What Really Matters {it’s not the envelope}

The snow comes, unexpected like

grace after a fall (yours, mine,

ours) a quiet wool covering missteps,

mistakes, messes.

This white-soft gift leaves an expanse

of peace, pulling my eyes away from the

ground, these humble, human feet,

to the misty, gray horizon.

Heart now centered, sheltered, still

while Creation whispers my thanks.

****

I don’t know about you, but this Monday morning leaves me feeling a little undone. Did you watch the Oscars? Did you see the mess-up at the end, the snafu that has never happened before with the envelope announcing Best Picture being the wrong one? How would you like to be the person that did that? 

I’ve other things on my mind–a convalescing husband who’s post-surgery demands are taxing my self-centered flesh, a messy kitchen, incomplete projects, inside & out.

I’m in the middle of living through being disoriented. The root of the word ‘orient’ is from the Latin-‘oriens’, meaning rising sun. Well, of course. When I turn my heart and mind and self towards the East, towards the rising sun–Jesus–I can see things in the right perspective. I feel oriented again.

I don’t like to live with being disoriented, but that’s where I am right now. I’m grateful for God’s word and presence that keeps me looking up in the right direction, shining light on what really matters.

Where are you today? Feeling oriented, disoriented or are you in the middle of reorienting?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments.

When Your Life is Under Construction

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view of our backyard, early Summer, from the upper deck

I have been pondering the tension lately between between the image I project to the world about my life and what is ACTUALLY going on.

Every morning I stand at my kitchen sink, I see a variation of this view above. I often post the photos on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter, giving folks well, a certain kind of impression.

Some mornings the view looks like this:

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(we’re a little nuts about birds)

or…..depending on the season, the scene outside my window might look like thisf983e-p1200391

or this

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Our backyard is pie-shaped as our lot sits at the back of a cul-de-sac; lots of grass, shrubs, garden area, roses, trees and so on

Summer garden, obviously…..

If I cast my eyes in the right direction, looking OUT….I see beauty in every direction; that’s what I want to focus on.

Continue reading

When you Need a Shot in the Arm

   

     Pride is a funny thing. I don’t mean ‘funny in a “ha, ha!” way, but funny as in fickle—unstable, capricious or worse, according to Webster’s “deceitful.”

     Being prideful doesn’t make us deceitful, lying to others (well, it can). No, it makes us lie to ourselves.
     I have been struggling for several weeks with severe right shoulder pain—shooting, stabbing through my upper arm, waking me up at night. If/when I do get to sleep, it often awakens me at 4 am, when I roll over and muck about the floor looking for the ice pack.
     Physical symptoms have included significant muscle weakness and an impaired range of motion, making the simple act of lifting my coffee cup to my lips a cause for pause. The ache extends all the way down my arm into my hand, literally cramping my style, making it hard to write (or type). And I’m a writer.
     My massage therapist suggested putting heat on the area at night to stimulate blood movement in the muscles, loosening the tension. The chiropractor mentioned the opposite—ice –when the pain is too severe.
Both have helped (a little) at least at night–sleeping is iffy but slightly better.
     What ice and heat can’t reach or repair is the continual state of worrying about what’s really wrong. Do I need surgery? Is there a permanent injury? The pondering and the pain have preoccupied my (nearly) every waking moment for weeks.  There is no space in my brain to focus on anything else, like the bothersome hum from an old fan in the corner, it functions okay but the annoyance is always there in the background.
     Added to that is the mental piece—the pressure of my pride, particularly my self-talk, “I’m the healthy one here—capable, fit, never been to the hospital for a thing – except for babies, but that was over 30 years ago. Nothing major, a day procedure here and there in the last 20 years. My body is serving me well (except for the 10 extra pounds.)  But still….I don’t ever have anything wrong with me. I.AM.FINE.
Sorta.
     Age and gravity have clearly taken their toll. I finally acquiesced to the inevitable and made an appointment with the orthopedic doctor. He exrayed, examined, asked questions. Asked me to flail about with my affected right arm. Diagnosis? Severe tendonitis of the rotator cuff.
     After some discussion the decision we agreed on was a cortisone shot for now—a shot in the arm—and physical therapy to help with the healing.
     As he left the exam room to get his needle and serum (and summon the nurse to hold my nervous hand) I wrestled still with the decision.
     “I hate this short cut,” I told myself. “It’s such an artificial way to treat the problem. The cortisone just deals with the inflammation and pain, it won’t fix the problem.” 
      The still small voice in my head pointed out that many times it is the mental or emotional maladies that dog our steps the most.  Roadblocks of physical pain, things like anxiety or depression must be dealt with first before we can go deeper to the roots of what really needs healing.
     Is it emotional trauma? Spiritual questions or disillusionments? Losses or grief, unmet needs, abandonment? All sorts of invisible daggers are thrown our way in this life. 
     I can’t get to the therapy and rebuilding of the muscles in my arm until I deal with the excruciating pain and the all consuming thoughts that have overtaken my life FIRST. And the sleep deprivation; that is huge. I can’t tax my brain with anything extra when I’m running low on sleep.

