Thursday, October 5, 2017

Help In the Darkest Days

How are you doing today?" A simple question that can unleash struggles and trials and traumas beneath the surface.

I ask this question often, as there are those in my home who struggle with anxiety and depression. Sometimes the answer is, "Fine", when I know in my heart they are not fine- and I struggle, and pray, and wait until they are ready to share. Sometimes the answer is honest and heart wrenching all at once. And sometimes, the answer leads to an intense season of intervention, with support from those who are trained to help.

It is heart wrenching to see one you love more than life struggle to stay present in it. 

I can work off some of my own anxiety with the necessary medical response. Once an emergency doctor appointment has been scheduled, a counselor who is a good fit is found, and insurance approval has finally been given (after hours and days on the phone), there is a necessary stillness. A time to wait, and pray, and deal with my own feelings and emotions.

It takes courage to approach the fear. To confront it, rather than ignore it, or slap trite sayings over the top of it. It can be hard and heavy work to go to battle for your own wellness. 

Sometimes the hardest part is letting go. I can control (somewhat) when we see the doctor and who we see. I can work around the necessary insurance requirements, and oh, have I learned to jump through hoops! But what I cannot control is how one I love feels about themselves, their life, or their traumas.

Psalm 77:6 speaks of the struggle:

I call to remembrance my song in the night, I commune with my own heart, and my spirit makes diligent search. 

Sleepless nights, and anxious days can cause me to commune with my own heart, rather than diligently seek the One whose heart is for us. The first verses of this very same Psalm express where we can find sustenance for the hardest journeys:

"I cry up to heaven, 'My God, True God, and He hears. 
In my darkest days, I seek the Lord. 
Through the night my hands are raised up, 
stretched out, waiting...
my soul is uneasy."
(Psalm 77:1-2, The NKJV)

The NIV puts it this way: "at night I stretched out...[my] hands and I would not be comforted."

We have walked through dark seasons before, and I have prayed for rescue. When darkness strikes again, I feel so helpless. I cannot fix the one I love. I can only hold him while he falls apart and get him trained help-- once he is willing. The choice comes:

Will I hold myself apart from my Healer, or will I be comforted by the Eternal? 

When I finally release I can do healthy work:
Praying and grieving-- releasing pent up stress through tears, 
Aproaching the altar to surrender what I cannot control,
and
Working through each and every fear, holding tight to God's promises!


"Jesus will never leave you or forsake you."~ A. Marie Mitchell


 I do not have to be alone in this. Yes, there are seasons of struggle, and yes, there is heartache, but my own Healer stands ready to hold me and carry me through. I might be able to survive this season in my own strength, but I will never know peace until I lay down my pain and grab hold of the One whose heart is for my wholeness. 


Psalm 23 tells us,

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 
He provides for every need, nourishing my body and my soul. 
He soothes my fears and restores my soul. 
Even in the unending shadows of death's darkness, 
I do not have to be afraid, for He is with me. 

Because You are with me, O Eternal, 
Near with Your guidance and protection,
I am comforted. 

(The Voice and NIV Translations)

Prayer:
God, you are my Rock, my Fortress, my Deliverer (Ps. 18:2)
I choose to cling to you.
I pray you will deliver the ones I love from the lies of the enemy.
Train my own heart to KNOW your Truth.
Hold me close and comfort me in the dark days.
Be my Source, my strength, and my Hope.

Give us Life and not death, and wellness in spirit, soul, and body,
Both now, and forever more.

~Just Me












Monday, August 21, 2017

Truth, Love, and Listening

Last weekend, events in Charlottesville, Virginia proved that hate and prejudice have devastating consequences. We are making strides, but there is more work to do. Yesterday, our guest speaker at church, Travis Burdett, encouraged us to:

Stand against hate and stand for love. 

To look within and identify our own prejudices- and let God change them. 

He challenged us to spend some time with someone very different from us. Someone we would not normally speak to. Someone we might judge harshly if we did not take a moment to truly see and understand. He challenged us to have a conversation and Listen. Really listen. With an open mind and loving heart. He said,

"Listening is Revolutionary in a world where everyone is yelling at one another." 


