Love is a Choice

Sometimes love hurts. You love with no return. You love and the results are not what you expected. You love and it turns to disinterest. Love is tricky on all levels.

There is a love that is permanent and perfect. Only one. That is the love I found in God, because of Jesus Christ. I knew from the beginning that loving the way He does would be a very long and trying process. Being loved was a very rare thing in my life, so giving it would seemingly be impossible. If you haven’t experienced it, how do you know what it looks like?

But I did it anyway because when God puts His DNA into us and we receive His spirit in us by accepting Jesus into our lives, you get this inkling that the love you have received should be given away.

I have given my love away… a LOT! Love comes with choice and I chose to love some real  difficult characters and my love didn’t always make a big difference. I got hurt.

The love I had for my children, however, was completely different. Mother love is unique and profound. It can put you through experiences and circumstances you would have never chosen but for the fact that these were your children and your love was sacrificial.

Then they get to choose to love you back. Love is pretty simple when they are young and need you to survive. It is very complicated when they get old enough to decide. Even children have to choose to love their parents. Some don’t. And they leave.

I have a two year relationship with a cat I named Amber. (yes, I will connect the dots.)Amber has been a challenge for the whole two years. She is skittish, and probably a bit bipolar. She claws more than any cat ever, and my furniture reflects the results. She has a hard time finding the potty and in the last few months decided she would rather pee on the floor. Sprays, cleaners, lavender cat collars, room purifiers… nothing has helped. I hit the end yesterday. Right next to two litter boxes on the floor, with two different kinds of litters for the little princess, she started to squat to pee on the carpet…again. I shooed her out, and she ran. Only to find a carpet in the laundry room to pee on instead.

I lost it. I realized two years of trying to do the right thing for this cat to feel comfortable in this home and simply pee in the proper place had given me nothing but heartache. Her occasional lap visits were not enough of a reward for putting up with the way she was ruining my home.  The living room furniture is covered in blankets to keep her from clawing the new slipcovers I bought to protect the couch. Black tufts of fur are all over the place, as are pieces of carpet from the constant knitting she did. I couldn’t have visitors anymore. I was done.

In my anger, I opened the front door, making it easy for her to leave. She had a taste of the outdoors a year ago and has been punishing me ever since for wanting her to be an indoor cat. (We have coyotes in the back yard… it was for her own good.)

An hour later I went out and closed the door, as I remembered her last bout with outside had brought her home covered in fleas. But I was too late. Apparently she was gone, and I have not heard a meow since. It is peacefully quiet here, and a bit daunting. Was this cat’s identity always to be an outdoor cat and I had tried to make her live by my desires for her to be an indoor cat when it was against her personality?

I have just finished my book about identity, so I was getting a clear picture of what it looks like to try to make someone be who you need them to be, when it is nothing like they want to be, no matter how great the perks.

That is what happened with my daughter. She claims, and possibly rightly so, that I tried to get her to be what I wanted and never let her be herself. She resisted, rejected and ran. There is more to the story, but suffice it to say, she is still running and demanding that i let her be who she is, on her terms. She is now thirty-five years old, and has a real hard time committing to relationships, any of them. And definitely to me.

I have made endless attempts to woo her back. I have done everything to heal myself from controlling anything and want some semblance of a relationship with her. But she wants to be free. Like Amber, she wants relationship on her terms. And my job is to seemingly just be there when she needs a lapsit, and otherwise, just let her be free.

It is easier with a cat, I can tell you. I was not emotionally attached to Amber, there was no way to be when she was constantly causing my life to be in disarray. Before I opened that door, I was planning to call the N.O.A.H shelter and give her back. I was truly done.

This is my daughter. I don’t want to release her to her freedom, with the realization that she may NEVER choose to come back home. It reminds me of the story of the Prodigal Son. I had always seen her as my prodigal. But the prodigal son came home because he realized he had left something far more precious than what the world offered. He was willing to be a field worker if it meant returning to home.

I will welcome her with open arms should that ever happen. In the meantime, how do you let go ever seeing your youngest daughter again? How do you navigate giving someone freedom that you love and want a relationship with, an authentic mutual relationship?

I am not interested in tolerable recovery for this relationship. Like those family gatherings where she won’t look at me and I have to pull more than a few words of discourse from her mouth. Do you just stay in the corner and ignore her presence, when you so want to just go up and give her a big hug and love on her,  even though uninvited and unrequited?