     A minor revelation took place.

    When we tell our brothers and sisters in Christ who struggle with depression, anxiety or chronic pain to “trust in Jesus”, “lean on Him”, “be filled with the joy of the Lord,” or other dismissive responses, we completely invalidate their struggles. 
    Should we slight them if they need medication to cope, to sleep, to function? I know I have been judgmental in this regard, and for that I repent.  
     The way I read the Gospels, Jesus didn’t negate the emotional state of anyone who came to Him for help, but instead acknowledged their pain, whether soul or skin deep.
     Let’s be better at giving each other space and grace to be broken and needy, pain-wracked—physically or emotionally. And encourage one another in the path towards healing—no matter the process.
~~~~~~~ 
I am happy to say, since my ‘shot in the arm’ my symptoms are much improved and physical therapy starts soon. (Thank you to my daughter for reminding me to share that.)

ON ANOTHER NOTE: Next week I have a surprise–I’m moving to a new home! God willing I’ll have a new blogsite ready to view and read; I hope you’ll follow me over there.

For subscribers, I’d be ever so grateful if you’d re-sign up to received my blogposts.
My readers are my greatest joy. Thank you.

Why we need to Feel all the Feels

“Inside/Out” Board Game, granddaughter Abigail Age 7

      During the last Christmas season I was commissioned (long distance) with procuring a set of plush character toys from the movie “Inside/Out”. You know the gang–Anger, Joy, Sadness, Fear and Disgust.  These were to be gifted from their beloved Auntie M to my two youngest grandsons–ages 6 and 3–on Christmas morning when my son and his family arrived for the holiday.

      The gifting took a bit of reconnaissance –back and forth texts and emails with my daughter in law, phone messages ironing out who would pay for what and how. I would be purchasing them on behalf of the aunt who wouldn’t be with us and well, it was all a little complicated. Finally, father Christmas and I located the items on Amazon via the Disney Store and we were in business.

Except for one thing: there was no Sadness doll. Sold out. Apparently she was the most popular character, for good reason.

                                                       

      For those of you who have seen the film, you know ‘Sadness’ is the heroine of “Inside/Out”‘; without her, blue hair and saucer-sized glasses included, the little girl Riley’s emotions are incomplete.  
Because, to paraphrase one of the characters, “You can’t feel Joy all the time.”

Back to Christmas morning.

      Gift opening time came;  after much fanfare to unwrap said Big Gift, cameras and phones poised, we thought the littles wouldn’t notice the lack of the Blue One. All the other colors would be there: Anger, Red, Fear; Purple, Joy; Yellow and Disgust; Green. The boys ripped open the box spilling tissue paper to the Heavens and within 2 milliseconds exclaimed, “There’s no Sadness!!”  

That blue girl’s presence was sorely missed. Two wise little guys let us all know the set of Feelings was incomplete without her.
———
      Facing Palm Sunday and heading into Holy Week as we contemplate Christ’s Death and Resurrection, I think it is critical to remember without the sadness of Good Friday there is no Joy of Easter morning.

      A.J. Swoboda, in his book “A Glorious Dark” talks about the problem of only embracing one day of the Easter Triduum thereby limiting ourselves to Friday or Sunday Christianity. His book’s powerful premise is we need all three days–the tragedy of Good Friday the darkness of Saturday AND the joy of Easter Sunday.

“Friday Christianity is the religion of those who’ve chosen to find their identity in a spirituality of defeat, death and loss.  Their spiritual depth abides solely in the torment of suffering on the cross.  Friday Christians worship suffering so much they assume one must be experiencing loss and suffering in ordered to be considered “honest” or “authentic” or “real.”

Sunday Christianity is equally problematic. These chipper, slick, ever-too-happy Christians see God in, and only in, victory, prosperity and blessing.  Everything for them, is a footnote on their own pursuit of personal happiness. When Christians live in Sunday alone, they fabricate a kind of hassle-free approach to Christian spirituality that, while outwardly appealing, is entirely impotent–lacking power, girth and any amount of stamina.”
‘A Glorious Dark’, A.J. Swoboda, p. 4

      I confess I used to be a Sunday Christian.  I am an Extrovert, First Born, Impulsive, Impetuous and Intuitive–I can find the fun in anything. The yellow sunshine of Joy was my litmus test for how well I was following Jesus–and how well YOU were following Jesus. Sick? Having trials? Problems looming? You must be doing something wrong.  

      Ah, well, isn’t God patient?  I’ve come to learn these last few years how truly complete we are when we live through and experience all the emotions God has given us–fear, anger, sadness and joy. Our feelings reveal to us not only our desperate humanity, bankrupt without the redemption of God, but also can become channels for God’s glorious joy when there is a resurrection on the other side.

       Our initial repentance and turning towards Jesus is just the beginning of many resurrections. We grow, spiraling back on lessons and seasons in our lives, embracing the dark and the delight and dying daily to our sin, rejoicing in more freedom as we walk this labyrinth of life.

Let’s walk together and give each other room to embrace it all, 
even, especially, the hard times and Sadness.
~~~~~~~
Shhhhh…don’t tell my grandkids, the Sadness plush doll should be in their mailbox soon.