Jesus himself was an avid listener- and all who encountered him were challenged. Many were transformed simply by encountering Living Grace. What would Jesus do in light of recent events? Well, take a look at what Jesus actually did.


Jesus taught: 

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your strength and all your mind- and love your neighbor as yourself." 


Then, Jesus defined "your neighbor" as a people that his own race saw as enemies. And Jesus did not just tell stories about showing kindness to your enemies. He went into enemy territory himself and lived out love.  

Jesus taught his shocked and surprised followers to put aside prejudices and hatred that went back generations, and get to know the Samaritans. To minister to them and show love. 


Jesus bridged the gap of hatred, prejudice, fear, and racism.  



Jesus also stood against evil.  He called evil out and named it. (Matthew 3:7 and Matthew 23:27 )


So what would Jesus have to say about last weekend's events? I think he'd speak against the evil that ran rampant and offer hope to those devastated and victimized. (Check out  Matthew 21:12-13 and notice how Jesus responded when salesmen were victimizing the poor, in God's house, no less.)


So in the spirit of what Jesus would do, let's get this clear:  Carrying a flag associated with hatred and prejudice is evil.

Spreading messages of racism, prejudice, oppression, or hatred is evil.

The Nazi Flag is a symbol of an evil man who brutally and horrifically slaughtered millions. His regime was demonic, as were his prejudiced beliefs.

Jesus opposed such evil. He taught his followers to "love their enemies". He set the example of lavish love. 


1 John 4:7-8 urges, 

Beloved, let us love one another. For love is of God, and everyone that loves is born of God, and knows God. He who does not love, does not know God. 


God is the embodiment of love. Anyone who seeks to connect God to a message of hate does not have the truth of God in them. Prejudice is from the enemy of our souls and not of God


So, in light of recent events, what can we do?

We can examine ourselves before God and resist falling for the subtler temptation of judging others by what they wear, how they live, or even, how they present themselves.

We can recognize that God loves diversity,  and take the opportunity to learn from those who, from outer appearances, seem different from us.

We can throw out prejudices and be enriched by our differences.



In Psalm 27: 5 David, God's chosen King says, 

The Eternal is my light against my darkness
So whom shall I fear? 


Oh, how we need God's light!! Especially in the face of darkness.

There are legitimate fears we must battle. It's natural to be afraid for loved ones and friends who may be persecuted.  Yet we overcome that hatred if we stand for truth. We, too, can be a light against darkness, if God's love is the spark that fuels. 


It's important to remember that our very saving comes through Jesus,whose race was among the labelled and targeted last weekend. 


Jesus--whose human heritage was Jewish. Jesus, who was raised in a Jewish home and a Jewish culture. Jesus, who studied the Torah diligently, and lived and taught its principals. Jesus, whose goal was not to stamp out Judaism, but complete it.

Jesus who was Jewish, in and out, through and through. The Savior of a broken world was, and is Jewish. We must remember what Jesus taught his disciples: 



All races, all heritages, all peoples 
are precious in God's sight. 


 The antidote to hatred is the all covering Love of Jesus. He is our saving, day by day. From the darkness within and the darkness without. Let's work to spread awareness. Let's make a point to stand against hatred, while standing FOR love. 


Will you stand with me? 




Monday, April 10, 2017

Why Jesus Would Shop at Target

I personally am of the opinion that Jesus would shop at Target. 

He'd be there encouraging Mamas with full hands, speaking words of kindness as they try to grab milk and eggs while wrestling fussy youngsters who are throwing fits because she did not buy them candy, or allow them to run amok in the toy aisle. He'd offer words to fill hearts, and a genuine understanding of the truth that parenting is hard and while Mamas may not "enjoy every moment" we do purpose to find moments to connect with the hearts of our children and enjoy who they are, and who they are becoming--even if they exhaust our ever lovin' patience at times (like when we are in Target).