Love is a choice. I choose to keep loving her. I may or may not show up at those family gatherings should she be there. I get to choose also whether I want to endure the pain of rejection that occurs every time I see her. So love for now may look like NO, even if my heart is hoping… maybe this time it will be different. 

I will wait for the prodigal to return home, really return, with open arms and a contrite, repentant heart. In the waiting, I will pray, pray that I will remain soft-hearted; that I can keep my heart from turning to stone towards her. Yes, love hurts. And only with a heart in a constant state of forgiveness can it stay soft.

And Amber, unrepentant, remains free.

 

The Journey Begins

Glittering images. The words were constantly interrupting my thoughts. What is it that God was trying to tell me? I knew it was a t the core of this book I was writing, the deep visceral understanding I had of identity that was surfacing.

Glittering Images.

One early morning I realized that my life had too often been a pursuit of glittering images rather than my true identity. Glittering images is the direct antithesis to true identity. There was a war all of my life to uncover the true Angela buried under the glittering images of expectations and performance. What is pleasing to man is rarely pleasing to God. He had conceived of me back when he created woman, with that same pronouncement of “This is good.” Angela was conceived in God’s heart and planned for this time on earth. He saw something in me that glittered like gold, that was my shine, and He was determined to release the fullness of Me into the world He had planned for me. Through the parents and family He chose for me; through the family I would have; through the friends and loved ones that would enter my path. He knew I would get buried under glittering images that would try to cover and kill the true image I was created to be – the reflection of Christ. We are meant to look in the mirror each day and see Christ. Each of us carries a part of the heart of Jesus, a piece of the whole, and that piece is ours to carry into eternity. Unfortunately, we often prefer someone else’s piece to our own, their glittering image to our own destiny and we fall prey to being an appearance of the real thing.

No more, I cried that morning. I am finished. No matter what I will allow the true identity of who you saw that moment of creation when you said, “Let there be Angela,” and you looked at me and said, “This is good.” I shed the glittering image I was wearing and knew that the answer was to be who I am at this moment in time. I rest int he truth that I am far from perfected, and I have a limited lens. I will seek daily to receive your lens, God, not only for seeing myself truly as I am, but others as you see them. It is a solemn journey that brings great joy to my heart.

Could Forgiveness save our Country?

Righteous anger. I know ALL about it. That person’s behavior is despicable and uncalled for and they should absolutely apologize. And they don’t. Just because. Perhaps owning the bad behavior would require some humility. Perhaps the shame is too much to face. So what happens inevitably is they withdraw- from the relationship, the family, facebook, whatever. It is a sad thing to watch.

When you want to maintain relationship with this person, for the simple reason that they are connected to people you care about and you don’t want there to be discomfort, what do you do? You seriously are in a dilemma.

Enter  forgiveness. You suspect they may not interested in fixing the relationship since they haven’t apologized. You know you didn’t deserve the slap. Who should forgive who?

Obviously, this person has a journey to forgive you. Do you have a journey to forgive them? I propose that  you do, righteous anger or not. Especially if you are a follower of Jesus. Is it easy? Not at all. So why not just leave things the way they are? Let the relationship go? Who needs that kind of a person in your life anyway?

Jesus invited Judas into the house for the last supper, and washed his feet just like everyone else. He is no respector of persons. Nor should I be if I am His follower. Jesus said I came not to be served but to serve. Tough words to avoid.

Now comes the “humble” part. Approaching this person, saying, you are sorry, can  only happen after you have truly forgiven them. And that may take some time. And don’t be fooled that you are capable of doing that in your own strength.

I don’t know what i would do without the grace and love of the Holy Spirit. Jesus knew what He was doing when He left this amazing Helper for us. He knew we were going to need all the help we can get.

That is how to begin the forgiveness process. From the servant heart of God. Apologizing for the thing you clearly didn’t do, but perhaps appeared to do, is a humble move of God that can only happen with His grace and power.  However, I think forgiveness from the heart for the slander and the lie must come first.

I pray something like this. “Father, I do not feel like forgiving this guy. He clearly was out of order and everything he said was a lie. I don’t know how to let go without your power. So please transform my heart to be soft towards this person. I do not excuse the bad behavior, but I do believe I must forgive. Help  me. ”

When you realize some time later that you are no longer thinking of all the indignation you feel over the slam, and can picture that person without wanting to throw darts at their face, you may be ready to approach them and apologize. Are they required to apologize back? Don’t let your apology be contingent on that. They may not be ready. They may not have even thought about it again. But you have. And you are the one feeling the pain. That is all you are accomplishing here. Apologize and let it go.