Linking with Kelly for the #Small Wonder Link up


Everything Old is New Again

There’s a Christmas song going around in my head as I start the New YearThe song is, of course, ‘Amazing Grace.’  What, that’s not a Christmas song?  But isn’t that what God’s arrival on earth as a walking-around-among-ushuman was? Is?  Amazing grace…

Extended over and over again as Jesus makes His way into our lives, moving into our world right where we are in our fallenness and humanness.

I’m banking on that daily this year as I move forward….for that is the only direction we can go—falling forward, even though (true confession) one might feel like a fraud.

Perhaps I’m being too harsh, but here are my thoughts: I’ve written in this space many, many times about the importance of stillness, listening and Sabbath-ing.
Not in a stop-what-you’re-doing-and-rest-for-an-entire-day-kind of Sabbath—because that’s not doable in my world. No, I mean Sabbathing on the Page—taking an hour a day or an hour a week to steal away and listen to the Holy Spirit speak and write down what you hear.

The importance of listening and stillness came home to me three Januaries ago when I read this book by LL Barkat (who coined the idea of ‘Sabbath on the Page’). I am passionate about the practice, primarily because of personal revelations that came to me and my confidence God wants to lead others in hearing from Him this way.

I’ve shared about it at a Retreat, blogged about it, and consider it in thought and practice the foundation of my small space here on the internet.

But the reality? Stealing away to listen and write, be still and hear God’s voice hasn’t happened much this past year. Hence the fraud feeling. There have been very, very few hours I could call my own.  At the end of a long day of work, running errands and involvement at church and Life in General, there’s just no time.

The longing to get away is what I miss, the excitement of hearing from God, the confidence He will speak, the intimacy afforded me with my Jesus while I just sit.

What’s changed in the last two years? Well, my husband retired; he’s home all the time. I suppose that’s a practical answer, but maybe it’s just an excuse. If I really thought an hour alone outside every day was important, I’d make a way.
So I’m penciling in writing time this year and quiet-out-on-the-deck listening time, even if it’s only once a week.

Because….God’s grace~He just says, “Come.”

So I will begin, standing at the the edge of the puddle that is my life…. Amorpohous right now, changing and moving, blown about by the wind. But as I step towards the quiet, still center, there I’ll see my reflection—find who I am, who God is, as I lean in and find the beauty mirroring back to me in the skies….

This song by Fernando Ortega really ministered to me this week:
~~~~~~~
Linking with Kelly for #SmallWonder Link Up