Jesus would be taking time out for the older, lonely folks- He would help them reach the products they have a hard time getting to, and then he would walk WITH them for a good long while, tarrying. Knowing that He could be the only one all week to treat them with respect and truly listen to them, un-rushed, for as long as needed. 

Jesus would spend some of his time at Target talking to the young man that asks for handouts outside the location near the highway, seeking to heal his heart, save him from addictions, and probably giving him something to eat as well. He'd be loving on those who are different, and building relationships with the hurting, the marginalized, the depressed, and the overlooked. He'd make eye contact with those others don't tend to truly "see". He'd seek out the very people His followers often avoid. 

Jesus would also be mingling with the owners, whether or not He supported their every belief. He would understand that we human beings grow by learning from those who are very, very different from us, and He'd invite them into relationship- because rules don't heal hearts, but relationship with our Healer truly does.

My Jesus would be showing kindness to the store service clerks, who often get treated poorly--even by "christian" customers. He'd be patient if the cashier was slow to ring up the items He was buying (for the homeless teen outside) and He would make eye contact with that person, showing them with loving kindness that He really, really sees them- and not just as someone to wait on Him. 

My Jesus would comfort the cashier who just got reemed by an angry, impatient customer.  He'd help her unwind from the verbal attack, but he would not stop there. He'd invite her to embrace a life altering love and find meaning in knowing His love daily- and showing it to others. Even the ones who are hardest to love.

Jesus would give grace to the angry customer who just mistreated the poor clerk-- but he would most certainly invite him to understand the God sees temper flares the same way as He sees murder- only crushing the soul, rather than the body.  (It is man who rates sin, not God.)


Now, my Jesus would not just stay at Target, mind you. He'd make his way over to the bridge and chat with the homeless people (treating them with respect, and as real, flesh and blood people). He'd camp with them for the night, and then head over to the Women's Shelter and love on all the children torn from their homes in the middle of the night. He'd comfort the women fleeing violence, showing them REAL love that does not harm, but heals. 

Jesus would also head to the mall and chill with the teens. He'd listen to their hearts- he'd seek out the kids whose parents brush them off or don't get them, or even don't  truly like them. My Jesus would lavish teenagers with time-- and Jesus would offer understanding to even the most misunderstood.   

Jesus would make his way to the churches and give some lessons like he gave the Pharisees, and the many others who followed Him carrying secret agendas and needs.
Lessons like: 
Love people more than laws (or power). 
Get to quiet places and talk to God.
Let God's healing into the deep, dark places in your lives (not just the "white washed" exteriors)
Love unselfishly and remember you are not perfect either. 

Most of all, Jesus would love people who struggle with identity and don't seem to fit in. Whether from being told, "You can't do that, you're a girl." or "Why can't you be more like 'xyz'..." Jesus would have tender compassion on the confused, the hurting, and on those who don't fit the proposed mold. 

Jesus gets it. He, himself was not what His tribe expected.  

So if you are confused or hurting, or struggling for acceptance just the way you are, you have a friend in Jesus. 

He loves you as you are, 
Accepts you UNCONDITIONALLY 
And, with time and through those trained to help,
Jesus WILL heal every wound you allow him access to. 
 
In the midst of all the complicated, confusing, and confounding issues in this world, I have found one thing to be certain, and that is the complete and unconditional love of Jesus. 

I am so glad we do not have to be perfect, because Jesus covers ALL.

~Just Me


Sunday, September 11, 2016

Light

Loss. It can come quietly, in expected waves, or suddenly, in a single blinding moment. It can leave debris scattered across city blocks, charred remains of ash and steel, blood and soul. Some days we've never forgotten. 

"The grief does not go away," one victim whispered. Such loss. So much trauma.  In the days that followed, shock and grief carved caverns which are unquantifiable. The families of the victims do not remember only today. They carry aching chasms, never again feeling quite whole. 

In times like these, the question comes: Where is God when the unspeakable happens? 