As I was ruminating about this whole process, which I recently went through and the feelings are still fresh in my mind, I consider what would happen in America if all the Trump Haters would forgive the Deplorables for choosing the wrong guy? And could all the Deplorables forgive the Trump Haters for hating them? And most of all, can we forgive Donald Trump for being a pompass and mouthy man?

What if? It clearly has to start with the followers of Christ. We have a model of forgiving behavior. So I just want to say, on behalf of other deplorables, (yes I am one) I am sorry your candidate lost. I pray that you begin to let go the loss and gear up to win the next time. That is what is great about America. And I forgive you for the attacks on my personhood because I simply disagree with your brand of patriotism.

I am so glad we live in America and have freedom of speech. I am also glad we have freedom to forgive. It is a choice. And one I encourage to consider. And by the way, unfriending someone on facebook because their politics make you angry….. That is not forgiveness. That is the opposite. Someone needs to start the ball to reconciliation going. Let it be me. I forgive all of you who unfriended me. I pray you come to understand that the love of Jesus far outweighs politics.

Whew. That felt good.

 

 

Accomplishment or Assignment?

Do not seek to accomplish the task at hand; but rather seek to fulfill the assignment given to the fullest of your ability.

That is what I hear Father whispering to me as I complete the book in front of me. Many will say it is a great accomplishment. I suppose it is. But that is not why I wrote it. It was given to me as an assignment. why do I say that? Because years ago i received a short and sweet prophecy, “you will write a book”.  That made it an assignment.

Accomplishments are the same as completed goals. When we accomplish something, it is usually because we set our minds to something and finished it to the end. People are often mesured by what they have accomplished. I cared about my accomplishments until I met Jesus.

Now i have assignments. And I better be sure I know what the current assignment is. Sometimes it can look like an accomplishment.

Accomplishments are good. They are like feathers in our hats. However, once completed, they lose their shine and glory, and it takes another accomplishment to continue the good feeling.

An assignment starts from a source outside of ourselves. it is not always something we are excited to do. Remember homework? Yea, that wasn’t too exciting though it was often an accomplishment to complete it. But the greatest result of completing an assignment is the response of the one giving it. A teacher saying congratulations and giving you a good grade for completing an assignment feels good. Well done! Accomplishments often go unnoticed or unrewarded.

In high school, I so wanted to be a songleader. I set out to accomplish that goal and I did make the squad. I was able to pat myself on the back. No one did that for me. It was a great accomplishment. I didn’t know about assignments then, Perhaps the desires of our hearts are assignments God put there first. That would surely make  becoming a songleader much more of something I would cherish. God sent me there! yes!

Recently I had an assignment to go up to someone I didn’t know and ask them if they had ever had a repetitious dream. I am not a dream interpreter, so this was a challenge. What if they rejected me? What if I failed? Seeking to accomplish something also can meet with failure, but the only person you disappoint is yourself. When you fail on an assignment, you disappoint the one who assigned the task.

Maybe I am splitting hairs. Maybe they aren’t that different. All I know is that writing a book was something I dreamed of accomplishing, but when I saw that God was assigning me to write a book, the heaviness of the project caused the dream to be a reality. If no one knew I was writing a book, I would disappoint no one. But now, I had an assignment. God knew, because He put it in the heart of that person to tell me.

Accomplishments and assignments both carry the heaviness of performance. I know that God is not interested in our performance. So if I had failed to complete the assignment of writing this book, He would not have cast me out of heaven. His grace would have immediately relieved the disappointment and love would always remain. But disappointing Him, even for a flash, was a heavier load to carry than failing.

Whenever I look at possibilities in front of me, choices I have to make, I find it clarifies my thoughts of what to choose if I consider if they were accomplishments or assignments. You see, an assignment from God will be perfect for me because it will suit my identity and my calling. He knows those, often better than I do. So completing that assignment will bring me closer to my purpose on this earth.

If that potential project ends up being a future accomplishment, and not a God assignment, no matter how awesome and good the accomplishment, it doesn’t compare with what happens when you follow an assignment. You may feel accomplished, but the joy isn’t lasting. It may simply become a line on your resume.

Knowing this book was an assignment kept me on task. I knew that God was waiting, and guiding its completion. I knew I wasn’t in it alone. I wanted to be able to complete it as brilliantly as I was able, and hand it to Him as a gift. I wanted to hear “well done.”

