left of their dignity. But I want them to have more good days. I don’t want to define those days, or control those days, I just want to make sure I do what I can to help them get those days.

Teach me God. They will be home to you soon. Hold them safely here until you call them home.