Images seared in my mind, I offer up a question in response, "Who would do such a thing?" It was my first coherent thought after the madness. In the days that came, my husband packed his military gear, and I watched footage after work. Hope for survivors waned, and carnage evoked the reality of war come home. The question reeled- "Who would do such a thing?" 

As the years have passed and I reflect on the horror, the shock of those moments, I am certain-the attacks that took the lives of so many men and women, those acts do not bear the fingerprints of One who is only, and always love. No. Those are marks of the enemy, hateful slashes from the one who comes only to steal, kill and destroy. 

Yet in the face of such destruction, the evil in the hearts of the perpetrators could not rob us of our humanity.

How many stories have I read of people who helped others? The heroes who ran into the fray, and the heroes who lent a helping hand to a stranger during evacuation. Many once separated by religion or status or busy-ness joined together in the wake of gaping loss to pray, light candles, and even sing, united in heart and in spirit. No evil can take that away.


Standing among the debris, there was a cross that inspired many. Yet I see more than a cross. I see love- shining through compassion, unity, and hope. There was light that day, amidst the choking ash.  In the touch of a hand, in the hearts who helped, in the many who ministered to the souls digging through debris of heart and steel. 

Because we do not grieve as those without hope, I also see a pure and holy light streaming from "the vast Above", as Jesus gathered up souls and carried them to a place where there is no more pain, no more tears.

There was much light on 9/11. More than our finite minds can grasp. And there is resounding hope, for while the grief does not fade away into nothingness, no act of hate can rob us of connection to Jehovah Rapha, our healer. 

Where was God? God was there, every moment- and still is. Inviting us to a place of greater wellness. Grief may be a life long companion, but our Comforter will be too, if we return the invitation and let Love in. (1 John 4:7-8)
 

~Just Me Mama

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Recovery from Chaos

Chaos exploded across my life last week- unexpected, though I try to be aware that there is more at work in this world than what I can see. In the mornings, in the moments of quiet, I am working to purposely chose to connect to the Voice of Truth, drawing me back from the brink. 

Sometimes I believe I am on my own in this journey, but Truth reminds me that, even when my help-mate is traveling, I am still not alone. 

In the cool of the morning, I get out into the beauty of nature, and find stress relief through exercise, while being soothed by the lush green wilderness bordering our neighborhood park. I needed the endorphins and the spiritual connection badly after being mired in a fiery battle last week.
 
After a time of release and recovery, of refocus and refreshing,  today I am: 
 
Grateful- for cool weather for my morning run/walk, and a new week with a fresh start. 
Prayerful- that the week ahead will bring me to a place of greater wellness. 
Mindful-that if chaos explodes across my life again this week there is Help, because:

When the Eternal is my shepherd I lack nothing I truly need.
The Eternal teaches me to REST and recover and Nourishes me in spirit, soul and body, as I draw near.

The Eternal restores me- over and over,soothing my fears, making me whole- over and over again, as often as I need it!

The Voice shows me the way, leading me to roads "where Truth echos His name."

Even in the shadow of death- life threatening illnesses, family members battling depression and self harm, and attacks from dark places, I will not be afraid, for You are with me, near with your protection and guidance.

When I am under attack, You provide for me, filling me up, protecting me, equipping me as I draw near to Your presence.

Your faithful protection and Loving provision PURSUES me, - always, every where I go - no matter what.

I choose to dwell in the Eternal for all of my days- every crazy moment, in the Chaos, and the calm. 
 
Psalm 23, paraphrased (but heavily influence by The Voice version) 

~Just Me

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

You're Welcome

It took me by surprise, stunned me really. I was sharing my struggles and a dear sweet soul Thanked me for Not Being Perfect.

Sometimes it's hard to find words.  To this moment all I can come up with is: Wow.

I mean really... WOW.

Sometimes I say, "I don't have to be perfect, because Jesus already was." And I believe it, much of the time. Comfort myself with it when I have lost control of my mouth after 8 hours with a Stubborn Teenager Who Does Not Want to Study For Finals and Goes Into the Bathroom to Hide- (for the umpteenth time).