I have accomplished many things in my life. As I look back, some of them were not assignments and were in fact distractions that drew me away from the focus of God’s assignments. Fortunately, the assignments don’t go away, just like housework. They are always waiting. And I am glad of that.

I am no longer interested in just accomplishing something in my life. I want to be listening to the voice of God giving me my next assignment. I don’t want to be distracted by looking for something to do to fill the void, and miss the thing that He has assigned, and therefore will see through to the end. I don’t want to lean on myself anymore. it is a lonely place. Partnering with God is the best way to accomplish anything. Yes, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. That is not a gift I want to waste on anything except His assignments. I am ready for the next one!

 

 

 

I Identify As…….

My passion is identity. So imagine my angst when I see casual explanations of identity by simply using the words, “I identify as …….” and fill in the blank with male, female, dog, cat, black, white, brown, adult, child, muslim, christian etc …. the options are endless.

It is what happens when freedom of choice takes a rabbit trail ride  into permissiveness and goes awry.

God created us with free will. His purpose was for us to choose right from wrong, God from self, truth from lies. He didn’t want to manipulate us into the things he created for us as He knew that when we choose love, good, righteousness, it makes a difference. If it was in us automatically, it would not have value.

Choosing to identify with whatever suits your fancy or feelings at any given moment is an assault on that precious gift He gave us. We forget that He gave us free will while also laying out a foundation of righteousness. The two trees in the garden symbolize that foundation. The only way to know if you are making good choices is to know what a bad choice is. A bad choice was when Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the garden that was forbidden. As soon as they did it, they knew it. They felt shame. When you directly go against design and truth, you know it. You can’t blame God saying, “You didn’t tell me”. He did. You disobeyed and there are consequences.

I wonder if the trend of the day to support any identity that feels right at the moment is a result of those same people, sometimes children, not being told what the good fruit was so they could know that the choice they are making is contrary to God’s design.

When we are born, we are identified as male or female. Our genitalia makes that decision. What doctor would agree to treat a child as “we are letting her/him decide what he/she wants to identify as”. Is this the demise of even our language use of the words her/him and he/she? Knowing who we are is tantamount to being comfortable and secure in living life to its fullest.

It is concerning to me that God’s design is taking a back seat to feelings and impulses. While I recognize there is a legitimate belief by those declaring their identity that they truly are who they say they are, it is deception. And when we agree with it and let it replace truth, we too are deceived.

Is there such a thing as too much freedom of choice too soon? Are we as adults and parents making a mistake by embracing the choice as more important than the  beautiful design God created them to be? Do we even offer that alternative? I think we need to . Everyone benefits from choice.  It is universally true that male genitalia is quite different from female, and consequently one is male and the other is female. That is a fact, irrefutable. No matter what you put on that piece of paper, you are not “other” … you are male or female based on your body parts, a precious creation of God.

When Johnny comes home one day and says he wants to put on a dress because he wants to be a girl, we have an obligation to be sure he has other options. I can’t imagine many parents are responding to that with glee and excitement in the context that Johnny is “finding his true identity”. Perhaps Johnny is testing the boundaries of life and is looking for direction. The same way he tested his boundaries by running into a busy street, or hitting his sister. Perhaps someone at school had done this, and he wanted to know if it was acceptable. Kids often start smoking and doing drugs because someone at school was doing it.

If we started from the premise that Johnny is a boy until proven otherwise, wouldn’t the direction we take be toward helping Johnny accept his gender? To learn how to live within the perameters of society and go into the correct bathroom? At least give them a good start, allowing for choice when they are 18 and have enough maturity to choose.

You have to start with what IS true in order to decide what to believe is true. Truth and belief are two different concepts. There is one truth. Whether or not we choose to believe it depends on our experience and teaching in life among other things. Free will is part of the process of choosing to believe the truth.

If that foundation of what IS true is missing or lacking, all choices are deemed good. There is no wrong choice. There is only your choice. That works fine when it comes to food and clothing choices, but when what we choose will affect the people in our world, it has to be looked at more carefully. I am happy to let you believe a lie, I just don’t have to allow you to cause my world disruption because of it. If my child is screaming at me “I hate you” and having a temper tantrum, that is his choice, but I don’t have to engage in it and say it is fine. Wisdom says to separate from this display of opposition i.e. go to your room until you come to your senses. But we are afraid to do this when it comes to gender identity and sexual preference. Our society is being asked to see these alternative choices as normal.

No. Normal is not allowing a child with male genitalia to shower in a girl’s gym. What about the freedom of those girls? What about their choices to be happy they are girls?

