Getting away and Getting with God

It was time, it had to be done, and it is sort of a tradition. One final beach trip before puppies arrive. Life has been tumultuous, and just when I think I am getting order back in my life, life crashes in like a sneaker wave and sweeps it away. I had begun to have a bad attitude that I couldn’t suppress. My peace and joy seemed just beyond my finger tips, and that wasn’t right. So it was time, pre-puppy trip to the ocean. With the biggest plan being stop at Dutch Brothers on the way there, and once on the way back, I packed my journal, my sweatshirt, Tamar’s tennis ball and a bowl for her water. Some prayer and devotional time, and we were off!

We drove through the mountains,  through the turns that take me to Highway 101, as far west as I can drive. Heading North we stopped at a favorite local beach, busy with families enjoying the coastal beauty even in the gray cover of fog. The fog covered the coast line, still the sound and smell of the ocean calmed me as Tamar walked by my side bounding off only to chase the ball I occasionally threw for her.

I needed that calm, chaos and uncertainty have left me feeling edgy and unable to process clearly. My prayers have been, “I know you are there God, but I don’t know where I am in all of what is happening!” My head has just been spinning, from work to home to work and back home. As I walked in the soothing sounds and smell the chaos melted away for a moment, and for the first time in months I felt able to think about what I wanted to do in the next moment.  We drove to get lunch as the fog lifted and the sun warmed the air around us before heading to the beach I knew I wanted to walk on.

When we finally arrived at my beach the fog was completely gone, the crashing waves welcomed us to one of my favorite stretches of beach. I walked, stopping to pick up stones that tickled my eyes while throwing Tamar’s tennis ball for her. Now and again the waves would be stronger than I had anticipated and we would have to hurry out of the way as I looked for a place to sit. Even with the walking and dodging waves, the crash of the surf calmed my spirit and I finally found a spot to stop.

I sat for a long time, watching the surf, waves lifting up out of the dark blue sea and becoming crests of sea green, white foam cascading over. I watched as smaller waves gave way to larger crests that would crash closer to where I sat. I breathed in the salt air and poured my heart out to Abba.  I looked at the vastness of the ocean in front of me, I watched the surf crashing with power around logs it had brought to shore and then I understood.  My God ordered that, He knows where they will land and when. He commands the tide when it comes in and when it goes out. He created it to be powerful, but HE CONTROLS IT.

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Isaiah 26:3 NIV

He is completely aware of my life’s circumstances, and I need to trust Him in it. The ebb and flow of life is like that surf that sometimes gently came up on the sand and in other moments came crashing and rushing up to my feet. I had no fear of getting wet on the beach, I was focused on God, I trusted that He was in control and I was at peace.

 

 

 

 

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Mad Goals and Staying Strong

1 Corinthians 9:25-27 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
ESV

I have goals, crazy, mad goals. I intend to be strong, spiritually, emotionally and physically strong. I am working hard toward these goals through prayer, reflection and working out. Any goal worth having is worth working for. Any goal that will bring you closer to where God wants you is bound to be attacked by the enemy.  Any enemy attack can be turned into a test to become a testimony.

There have been attacks, I have seen myself disregarded by some as seemingly less spiritual and connected than them. Lack of respect for my relationship and hearing from God doesn’t affect my walk, the impact is minimal. I can live with being disregarded in this realm by others, it doesn’t change what God has told or shown me to be true.

Spiritually I have grown through study and debate. I am learning what it means to be obedient, and why God sometimes delays answers to prayers. I am stronger in my convictions and beliefs. While I am willing to listen and learn and be corrected by others, I am also able to trust what I am hearing from the Holy Spirit.

Physically I may be a bit gung-ho. Taking self-defense classes (LOVE) and working with a personal trainer to develop a work out that strengthens my body and gives flexibility. I get pretty excited over the new moves I learn and yes, I want to share them. Apparently that seems scary and I may want to tone the outward enthusiasm down.  Not too much though.