I mean, really. Who can be perfect in the face of such madness?

In this season my primary ministry is my family, and this is where self-criticism strikes deepest. One of my sons struggles with a number of health issues, including depression. The fall of 2014 was particularly traumatic for us as a family as we desperately sought how to help him. Part of my own process was battling guilt. Guilt over how stressed and anxious and cranky and unpleasant I was during a season when my husband was an ocean away in a war zone. Being shot at. Repeatedly.

 I was more than a hot mess. I was a train wreck. I held fear close, lost my temper way too much, and was my own definition of a bad mom. During the dark days of stumbling through treatment of my son's depression, the enemy of my soul relentlessly accused me: this depression was my fault- because I was a bad mom when he was small. 

The enemy has a knack for taking a small grain and twisting it into a reckless tornado.  Dear Jesus, help me know the truth from a lie. 

I love my kids and one of my deepest longings has been to get this parenting thing right. But I am not perfect. Not by a long shot. While I have grown in patience over the years, and learned Where to release my fears, and WHO is my Source, I still have those days.

Of course I do, because none of us is even remotely close to perfect. We are flawed individuals rubbing up against each others' sandpaper, and trying to do family the best we know how. If we get anything right, it would be that we four have learned The Power of The Apology.  Perhaps this is the greatest contribution we will give to the world.

"I am sorry I lost my temper over__ (something that seemed relatively small to you)__. (Moving closer in relationship and sharing the load: I am stressed and worried about _____________. Can we pray together?


So, you' re welcome,  Dear Sweet Soul. I am not perfect. Thank YOU, for I can take a deep breath and reflect:
God does not expect me to be perfect.  
 
 Grace is enough. 

I can let myself off the hook. 


~Just Me

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Messy But Good

 This time of year there's a lot of anxiety over expectations. Yours, mine, and numerous others. Perfect place settings and greeting cards peer at me through the messy places in my life and I have to remind myself that my journey is different. 

Recently I've been encouraged by a number of hearts who also deal with different life situations. Though our journeys are as diverse and varied as our challenges and joys, we all have places where life is not what we expected. There is a comfort in commonality; we remember we are not alone. That so much of our emotional response to difficult circumstances is strikingly normal- even when our lives are not.

I relate to feeling judged when people (strangers or not) criticize when they can't begin to know the depths of heartaches, needs, or diagnoses. 

I want to get to the place where people's opinions don't matter so much to me. I'd settle for getting to the place where their judgements don't shake me so. Sometimes I have to talk myself down, pray through--striving to remember that no matter how I may disappoint the expectations of others, I am not a disappointment to God. Not ever. No matter what. He does not sit aloft flinging judgements at my broken or imperfect places. He accepts where I do things differently... in fact, he made me this way, and celebrates my individuality.

I wish more people understood that there is One who is always and only a kind and generous judge-much more so than many of his people. No expectations, simply acceptance and unconditional love.

I know my heart, and I know my flaws, and somehow the two mingle together to create not just who I am, but who I'm becoming. God sees the promise, even when I am mired in mess. My life is not a picture perfect painting, a Norman Rockwell scene, or a Thomas Kinkade portrait of light. Real life isn't, really. A life that is real is more like the disarray and chaos of the painter's studio. Blobs and blurs and tools scattered all around. A veritable riot of colors, broken and mending places mingled together.


There is a necessary blending in every journey towards greater wellness. An often painful smudging, a pressing, cutting, churning force that is beyond the capacity of my Food Ninja. Sometimes the whole thing spills over, oozing everywhere, chunky parts scattered around. My youngest likes the chunky parts.  He says,"It's what makes it good." 

I want to get to the place where I see the chunky parts not as a necessary evil to be smashed out (or covered up), but a sweet and messily delicious part of something good. Life is a process, not a final destination. There's hope in knowing completion is not a requirement in this lifetime.  Maybe my life is not a portrait of light, but the miracle is that it can be a conduit for it- especially in the messy, imperfect places. 


~Just Me