We forget that the greatest guidance we can get is in the home before we even go to school. We honor the son or daughter, each with their own uniqueness and specialness. Each have a particular role and characteristic, and we all carry a little of male and female DNA. Remember, Adam was both at first. God didn’t create another body from dust, he created another person from Adam’s side, taking his “womb” to create the “wom-an”.  There was a reason God did that. He created man and woman to be “one”. That is what is natural and true.

Corruption and imperfection happen. Yes. We live in an imperfect world. God gives us what we need to overcome the imperfections. Lets celebrate our uniqueness and identify as God’s perfect creation, and let Him show us how to live in the imperfection. There is apparently a genetic predisposition to addiction but we don’t see society making room for addicts because they identify as such. There may be a genetic disposition to homosexuality, yet I have seen many  live out their lives in healthy marriages because they choose to embrace the way God meant them to be. And when pre-pubescent boys start to wonder about their sex drive, it is normal. But it is not meant to make them question their identity as a male. It is meant to be a learning process and a time to validate who they were created to be. Being content with who you are and were created to be makes for a life with a future and a hope. I want that for all mankind.

Please hear me. My heart bleeds for those who are confused and believing themselves to be something contradictory to what their body dictates. I feel that way about children born with missing parts, or twisted parts as well.  I want them healed and able to function normally. I pray for a restorative miracle that would restore them to the way they were created. I want them integrated into society. I want to celebrate their uniqueness and surround them with love and validation. That is healthy and Godly. And I am sorry if that has not been offered as an alternative.

At the same time, I will not stand by and watch those who feel confident and secure in their God-given gender to have to step aside from their truth in order to accomodate someone else’s idea of truth.

We are all special and deserving of that respect for who we are.  God’s love has no filter; he loves all of His creation. He was very intentional in His creation. He knew that free will would get his creation in trouble at times. That is why He made a way back to wholeness through Jesus Christ.

We are not stuck in our imperfection. There is a way out. And while we may not reach the fullness of who we were created to be this side of heaven, God is forever in heaven displaying his miraculous power to those who ask. Maybe we are not asking for the redemption we seek. Society does not hold our redemption. Only God has that power.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just as you don’t go to the doctor and find out you are pregnant out of wedlock and not be counseled on your choices.

 

 

 

 

 

Once Upon A Time….

A fairy tale for grownups…

“Once upon a time,” she began. Peg stared at the words she had just typed on her laptop screen. For goodness sakes! She thought. Who starts a story with “Once upon a time” any more? I am not writing a fairy tale. Well, maybe I should. I’ve been living one most of my life haven’t I? Waiting for the knight in shining armor to appear and take me away on his white stallion. Who am I kidding?

Unexpectedly, there was a knock on the door. Peg was leery of opening it, being all alone in a very remote area with few neighbors in a five-mile radius. She had escaped to this ranch retreat to write undisturbed, and expected no visitors.

Peg looked out the lace-draped window that faced the front door of her bungalow and was intrigued to see a rather handsome young man of about 30. He was dressed in the standard Montana fare, from his close-fitting jeans, to his red plaid shirt, topped with an Alan Jackson style Stetson pulled down over his forehead.  Parked in the driveway, dwarfing her little red Mazda was a man-sized shiny white pickup. In his muscular arms he held two bundles, one wrapped in brown paper and string, and the other a long box tied in a big red ribbon.

Curiously, she called from the window. “Who is it?”

“I have a delivery for Mrs. Johnson!”

Oh, shucks, I guess that shoots the white knight fantasy! He knows I am married.  She mentally scolded herself.  Of course you are married and to a wonderful man I might remind you!!

“One moment!” she finally responded, feeling a new flush in her cheeks.

Quickly she checked to see that she was presentable. Realizing that there could be nothing more modest than baggy sweats and sweatshirt and no makeup, Peg tucked her slowly graying hair behind her ears and opened the door.

“Mrs. Johnson?”

“Yes”, she replied, a little too sweetly. Hey you only live once!

 

“These arrived for you this morning at the ranch office and since I was headed this way, I offered to drop them off.”

“Well, thank you, that’s very kind of you.” Peg took the packages from him, placing them on the nearby table. She quickly scanned the note attached to the longer box, and was not surprised to see her husband, Dave’s, signature. Her pleasure was evident by the glowing smile that lit up her face.

Aware of the young man’s eyes on her, she looked up apologetically. “Forgive me. Do I owe you anything?”