Emotionally, that has been a tough one. It has been a rough month, there has been death, there have been instances at work that were less than pleasant. I have been publicly assigned actions and motives based on someone else’s paradigm. I have had to realize that I still put trust in areas it doesn’t necessarily belong. This all builds me up as I have to really look inside, get good counsel, and ask God what I need to change. Good stuff.

This has been an area where I have had to look at myself and say, I don’t want to respond this way or that way. I have to reflect on old patterns and let go of what has served in the past to learn healthier ways to deal with all that happens both in my head and around me. It has been a matter of looking with fully open eyes and painfully dealing with some of the things I have allowed in my life that have been revealed as unhealthy.

These goals are all intertwined as each affects the other. I am seeing how those unhealthy emotional issues can greatly affect my spiritual strength, and my calling. They can rob me of the equipping and empowerment of God, leaving me weak and unproductive by shifting my focus off of Him. Losing my focus further impacts the emotional health, and in the tiresome spiral it becomes I am no longer motivated to do what is necessary to stay physically healthy and strong.  Despair in one area, leads to despair in the others, and if the enemy can bring despair to your life he can bring destruction.

Strongholds must be destroyed, despair must be evicted. Isaiah 61:3 says my Father replaces despair with the garment of praise! EVICTION of DESPAIR. Not on my own but through the one who loves me best. Tests will come, attacks can happen, life can crush and perplex, but I will not despair (2 Cor 4:8), because God is always good and He is making me strong!

 

 

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All that is praiseworthy

It’s been one of those weeks. The kind that has at moments, left me crying simply for the release of the tears. Event after event passed and it wears me down. After being hit by one thing and then another, feeling completely inadequate, and uncertain of my course I am blindsided by accusation. Judgement on my motives, motives I didn’t know I had.

 

But it has also been a week that has offered hope, promise and discovery.  This is the week my youngest asked the woman he loves to marry him, and she said yes. This is the week I began a self defense course just for the sheer pleasure it brings me to be active and proactive. This is the week I discovered that even the Queen needs a hug and “it will be okay”, and accepting that from a male friend doesn’t make you a princess who needs saving, it makes you real. This is the week that I doubted, I doubted a lot about myself and how others perceived what I do. And this is the week that doubt was met with support and trust that I knew what I was talking about. And when I doubted I would be supported and trusted for what I knew, I was.

This is the week that God said “no matter what my love, focus on the right thing. Focus on the true, the noble, the right, pure, lovely, the admirable! Look beyond the pain, beyond the frustration to what is excellent and praiseworthy! (Philippians 4:8) I am there, I am with you.” In my tears, in my confusion, in my doubt He is there. In my hurt He is there.

This is the week was far from being the most devastating week of my life, but it was difficult. It was emotional and sad, frustrating and disconcerting. But it was also beautiful and promising. That is what I will hang on to. It is by hanging onto the beauty and promise that God showed me that I maintain peace. It is the promise that offers hope that allows me to hold on to my sense of joy, despite my tears, despite my shortcomings. It isn’t what some would call a big win, but it is a win that brings me comfort and places me square in my Fathers presence, nestled under His wing.

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Apathetic no more

I am experiencing apathy, frankly I look around and I just have no emotion about anything. I feel lost trudging through the day, just trying to get through to the end. The end comes and then it is off to bed only to trudge through again the next day. I am not enjoying the adventure life is. I need a getaway adventure, nothing grand is necessary, a simple adventure would be fine.

I need to venture out into a world away from the mundane, where I can spend some quiet alone time with my Jesus. Life seems to be getting in the way of that. Sometimes it is the ‘must be done’ things, such as today I must get my brakes done (this is important if I want to be able to safely stop on my adventure) and I need to adjust my schedule accordingly. Other times I tend to take on responsibilities that keep me from going. Clearly, I need to prioritize and problem solve in those areas. Lately though it is just the apathetic mind set I have.

This is not my norm, I am passionate, not apathetic. This sense of ‘eh’ or ‘whatever’, this looming non-responsiveness, is not only leading me further into the mundane in my day to day life, but is a spiritual threat. It more than borders the lukewarm heart Jesus warned against, it threatens to encompass it. This spirit of apathy threatens to swallow whole my dreams and desires, my sense of excitement over life and all that God does. My sense of seeing beauty, my laughter, all things light are darkened.