“No, Ma’m, it’s totally my pleasure.” He turned to go, hesitated, then turned back to face her in the doorway again. Peg looked at him inquiringly.

“ I wonder, I mean, would you do me a favor?” He finally asked.

Nobody had called her “Ma’m” before, least of all anyone so handsome, and Peg again felt her cheeks warm.

“ If I can. What would it be?”

He awkwardly removed his hat and held it in his hands, looking like the classic “aw shucks” cowboy of the old westerns she often watched on TV. “Well, you see, I have worked at this ranch for a long time, and don’t remember anyone going thru this much trouble to get a package delivered. Why, it must have cost your husband a fortune to have those packages delivered this far from town. He must care a great deal about you.”

She thought of her husband and his kind and generous nature and realized the young man was right. “I guess if you put it that way, he does. What’s the favor?”

“Well, Ma’m,” He started, hesitantly. “You see, there’s this woman I care a great deal about and, well, I want to have the kind of relationship with her that you and your husband seem to have. But I don’t know how. You see, my folks died when I was young and I’ve pretty much been raised by ranch hands who don’t know much about women, if you know what I mean.” He smiled, and for just a moment she was carried back to the first time she saw Dave’s smile. It had been hard not to fall in love with him. She was sure this man’s girl friend felt the same way. “So I was wonderin’ if you could tell me, well, what’s your secret?”

 

Secret?! she thought. His question gave her pause. She looked at him, into his deep brown eyes, and saw a man of sincerity and honesty. So much like my Dave, Peg mused. God, what is this all about? Why did you bring this man here at this time and place?

Confident that he was not going to be easily put off, she invited him to have a seat on the porch.  He filled out the grandfather-sized rocker, and propped his leather cowboy boots up on the footstool, casually crossing them at the ankles. She took a seat on the porch swing, the back and forth swaying motion giving her some comfort as she reflected on her marriage to Dave.

Was there a secret to our happiness? God knows we had been through some rough times – four kids, career changes, illness, bankruptcy, two separations. Goodness, how much of this was she to share without scaring the man away!

Peg looked at her visitor, realizing she didn’t even know his name. Trying to sound like a true local, she smilingly asked, “So what’s your handle, cowboy?” He laughed at her awkward attempt at cowboy lingo. “I go by John.”

“ John, I am pleased to meet you. Just call me Peg.”

“Howdy, Peg”, he smiled.

“Well, John, I wish I had an easy answer. But the truth is, our marriage hasn’t always been what you would call happy. We struggled a great deal. We even separated twice.”

“What brought you back together?”

“The first time, it was the kids. One of them had a bout with a serious illness and we needed to be there for him. Once we got thru that, we decided to try again. The second time was after the kids were out of the house. We just looked at each other and said, “Who are you?” and at ourselves and said, “Who are we?” and decided to go find out. We just got back together last year.”

“From the look on your face when you opened that card, it must be working now.”

“Yes, it is. And I suppose everything we have been thru would be the secret to our happiness. We have learned a lot about each other and ourselves. There is only one thing I regret.” She looked down at her hands folded in her lap, remembering the heartbreak of the separations and the difficult temptations they had brought to the marriage.

“What’s that?”

“The times apart. There was a well-known preacher I heard on the radio once who was asked what his one piece of advice to married men would be, and his answer was two words – “Don’t leave”.  Dave and I are fortunate we got back together, and I give all the credit to God. I just wish we had had the courage to stay together through the tough times.”

John reflected on Peg’s words for a moment and then nodded a simple, “Thank you, Ma’m, I mean Peg.” As he got up to go Peg also stood up. Steadying the rocking swing, she replied warmly, “No, thank you!”

John, looking puzzled, replaced his hat on his head, and went down the stairs to his white pickup. As he opened the door and got in, he turned and waved. She couldn’t help smiling. White horse and all, she thought as she shook her head in amazement at God’s timing.

As she entered the cabin, Peg walked over to the two packages on the table. She untied the bold red ribbon around the long box and discovered within a dozen white roses, nestled in an array of baby’s breath. The note simply said, “I love you. I miss you. Your Dave.” She set them aside, making a mental note to get them into water as soon as possible. But the other package had her curiosity. She opened it to find within a book of fairy tales.  Dave had written an inscription on the inner front cover, “Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess named Peg and a handsome prince named Dave. (smile) They traded in their white stallion for four kids and a station wagon, and lived happily ever after. But they never stopped believing in the fairy tale. Live your dreams, my sweet princess. Your prince awaits your return. All my love, Dave.”

As her eyes overwhelmed with tears, Peg looked up to the heavens, and whispered a prayer of thanks. With blurry eyes, she arranged the flowers in a vase she had found, and returned to her laptop.

“Once upon a time, there was a young man named John …” she typed.

It Gets Messy!

It Gets Messy
Adjusting your lens of your own greatness can be messy.

Transitions. Yikes. They can be messy. Remember graduating from High School? You feel all accomplished and ready to take on the world? And then you start a job, or you go to College, and zap, you are back in training wheels. Transitions are messy.

As depicted in the photo, a toddler learning to feed herself can be pretty messy. But do you see the message in the messy? The noodles around her eyes is a prophetic statement. In the middle of the mess, the little one got some new lenses and will never see the world the same again. Especially when she looks at Mommy’s face when she discovers the mess she has made.

I have grown to love messiness.  A mess means there is life being lived. A mess means something is being created. A mess means there is a message.

At home, I am probably middle of the road messy. My work area is usually pretty cluttered as I have many projects going on at once. I call it organized chaos. Each pile has a purpose and I like to know it is there in eye view as needed. Filing happens occasionally. I am good with that. It means something is happening.

A sparkling clean kitchen makes me nervous. How does one be perfectly neat while creating a cuisine that is a work of art? Fred is one of those people. He banishes everyone from the kitchen on Thanksgiving so that by the time we sit down to eat, every bit of the kitchen is sparkling. Now I am afraid to get my plate dirty, fearful it will be removed prematurely to be cleaned. A bit of an exaggeration but you know what I mean. Thanksgiving is a time of celebration, and I miss the messy times in the kitchen, bantering and enjoying making “the mess”, knowing it would get cleaned up afterwards. it was a family affair.

There is a message in our tolerance for messiness. Fred tends toward order and rules driven.  It is hard to have fun when you are always worrying about making a mess. On the other hand, his craving neatness creates order that is healthy for the young ones and eliminates unnecessary chaos.

God is both messy and orderly. I am quite certain the universe was pretty messy until He put it into order. Each creation had a place and a name. There were rules and when broken, life in the garden got messy.  He also made a big mess in the temple when he got mad at the business people selling their goods.

Maturing is messy as is immaturity. Life just is messy at times. But what a glorious message we get when the mess starts to be put in order. That playroom is  much more inviting when the kids have put away their toys. I love having a clean kitchen to start out cooking in.  While the preparation can get messy,  I always feel more satisfied when the mess returns to a place of order. And I have walked into messy homes and wondered whether it was indicative of some sort of emotional clutter or dysfunction in the soul?

We have all done our analysis of hoarders. The TV show makes me cringe whenever I watch it. I understand it is a disorder, which is exactly what I am saying. There are extremes of messiness that need to be looked at so that disorder can be returned to order, even if it is organized chaos.

I measure my mental clarity by the messiness of my environment. When I am upset or depressed, the house really does get out of order. That tells me something in my life is out of order. Similarly, if I am picking on someone about the messes they leaves behind, something in me is out of order towards them. Is that messiness a message for me to put in order or to leave alone for the sake of peace? Nagging never really puts anything or anyone back in order and it often creates a messy relationship.

Yesterday, my husband was determined to clean up our back porch where we sit in the evening. It is also the place where the trunk that holds the bird food is stored, and the ground was covered in bird seed that had spilled when fillling the feeders. You see, my husband is legally blind and clearly can’t tell he is spilling. He is in a constant state of messiness for this reason. I am always having to check my attitude whenever he walks in the house with dirt falling off his clothes onto the recently swept kitchen floors. An abundance of rugs are at the entrance for this reason. Kindness in the face of his messiness is in order.

He wanted me to get him a little hand vac to vacuum up the spilled bird seed. Upon examining the level of mess, I knew it would take more than that to clean it up. The porch needs to be cleared out and a blower brought in. The mess had progressively accelerated to include dead leaves and saw dust. Yes, quite a mess, and not a place we would be entertaining from any time soon. So that has been put off for now. You have to have the right tools to clean up your mess. Not all of it can just be swept away.

Which brings me to my point. I have messy parts of my life that need cleaning up. Specifically, my words and my attitude can make a mess of relationships. My criticism can break someone’s spirit. My failure to communicate can make one feel unvalued.

The tools for conquering these are in the word of God. Phillippians 4:8 tells us, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” And James 3:8 is a little tougher. 8 “But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.”