This spirit of apathy seemingly snuck in, attacked my attitude, and momentarily seemed to have won. Fortunately, it only seemed to win, for while it still may seem to be lurking around in my mind I am promised victory. I am claiming that victory, I will not stand still and let any unholy spirit take over my mind. TODAY I stand against it, TODAY I plead the blood of Jesus over my mind and life, and TODAY I step forward rebuking the negativity and embracing the adventure.

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loving

As I was settling in for a marvelous nap on the day after Christmas the familiar ding of my phone distracted me with a text. It was from my oldest son and I read: “If I had come to you highschool and said I was pagan, or gay, or something else transgressive how would you have responded?”

My first thought was, “twenty-eight years and still I can’t sleep”. I had a choice to make, reply later (I am certain that would have been acceptable) or tackle this random question. I considered that he may be baiting me, my boys do that on occasion just to see my reaction. He has already informed me that he is heathen and has rejected my beliefs. So he knows my response to that.

Still I answered, it seemed simple to me. I would set the boundaries on what was allowed to come into my home. It was a matter of respect. The truth is beliefs and sexuality are like body functions, you can’t force your child to do them your way. You can offer your thoughts and feelings on such things, explain your beliefs, but you cannot force even your own child to own what is yours.

It wasn’t bait, he was trying to understand why some families disown their children for such things. Ouch. I have seen it, I just don’t have a clear cut answer for it. I expressed that possibly it threatens them in some way, or they lacked the understanding of autonomy or maybe didn’t understand grace. He couldn’t wrap his head around the idea of conditional parental love. Ouch again.

I don’t either, it occurs to me that maybe it isn’t about conditional love. Do the parents actually stop ‘loving’ their children? Is that possible? Maybe, but possibly what he is seeing is conditional acceptance and confusing it with conditional love. Presented poorly I imagine it would feel very much like conditional love.

In my son’s world he can be who he is. When he was young at home, there were rules, my faith and beliefs were a large part of those. He was expected to respect these things, I was the parent, there were boundaries. However, there wasn’t anything he could do that would cause me to disown him. There wasn’t anything that would make me stop loving him, or letting him know he was loved.

If he came home and told me he was gay? I really don’t know! It never happened. The expectations of behavior wouldn’t have changed. I suppose I would have told him to do his homework and we would talk, and BTW is your room clean? Pagan? Mmmm, well again, here is how things are done in my home and you’re already God’s. You already made that choice, let me know how that goes for you. In fact we have had that conversation.multiple times, especially since as an adult he has informed me he is “heathen”. (this is probably my fault for always yelling  “will you guys stop acting like little heathens?”)

I just can’t see how any of it would change my love for him. Create some relational static, maybe eve distance? Maybe, I am certain there are things he doesn’t share with me based on our differing views, sometimes I rub him the wrong way and he exasperates me. But I don’t disown or not love him. He is my child.

It’s how God sees me, I am his child. I am wildly imperfect, prone to sin, and at times create a bit of a distance between us. But I am His and He loves me. However God doesn’t accept all of my behaviors. I am expected to be accountable to. I do undergo discipline. So did my children. That is just. So maybe, what was bugging him was that conditional acceptance looks an awful lot like unloving punishment. And maybe it is, I don’t know. As humans we fall really short of loving like God does and grace sometimes looks like a lack of accountability (it isn’t).

So my answer, first born child, is this. If you had come home and announced any of these things, I would have been sad, but I would have loved you with the same expectations as I always had. Also, I don’t believe that the parents you are wondering about have stopped loving their children. I believe in our imperfect world they are struggling with disappointment and fear, and fear makes us do weird things. I believe they need reminders of grace, as I hope someone would do for me.

 

 

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Blue prints please

Anxiety, worry over things I can’t control, gripping me in my waking hours. It’s barbed talons wrapped around my heart, tightening their grip immobilizing me. Fortunately on a day off I can afford to lay in bed longer than usual.

Finally, fighting off the irrational fear, I pull myself out of bed. The anxiety isn’t new, sometimes it sneaks in for no apparent reason, today it was by my invitation. I didn’t intentionally invite my nemesis in, rather I left the door open with my lack of trust, my fear of failure, and my insane need to have the blueprints of my life laid out before me so I can see the plan.

It is a strange season of my life, on my own, over my head with change swirling around like leaves blown by the wind. I am trying to prioritize, focus on what is important, who is important. I am trying to move forward in the direction God sends me, with bigger steps and without fear. I am not being completely successful, but I am also not failing in the way I fear.

I put in a bid on a house. A house I thought was off the market and out of my reach. Today, the anxiety was there, my head stuck on what could go wrong, questioning my choices. Did I really hear God? Or was it just what I wanted to hear? Can I do this? How can I do this? What if I fail? Whispers in my head, talons of anxiety gripping my heart, leaving me laying in blankets afraid to face the world that would meet me when my feet hit the floor.

I managed, stumbling in for my coffee and grabbing my coffee, tearfully reaching for God’s word into my morning. Psalm 23, He is my shepherd, I lack nothing, He gives me rest, He leads, He refreshes. Why? For His names sake, He has to be who He says He is. He says He has this and I need to just trust Him.

It only got better from there, Philippians 4:6, 7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

I know all this, but at the times when my mind is spinning, when I am wanting blue prints and have left the door to anxiety open in my mind, I need reminding. During this season it seems I need more. God didn’t stop with the scripture this morning, I sat out on my porch during a brief respite from the ongoing storm my little hummingbird sat in the tree. This tiny little bird, in the midst of our storms showing no fear, being cared for by his creator. Doing what I need to do, trust.

Trust. Know that God cares for me. In spite of being in over my head, all the changes, God is bigger than all my circumstances. I will trust.

My bid wasn’t entered on the house. Another bid was accepted, that does not make it unavailable to me, but that is yet another blog on trust.

 

 

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Out of the Cave

Anxiety. It is an ugly, awful thief of joy. There are times it sneaks up on me, and I have a panic attack. Times I can’t help avoid because I don’t see them coming. Those times are difficult, and people with anxiety problems and issues can relate. We do what we can to survive them, medications (for me amino acids), counselors, prayer, relaxation exercises you name it. That type of anxiety is a condition some can’t help.

This morning I woke up realizing that I was lacking peace and joy because of anxiety I could exterminate. An anxiety that threatened to bring on isolation and depression, with the enemy of my heart using it to take my joy.  Anxiety brought on by an impulsively goal oriented schedule, set by fear and unrealistic expectation.

Fear is my enemy, I fear failing, falling behind, loss, hurt just to name a few. When those fears take my mind captive I become compulsively goal oriented. Not motivated, that would be different, rather my head says “If I accomplish this, I can relax and it will be okay”, which quickly becomes “I MUST do all of this (lesson plans, clean the house, go to the store, dust AGAIN) before I can do anything else”. Granted, there are things that must be done, but this list in my head grows and becomes all I do (because if I don’t go to Costco today I may never get the chance again).  I lose sight of the  life God has put in front of me, the life that should come first.

The list isolates me, I become more ensnared in the lies that birth fear. The lie that if I don’t do this, this and that I have somehow failed. I become isolated from those in my life I enjoy, living a hermit style life in my self made cave depressed because I am imploding on myself! The worst part is, just outside of my little cave is the joy God promised.

Outside of the cave is where my people, my passions, and the beauty of life is. Outside of my cave is where Abba beckons me to step out, repenting of my self focus and fear, away from the anxiety I caused myself and experience His joy which I have been craving and praying for. His children are implored to rejoice in Him always (Philippians 4:4), to delight and have great joy in Him.

I have allowed anxiety of my own making to steal that delight and joy, a realization God spoke to my heart this morning. So today, I begin letting go of the fear, the lie of the tasks that will somehow make me accomplished and whole, and I step out into joy. I change the priorities in my life from to ‘do’ to ‘being’. I let go of the idea  that I have to do everything perfectly (even this), and embrace grace.

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