Our only hope is to put ourselves under the control of the one true God who knows our weaknesses and our strengths. He wants command of our lives so that we can put our messes back in order, and bless our disorder with His message of love and kindness.

 

 

 

Full Recovery or Tolerable Existence?

My journey into wholeness has not always been pretty. When I was recently told it was an elegant journey, I knew that was a prophetic utterance. I understood what the person meant.

Elegance means that you gave it your best, you fought the good fight and you rejoiced in the victories along the way. You never just did “good enough” or “pretty good.” God had placed in me the potential to be the best me I could, and that is the me I wanted to see occupy my world. Never easy, of course, but nothing worth having is easy.

I suffer from disappointment when coming across people who are willing to settle for less. Granting certain natural limitations, there is a best in each of us.

Take our health for instance. At 68, I am tempted to relax about my health, giving into my age as a proof that “stuff just happens when you get older.” Then I realize that we are created, our bodies were made, to live 120 years. That means 68 is middle aged! Somehow we have made the Social Security Adminstration the dictator of what retirement age is, and so have most Corporations who want to put out to  pasture anyone over 60.

So I seek the fountain of youth whenever possible. Is it vanity? To say I want to look good into my old age would not be a lie. I want to look in the mirror each day and like what I see. So I get my hair blonded as often as necessary because that is who I am. I like to look good, I like to wear clothes that are flattering and grow my nails so I can have shiney color on the ends of my fingers.

A couple years ago I faced fear of death right in the eye. Oh, I wasn’t literally on my death bed, but the enemy of our souls sure had me believing I was. A spirit of death had overcome me and suddenly I felt old. Doctors were telling me to take all these meds to keep me “healthy.” They all just made me sick. I was crippled from Plantar Fascitis, and found myself wearing “plain” shoes for the sake of the insoles I had to wear. I stopped caring about what I ate and my blood pressure showed it. Was it time to give in to the truth that I was just “old” and this was my inevitable life? Heck, No!

Most of it was the result of some bad thinking I had succumbed to about my age and about family issues that had surfaced. Stress was the enemy of it all. As I pursued the underlying stressors, I found my life again. Anxiety left. Blood pressure returned to normal. I found some exercises to relieve the plantar fascitis and got rid of the hundreds of dollars of shoe inserts that had done nothing. The issue was not in my feet.

As an encourager, I often want to inspire people I know to go after the best and not settle. I remind them that just a few changes in diet, or thinking, or exercise, could get them feeling their best. How many times I hear, “Oh, it’s ok, I have learned to live with it. It’s my cross to bear. God will take care of me.”
It’s truly heartbreaking. I get it. There is a place we are to come where we accept the life we have and trust that it is all in God’s hands. But God had a lot to say about that mindset and sometimes we just need to see the side of God that says, “Stand up, shake the dust off yourself, Jerusalem! Remove the bonds from your neck, Daughter Zion!” Isaiah 52:2  And how about Ezra 10:4: “Rise up; this matter is in your hands. We will support you, so take courage and do it.” 

I want to do what makes God smile over me, and shine His light, encouraging me and speaking life into me. I want to hear, “Well done!”

Now please don’t jump to that dreaded conclusion that I am preaching a performance gospel. Not even close. I am preaching a “Don’t Give Up!” gospel. We are not called to be passive in our life.  If you have any doubt, remember these words spoken by Peter, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence”. When Jesus breathed into his disciples after His resurrection and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” He was giving them, and later, us, divine power. That’s the same power that created the universe! Failure to use this power is possibly the greatest sin we face as Christians.

Does that sound harsh? What is sin, if not missing the mark? When Christmas came around and you found that new bike under the tree, did you pass it by and choose the old one in the garage with training wheels because it was easier? I doubt it. That bike was given to you because you were capable of riding it. Eventually, you found that to be true.

I have friends who live in pain and dysfunction even knowing the solution is at their fingertips. Sometimes it is because they want the magic healing. More often it is because they really don’t know that God wants to give them more, and that He values them so much. He wants them to have the mountain bike instead of the training wheels. Both choices take work. Staying sick and giving up is a draining life. Getting on that bike and making it take you to new adventures requires some discipline and pain. The difference is, one takes life, and one gives life.

Jesus said,  “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”  Do you know the words right before that declaration? “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.

Giving up, choosing good instead of better, or better instead of best, is a choice. I choose the abundant life. Instead of medicine, anxiety and death, I choose life, peace and prosperity. How about you?